Incoming SUDS Vice-President Jake Parker has been busy for about two years now. Despite his involvement with theatre only beginning in his first year, he’s been involved in 24 productions at the University of Sydney (USyd) since then.
His latest endeavour is a special one. Not only is he venturing outside of the realm of student theatre, but he’s doing so with his own original script – the first draft of which was written in just two days.
This Genuine Moment – or How I Learnt to Stop Loving Myself and Lie is not the first play Jake has written, but it was the first that he felt particularly connected to.
“I could see these characters and writing them felt natural. That’s why I think I could write it fairly quickly and that’s why I wanted to stick with it.”
The play is being performed at The Old 505 in Newtown as part of the theatre’s FreshWorks season, which aims to spotlight new or experimental ideas from both younger and more experienced artists.
Based around the freedom and beauty to be found in seemingly non-important interactions, the script’s primary stimulus came about during a car ride with a total stranger.
“One night I was just in an UberPool home from a night out and the girl and I in the Pool got talking, and there was this lovely, no pressure moment to be authentic between two, slightly tipsy, strangers… that was the big spark.”
But the overall inspiration for the play goes back further than that. The initial themes and concepts that would go on to become its driving force were ones that he felt were missing from much of the modern queer fiction he was engaging in.
“I couldn’t really find much that I felt related to this distinctive post-AIDS crisis, very technologically influenced queer scene… when you talk to a lot of queer people, particularly male identifying, the prevalence of dating apps and social media and this insecurity about identity is such a part of gay identity for this generation.”
Jake notes that, as queer fiction and specifically theatre continues to move further towards the mainstream, works become more centred around the issues relating to the community, rather than the people within it.
“This play fundamentally wouldn’t work if the relationship wasn’t queer – it’s inbuilt into the script – because I think Queer writing isn’t just a gay writer but works that’s unpacking what it means to be queer.”
The description for the play on the theatre’s website notes that the relationship portrayed on stage “isn’t a grand romance”, nor is it “a deep pondering on society”. Instead, Jake’s approach to writing the script involved the circumventing of much of the ‘melodrama’ traditionally seen in theatre of this kind.
“I really believe that you can find that grand narrative in the simple interactions, in a conversation and a brief relationship and all of that.”
Director Hayden Tonazzi, who studies a Masters in Directing at NIDA, was one of several people to be sent a rough version of the script for feedback, as was assistant director Margaret Thanos, who will serve as SUDS’ President this year. The transition from student theatre to independent theatre was made easier by the rest of the play’s production team, who floored Jake with their professionalism and expertise.
“Everything is just on a slightly larger, more professional level. Moving beyond student theatre means that instead of being quite insular in terms of the USYD community you’re trying to engage that community as well as markets a lot wider.”
Despite this, he sees “more similarities than differences” between the two theatrical worlds, and notes how this is “a testament to the dedication from these teams of amazing student theatre work that’s produced.”
Though it’s fundamentally a queer play, there’s hope that the situation it presents, as well as its ideas and interactions, will be universally relatable.
“At the end of the day this is a play about relationships… I would hope these big themes and buzzwords of authenticity and genuineness would be a takeaway but really, it’s down to you. Love it, hate it, I hope and my goal is that it makes you think something or feel something or consider something.”
This Genuine Moment will be performed from the 14th to the 19th of January at the Old 505 Theatre in Newtown. Tickets (which are selling quickly) can be found here.