Q44 open their inaugural season tomorrow night with NYC playwright Edward Allen Baker's emotionally charged one act play Dolores.
The play promises to be much more than the albeit provocative synopsis – A woman escapes her dangerously abusive husband and seeks help from a sister who doesn't want to get involved – suggests. Baker is a playwright who believes in writing about "people born to brick and asphalt, who don't have bad days, they have bad years." This is a story about the human condition and fits like hand in glove with the theatrical truths of both the founder of Q44, Gabriella Rose-Carter, as well as director of the piece, Suzanne Heywood.
Heywood is excited by the work – it's that simple. She loves the script because, she tells me, it really takes us on a journey. "The play takes place in real time and during the fifty uninterrupted minutes Sandra and Dolores spend together both they and the audience are taken on a journey of discovery," Heywood explains. "As their shared past collides with the present they learn more about each other in that fifty minutes than they have in the twenty five years they have known each other ."
"The nature of the piece takes the actors into an extremely emotionally charged landscape. For an actor to experience intense emotion is very gratifying and thus very seductive . The potential trap of the piece is that the emotion could take over and descend into a “weepathon” and we lose sight of the story telling . It actually requires great discipline to find those profound connections but not surrender to them. Our process has been to go to those places and understand what happens when you surrender and then learn how to resist."
The actors in question are Q44 Founder Rose-Carter and Q44 ensemble member Nicole Melloy. Both actors come to the piece with a wealth of experience behind them – Rose-Carter being an alumna of the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York and Melloy having achieved her Diploma of Classical Dance as well as training at the Victorian College of the Arts.
Both actors relish the opportunity to dig deep and these wonderful moments of exploration have some of the most memorable for director Heywood: "There have been many favorite moments in the rehearsal room as the deeper we dig the more we uncover and this is so exciting. There are so many layers in this play and so we are constantly discovering."
"The predominant theme in the play is connection or lack of it. Sandra and Dolores are sisters who have spent most of their lives not really connecting with each other. Their lives are marked by fractured relationships and each woman in her own way is struggling to find meaning ……something more! They are both trapped by their circumstances and while those circumstances appear quite different they have more in common than they realize. There is a lovely moment when Dolores relates to Sandra the advice given to her by her therapist for managing her relationship with her husband . It is of course impossible to implement as the logic, restraint and emotional maturity it requires is in stark contrast to the reality of their lives. I think this theme of connection whether it be with sibling, spouse or parent will resonate strongly with audiences."
The genesis of Heywood's relationship with Q44 began with Rose-Carter's approach to direct Dolores and, says Heywood, she was thrilled. "Gabriella had established Q44 and when I saw the studio space I felt it was a prefect performance space for the piece. I think her creation of the collective is so exciting and we share the same passion for text driven work."
Although not a member of the collective, Heywood is an associate which means: "I have all the fun with no responsibility! Seriously it means that I am involved where required, I offer advice but I am not involved in shaping the direction of the collective."
Heywood brings with her a wealth of experience and is certainly no stranger to the stage having begun her career in the theatre playing Helen Keller in J.C. Williamsons’ production of The Miracle Worker. She has spent the last 25 years working as a voice, dialogue and dialect coach She has worked across the spectrum of theatre including musical theatre ,T.V and film. Most recently she has been the voice and text coach for The Shadow King at Malthouse which she describes as particularly satisfying. She is also currently in production for an animated series called The Jar Dwellers. Her Musical Theatre credits include: resident dialogue/dialect coach on “Sunset Boulevard”, “Chicago”, “Cabaret”, “Mama Mia”, “The Wizard of Oz” , “The Full Monty” , “The Lion King” “Dirty Dancing”, “High School Musical” ,“Jersey Boys” and “King Kong” and the Melbourne productions of “West Side Story”, “Annie” and” South Pacific” . She is currently working on “The King and I”. Theatre credits include: The Crucible”, “M Butterfly”, “Racing Demons”,“ Great Expectations,” and “The Other Place" for The Melbourne Theatre Company, “Girl Talk” for Hit Productions ”Yes Prime Minister” YPM International, “Blood Wedding” and “The Shadow King “for Malthouse and many productions for Red Stitch Actors Theatre most recently “Out of the Water” directed by Nadia Tass. TV credits include: “Something in the Air”, “Simone de Beauvoir’s Babies”, “ Raw FM “ “Last Man Standing”, “Curtain” , “The Slap” and “Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries” for the A.B.C . “Horace and Tina” and “Treasure Island” for Jonathon Schiff and was the dialogue/acting coach for “Neighbors She has provided consultancy for the Nine Network and the ABC for a diverse range of projects. Films include “Heartbreak Kid, ”“The Ripper, ”Dead Letter Office”, ”Wee Jimmy” “This Dying Breed”, “The Eye of the Storm’, “Underground”, “The Mystery of the Hansom Cab “ and “Now add Honey.”
Based in Richmond, Q44’s 2014 season will open on May 1 and feature four emotion-packed plays, performed in intimate theatre spaces, ensuring close encounters that promise to leave audiences laughing, crying and lusting for more.
For all those actors interested in this exciting new company there are opportunities for actors outside the collective to audition for particular plays. Heywood explains that as the collective members are producing the work themselves they may well need to look outside for casting requirements. It is Heywood's understanding that Orphans, the next show in the season, was cast in this way.
Q44 launches with Dolores starring Gabriella Rose-Carter and Nicole Melloy and directed by Suzanne Heywood May 1 – 18