Theatre is alive and well in the QUT scene, with student theatre company Vena Cava launching their first show at the end of this week. They’ll be performing Good Grief, written by Merlynn Tong. We’re told it will explore myths across the ages, and involves lots and lots of milk crates, in the way only student theatre can.
Vena Cava Productions is Queensland University of Technology’s resident student theatre company. For over 21 years, Vena Cava is managed by students, for students. They are committed to providing members with arts industry-level experiences, training and opportunties in a supportive, safe, and fun environment. They encourage members to learn, create, and expand theirselves as both an artist and person, as well as connect with those who share their passions. The show they are launching this Friday explores Greek, Chinese, Aztec, Japanese, Norse and other tales in a phenomenal ensemble work. The work will provoke the question; are we all ultimately connected as humans, across oceans, across eras?
Glass sat down with Zoë Schramm, the director, and Abby O’Brien, the assistant director, to talk about the show and the company’s next steps. The two are both QUT students, taking on a huge role in bringing this performance to life.
How does it feel to be launching a mainstage production after the hurdles of the last 18 months?
ZS: So good!! I’m a person who thrives in having a full schedule so getting back to being busy again has been wonderful. It’s also feels incredible to not just be open, but open at full capacity, we are very very grateful.
AO: So incredible!! 2020 certainly threw a spanner in the works for the theatre industry, with indie theatre taking a bit of a hard tumble. But we are so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to get a main stage production up and running again! I’ve really noticed everyone’s passion shining through in every rehearsal for Good Grief, partly because of how fantastic it is (hint hint: buy a ticket) but also because we are all aware how lucky we are to be back in the space, doing what we love.
What has been your favourite part of the rehearsal or directorial process for the show?
ZS: There is a stage direction in the script that one of the characters is “yanked out of this space,” which we always knew would be a challenge. Without spoiling anything, this moment involves the entire chorus and a very finicky sound cue. We kept trying to make this moment work over and over again and kept just missing it, until finally everything clicked and it looked amazing! There was a lot of cheering from cast and crew that day! So any moment where all the tech and the actors finally mesh together to bring our ideas to life has been incredibly satisfying.
AO: This might sound like a bit of a cheesy answer but just seeing everyone grow so much in their roles (both cast and crew) throughout the process has been so wholesome. I have also loved the fact that the show feeds off the ensemble, which has made it really fun and exciting to imagine different ways that we can use multiple bodies and objects (spoiler: lots and lots of milk crates) to create unique worlds that tell beautiful stories. As someone who loves both watching and acting in large ensemble works, it has been exciting to be able to put our choric ideas up on their feet and watch the cast synergy play out in front of us.
Good Grief is a piece centred around myths across the ages – which myth do you enjoy exploring the most?
ZS: The Malaysian myth of the Pontianak – a vampiric spirit that enacts revenge on men who have wronged people, and tracks them down by smelling out their laundry. It’s just such an interesting creature and I love to think how this myth was probably born out of a desire to gain back control over people, particularly men, who have inflicted fear and pain onto our loved ones. I also love how the play has imagined how this creature would look if it walked beside us in our everyday world.
AO: Ooh! Tough question! If I had to choose just one favourite, I would have to say the Chinese legend of Ghost Marriages, where two families celebrate the marriage of their deceased loved ones in the hopes that they will be together in the afterlife. As Good Grief centres around themes of grief and love, I think that this legend truly encompasses both ideas quite profoundly and, through its application in the performance, creates beautiful ties and connections to the other stories and characters.
What else can students expect from Vena Cava in 2021?
ZS: Heaps more opportunities for actors, tech students, writers etc etc! Vena Cava is a gold mine for creating opportunities for young artists, or even just students wanting some theatre to brighten their week!
Thank you so much! Hope you enjoy the show!
AO: So much!! There are always so many workshops available to attend and hone specific skills, and there will also be lots of opportunities coming up for actors, directors, playwrights, tech, dramaturgs… you name it!! Follow the Vena Cava socials so you don’t miss out!!
Good Grief will run on Friday the 21st of May and Saturday the 22nd of May, across three performances. Get your tickets here, there are discounted tickets for students!