– by Jen Perry
I was lucky enough to recently have a chat with supremely talented Shakara Walley, writer and producer of upcoming Blue Room show Songbird. Songbird is the story of three friends who’ve grown up together in a country town in Western Australia. After Michael’s untimely death drives Brooke and Leon apart, will they ever reconcile the past? This is Imprint Productions’ second work following last year’s debut Confessions of a Pyromaniac.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and continuity.
I’m really excited to see Songbird. Can you give me a bit of an idea of what it’s about?
Sure. Songbird kind of came about in two different ways. I wanted to know what it was like to have two people in a room – one that’s reconciled the past and other who’s not – and kind of see where that went. But also I got the inspiration from reading Up the Road by John Harding which is one of the first plays I did years ago.
That idea of reconciliation is an interesting concept. Can you explore a little bit what you mean by that?
Kind of forgiveness and hope are the themes in my play as well as dealing with your past so you can have a better future.
What’s the significance of place in your work?
I mention Perth a lot because I grew up in Perth and country towns. And I have family up in remote communities. I’ve spent time up there myself. So kind of drawing on those two locations in this play.
Is it important to incorporate your experiences in the works that you write?
In some ways there’s a slight element of me in the play within the characters and within the story. I think you write what you know.
Your work Confessions of a Pyromaniac debuted around this time last year at the Blue Room. Are there any similarities between these two works?
Well last year was kind of my first shot at producing and directing and a mate of mine Matthew Cooper actually wrote Confessions of a Pyro and this time around I thought I’d produce and write because I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could actually do it.
I think this time I’ve gone in this round and have been more kind of on top of things and trying to be as organised as I possibly can. Whereas last year was just an experience that I greatly valued.
So you’ve been acting for awhile.
I did a theatre course at WAAPA in 2007 and then I came on board Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company in 2008 and I’ve been working with them as an actor on and off for the last 7 or 8 years. I also do workshop facilitating, writing…
You kind of do everything!
I kind of do everything, yeah. Last year when I was asked if I’d like to put on a play at the Blue Room I decided I wanted to try producing.
What do you like the best out of everything that you’ve done?
To be honest I like all of it. At this moment in time I kind of like producing. It’s kind of where my ethos has geared me towards for now.
You mentioned Yirra Yaakin and I’ve read that you’re involved in their Next Step Program.
The Next Step program is an initiative that we have for emerging artists. Myself and another emerging artist called Ian Wilkes is on it. (Ian happens to be directing my play.) They allow us to work on projects and be mentored in the specific areas we’re interested in. Because I have an interest in producing they’ve allowed me to assistant produce a number of their shows. It goes towards my training to be a producer later on in life.
How is it working with Ian as a director? Have you worked together before on anything?
Me and Ian have worked together as actors. So we’ve done a few tours together. It’s interesting. Since we’re playing different roles now, we’re both kind of the boss. I have immense respect for Ian in his ability to direct my play.
What has Ian brought individually to Songbird as a director?
He has fresh eyes on it because this project has been sitting with me for a couple years. With Ian looking at it, it kind of brought on a whole new other life that I hadn’t thought of. He kind of brings this playfulness to it.
The play has elements of theatrical realism. What’s that mean?
It’s a very contemporary piece. Any type of my writing I try and do is based in what I know and what I know is what I’m going through right now at this moment in time.
Who’s written the live music and original songs in Songbird?
Myself and my dad and my sisters. We’re all song writers and musos. One of my many hats that I wear.
Why should younger people go and see Songbird?
My writing speaks to my age group. I’m in my late ‘20s. I guess it would be kind of based on experiences that I’ve gone through and I’ve tried to incorporate that in some of my writing.
You can see Songbird at the Blue Room Theatre from July 7 – 18th. For more information visit their website.
Image credit: Simon Pynt