Ruth is a trained actor (BA Acting, Theatre Nepean UWS), a professional puppeteer (Terrapin Puppet Theatre), a dedicated Drama tutor (Bachelor Teaching, Drama UWS, tutoring with Canberra Youth Theatre since 2006) and a passionate improviser! (ImproACT, Improventions, Lightbulb).
Ruth recently performed in CANBERRA UNSCRIPTED at The Street Theatre, in BRIDESQUAD, and in her solo work PROPPETS with Chrysalis Theatre. A guest puppeteer in MIGHTLY LITTLE PUPPET SHOW, Melbourne Fringe 2016, awarded Best Actress in Sydney’s ‘Short and Sweet’ Gala Finals 2016 and Best Actress in Canberra ‘Short and Sweet’ 2015 for her one-woman puppet play BABY BLUES, directed by Shelly Higgs.
Professional stage productions include THE VERY SAD FISH LADY (2013) and HOMEFRONT (2014). Ruth has performed in various improvised works at The Street Theatre including Crescendo, Displaced, Imperson8 and Theatresports.
She has acted in various short films, pilots and corporate training events throughout her career, is resident writer with The Street Theatre’s HIVE program, an artsACT grant recipient, developing her new play UNDER MY BED throughout 2017 in partnership with Canberra Youth Theatre and Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centre, is a budding ventriloquist, independent voice-over artist, Gold MEAA Actors Equity member, and a Clown Doctor at Canberra Hospital for the Humour Foundation. http://www.ruthpieloor.com/
THE STREET TALKED TO RUTH PIELOOR BEFORE THE UPCOMING SEASON OF UNDER SEDATION: CANBERRA VERSE REMIXED.
WHAT CAPTURED YOUR INTEREST IN UNDER SEDATION?
My interest was first sparked by Adele’s philosophies when I read her Street Talk interview. Her concept of society sedating one’s self (in all ways) to deny un-comfortability, is timely in a world where we’re so connected through technology, yet somewhat disconnected to ourselves and each other. It’s also an enormous pleasure to be working at the Street Theatre again, and always refreshing to work new projects with people for the first time, so yeah chuffed to be part of this passionate team.
There was a particular poem in UNDER SEDATION, which I was lucky to have as my audition piece. A deliciously inspiring contemporary poem, which allowed me to find heaps of possibilities within the poem, which can offer so much more beyond just reading or reciting it; which is what UNDER SEDATION relishes in.
THIS IS A NEW THEATRE WORK HONOURING THE NATIONAL CONTRIBUTION OF OUR LOCAL POETS – IS THERE A ‘CANBERRA VOICE’ FOR YOU?
Yes but I think the Canberra ‘voice’ is a movable feast; constantly being redefined and growing!
It is an extremely eclectic spectrum of voices from what is a regional town as much as a thriving metropolis; both remote and connected. Artists here really question concepts, desiring gutsy, gritty non-conservative approaches to their work. This willingness to challenge the status quo, especially in theatre and poetry, succeeds largely because of extremely strong and supportive networks that allow artists to be brave collectively and nurture risks as individuals, to step away from conventions of what’s been done before, but to jump with safety nets.
I also believe we proudly claim our disassociation with some of the decisions that are made up on the hill. Our proximity to federal government and the country’s political trajectory can’t help but have an influence on our ‘voice’ as a collective of artists who are compassionate.
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH VERSE SPOKEN AND SUNG – IN THE THEATRE AND OUT OF IT?
When I was girl I wandered the backyard (and nearby nature reserve) in dress-ups, singing and making up stories. I still do this working as a Clown Doctor, armed with my ukulele. I have fond memories of singing in productions, especially improvised songs. Verse and Song have been a big part of my children’s development (we have too many instruments to count!) My partner plays drums too, so there’s no escaping it in our house. Extended family get-togethers always end in some kind of mega jam, so yeah singing is definitely a part of my off-stage practise.
As an actor some of my favourite productions I’ve been in or seen, have been Shakespeare’s, and it’s work I love to teach too. Also my mother is a published poet (we were read to a lot as kids) so I guess it’s in the blood. Although, I still feel like the imposter amongst the real verse and song experts.
HOW, AS AN ACTOR, DO YOU NEGOTIATE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SUNG OR SPOKEN WORD AND THE PLAY OF THEATRE?
Ah the ultimate question! I think this process is being discovered collectively, but for me as an actor, perhaps similar to undertaking the joyous challenges of Shakespeare’s work, it is about finding meaning and connection to the words through physicality and playfulness as a body in space. To unlock words from a page, to dissect, examine, discover and create these words into our bodies and in the space is paramount. Thankfully alongside Adele’s fabulous direction we have an amazing movement director who is helping us unfold this. And there’s room to yet explore this once we’re all together, as no doubt the chemistry and balance of play between Ben and myself will feed back into the words. I’m also thrilled to say that Shoeb Ahmad’s sound design will certainly bring a theatrical dimension, which will affect our play as actors, to say the least.
YOUR ARE A PUPPETEER AND AN IMPROVISOR. WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT EACH OF THESE SKILLS BRING TO YOUR ROLE IN UNDER SEDATION?
Well I hadn’t thought that puppetry skills would come in to play, but I guess puppetry isn’t only animating the inanimate, but an extension of acting (puppets are characters), so perhaps this skill will inform in some sense.
I passionately believe Improv has a place in all forms of businesses including theatre, from team-building therapy to individual creativity. UNDER SEDATION isn’t one set play with a single narrative or a central through-line, but rather a collage of characters and a series of moments. Improv can allow individual moments to develop and connect more truthfully, as well as serve as a tool for devising transitions between these moments. Improv builds connection to your fellow performer. It informs me how to be ‘present’ – always a challenge when we’ve practised an action repetitively to perfection. It keeps us alive and ready to be surprised, as if each moment is truly ours the first time.
YOU’VE BEEN WORKING WITH MOVEMENT DIRECTOR EMMA STRAPPS IN PREPARATION – WHAT ARE YOU DISCOVERING?
Apart from discovering sets of muscles I haven’t said hello to properly for years! I am discovering and being reminded of a language that all performers of theatre visit and revisit from time to time – that of the body being first; remembering that the body is where the voice is too! Without wanting to give anything away, we are playing with a particular character’s experience in movement that is unlike either of our personal worlds, and diving in to this movement and owning it, has been an experience that a sense of humour has truly helped with in order to embrace whole-heartedly.
TALK US THROUGH YOUR PROCESS IN BRINGING UNDER SEDATION TO LIFE?
Some of the songs, we’ve been learning on our own, before rehearsals officially get underway. Re-reading the text, doing basic research, making notes, and posing questions is part of the journey, but until we’re all in the space sharing our work together, it’s hard to say completely. We had a 2 day development on the work previously, which was a fabulous test run of the anthology as well as a micro rehearsal with the creative team all together.
Part of an actor’s process is to ask who these characters are, and why are they saying and feeling this so for me that’s both a good jumping off point for each poem, as well as something to keep coming back to – to justify and deeply understand a character’s choices without judgement. As for once rehearsals begins, it will be down to the processes as an ensemble to bring Adele’s vision to life.
THERE ARE TWO ACTORS IN THE WORK. WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO DISCOVERING IN WORKING WITH ACTOR BEN DRYSDALE?
To finally work with Ben Drysdale after seeing him sing, play and act in various shows over the years, is nothing short of exciting. Actually my kids, who are budding musos, grew up on ‘Beth and Ben’ CDs and they were both pretty impressed when I told them about it. Ben is one of those performers who surprises you every time you see him. I was amazed when he played the lead in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ a couple of years back, at both his depth of truth and his range, and I am looking forward to being surprised again! Also he is a pretty hot musician and has worked heaps with a variety of musicians, so he brings lots of talent and experience to the work.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO A SUCCESSFUL AND FRUITFUL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN ACTOR AND DIRECTOR?
Getting along with your director is essential for a creative atmosphere in the rehearsal room. And respecting your director’s vision and their process is key to this. Obviously if this is in place you’re going to have more fun discovering together! Directors all work in different ways and it’s good to find out what works from the get-go. For me it’s a 2 way street as I enjoy mostly a collaborative working relationships, which Adele is nurturing in spades! That point when actors don’t know (or think they know but can’t see the forest for the trees), that’s when all trust has to be given to the director. It’s a to-and-fro trust thing like any relationship. When I have had opportunities to tutor or direct, I have embodied collaborative styles of working from previous directors that I have liked over the years, and I sense this rehearsal will be no exception.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH LIVE PERFORMANCE IN CANBERRA AND THE STREET.
I go see both Canberra and interstate productions often. It’s impossible to see everything, but an integral part of being a theatre practitioner to see other work! I’m fortunate to be on the advisory board at Canberra Theatre Centre, which brings new opportunities and responsibilities. I regularly tutor and perform with improv companies such as ImrpoACT, Chrysalis and Lightbulb. As a ‘Short and Sweet’ veteran (7 years running) it’s offered me opportunities to develop new works on a micro scale, and build new relationships amongst other supportive Canberrans.
I’m developing my new visual theatre play this year, thanks to ArtsACT and a superb creative team. The development has been supported by the Street Theatre’s HIVE program, having worked with dramaturg Peter Matheson the last 2-3 year. I’m hoping to go into production 2018, but anything can happen. It’s all new and exciting trying to be a producer on your won project.
WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?
So many things actually. Lately a friend of mine, who had lost her 18 month old child a few years back, had recently, after an enormous emotional journey, gone on to raise $20,000 for other grieving parents by creating her own funding campaign, and writing and recording her own album inspired by her late son. This woman’s light is an inspiration, and I am often finding inspiration from women, some of them I know very well, who are enduring such hardship, yet finding some way through to make meaning of things and still be creative at the end of it! It blows my mind how some people can fail and fall and then rise up again, seemingly more resilient than ever, warts and all.
My own kids inspire me too. They inspire me to keep it real and not get too serious about myself but remain serious about others and my art.
WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?
I’ve just finished ‘Truly Madly Guilty’ by Laine Moriarty, which has a beautiful writing structure and heart-wrenching twists. I’ve started re-reading Rosie Batty’s ‘A Mother’s Story’ as food for thought for my play – the story is devastatingly hard, yet the essence of true bravery. For pleasure I have just started reading Tim Winton’s ‘Dirt Music’ which has been in my kindle waiting for me. Winton writes so efficiently, like a poet – every word a necessary descriptive truth.
I recently enjoyed the film LION. Wow. On occasion my partner and I snuggle into an episode of Orphan Black- intriguing writing, but mostly an actor’s dream in playing character range. When I need a laugh I can’t go past a Seinfeld episode (I have the full collection) and love ‘QI’ and ‘Mad as Hell’. My favourite regular program is Richard Fidler’s ‘Conversations’ on ABC radio. I love hearing extraordinary stories of endurance and about people triumphing through adversity.