The purpose of the Lab is to bring together theatre-makers from diverse backgrounds for a hothouse week of exploration, collaboration, conversation and development. Today Michele Lee gives us the inside scoop on Story Lab day two.

As it turns out, I was able to watch the Melbourne Cup in a coincidentally well-timed afternoon break and as it turns out, I enjoyed it. Pre-flirtation with socialist groups I had enjoyed my annual bet as being just that, an annual bet. Sitting with the Cup Day centre-spread from a newspaper laid out in the morning, I would divine the winner based on name and the pattern on the jersey. Sometimes I was psychic, and I’d even make my money back. Post-flirtation, I don’t bet, I even avoid the sweep at work, but I do enjoy a sneaky glimpse at the race and seeing that pumped up bit when the throng of horses are coming around the last bend as one milk chocolate entity and then quickly the winner begins to tear herself away as a single set of churning legs and gallops forward.

Day 2 of Story Lab was not crap, which is a good thing. After the winner had been declared and I returned to the workshop room, Alicia reminded us that Day 2 was building on the success of Day one, which had been quite splendid, and not crap. Which is a good thing. I agreed, and also found this to be an incredibly funny turn of phrase in the added qualifying nature of the ‘not crap = good thing’.

Turn of phrase was something that Kate Champion brought up in the first half of the day, pre-horse race. Kate runs the dance theatre company Force Majeure. Their work uses verbatim text either played as voice-over, spoken by the performers and even partially projected onto the stage, and the text then works in tandem with dance, and set, lighting, sound. Kate does a lot of the interviewing herself of the everyday people from whom the text comes from, and then she pores over this material weeding out the gems of text that she wants to work with. An affirming observation from Kate: the intriguing turns of phrases can often come from the people with the less obviously interesting stories.

I’ve been working on verbatim projects recently and have had similar experiences where I expected certain interviewees to orate in an entertaining way and yet when I come to the transcripts, I’m surprised at who I actually end up more drawn to. This is a note to self to start to record my mum speaking, as she’s always been a gifted storyteller… although by my own argument, I hope I’m not setting her up to be a dud interviewee 

Later in the day I sat with Ildako – a shout-out to her for blogging so generously and warmly yesterday – and heard her talk about her mother. Fascination with people’s lineage aside, the subject matter reminded me of Rosie talking yesterday about her mother too, and the significance their mothers had made in their lives. Quite a few of us have hinted at inspirations and at our ideas for development in this week’s Story Lab, and not surprisingly some of us are guided to make work that excavates our own personal histories and our families – identity and history is inherently a topic of deep interest for some. I wonder how this sort of autobiographical inclination might be tackled by large-scale mechanical site-specific works.

This was the body of work shown to us by Joey Ruigrok van der Werven, who ran the afternoon workshop. Looking at Joey’s work, and then at the images of other works similar to his, made my brain go mush mush ga ga. It’s pretty f**king great. Epic and/or magic executions that sort of rip open your imagination, stir it up with a big wooden spoon, and then let it stagger or stumble or run or hover gobsmacked and gleeful. The content and the stories themselves aren’t necessarily always epic, and perhaps within this – a classic or simple story writ large – is how a more personal story might be told in the van der Werven style. I would like to see what something intimate and personal and autobiographical might look like as a large-scale work.

I’m wondering if anyone in the group felt their concept shift dramatically after Joey’s workshop or Kate’s. Perhaps for me, a turning point in the idea I have brought along came as I sat on the curb with May Yu and Supa talking about Australia’s past being commonly a story of white vs black. We talked of all the colours and shades in between, in Australia’s past. 

PS – Along with Bryony and Chris I, I am staying at the residence at Casula. It is such a pleasure. As we are three interstate artists living together as roomies, Chris has named us ‘Team Generator’ in reference to the powerhouse history of Casula. I am hoping Bryony will come up with a secret handshake. And maybe house t-shirts.

For more information about Story Lab click here.