GETTING TO KNOW: FRAGMENTS CAST (Part 2)

Damon Baudin was last seen on The Street Theatre stage in Revolt She Said. Revolt Again. He is a co-founder of Limbo Theatre, and has performed across a variety of Canberra stages. Notably; Neighbourhood Watch, The Art of Coarse Acting (Canberra Repertory Theatre); The Importance of Being Earnest, Much Ado About Nothing (National University Theatre Society); Accidental Death of an Anarchist, The Good Doctor (Limbo Theatre). In 2018, Damon was selected as a member of The Street Company, The Street’s intensive ensemble training and production program led by Karla Conway for the development of pre-professional actors in the ACT. Damon currently tutors at CYT. 

Linda Chen has appeared on the stage in works including: The Inheritance (Budding Theatre), Vinegar Tom (COUP) and In Loco Parentis (The Street Theatre); in TV and films: Total Control (ABC); The Third Wheel (Melbourne Queer Film Festival); and in performance art: Rear view (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art), Love and Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Poetry (National Gallery of Australia). She has also worked extensively in the applied theatre space. Linda graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.)/Commerce from the Australian National University, completing her thesis on fostering cross-cultural competence through applied theatre.

The Street talked to Damon and Linda during 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?

Damon: I like the idea of exploring different circumstances and ways of thinking. Through acting, I’ve been continually challenged to reflect on myself as a human through exploring characters and being exposed to different works. I’d love to turn this passion into a vocation, continually looking to be challenged by my work. I’m deeply motivated by actors who have had a profound impact on my life through performance. I hope one day, I can achieve a similar effect throughout the development of my career.

Linda: What started as a need to find – or rediscover, really – some kind of personal outlet pretty rapidly became an urge to represent not only people who ‘looked like me’ and the stories that felt important to me personally, but to uncover and champion stories that are resonant amongst multiple communities and ideally barrier-resolving, albeit sometimes challenging. I guess the crux of it is that, at least for now, I feel like I have something valuable to contribute in this space. There’s also a story about a Phantom of the Opera recording in this discovery process somewhere that I’ll share with anyone who asks.

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

Damon:  There has been an increased recognition for mental health issues in recent years. Fragments explores mental health challenges experienced by a diverse range of young characters, illustrating the point that anyone can be susceptible. Young people are becoming increasingly prone to such issues, making this work all the more relevant.

Linda: I feel like these days even though we’re more aware about the basics of mental health and illness – the actual act of reaching out and finding the time and space to talk to each other can still be challenging. Maura’s piece is centred around that connection-seeking and depicts young people at different stages of personal struggle. The stakes are different for each character, but that doesn’t change how much of an impact they have on each individual at a personal level. I’d also say that work centred on ‘youth’ characters that’s not specifically targeted as a show for younger audiences can be reasonably rare to come by, and that representation is crucial for a group who are so likely to experience a mental health condition or to know someone who will.

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

Damon:  Whilst this isn’t my first professional performance, I’m excited to work with the experienced artists offered by the Street. Shelly is an incredibly generous director with a wealth of knowledge and through her I’m discovering so much about myself as a performer. The environment offered by the Street has instilled a great deal of confidence in me as a performer, which I hope will carry across into future projects and my development as a professional actor.

Linda: I don’t think the bones of what you hope to gain from the process change drastically compared to any other production – you’re hoping to walk into the room and find committed, organised creatives who value your contributions, and to be able to spend time discovering the surprising and exciting elements of your character and the piece as a whole, although I always luxuriate a little in being able to prioritise this process as work instead of a hobby. With Fragments, the uniqueness of the monologue-centric structure means that there’s probably a greater responsibility on us individually as actors, because for most of it there won’t be someone or something else that we can fall back on easily. I’m looking forward to finding how to navigate and sustain that, as well as taking advantage of having so much creative agency in our one on one rehearsals.

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

Damon: Theatre and live performance is always immediate and works off its relationship with the audience, which will be different every night. I think that’s incredibly exciting, because there’s an element of danger to it. In theatre anything could happen, which I think is what good theatre should make an audience believe. There’s something special about seeing real people in the space take on characters in front of you. You see relationships in every sense: between other characters, to music, to the space and to the audience. You see all these relationships explored and tested in front of you.

Linda: I’ve said this before, but there’s something about being, physically, in the same space for a shared experience that’s unique and increasingly valuable in our technology-driven lives. There’s an element of slowing down in order to be swept away, both for performers and for audiences, and an inescapable kind of connection that we’re all subjected to because of it. Beyond that, theatre-makers are always looking for ways to play with the medium and give audiences something that wouldn’t work or wouldn’t be the same coming through a screen.

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

Damon: Opportunity is paramount to the development of professional careers within the arts. The tragedy of this industry (including within Canberra) is that those opportunities are limited and subsequently competitive. I’ve been incredibly fortunate/privileged with the opportunities provided to me, knowing this is a unique position to be in. Thankfully, programs and works like those offered by the Street for young artists enables/encourages those careers to develop early on. It would be ideal if more of these opportunities were present to support this transition in the future.

Linda: The arts community is beyond supportive and resourceful here, particularly when it comes to independent artists and projects lending a hand to each other; but to really support this transition we need to continue building our local industry so that there’s enough professional work to transition into. There are a lot of moving parts and challenges to this, but at its core it probably means more (at least, clearer) pathways to funding and stronger commitments to resourcing the arts from policymakers. If we can foster an environment where more venues/organisations like The Street can thrive – particularly ones that support and develop new work and provide key opportunities to emerging artists, then maybe we can give the arts industry here enough of a kickstart to have a shot at becoming self-sustaining.

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

Damon: My own personal relationships within my life are inspiring me creatively at the moment. Watching these people pursue their creative interests has inspired me to do same. This isn’t limited to those involved in performance; Friends deciding to start a business, or taking up new hobbies, travelling etc. are all inspiring me to push myself within my own work and creatively.

Linda: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, although I’m pretty sure most of the world is rather in awe of her at the moment. Lately I’ve also been drawing a lot of inspiration from looking at the past – mainly my own web of family connections those stories. It’s been good and strange feeling like I suddenly have the time to reflect and get nostalgic, but thankfully it’s stirring some impulses to write that I’ve been waiting for the return of ever since submitting my thesis.

WHAT ARE YOU READING AND WATCHING CURRENTLY?

Damon: I’ve been reading a lot from author Mark Manson recently, both his books and blogs online. Otherwise, I’m well immersed in my Shakespeare at the moment. Reading everything from Two Gents to King Lear. I’ll be tackling some Shakespeare towards the end of this year and leading into the next, which I’m deeply excited by.

Linda: I’ve just binged all of Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as well as a new web-series called Carpark Clubbing that co-stars and is co-written by former Canberran/Street supported artist Tasnim Hossain. I’m also one episode into the second season of Killing Eve and have been meaning to get back into it – so I guess my habits are featuring lot of outrageously funny, talented women right now. I’ve also made a light start on Briohny Doyle’s The Island Will Sink (published by The Lifted Brow, who have been absolutely killing the publishing game), but I probably get to finish it until after Fragments closes.