Inspired by their own personal journeys, Melbourne actress Lisa Maza has joined forces with her sister Rachael (an Artistic Director of Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Cooperative), among others, to create Sisters of Gelam. In the midst of the play’s season, Anna Lozynski interviewed Lisa Maza about this fictionalized autobiography.

Rachael and Lisa MazaWhat can the audience expect from this performance?
They can expect an hour and 20 minutes of entertainment: wonderful theatre and puppetry filled with music and songs and provocation of thought.

When did you and your sister decide that it was time to use your personal experiences as the inspiration for a theatre piece?
We have always known our lives were a little unusual compared to the average person, but on a personal level, not so different. For many years we talked about writing something but only really committed to seriously putting pen to paper about two years ago. This is the first time my sister and I have written a piece of theatre. As is usually the case with first time writers, we have drawn on what we know.

Which scene was the most difficult to pen?
The hardest was writing for the Father. It was a real challenge finding his words and getting the right balance of energy, frailty, positivity, sickness, reflection and the truth of such a complex character.

Which scene is the most challenging to perform?
I sing a song called Return to Nature. I need to be in a very bare place, a place of desolation but I still need to be able to physically sing it. It’s quite a challenge.

How did you go about selecting the play’s name?
The play is about two sisters going on a journey and getting to know each other and themselves. We are sisters and Gelam is another name for Mer (Murray Island) of the Torres Strait and that is from where our Grandfather comes. Sisters of Gelam came early but then we changed it several times only to return to it. It seemed to make the most sense and had a nice ring to it.

What was the most challenging aspect of co-writing a theatrical work with your sister?
My sister and I grew up together, shared a room, played in bands together and are now working in the same industry together, acting and singing, so we learned to share a long time ago. So there wasn’t any difficulty in the co-writing of this show. The difficulty was really just in the actual writing of it, as it was a first for both of us. Luckily we had a wonderful Dramaturg, Melanie Beddie on board early on, who was instrumental in guiding us in the right direction.

Sisters of GelamIf you were starting the project all over again, what would you change?
It’s been like magic. Everything has just seemed to fall into place. However, I would like to have obtained further funding for marketing and to be able to have the play run for a longer season.

How did you react to the press you received after the opening night of the play?
The press has been awesome. People have been really enthusiastic about the show, together with some shining reviews.

Which one moment will you never forget during the life of this production?
On opening night we had the biggest mob of family come from all over the place, but it was extra special having our Aunties fly down from Townsville. Our Aunty Gari in particular helped us with the story of Gelam, the language and translation. They spent the past week with us and it has been so special and such a pleasure to spend this time with them.

Sisters of Gelam plays until Nov 21. Further details»

Top Right - (l-r) Rachael and Lisa Maza
Bottom Right - Sisters of Gelam

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