Visual artist, curator, poet, writer, director and playwright... the list only covers about half of what Jo Randerson does. Never one to fit into boxes, she's a natural fit for collaborating with youth for Yo Future.
The show is a hybrid of contemporary clowning and choral choreography that's been travelling the country - never the same in two places. This week it's been Auckland's turn to have a say. Renee Liang caught up with Jo.
What draws you to theatre as an art form?
I love the live element that theatre offers. I love the freedom of coming into an empty room with a group of collaborators and finding something together, making meaning. And that a stupid hat can be the origin of intense poetry.
How do you keep up your creative energy?
Meditation. Dancing. Not drinking alcohol. Reading books and trying to have genuine conversations with anyone I encounter.
You've worked in a dizzying number of creative disciplines - how does it all hang together?
I always liked the notion of parallel learning - you can transfer knowledge from one craft directly across to another. There's a creative act in figuring out how to apply it though. I need patience, aggression, lightness, weight as a mother, director, writer, performer. Choosing when to use which skill at which time is the craft.
Why are you calling it Yo Future?
This show is about the future. 'Yo' helps us with flippancy towards a concept which can be heavy.
Trained or untrained - what's your preference for actors and why?
Whether trained or untrained, I like performers who are brave, strong, who know themselves and where they come from and who aren't afraid to show their feelings. I'm not really big on a single method for creating work, I like chasing something unknown and I can't always find the words to describe it. Actors who will head into unknown territory and can crack a good gag are always high on my list.
What's so exciting about working with Gen Y?
I like the energy of a young cast, and I like hearing how different age brackets think. But there's no one way that any generation thinks - so its just like any group of new people that you meet, full of diversity. There's not a lot of fear or cynicism in the room, performers are open, and enthusiastic. This is a pretty special quality to have when you are making work.
Do you get a different show each time? Is there much difference between the cities you've done it in? A difference between urban and rural youth?
The show changes each time. In Invercargill it was influenced by musical theatre and the dance skills of our performers. In Hamilton there was a lot of talk about the drone they played in the city centre to drive unwanted people away - high pitched that only young ears could hear it. Each place there are different issues and angles on the show. It's always been city based so we haven't really experienced a rural performance. In Auckland we have more female performers in our cast so some more work around women's identities came through.
Has your international experience influenced your work here?
The work I've seen overseas has helped me hold on to a vision I am chasing. I feel part of an international conversation, and it's been great that in the last five years that conversation seems to be growing stronger here in Aotearoa. Actually I think New Zealand, and Christchurch in particular, has been a strong leader of innovative theatrical forms, especially with communities and socially engaged work.
What are you working on next?
We're making a very exciting work next called White Elephant, in Wellington in November. It looks at power structures and increasing wealth gaps - the 99% and 1%. It has lots of hilarity, three clowns and three dancers, and a volunteer choir.
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Writer and theatre-maker Jo Randerson is recognised as one of New Zealand’s most original voices. Her writing is dark, funny, poetic and absurd, and frequently peopled with outsiders, subversives and dissenters.
Jo’s published works include short-story collections The Spit Children and The Keys to Hell, and her plays such as Fold, The Lead Wait, and The Unforgiven Harvest, and are performed frequently in schools and professional theatres. Her writing has won her the Robert Burns Fellowship, an Arts Foundation New Generation Award and the Bruce Mason Award for playwrighting. She collaborates internationally with visual artists, theatre makers and activists, most recently in Paris, Moscow and Istanbul with Swedish visual artists Goldin+Senneby at the biennales in each city. Her recent play The Spit Children premiered at Antwerp’s largest youth theatre HETPALEIS in May 2014.
Jo is also an acclaimed performer, stand-up comedian, and exhibition curator (My House Surrounded by a Thousand Suns). She is the founder and artistic director of Barbarian Productions theatre company. Recent theatre works include Sing It To My Face, Political Cuts, Yo Future and White Elephant (premiering November 2014.) Jo often collaborates with communities and new voice