Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Playwright Jane Miller’s work has been produced both around Australia and internationally. Her plays include Perfect Stillness (Short + Sweet), The Painter (MelBorn – Melbourne Writers’ Theatre), Happily Ever After (La Mama), the RE Ross Trust award-winning True Love Travels on a Gravel Road (fortyfivedownstairs) and Motherfucker (La Mama). Jane and Director Beng Oh recently formalized their collaboration with the establishment 15 Minutes from Anywhere and currently have a number of projects in development. In 2014, Jane completed a Master of Writing for Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts and her most recent play, Cuckoo, will be produced in Melbourne during 2015.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A PLAYWRIGHT?
I’m a late starter. I wrote in high school and in my undergraduate years at University and then just stopped. I didn’t write anything for 18 years and, I think, assumed I would pick it up again at some point. Fortunately for me, I eventually did. I started writing again with short plays and wrote my first full-length play in 2007.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST PLAY OR CURRENT PROJECT?
I have a couple of projects currently underway including production of my latest play, Cuckoo, which will go on later this year in Melbourne. The other project is an adaptation of a classical play on which I am working with my regular collaborator, Director Beng Oh, and our company, 15 Minutes from Anywhere.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
I write in my study at home and in the 15 Minutes from Anywhere studio space in Southbank. I write on a computer, often listening to music or podcasts. My work tends to be in 2-3 hour bursts and then I’ll have a break. Beng and I often work with groups of actors when we’re workshopping or developing a piece and during those periods we are based in a rehearsal room or studio space.
WHEN DO YOU WORK?
It depends on what I am doing but it is almost always in the evening and/or weekends. I have a day job and usually write after work.
It’s hard to say what a typical day looks like but if we’re developing something, as we did for Motherfucker, based on Oedipus, we might run a 4-day full-time workshop with a group of actors that involves looking at texts, improvising, and exploring ideas on the floor. I will then go home and write in the evening based on what we’ve done. I bring the new text into the room the following morning for the actors to try. When we’re doing a workshop, I try to have new text every day.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK PROCESS?
For a play, I will kick around an idea in my head for ages before writing anything. I might start with the sense of a conversation between people and the rest of the play will grow from my questions about that interaction. I tend to think about ideas for a long time and make connections with things I see, hear, read and watch.
My process in writing my most recent play was much faster than I have ever experienced. I had tight deadlines and worked with three wonderful dramaturges as part of my course.
When Beng and I are developing a piece, it is very collaborative and often involves generating material from what happens in the room.
I find it hugely important to hear actors read early drafts of my work. It provides a totally different insight to the work in progress. I feel very fortunate that I get to work in a range of ways.
WHY DO YOU WRITE FOR THE THEATRE?
There is something tangibly alive and risky about theatre as a form. I find it exhilarating, terrifying and moving to contribute to something made for live performance. I love the bravery and generosity of actors and working with directors and designers on a collective effort.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOUR WRITING?
People and everyday life are very inspiring. The work of my friends and colleagues. Anything and everything.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WRITING PLAYS?
Finding the end of the play. If I have an ending in mind early in the writing process, I know I’m on to something worth pursuing.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC VISION?
My goals and vision are very much around making work I’m proud of, having it produced and getting to work with wonderful collaborators.
Melbourne is a great hothouse of talent and as with anything there is always room for more opportunities and more support for independent work.
WHICH FEMALE PLAYWRIGHTS OR AUTHORS WOULD YOU LOVE TO HEAR MORE FROM?
WHICH FEMALE PLAYWRIGHTS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Bridgette Burton, Baggage Productions
Thank you, Jane Miller / 15 Minutes from Anywhere!
— Nicole Melanson
* Playwright photo by Karyn Augustinus
Poster art design by Michelle Odgers
Troy Larkin photo by Sarah Walker
Marnie Gibson and Paul David Goddard photo by Samara Clifford
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