Poetry Slam State Finals Here I Come

Last Wednesday night, in some god-awful wet and windy weather, I travelled to Geelong with my writer friend Zoe Werner. We both competed in the Australian Poetry Slam heat being held at the Geelong Regional Libraries.

It was a fantastic night of passionate poetry and I was very proud of myself for coming second! This means that I am off to compete at the Victorian Finals on Friday 4 October at the State Library, Melbourne.

See the video of me performing this poem at Words Out Loud or you can listen to the audio and read the text below.

No Pockets
We never switch off.
And it’s any wonder we’ve got so many balls in the air.
No pockets, see?
But we can’t surreptitiously fondle them like you do on the train.
Or at work. In a queue. On the couch. At the cricket. In a lift.
We too manipulate constantly
To avoid dropping the ball
Coz that shit’ll get you killed, man.
We keep juggling until the terror is back in the back of our minds.
We keep cool.
We keep our hands where you can see them.
We keep our shirts on.
We keep cracking our perfect non-committed smile
Like a dropped egg’s thick yolk
Reminiscent of the blood that stained the grouting that one time
But he didn’t mean it.
We’re on our hands and knees, scrubbing
To ensure we don’t end up on the evening news.
We run surveillance.
We run to the other side of the street.
We run a constant stream of ‘what will I do if he does that’.
We’ve run home, balls to the wall like harpies
To find our secret safe places drawn upon by sharpies.
Yours truly, dicks & balls.
Your genitalia emblazoned across the paper, and the paper-thin walls.
You turkey-slap us on the train.
At work. In a queue. On the couch. At the cricket. In a lift.
And you can’t understand why we keep walking home with our keys
In our fists like some kind of budget wolverine?
Well, it’s simple.
No pockets.

A Wearer of Many Hats

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I’ve often described myself as “a wearer of many hats – real and metaphorical”. You’ll often see me sporting a colourful woolen beret in winter, an orange felt hat in autumn and spring, and a broad-brimmed straw number in summer. I’m juggling  parenting, paid work and creative projects, and I have multiple creative projects on the go at once. So I guess my description is pretty apt.

But what I’ve been learning in the past few years is that I can’t wear more than one hat at a time. In reality, it’s impractical and unfashionable, but metaphorically, it’s very bad for my well-being.

Flashback to 2017, when  I wrote, directed and produced Hollow with the help of the small core team at Tripwire Theatre Inc., and it was really hard. Too much for one person, especially with the level of emotional investment I had in the show and it was compounded by what was going on in my personal life at the time. Despite being a complete mess after it finished, I learnt a lot from Hollow. I learnt how much I can achieve when I set my mind to it. I learnt how courageous I am. I learnt to compartmentalise theatre-making so that I’m only ever wearing one hat at a time. I love writing, I love directing and I love producing. But I know my limits now and I’m at a point where I can pick and choose projects and my role within them, and better still, I am trusted by other to bring a project to fruition. My time I spent doing it all with Tripwire has given me that opportunity.

This Sunday (exactly two years after the Hollow opening night), I am holding the first meeting of my team for Ballarat National Theatre’s production of Medea. I have my director’s hat firmly on. With a cast of 16 (some children) and emotionally charged content, it’s not unlike Hollow. The difference is, I have an entire production team to resource my vision for the show. I have a production manager, assistant director, designer, and the entire board of BNT to support me. I don’t have to find money to fund the show and I don’t have to market it. It’s a great feeling, and I have enough energy to put towards all the other things in my life at the same time. 

So, hats off to that!

Why “I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You” Is Not an Apology.

untitled-design-2.pngI never used to listen to commercial radio, but now I have it on in the car, and sometimes while I do the dishes. I’m not completely averse to pop music anymore, however it does disturb me how so many modern love songs normalise disrespect, objectification and the notion that stalking is somehow an acceptable form of romance.

What disturbs me the most is that the songs on the radio are only a reflection of real attitudes to romance and dating. Attitudes I am unfortunately familiar with.  Let me tell you what happened to me late last year.

I was going to be away from home for four days in October 2018, going to lectures, workshops and events at a biannual regional arts conference. It was two hours from home, and I was so excited to go. But after two days of checking-in messages, missed calls and weird interactions about where I was and who I was with, my boyfriend was on his way to me. He had a hotel room booked and a picnic dinner packed. He said he wanted to surprise me and spoil me. I was so angry I told him to go to the hotel room and then go home in the morning. He wanted to make it all about me. But I was away from my children at a conference for 4 days – it was already all about me!

His grand romantic gesture – grand manipulative gesture – was the end of our relationship. The inevitable apologies ran along the lines of “I never intended to make you feel threatened. I only wanted to do something romantic for you. I wanted to surprise you. I never meant to make you upset,” and then when I wouldn’t reconsider, “it was never my intention and you know it.”

The notion of impact versus intention was one we talked about a lot as part of Leadership Ballarat & Western Region Leaders Forum, in which I participated in 2017. In the world of organisational leadership, you are only as much as your impact. Your actions are what people judge you by. The effect you have on others is what counts. Because no one is a mind reader. No one sees your intention, no one understands your motivation. You can have the best strategic plan in history but if you’d don’t implement it, nothing changes and no-one cares. In fact, you fail.

So when we translate that into personal relationships, intention means very little. Your behaviour is what shows me what you think of me.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you” is NOT an apology.

Firstly, it’s redundant. It’s pretty rare for anyone to deliberately set out to hurt another person, especially one they supposedly love, so it’s not as if you’re going to say “I absolutely did mean to hurt you.” We’re already assuming you didn’t mean to, otherwise it brings up the possibility that we’re dating a psychopath.

Secondly, it’s a cop-out.  It doesn’t actually matter if you meant it or not. What you actually did scared me and hurt me, and that’s what matters. So if the sum of your analysis is that you didn’t mean it, then you just sound sorry for the fact that you stuffed up and were caught out, not remorseful for the hurt you actually caused. You’re not owning what you did. 

It’s time we acknowledged that romance – the traditional pop song kind – is completely selfish. It does not consider the impact on the other person. What have they got planned? What if you turn up unannounced? How will that make them feel? Put it this way – thinking you love someone and wanting to be with them is fine, but stalking them to a conference two hours away is not.

So potential new boyfriends – please – don’t turn up at my door in the rain with a hand-made sign that says you love me. Don’t sing from the bottom of my balcony in the middle of the night. Analyse your intention and consider the impact before you take action. Just communicate your intention, wait for my response, and then act in a way that positively impacts on me. Have some empathy. It’s not that hard.

Oh, and for god’s sake stop listening to “love songs”. They might be catchy, but they’re full of crap.

Flashback Friday – On The Same Frequency

I had such a good time recently on air on The Arts Program on 99.9 Voice FM as a guest presenter, that I’ll be doing it semi-regularly. Sitting in the studio is always a beautifully nostalgic place for me, because it takes me back to my formative years and reminds me of how connected I am to my parents.

I first did community radio in my early teens. I spent three hours every Sunday opposite my dad Bill Elder in the studios at the local community radio station for the better part of two (or maybe three?) years.

Our show was called ‘That Sunday Feeling’, a nod to Jethro Tull’s song ‘My Sunday Feeling’, which also served as our intro theme tune. We made our own promos, which usually featured a stupid and funny sound bite from films like ‘Cable Guy’ or shows like ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ or ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’. We talked and laughed about anything and everything, and played music from Steely Dan to Sade, Billy Joel to The Beetles. I introduced my dad to Alanis Morissette, Evanescence and Jamiroquai. We often played long Prog Rock songs so we could have an extended afternoon tea break, and once we played Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of The Worlds’ in its entirety.

It was in these years that I also wrote a musical with my Dad. It was about cryptic crosswords, which we completely religiously at the dinner table every night. My Dad taught me to play Tenor Horn at the age of 8 and we continued to work together at the local Concert Band. He was the Band Master, and I became the Librarian for a stint, spending weekends sorting dodgy copies of sheet music in a dingy back room of the Band Hall.

I would lie to my friends and say my parents were strict and wouldn’t let me go out to that party or let my out-of-towner friends sleep over. I usually just put the phone down on my lap for a minute while I “went to ask”. I told my parents later what they’d supposedly refused just in case. I would then happily spend my Saturday nights watching The Bill, Poirot or a David Attenborough documentary. Or finished the cryptic crossword or playing Solo, or Canasta, or Scrabble.

I’d still rather hang out with my parents than most other people I know. They’re my kind of people. It’s their love of music, words and humour and their dedication to community  and family that has shaped my own values and also my career path. I’m so grateful to have their support as my parents, and as my children’s grandparents, but I also count them as my best friends.

Where my heart is
There are four people in whose company
I would rather spend my time
Than anywhere else on earth
As a girl I would lie to my friends and say
My mother wouldn’t let me play
Because I would rather be at home
Where my heart is
As a woman I am thankful to say
I cannot come along for my children are sleeping
Because I would rather be at home
Where my heart is
Why search for it in some man, some girls night out, some party noise
When it’s right here
It was never missing
We are bound forever by more than blood
By a sing-a-long and seven across, native grass and muddy boots
Sticky dough, british tv shows and laughter
I am the sum of their parts and more
I am me and what have I been put on this earth for
If not to love them
My mother told me that I cannot ask too much of her
And I give my children to her
Because she too is their mother
And my father is the only father here
One day when we three are old
My children will return the favour
And so we link arms to face the day together
Why waste another day alone when I could live in this village
Where all my efforts count for everything
Where I am free to love and be loved
I will be healed at the centre of the universe
Where my heart is
January 2018

As Pretty As Flowers And As Funny As A Clown – Thoughts on Mother’s Day.

In the past I’ve been very against Mother’s Day. The marketing machine dictating that mothers like all things fluffy, pink and scented annoys me. It’s a cop-out to give the woman who you should really know very well a off-the-shelf on a certain day of the year for doing a job and maintaining a relationship that she is obligated to.

I would argue that very small children do not appreciate you, but rather simply rely on you. Or at the very least they cannot articulate their need of you into the concept of appreciation. So until this year, it seemed a bit off for some adult to manufacture Mother’s Day on my children’s behalf.

This year, my son is in Prep and my daughter is in daycare, and so there is a lot of talk about mothers, what they do, and why we love them. The school facilitates a mother’s day lunch and a stall from which the kids can buy gifts, and daycare encouraged the kids to make cards and gifts.

So as fake and tacky as the day can be, it’s nice to see my son articulating things he appreciates about my – both as a Mum and as a person. He wrote: “My Mum is sweet, loving and gorgeous. My Mum can cook, drive and do washing. My Mum is as pretty as flowers and as funny as a clown. I love my Mum.” It’s clear my son is increasingly aware of the enormity of my job as mother since separating from their father. I’m everything and I do everything. It’s tiring but necessary. It’s just rewarding enough to not give up.

My music blaring to fill the empty house
The sound bouncing off the walls
In my empty chest cavity
My heart left home with my children
Their absence sorely overdue
I need time to refill my near-empty cup
Time for silence to not be so suspicious
And yet it is
I’m jumping at shadows
The kids absence a festering wound
This dissonance
Because I miss them
Because I can’t seem to love them this much
When they are at home
Bouncing off the walls
My little shadows
This cup has a slow leak
And is spilled across the table at every meal
I cannot imagine how it is ever filled enough
And yet it is
12 May 2019



When Opportunity Knocks, I Answer.


I was right when I said that everything changes. I know I’d sworn never again to work with community theatre after being burnt twice. It seems I wasn’t the only one who had negative experiences and with a new broom comes sweeping changes. The new board of Ballarat National Theatre are open to creative risk, actively seeking new blood, and have a longer-term outlook. I’m excited to be a part of that. The opportunities to build more networks, to work with new people, to try new things as a director, to forge a reputation for professionalism and quality seem to now outweigh any potential conflict that might arise from working in community theatre.

This month, I will be directing Act Like A Girl, a monologue series which sees speeches for male characters transformed by the female voice. I’ve got my work cut out for me with 20 actors to coordinate individual rehearsals for! And later this year, I will direct for BNT’s September/October season.

I’ve also been asked to present a guest segment on The Arts Program on 99.9 Voice FM. Every now and again, I’ll be joining Lydnen & POD on Wednesday nights from 6-8pm, to chat about happenings in theatre and spoken word around Ballarat.

2019 is going to be a VERY busy year for me, with new spoken word projects, and my other theatre projects already on the calendar. It’s an exciting time because I never know where the next project will take me or who I might meet, and each opportunity is a brick in the wall that is my career in the arts. And it’s not going to build itself, so when opportunity knocks, I answer.

Follow this blog and my facebook page for updates on all my projects.




I Can’t Get Enough of Spoken Word

I’ve fallen in love with spoken word. I’m not so interested in acting anymore, but I really enjoy the feeling of performing poetry aloud. Being able to read the poetry I write aloud enables an additional level of catharsis, and being a thespian at heart means most of my poems are best experienced as spoken word, rather than read off the page.

Every month, Words Out Loud runs an open-mic spoken word event in Ballarat. When I go, I always meet some great like-minded people and share some of my poetry in a five minute set. You can hear my set from last month’s Words Out Loud online.

I’m pleased to have been invited to perform a set as part of the Words Out Loud spoken word event at Clunes Booktown on Sunday May 5th.

On Saturday 11th May, I’m going to be running a spoken word workshop for Art In Dereel. Using participants’ original writing or a variety of existing texts – including poetry, informal prose, dramatic monologue and political speeches – we’ll explore structure, dynamics and rhythm in the delivery of text and learn techniques to engage audiences. The workshop will be followed by an open-mic Spoken Word event.

The next Words Out Loud is on Thursday April 18th. I’ll be there with bells on, will you?

Killing It For Kicks – An Analysis of Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

Jekyll & Hyde The Musical was recently staged in Ballarat for the first time by Ballarat Lyric Theatre Inc, at Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts. In terms of production values and performances, the show really was excellent. A jaw-dropping set, belting vocals and crisp choreography lived up to the hype. And yet, I felt so deeply uncomfortable during the performance that I nearly walked out of the theatre.

Based on the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson and featuring a thrilling score of pop rock hits from multi-Grammy- and Tony-nominated Frank Wildhorn and double-Oscar- and Grammy-winning Leslie Bricusse, the content of this show is presented as entertainment, but I don’t enjoy watching a woman get raped and murdered, no matter how well she sings.

Jekyll & Hyde has been described as cross between Phantom of The Opera and Sweeney Todd. Unfortunately it combines the worst parts of those stories – the jealous controlling of a woman the protagonist professes to care for, and the protagonist reveling in violence for the sake of it.

It is the very existence of Hyde, allowing Jekyll to be unaccountable for his actions, that made this story so unpalatable. Acutely aware of the harm he is doing, as he lies to his employees, ignores his fiance, and manipulates his trusting friend John, Jekyll is forever held at arm’s length from the horrors his experiment inflicted. The appearance of his alter-ego Hyde effectively makes him a victim of his own violence, instead of being the cause of it, which he most certainly is. Jekyll is never allowed to reconcile his two sides and acknowledge that good people – good men – indeed do evil things.

In Lyric’s production program, the director’s notes made no mention of the social context into which this production was being offered. The story could have been a perfect vehicle for an exploration of the effect of toxic masculinity and what happens when suppression of men’s emotional needs leads to them acting in violent ways. Switch the big gothic Victorian era London laboratory for a suburban Australian shed, and the chemical experiments for a couple of stubbies and suddenly the two faces of Jekyll & Hyde are not so unfamiliar. It is a horror story which many loved ones endure in reality – the two faces of a man who uses substance abuse to mask his anger and an alter ego to take the blame for his negative choices. A man who manipulates those around him by alternately showing his loving and caring side, and the face of his ‘chemical’-fuelled anger.

It’s 2019. There is really no need to see a man killing people or raping women on stage. I know a lot of people like horror as a genre, and this is what Jekyll & Hyde offers, but considering that in Australia, one in six women, and one in 16 men have experienced real-life horror as a victim of sexual assault, the themes are too close to home for many.

I’m not advocating for never telling these types of stories or avoiding all violence completely. On the contrary, I’m interested in seeing stories which explore these topics. But so many of the depictions of violent acts in Jekyll & Hyde did not add to the story or character development, and seemed to be included only for kicks.

For example, in Jekyll & Hyde, the scene where Lucy presented at Jekyll’s rooms for medical treatment and showed the wounds inflicted by Hyde is so subtly effective. We didn’t need to see him inflicting them to understand what he was capable of. We don’t need to witness the rape or watch men being slain to understand that those things are horrific. The sight of bleeding scratch marks down a young woman’s back is horror enough, surely?

The story of Jekyll and Hyde still has merit, it still has things to teach us. However the story must be reframed for the modern context, it must make a social commentary on today’s struggle with the epidemic of violence that infiltrates so many of our lives. If there is not a strong message behind the performance, then it serves to further normalise these behaviours. Leave more to the imagination, be less explicit but more thought provoking. I would have liked to see the complexities of the story and its relevance to the conversation in the age of #MeToo brought centre stage, not hidden within a production that was – to pardon the pun – killing it.

If you or someone you know is experiencing violence or abuse, you can contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat.

Flashback Friday – Poem – “Mistress of The House”

This poem about my Nanna, who passed away in October 2016, was written shortly afterwards. It was then part of the Minerva Speaks project in March 2017.

A performer read the poem as Minerva from the highest balcony of the Ballaarat Mechanics Institute while audience stood in the Titanic Bandstand and listened to the live broadcast of local literary works.



The Mistress of The House
A poem for my Nanna.

A yellow brick house called Remuera
Full of wonders
Silver bells and tiny shells
For playing bridge
We use as money for a shop
Stop and hide the thimble now
Go and look with nimble fingers
Turning over precious things
And sneaking through the Den
Getting warmer
Warmer still
Our hearts fill up with love
For our Nanna
Calm and safe and a little bit stern
But a twinkle in her eye
And so many wrinkles
I take her hand
And pinch her skin to see how quickly
It falls back into place
She commands her space
From a brown chair
She is always there it seems
At Clairmont Ave
Baking rock cakes
And making cumquat jam
Squatting in the garden
And popping up to Bentleigh shops
Gently guiding us and showing us
The best way to be kind
The be funny, to be bold
To be thankful and to be old and wise
In this guise it’s harder to see
That in her youth she was a beauty
But more than that
She was courageous
Her stories tell of places far away and foreign
Of black boys and lost boys
And little graves on islands out to sea
Of colourful hats made beacons
And of four sisters dark and bright
We cast our minds back to a beach
Where Nanna dives into the surf
And smiles ruddy-checked and sticky with salt
We can taste that curried egg
And soup and bread
And at the back of our throats now
A lump is forming
All the ferns and camellia are still
Adorning her front door
But the mistress of the house is there no more.