Alexa Taylor recently sat down with Arts Editor Stirling Kain to chat about representation, the messiness of teendom, and Alexa’s latest theatre production, See You Next Tuesday.
Stirling Kain: Thank you for allowing us to interview you, Alexa! In your own words, can you describe the nature of See You Next Tuesday?
Alexa Taylor: Thanks for the interview, Stirling!
In my own words, I’d say See You Next Tuesday is an opportunity to spend an hour inside the mind of a smart, sexually-active, and still-growing-up seventeen-year-old-girl. It’s about the complexity of trying to navigate sex and sexuality as a teenager, at a time of life where learning happens through experiencing; where frank conversations are not encouraged or feel deeply embarrassing; where things to do with sex can be confusing and messy and silly and raw and heartbreaking and wonderful and everything in between, sometimes all at the same time.
S.K: Why do you think it is important that we portray stories about contemporary, young women?
A.T: In one sense, that’s simple – I think every human being’s stories are important, and the stories of contemporary young women are part of this. I long for an arts scene where any theatre-goer who wishes to could find their people/community represented on stage with sensitivity and respect.
In another sense – the project sprang from a need to hear the stories of young women told in a way that embraces complexity, resists stereotypes, and looks beyond narratives that equate a loss of virginity with a sad loss of innocence. There is a coming-of-age element to See You Next Tuesday, but it springs from the character of Evie learning more about the world that she is living in; sex itself is a fun new experience that’s just part of her life. Showing sex as something that young women actively do, rather than something that happens to them, has a politics to it that feels important in this contemporary moment.
S.K: As part of the show, you have teamed up with local musician Sakidasumi and organised a photography exhibition with artist Bush Willoww. What do you feel this adds to your production?
A.T: It adds their artistic brilliance! Bush Willoww’s amazing visual eye and Sakidasumi’s stop-everything-and-listen sound. It also adds fresh perspectives – bringing artists who usually work outside of theatre into the project has meant having different processes for approaching the design. I’m excited for the theatre community of Perth to see and hear their excellent work, and for some of their artistic followers to come to the theatre.
S.K: The show’s description includes a comment about exploring “messy failures (and even messier successes).” Do you think the experience of being a young person has always been ‘messy’, or is it something more closely associated with modern living?
A.T: While it will have looked different at different moments in history, I think there’s a pretty timeless messiness in navigating that transition from childhood and adulthood. Change is rarely tidy. And there’s a kind of learning-by-experiencing that happens as a teenager which by its very nature can’t follow a pattern. At the risk of sounding ancient – Instagram didn’t exist yet when I was seventeen, but the kinds of feelings and problems that Evie faces (and the messiness inherent in these) feel deeply familiar.
S.K: How does this production respond to its geographical specificity of Perth?
A.T: The production could actually be set in any number of locations in Australia, but the places in the script do resonate with Perth – the spread out houses; the park with broken streetlights; the night-time suburban streets which are often-but-not-always safe. The sprawling spaciousness of Perth’s suburbs is very much felt, and we realised in rehearsal that each of us had a real suburban park from of our childhood that we were imagining as the park that Evie goes to. (It was pretty cute. I can still see the curving yellow slide for the park in the hills that I was picturing in my mind’s eye).
The production also responds to this geography by a subtle performative act of reclamation: placing a young woman into night-time suburban landscapes which are not traditionally seen as young women’s spaces to inhabit.
S.K: Speaking specifically of the show’s themes, is this something you have explored before in other productions, or a new venture for you? Either way, can you tell us a little more about this?
A.T: It is new to me! And that’s exciting. As a director it’s such a privilege to be handed a bevy of well-thought-out words with carefully considered politics, in a style which is so different to my own writing, and figure out how to bring it all to life on stage. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to do this with; we’ve laughed heaps in the process, been outrageously silly, shared stories of our own experiences of navigating sex and sexuality as teenagers, and also shared the heartbreak of a thousand small disappointments. The themes are deeply relevant in this contemporary moment where conversations about sex and consent are shifting in broader public discourse, and I hope that conversations like those the play sparked in our process of making are also sparked between audience members after the show.
S.K: It is tempting to say that a production showcasing stories about contemporary, young women is made for contemporary, young women. Do you think this is the case?
A.T: I hope there will be young women in the audience who feel that the piece speaks to them, and I do think it’s important that people get to see stories that resonate with their own experience presented on stage. So, in a sense, the show is for contemporary young women. I would be hesitant, however, to say that the production was made just for young women. Theatre, and this play in particular, offers an opportunity to leap into the mind of someone else – to laugh, to feel, and most importantly to grow empathy and understanding. So, I’d say that the production is for contemporary young women, for young men, for non-binary folk, for anyone who knows a teenager, or for anyone who has ever been a teenager. So quite a broad demographic, really. Come see the show.
A note from the interviewer: Static Drive Co. kindly offered me complimentary tickets for See You Next Tuesday, with no expectation or demand for a review. My own opinion is that this show is as richly-layered, developed and cathartic as Alexa suggests, and can confirm that you should indeed go and see it.
See You Next Tuesday is running until July 6. For more details, and to make your booking, go to https://blueroom.org.au/events/see-you-next-tuesday/.
Interview by Stirling Kain