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Andy Paris's Momentum: Dealing With Identity And Loss At WAAPA

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Andy Paris, a co-founder of Tectonic Theatre (NYC) has created some thrilling and important American theatre and he's lending his experience to Western Australian Academy Of Performing Arts (WAAPA) students in a new work called 'Momentum'.

Here, Andy has a chat about 'Momentum' and what it means to work with WAAPA students in Australia for this performance.

Tell us a bit about 'Momentum'.
'Momentum' is a new piece of theatre developed by the current second year acting students at WAAPA. Throughout the past year they have been developing personal narratives around themes of Identity and Loss. They have been utilising Moment Work, a technique for exploring theatrical structure and form in order to find these pieces of narrative, as well as new forms in which to contain them. 'Momentum' weaves these narratives together and the result is a group of young men and women telling their collective story, a story of passion, of familial and racial conflict, of longing, of loss, of love.

This show involves the second year actors at WAAPA. What do they bring to the show?
The students are the show. They have brought their skill, their heart and their creativity to bare. I merely provided a structure and some guidance. The rest was up to them.

What do you love about putting something like this together?
I love seeing things on stage I have never seen before. I love watching these students find their own individual voices and then figure out how best to express what they have found they want to say. I love watching the continual moments of discovery light up in the students and the sense of accomplishment that washes over them. I love to watch the students develop a sense of collective ownership over what they have created together.

What is Moment Work?
Moment Work is a technique conceived by Moises Kaufman and developed by the members of Tectonic Theatre Project to explore theatrical form and build theatrical narrative. Using a laboratory setting, Moment Work encourages participants to actively engage with the elements of the stage, enfranchising writers, actors, designers and directors to collaborate in compelling and theatrical storytelling that stretches their creative capacity. The work is inherently interdisciplinary. Throughout this process, the students, aside from utilising their talents in acting, have been lighting designers, sound designers, actors, set designers and projection designers.

Andy Paris WAAPA students

Why has this performance taken so long to put together?
It will have been a little over one year since I started working with the students last June. Part of the reason has to do with scheduling, and how this whole thing developed. I was asked by Glenda Linscott to come to WAAPA and train the then first year students in Moment Work through a two week intensive. The work the students did in those two weeks last year was very exciting, and Ms. Linscott and Andrew Smith and I discussed the possibility of returning so that we could further develop what they'd started. The students continued utilising Moment Work throughout the following term, with Sam Chester as their guide. They would send me videos of their work and we would discuss them over video chats. Then I began a series of writing workshops, doing text work and exploring narratives that had sprung up during their Moment Work sessions. Now I am returning for six weeks so we can build those narratives and weave them together into a new theatrical work.

What do you love about Australia?
I love the land. I love the different animals and trees. The natural environment in Australia is so unique and I love how appreciative the people are of this land and how connected they seem to it. I love the time the people of Australia tend to take to appreciate being alive here, at least in my experience. Australia also produced my wife, so I really can't say more for it than that.

You're based in New York. What have you been up to over there?
I have been developing a show with my wife called 'Uncommon Sense'. We recently had our first full production out of town and it gained enough momentum (no pun intended) to garner a production in New York this fall. So once I leave Perth, I will be diving into rehearsals almost straight away. And I have two daughters who keep me very busy.

What do you want people to think and feel leaving 'Momentum'?
I'm not sure I want them to think or feel any certain way. I hope they leave with the sense they have borne witness to something truthful and meaningful. And if we do our jobs well, perhaps conversations might be sparked and the community might become more unified.

'Momentum' plays 25-31 August at WAAPA's Enright Studio.

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