Wednesday, July 27, 2022
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Milk Crate creativity

Before becoming involved with Milk Crate via opportunities with Catholic Health Care’s Mercy Arms in Waterloo as well as Edward Eagar Lodge in Surry Hills, Helen experienced significant mental health and relationship issues leading to disempowerment and isolation. The Waterloo resident, mother and grandmother, has known the hardship of poverty and abuse, as well as the risk of homelessness. “I wasn’t allowed to talk for 41 years,” she said. Helen made repeated reference to the confidence she has gained as a participant in Milk Crate Theatre. “It’s very rewarding and exciting.”

Helen, who is also a keen painter, has performed in Milk Crate productions in Woolloomooloo and Parramatta over the past four years (there is also an ensemble in Newtown). Each production is unique, she explained. “The process is quite involved and includes exercises, workshops, storytelling, set design, and of course, rehearsals – usually six weeks of rehearsals.” It’s a process she clearly enjoys. “Often, we get to work with professional actors and musicians like Graham Rhodes, Bernadette Reagan and Christa Hughes.”

Artistic director Beck Ronson is singled out for praise. “Beck’s back from leave this year which is good news. She knows exactly what to do, what to get us to do, she makes us work,” Helen said. “She won’t take any nonsense!”

Helen will make a decision this month about getting involved in the first production for 2013 at Woolloomooloo. “Workshops start soon,” she said. “Sharing ideas, experimenting – usually the shows comprise a series of short plays. The ideas evolve, with all of us having a say.”

Learning with others is something Helen has come to value. She spoke of camaraderie, companionship and friendship. “It gives you confidence, working with other actors. You learn that it’s not just about you. There are other actors and creators. There is also the play itself.”

When invited to name the single most important lesson or skill learned over more than six theatrical productions including a recent Christmas show at the Belvoir Theatre (a high point), Helen was quick to reply. “Discipline,” she said. “A typical day of rehearsal is from 2pm to 5pm – that means it’s important to get to work, to listen, to focus.”

A professional respect for the craft informs Helen’s approach to performance. “I get nervous, I think that’s normal,” she said. “It shows that you care about what you’re doing. I have some strategies I’ve learnt to deal with that – walking up and down backstage, deep breathing. The hard work brings accomplishment – our payment is the enjoyment of the audience.”

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