Jeffrey Jay Fowler won us all over at last year’s Fringe World with A History of Drinking. The show, which he first performed back in 2009, was a load of fun involving cocktail making, a history lesson, some comedy and performance art. This year he’s at it again but is working on something completely different, directing theatre piece Second Hands. This show explores suburban ennui whilst running a commentary on status symbols, ethical production and how we treat our country’s neighbours. It sounds pretty interesting to us! Jeffrey Jay Fowler is today’s creative.
Tell us about your career background and how you’ve come to where you are now:
I pursued theatre from a young age when I realised that I was much less likely to get beaten up if I spent lunchtime hiding in the drama room at school. Then when high school was almost over I copied the university entrance form of the guy sitting next to me and ended up at WAAPA learning how to make theatre. True story.
Jeffrey Jay Fowler in A History of Drinking.
We loved your past Fringe show, The History of Drinking, and so did the sell-out crowds! What’s your tipple of choice?
This summer I’m sipping Belvedere on ice because I am exceptionally classy, and drinking spirits without mixers saves on trips to the portaloo.
This time around, you’re directing Second Hands as part of the Blue Room’s Summer Nights Fringe program. What can we expect from this show?
Uncomfortable pleasure. Entertainment. Hypocrisy. Satire. A universe somewhere between Woody Allen, Gattaca and I Heart Huckabees. Perhaps a few pleasant shocks. There are moments of humour but it’s turning out to be a little more “serious” than my previous works. The show is still surprising me as it rises from the depths.
What is the best thing about your job?
I make a living by following my imagination, researching the world and bringing out the best in people. What absurd good fortune.
Take us through a typical day of your work at this stage of the production:
We’re three weeks out, so I am polishing a completed draft. I meet with the actors and we chat lightly for a while. I think mutual procrastination is a useful warm up. Check how everyone is, see if any ideas have percolated since our last rehearsal. Then we just slowly begin. The games are different every day depending on what the scene needs. If my directing is anything, it’s varied.
One of the joys of writing and directing a script simultaneously is that you can choose to work the performance or the text. Once we’ve run over a scene a few times I get the actors to put the scripts down and perform the scene however they remember it. The specifics of the text are unimportant as long as the way the characters are interacting is dynamic and realistic. Rehearsals are to make sure that each scene makes a sharp point.
In Second Hands, the world is like the one we live in, but the ultimate status symbol is a second pair of hands. Image by Stephen Gerard.
What else have you got planned for 2014?
This is my first year as Associate Director at Black Swan State Theatre Company. I will be running emerging artist programs and developing work for 2015.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Finally starting singing lessons after wanting them but fearing them for many years. I’ve only been doing them for a couple of months and it’s already becoming one of the greatest joys in my life. I don’t know why I waited so long. I felt too old to begin singing when I was 20, and finally got around to starting them at 27 when I realised how young I really am.
Which local artists/musicians/creatives do you admire?
Everyone I work with. That’s the audition process, to be honest. Simply whether I admire someone or not.
Any advice for those trying to enter into the creative community in Perth?
Meet people. Be nice. Be honest. Be yourself. Talk about other people’s work but don’t get fooled thinking there’s value in being a critic. Criticism and insight are different.
What do you love about Perth?
There’s no place like home. I love my friends, my family, the beach, the tight knit theatre community. Perth is now a new place thanks to many innovative and trend aware entrepreneurs. I’m impressed with what Perth is becoming.
What does Perth need?
More friendly laid back bars and restaurants where you can socialise with new people.
Most frequented coffee spot?
Urbanistar in Northbridge or The Precinct in Vic Park.
Best live music venue?
Rottnest or Margaret River?
Rottnest is a huge part of my life. I go there for two weeks every year for Christmas and have for the last fifteen years. It’s so nice to avoid a certain idea of Christmas that exists in shopping centres. It’s really the only time I get to lie down and read and tan and do nothing. It makes me dream of a world without cars. JJF
You can catch Jeffrey Jay Fowler’s work first hand in Second Hands. Showing at The Blue Room as part of their Summer Nights program for Fringe World, from 18-22 February. Tickets through the Fringe World website.