GETTING TO KNOW: FRAGMENTS CAST (Part 1)

Tom Bryson has always had an interest for acting but his passion and understanding of the artform grew when he began studying at the National Acting School 3 years ago. Now Tom is constantly thinking about the teachings of emotional truth in his performances. Having spent the last couple years acting in front of the camera in student films Tom is keen to get back on to the stage for what will be his professional debut.

Zane Menegazzo has been on the stage in Yes, Yes, No (Canberra Playhouse) and in musicals Rock of Ages (Hawker College) and Grease: The arena experience (AIS). Zane completed a double degree in drama at Hawker College and workshops at the Australian Film and Television Academy and NFTA acting and script reading workshops, receiving New Faces and Talent Awards nationally and a first place in the NSW/ACT monologue category.

Marni Mount is a local actor, writer, director, and student. She has been performing on Canberra stages for the last 5 years while completing her Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics/Bachelor of Arts at the ANU. Marni is the Founding President of the ANU Shakespeare Society, currently works for Canberra Youth Theatre, and is developing a new queer comedy with fellow cast member Holly Johnson.  Selected credits include: Amber in Picnic at Hanging Rock, Cynthia in The Real Inspector Hound (National University Theatre Society), Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, various roles in The Art of Coarse Acting (Canberra Repertory Theatre Society), as director: The Importance of Being Earnest (National University Theatre Society), Juris Doctor Strangelaw or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Cop the 5% (ANU Law Revue). Given her penchant for comedy, Marni is thrilled to be exploring her more dramatic side with Fragments.

The Street talked to Tom, Zane and Marni as they go into rehearsals for Fragments by Maura Pierlot, opening on the 23rd of October. Eight young actors give voice to young people in a set of dramatic, interrelated stories about mental health.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOTIVATION FOR YOU TO DEVELOP A CAREER AS AN ACTOR?

Tom:  The motivation is simply that it’s what I love doing. Acting challenges me in ways that nothing else does, it provokes thought like nothing else does and makes me learn more about myself like nothing else does. When something brings you that much joy and satisfaction that’s all the motivation you need.

Zane: I started Performing in 2017 a little late to the game but ever since that game of Space Jump on the first day of Drama for me I knew for a fact is that I’m in love with this and I will be paid for it. It stems back to the saying “If you are good at something never do it for free”. The whole thought of making strangers feel empathy, hatred or any type of feelings through a performance fascinates me. I really strive to make the audience feel something through my actions, It’s very satisfying for me. 

Marni: Since I first encountered it, I have adored theatre. Telling stories in such an active, explorative, and connected way is good for us all, and I treasure being a part of it. As someone who has spent a lot of time in academia and other professions that are more about task fulfilment than skills development, I also really cherish acting as a craft – something creative that can be developed and worked on. As a young person I was also heavily involved in team sport, and many of the dynamics that make it so fulfilling also apply to acting. Working closely with other people in specialised roles and working for extended periods of time in preparation for performance are both really satisfying elements that apply to both. Ultimately, my pursuit of acting has been motivated by my love for it – my two favourite things in the world are people and stories – acting is, in my mind, one of the best ways to engage with both.

FRAGMENTS IS A NEW WORK BY MAURA PIERLOT. WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS AN IMPORTANT WORK FOR OUR TIMES?

Tom:  It’s important because it talks about things that aren’t talked about enough, things that are hard to talk about, but also very necessary to talk about. In times when it is increasingly easier to shut yourself off from the rest of the world and not speak, for Maura to push the reality of Mental Health Issues in to the light really does mean a great deal. 

Zane:  This piece is extremely important in our climate of our society. To show that these things are real and happening everyday to people that you’d least expect. Spreading the awareness of asking if your mate, sister, brother, mum, dad, colleges if they are OK cause that is all it takes to start a conversation that sometimes need to be had. As a young person of this generation I read this script and could immediately see how relatable the themes are. Its raw and real and that’s how it has to be presented. This is how things our and this is a call out for helping the voiceless. 

Marni:  The public conversation about mental illness and mental health has never been better. Sadly, it has also never been so important. Including young people’s experiences in our discourse around mental health is vital to protecting and supporting young people who are experiencing challenges, and in shaping the solutions that we offer. At the heart of Maura’s work is a truth that no two experiences of mental illness or neurodiversity are the same, and that anyone, regardless of identity or background, can be suffering. 

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO LEARN FROM REHEARSALS AND YOUR FIRST PROFESSIONAL PERFORMANCE?

Tom:  Anything and everything I can would be the short answer. Most importantly I would say, after a few years hiatus from theatre performance I am looking to enhance my knowledge of performing on the stage as opposed to the camera and really understand that distinction between performing live and performing on camera.

Zane:  I’ll be honest, I haven’t spent much time on stage so just to be up there in a professional show is a huge win and experience in itself. The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is staying in character the entire time of the show, from start to finish to react and not react to the other characters purely as Mason is incredibly exciting. Another thing is to be in a show that every character is equal, No leads No ensemble just a true through and through team. I am beyond excited to work with these talented people as rehearsals go on.

Marni:  Just like every other show I’ve been a part of, rehearsals are a rich playground for exploring text, character, story, and physical possibilities. I love working with other creatives and am thrilled to have the chance to rehearse with the writer in the room. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with director Shelly Higgs for the first time, and building connections with an incredible ensemble of local emerging artists. 

WHAT DOES LIVE PERFORMANCE THEATRE MEAN TO YOU IN A WORLD WHERE THERE IS SO MUCH ENTERTAINMENT CHOICE?

Tom:  Live theatre is special because it is happening right there, right in front of you. You can’t pause or rewind or fast forward. Out of all the entertainment we have in the palm of our hands today it is very unique to have the audience and the performers all being a part of one moment, experiencing something for the first and only time together.

Zane: We live in a very exciting time for entertainment, movies, television, streaming platforms and video games, but there is something about the stage that brings out the most in people, You aren’t watching a scene filmed last year on the other side of the world, You are there in real time watching the story unfold right in front of your eyes, that’s emotional in any regard, you are hearing their voices first hand seeing their movement its something else, something you can’t get anywhere else.

Marni: At its heart, theatre is an exercise in empathy. It has a million other possibilities, but even where it falls short of these, it is always an exercise in empathy. There are precious few times in our modern world where you literally have a whole person standing in front of you, and your only job is to believe in them, that’s what theatre is, and that’s what makes it precious. It’s also thrilling, and heart warming, and deeply human and I love it.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO BETTER IN CANBERRA TO SUPPORT THE TRANSITION FROM SCHOOL/TRAINING TO PROFESSIONAL CAREERS?

Tom:  I’m not really sure what the answer is to this one. My teacher and mentor Bobby Farquhar has helped and supported me immensely from here in Canberra, so I guess my answer would be to source more mentors like him that genuinely care about their students and have an actual passion for the artform, that can guide you through the complex and sometimes scary world that is the professional acting industry.

Zane: It’s hard to say what we can improve the performing arts for Canberra as I haven’t been doing much of my acting here, It may be courses connections with colleges and universities. Also  maybe making it more accessible for the people who don’t know where to begin in their early acting careers, I know we are slowly getting in more Canberra based agents and managers and that’s a huge step in the right direction, More professional shows and performances make more opportunities for people who have not broken through to a career yet will always help out!

Marni: As the nation’s capital, I feel Canberra has a duty to the Arts. Whilst Canberra has a thriving community and independent theatre scene, there are precious few professional opportunities for actors, and as well as the federal governments abandonment of the arts, institutions closer to home including the ANU are neglecting theatre and its creative bedfellows. I think Canberra is on the cusp of being great in this area, and the developments at Belconnen Arts Centre, and the upcoming Kingston Arts Precinct are really promising, but government and industry needs to make sure that they are placing value on arts projects rather than just arts infrastructure. As the theatre industry here is enriched, the opportunities and experiences available to emerging artists expand exponentially.

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

Tom:  I always look at other actors, be it someone Hollywood famous or a fellow actor in my class, seeing other people’s work gets my brain firing with ideas. But on a closer level my Mum, who isn’t an actor but a Milliner, and seeing how incredibly creative she can be with her hat designs reminds me that I’ve got it in me too. 

Zane: Music is always inspiring me, even though I can’t play an instrument to save my life but Music affects me significantly, whether it be a musical finale song or more likely rap and r&b it inspires me to be creative to show off my talents and try to make waves in people. It comes back to my first answer where I love to make people feel things with my performances and most music I listen too does that to me. It also inspires me to make stories, like I’d hear a really good line from a song and I’d hold on to it head to my laptop and write a short story about said line.

Marni:  The weather! It’s really energising and compelling. I’ve also been loving the creativity and solidarity that’s been on display during the Global Climate Strikes recently, and I’m working alongside an incredible cast of young people at Canberra Youth Theatre who are giving me goosebumps with their work.

WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?

Tom:  I’ve currently got about 4 books that I have said I’m going to read for the last year and a half, I’m pretty bad at committing to a book to read evidently. And in terms of television I’m not currently watching any shows, but I did just finish watching the Hunger Games series for the first time which was pretty good.

Zane: I’ve recently just finished my second viewing of the HBO original Euphoria starring Zendeya and I cannot say that a show has made such an impact on me lately than this one. Very much like Fragments it revolves around a bunch of teenagers all together but alone with their own problems. It’s very raw and very real showing the darkest sides of drug abuse, mental health, sexual identity and love. The acting is the best I’ve seen in a while with none of the cast lacking, the cinematography is stunning with lucid shots with abstract complicated scenes with beautiful colour grading and the soundtrack is the best ever on a TV show. As you can tell I’m very inspired by this show!

Marni: I am loving Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, and am working my way through the stunning Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton. Also I’m still ranting to everyone I meet about Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag. Seriously, go watch it. 

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