GETTING TO KNOW: STEFANIE LEKKAS

Born and raised in Melbourne, Stefanie quickly developed a love of performing at a young age, training with VYT and performing in their productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Killing Game, amongst others. Before moving to Canberra she performed in Greek theatre in Melbourne, and was a part of Cornell University’s Skits-O-Phrenics sketch comedy group in New York. Stefanie’s move to Canberra saw her undergo further training with CYT, with subsequent performances including the award-winning SKIN (2015), Antigone (2016) and poem every day (2017). Other theatre credits include playing the dual role of Belinda/Flavia in the British farce Noises Off (2016) with Canberra Rep; the Short and Sweet shows I Love Lucy (2018) and Dreamland (2019); and playing Angela, a 1970s parliamentary hairdresser in We, The People (2019) at Old Parliament House. Stefanie is thrilled to be making her Street Theatre debut with Metamorphosis.

The Street talked to Stefanie Lekkas as she prepares to take on the role of Greta in Metamorphosis.

The Street talked to Stefanie Lekkas as she prepares to take on the role of Greta in Metamorphosis, making her debut on The Street Theatre stage.

YOU ARE A PART OF FRANZ KAFKA’S SAMSA FAMILY IN METAMORPHOSIS. WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ROLE OF GRETA?

It was actually the play itself rather than Greta as a character that drew me in initially. To be part of a physical theatre ensemble piece is a real treat in the Canberra theatre scene. To me, working in an ensemble is always such a fulfilling experience as a performer. To tackle an adapted literary classic was a challenge I felt ready to leap into.

THE WORK DEALS WITH ALIENATION AND A YOUNG MAN WHO TRANSFORMS INTO AN INSECT? HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THIS?

The alienation can be taken in so many ways, and this lends itself to individual interpretations. Who we choose to cast out says a lot about a society. Gregor, the young man in question, is essentially the breadwinner for the family. When he can’t perform those duties anymore his social standing shifts. The same can be said for many people cast out in our society when their (subjective to the rest of society) usefulness disappears.

As far as the insect part of this goes, we have worked physically to bring in insectile elements to the piece, such as stylised interpretations of an insect and the characteristic movements of insects including twitching and scurrying. Responding physically gives us the opportunity to move away from naturalism and embody the ideas in the writing.

WHY DO YOU THINK METAMORPHOSIS IS A WORK FOR OUR TIMES?

Metamorphosis covers issues that were not only relevant at the turn of the century, when it was originally penned, and in the 60s, when the stage adaptation came to life, but also today, in 2019 Canberra. The economic situation, the need for work-life balance, and the common human attributes of taking things for granted and easily underappreciating what we have still hold true. The current state of the world compared to Kafka and Berkoff’s times lends itself to bringing the environmental aspect of the play to the fore. The work becomes more relevant than ever in this sense. How detached are we becoming from nature? How are we treating our greatest resource? What will the future hold if we continue in this manner, if we don’t acknowledge and work to change the consequences of our actions?

TALK US THROUGH THE PROCESS OF BRINGING GRETA TO LIFE. WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS IN A WORK LIKE THIS?

Greta’s form and tone have mainly been taken from the texts in which she exists – Kafka’s novella and Berkoff’s adaptation. This involves pulling out the writers’ clues to create a list of what is known about Greta, which makes a good starting point. I have also looked at the tension/shape of the piece from Greta’s perspective, pulling out emotions etc expressed in each scene and plotting them on a graph marking the intensity of these states, thus forming an overall shape. This graph is likely to change as I discover more through the process of rehearsal. I’ve also looked at her status shifts in relation to her brother Gregor, as this follows a nice seesaw pattern.

Greta has talents that I don’t possess, so exploring these and staying true to the character have been interesting challenges as well. I have watched professional violinists in action and done online tutorials for holding the bow and violin correctly. I have also asked French speakers for help conjugating verbs and done some online tutorials for this too. I love how acting gives the performer the opportunity to be pushed out of their comfort zone and to learn something new!

WHERE DOES STEFANIE MEET GRETA?

We are different in many ways, but Greta and I both have a scientific mind. We can both be quite matter-of-fact about things and try to problem-solve the issues that surround us. We take charge in situations that need to be taken charge of.

THERE ARE FOUR ACTORS IN THE WORK. WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED TOGETHER SO FAR?

That we work quite well together! Although we come from different theatre backgrounds and a variety of experiences, we are fitting together quite nicely as a nuclear stage family. We have had the opportunity to learn from each other, with Christopher giving us a crash course in mime and Ruth in mask. We have also discovered nuances in the text that we hadn’t seen before, as well as the humour in the script that comes with having three other actors embody the characters on the page.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO A SUCCESSFUL AND FRUITFUL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN ACTOR AND DIRECTOR? AND WITH AN ENSEMBLE OF ACTORS?

An open mind and mutual respect on both counts! Having clear roles also helps; some directors are keen on input from actors, others not so much. Knowing where you stand can thus make a world of difference! I also feel that trust comes into it a lot. For example, one aspect of a successful relationship is when the actor trusts the director to make the creative decisions that are best for the work and when the director trusts the actor to put everything into their performance. This also influences the ensemble’s relationship, as we need to trust that we have each other’s backs on stage. This kind of safe, supportive environment is the perfect base for not only successful and fruitful relationships, but also great theatre.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH LIVE PERFORMANCE IN CANBERRA?

Since moving here in 2014 I have tried to get involved in as much live performance as possible as both a performer and audience member. I joined Canberra Youth Theatre’s Company Ensemble as soon as I could and stayed until I was too old to be “youth”! I then moved in to assistant directing the Company Ensemble while tutoring and directing 10 – 12-year-olds. I directed an interactive theatre piece for the I’m Me festival this year, a live performing arts festival by 7 – 12-year-olds for audiences of all ages. I have also been involved in Short + Sweet, performed with Canberra Rep and done a piece in The Public Theatre, amongst other things. While I have dabbled in film (including a web series about a live performance venue!), I love the immediacy of live performance and the rush that having a living, breathing audience brings. I also enjoy it as an audience member; one of my top five things to do in Canberra is attend the You Are Here festival, where live performance abounds!

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

My fellow cast members! Their creativity and talent push me to be a better performer, to do the work justice.

WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?

My script! If only I had the time and headspace to read anything else! I do like to wind down with a bit of television though, and do enjoy the ability to get wrapped up in a different reality and escape the day to day. Besides the plethora of choices on Netflix, which lately for me has included Blown Away, I’ve always been a fan of Shaun Micallef (if you’re reading this Shaun, I’d love to work with you!), so Mad as Hell is something I like watching. I’ve also recently gotten into Counterpart, and, despite my usual preference for fiction, attended the Stronger Than Fiction documentary film festival last week.

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