Part 2 of the interview with Tim Rogers and Bojana Novakovic as they were preparing for the Mary Mac dress rehearsal to chat about the show, about being a rock god and about working together.
Griffin: Tim, you wrote the songs right?
Tim: We wrote them together.
Bojana: What is it, 71% you wrote? There’s some songs that are like narration and of course Tim likes to improvise, of course that’s so normal, I would want to do that too if I was playing gigs around the country every night for four months with my songs. But then there’s some things that are imperative to the story, even just little words, so it’s been quite an interesting journey for us where I’ve picked you up on some of that stuff just to explain you have to say this line the same way every night otherwise it doesn’t lead us to the next thing.
T: I’d like it to be more well known that the words are Mary’s and Boj’s and mine but mostly they’re Mary’s. People say “Oh the songs, they’re just kind of ditties and they don’t do much to the narrative arc”, but they absolutely do, it’s just that people don’t listen. The way people regard music or theatre … I know it’s not as important to everyone else but I’m now at this point where performing and writing is everything to me, because I don’t have anything else at all, particularly not today. So as Boj said it’s my job to make sure that those words are heard and it’s absolutely not natural to me.
G: Maybe if you were a jazz musician where people sit there in silence and just nod you’d have more practice at that.
T: About eight years ago I was playing a garden party just outside of Milan and there were 50 people in deckchairs, older Italian people, with lyrics of the songs I was playing translated into Italian and people listened. In Australia it tends to be that real combative thing – “Timeee!” – and if I’d been playing music and people had been listening maybe I’d be a better actor.
ON BEING FAMOUS
B: It would also be really amazing for a man to play Mary MacLane because I firmly believe that there’s a great contingency of men, if not the same amount as there are women, who relate to her. No doubt. Even now she would be considered brave to talk about those thoughts and how she thinks of herself, especially now it’s so strangely obvious that everyone is a narcissist. Narcissism is like a currency really. Everyone is a self-expressionist, and everybody’s I this and I that and I, I, I, it’s all about everyone’s feelings. It’s interesting to me that today a lot of men are actually finding that voice of discussing their feelings.
G: I heard a statistic that of American teenagers, 70% now believe they’re going to be famous.
B: But everybody is. Everybody can be and everybody is. It’s kind of true almost. If you stick a video up on You Tube, within a year I reckon you’d get 500 to 1000 views. If you send it to friends, a couple of thousand. And that’s basically a venue full of people. Our existence is becoming more and more public and the fascinating thing to me about Mary and the time that she wrote is that she wrote with a sense of audience, the way that kids – me as well – the way that we update statuses with that same sense of audience. To me it’s really interesting that that is a universal human condition, this idea that I am being watched, I am a celebrity, that I am famous in my own little world and my own head. I used to think as a kid that there was a camera following me around like The Truman Show, that I was in the show. I don’t know whether that’s because I was brought up with a lot of discipline so I was always scared that someone was watching or whether I was an exhibitionist, but I did have that sense – did you ever Tim?
T: That’s one more thing we’ve got in common.
ON THE AFTER-GIG
G: Tim you’re going to play some gigs after the show of songs written with your “enigmatica collaborator” Shel Rogerstein. Who is this character?
T: He’s a guy I met on a train journey in the south of France. I was going to Nimes and he was in France after a trip to old Bohemia in Czechoslovakia to look for his family roots and we got talking about music. He’s Australian and he’s a rather melancholic chap and a songwriter. But he was lamenting that you don’t hear the style of music that he wanted to write – Cole Porter and Irving Berlin – classic songwriting. I adore that kind of songwriting so I said let’s try and write together so we caught up back in Australia and wrote this album together. But he doesn’t perform. I’m hoping he might perform with me here because I know he’s going to come and see the show. He’s just a very odd, lovely, whimsical …
G: Kind of like your better half maybe?
G: So are they all new songs that you’re going to perform?
T: I don’t know if I really can. I’m going to try to – I hope so.
T: When Bojana was in Los Angeles and when I wasn’t posting her photos of myself half naked or all naked …
B: Lucky me … very lucky me …
T: … we’d send songs and Boj would come back and say “No, no, no. More whimsical, less whimsical”, and I’m all about whimsical Boj, what do you mean? And it was only just a couple of months ago that we worked out that the Serbian take on whimsy is very different to my Irish Jewish background take on whimsy so for years we’ve been …
B: Yeah, I thought whimsical was kind of like (does a melancholic ghost-like wail) “waaaahhhh”. So I kept going Tim this is not what I’ve asked you to do and I thought he was doing that thing that actors do when they rehearse and the director asks them to do something and they know that they can do it but they don’t want to so they just pretend that they can’t so you just keep doing the wrong thing again and again and I was like “Oh come on, you know, come on Rogers!” And that’s not what was happening so it was really good to discover it. But just back to the songs, it was interesting because the songs really did shape some of the text too. There’s some songs that Tim wrote …
T: There’s about 600 written.
B: Yeah, there’s a lot of songs that he wrote and one that took months of back and forth that didn’t end up in the show, called The God Song, and that was the whimsy song, but it was interesting because there were some songs that were so Mary-like that I just went “We can’t lose these songs”. And it’s interesting that you said people say they get in the way of you getting to know her, it’s very strange to me because they are actually her words and her thoughts and you’re right, people just need to listen.
T: They’re too busy staring at you in your underwear my love.
The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself is at Griffin until 12 May. For more info and to book tickets, click here.
Tim Rogers will be live and solo in ‘Rogers Does Rogerstein‘ at the Stables on 27 April and 3 May. For more info and to book tickets, click here.