DSP: Who are you in this world? What is your Normal?
JKE: I am an artist, I make theatre and music and a little bit of poetry / spoken word. I am an on and off activist, because sometime I get sick of it and currently my thought process is at the intersection of disability and enviro activism because they can feed each other. I am in this world because I love art and pop culture with magic and dragons and guns and explosions! Most of my work is tweaking these pop culture influences with a disability framework in mind. I also have a band called Bearbrass asylum orchestra and we call our music crip folk and we do blues rock folk pop with a a little of a queer disability flavour anywhere from covers and original. The covers are around what a disabled person does, like mama’s broken heart which is about playing with this idea of disability as weird and wonderful as the non-disabled population. One of the originals is ‘you are weird, I think I love you’.
DSP: Who were you at the beginning of this project?
JKE: I think I went into it just wanting to do as many projects as possible and it didn’t matter what, it was more like having points on the board like a sports person.
DSP: Who have you become through this project or by the end of the last show? What is your new normal?
JKE: My normal hasn’t changed very much but I think I can now see the value of quality over quantity. Normal is like I wrote in my essay, everyday bodily functions, and I guess the main thing is as long as I am continually having new ideas and am inspired. But also as long as people are somewhat interested in what I am doing! I get the institutional framework around this but I am also not so left of centre that I want to make stuff that people don’t want to look at. For example, sometimes I love writing funny stuff but whats the point if its only funny for me.
DSP: Through this process how do you foresee arriving at the next stage, if that was to become a reality? What do you want to normalise?
JKE: Not really sure what the next stage is in terms of this work, I am happy either way because if it does happen I would absolutely sign up because of that group of people, particularly David. With theatre, of course you want the show to be remounted but I feel like if it doesn’t happen, I wont lose sleep over it. I worry more about what if I dry up and have no ideas for my art or never get an opportunity to make more art because I am too unwell or there is no money but yes, I would absolutely do it again if it was to happen. For example, the Sydney version of the play was the most important as it taught me about how to tour as a quadriplegic independent artist.
DSP: What is paradise and what does it look like to you?
JKE: Paradise is forests and freedom of movement. Like getting on PT and being able to go somewhere without the impediment of my disability. I joke that I am like a failed dictator as I feel like tick all the boxes of a socialist or something but people not having the choice between food and electricity which is brutal to me and you add disability into that which adds layers of complexity. If people didn’t have to make that kind of choices that would be awesome. I want more people riding bikes in lycra, they look funny but that would be part of my revolution.
DSP: Is theatre / performance art needed in paradise? Why?
JKE: Yes. I think when I want to zone out I watch movies and TV, and when I want to be excited and challenged I watch theatre, and both are necessary in utopia. Here is a funny story – I went to a production that had Geoffrey Rush in it and it was so exciting because live performance is adrenaline inducing for me both as a performer and audience, the energy exchange is exhilarating which you don’t get from the screen.
DSP: What is the one thing people say about you the most?
JKE: I am funny. I think sometimes I am funny even when I am not trying to be.
DSP: Name 3 to 10 survival things you have / need / would like to have in your tool belt? (for everyday, as an artist and in the bush)
JKE: Some means of recording my ideas, A knife to knife enemies with or kill food to eat, things to read or listen to, are important for my artistic practice and I am still trying to find the right balance between consuming other peoples work and making my own, because that needs the right amount of balance.
DSP: Can you identify and share one pivotal moment, that was the turning point for you as an artist and a person in this project?
JKE: Weirdly, the greenroom awards at the end of the whole thing, because it made me feel like I went from just being a local gal to some serious ‘big wig’ people recognising and taking note of what I was doing. I haven’t had any formal training other than ‘student theatre’ and I had been making it up as I went along, so that award acknowledged that I was on the right track and people were supportive of my work. At the same time, I also got my biggest grant for a different work which recognised that people were interested in what I was exploring artistically. The other cool thing about it was meeting people that I fangirl over, and when we were in Sydney, I devoured theatre in between rehearsals and making A Normal Child which was invigorating.
DSP: What was the hardest and the most fun or funniest thing in this process?
JKE: The hardest thing is easy, we were a collection of people with very different ideas about disability and a lot of that was very emotionally charged, because while people may have had certain ideas about what they wanted to do professionally there was also the subjectivity of how everyone experienced their bodies and minds which was a difficult negotiation through out. The funniest thing was when we had the week with a guest director and we did some physical improv and David put his foot up on my chair and I was driving my chair for what felt like a 100 metres and he was flailing about the whole time, which was the funniest piece if improv theatre that I have had in a while.
DSP: Is there a fun fact about you, you would like to share here?
JKE: I know how to cook brussel sprouts and make them taste good. There is this stereotype that only old people like brussel sprouts.
DSP: Industry history, awards and other works that you would like to share, if at all!
JKE: My very first baby – The Manor which was based on Waiting For Godot but set in a nursing home with a person with a disability and their support worker. I got a writing award for it at Melbourne Uni, and it was nice to be recognised for that contribution as most theatre in that space was very straight, white and non disabled. And I got to meet Sarah Whitaker who was my understudy and the work had a transformative effect on her as she decided to pursue theatre professionally.