It’s the last Tuesday of the month and that means it’s time for Perth’s very own storytelling night at The Bird. Barefaced Stories was created by two local ladies, Andrea Gibbs and Kerry O’Sullivan. With a raft of local, interstate and international guests who have been entertaining audiences, Barefaced Stories is a night of bite sized, 6 minute pieces of engagement that might leave you excited, shocked, amazed, amused or inspired. Get down to The Bird tonight to check it out for yourself, but stick around in the meantime to find out a bit about what’s on offer, and the gals behind the event.
A captivated audience at Barefaced Stories.
Official job titles: Andrea Gibbs & Kerry O’Sullivan Co-creators of Barefaced Stories.
Summarise your career background and how you’ve come to where you are now:
Andrea: I grew up in Donnybrook, a small town in the South West of WA and can’t ever remember making the choice to become a performer. Although, looking back at my childhood diary entries, I must have thought it possible. I predicted back then that I would marry Brian Austin Green from 90210 – so showbiz must have been on the cards at some point. Kerry and I met at Curtin University in 2001 in the theatre program. I started getting cast in mostly comedy roles, and then one thing led to another. I joined The Big HOO-HAA! in their first year, started doing stand-up, went to Melbourne International Comedy Festival, got poached by 96fm for the breakfast show and then thought, “Ok, I guess I’m a comedian”.
Now I mainly do standup, improv, storytelling and produce Barefaced Stories and my own work.
Kerry: I remember when I was about four announcing at a family gathering that I wanted to be a performer. It got a good laugh, that’s when I knew I was good at comedy. Growing up as an orange, curly haired kid, anything that came out of my mouth was laughable, so at some point I thought that should translate into a career. I grew up in Adelaide and I moved to WA when I was eighteen to go to Curtin because I wanted to study theatre but thought that journalism would be my back up career. As it turns out I hated journalism but luckily the theatre career worked out.
When Hoo Haa was just starting up Claire Hooper suggested to Sam Longley that I should rehearse with them and I kind of blagged my way into the group. After being in it for a while I remember seeing Andrea at a party (she’d just come back from being overseas) and I thought ‘she would be great at this’ and she was. Now we are going to have the 10th birthday show and Andrea and I are going to be in it.
I spent a number of years performing, directing, stage managing and writing comedy and independent theatre in Perth. I tried stand up but all my jokes were really longer stories that I had to cut down to punch lines. When Andrea went over to New York to study storytelling I was jealous so hatched a plan with her to start up a storytelling night here in Perth. My full time job is Executive Director of The Blue Room Theatre in Northbridge.
What is the best thing about your job?
Andrea: I love the fact that my job has variety and is most importantly creative. No day is the same as the next. If you’ve got a broad skill set you find yourself very busy in Perth. I have a casual day job at The Art Gallery of WA, but a full-time job is not for me – I just don’t have time anymore.
Kerry: Seeing what’s possible: whether it’s the storytellers who perform in Barefaced, the arts practitioners that come through the Blue Room or the industry as a whole. I feel that Perth is in a really exciting place at the moment, on the cusp of creating an exciting arts industry that the whole city feels ownership over. I want to be at the forefront of that rather than move to Melbourne.
You wear a few creative hats. Do you have one area or avenue that you are most passionate about?
Andrea: When I met Kerry at Curtin University they had a fantastic theatre program where students were encouraged to be hands-on and really proactive when creating theatre, doing everything from lighting to acting, from marketing to makeup. The ability to multi-skill has been invaluable to both our careers in Perth.
We do so much behind the scene work for Barefaced Stories, which is still fun – but it’s nothing like being on stage and having an audience in the palm of your hand. For me, standup, improv and storytelling involve really different skills. I couldn’t pick a favourite because I love the challenge that they all present.
Kerry: Both through Barefaced and The Blue Room Theatre I love working with both emerging and established artists to try and make the best, independent work that pushes the boundaries of what is possible. I can’t tell you how proud I am that Barefaced has taken off and that I get to produce a show with my best mate.
What are you currently working on?
Andrea: We are always working on the next Barefaced show, but around mid-year we start planning our summer program. We Skype with storytellers in LA and New York to suss out who we should invite over for our workshop program in January of the following year.
We also have special events, for example we have one coming up in September with ABC radio.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Andrea: In terms of Barefaced Stories, we’ve seen some amazing performances. We are really proud that we’ve created a night where people can achieve that. In October every year we have the Barefaced Story Battle where the calibre of the stories is mind-blowing. Last year Lawrence Ashford was the winner – see picture.
Lawrence Ashford with Andrea (left) and Kerry (right).
Kerry: There are so many landmark moments in Barefaced: the beginning when we managed to get Margot Leitman over from NYC to train up our 40 people in Perth; and the next year when we got Brian Finkelstein over for workshops with his show Three Strikes. The thing I probably find most rewarding is when we have people tell us how much they enjoy the show and are inspired to talk about the stories after the performance.
Which local artists/musicians/creatives do you admire?
Andrea: I admire people that think outside the square, develop their own schtick and support other artists doing the same. Tomás Ford, Sam Longely (The Big HOO-HAA!), Tim Watts (Weeping Spoon), Jackson Eaton (artist), Sarah Rowbottam and James Berlyn (Proximity Festival).
Kerry: Some very similar artists to Andrea actually. Gotta love the daddy of Hoo Haa Sam Longley, Tim Watts created an amazing show Alvin Sputnik that started in The Blue Room Theatre and then toured the world with Perth Theatre Company showing Perth artists what could be possible. A recent favourite is the Proximity program, particularly James Berlyn for thinking of it and Sarah Nelson’s piece in Mobile Moments where she took you on a bike ride around the cultural centre and filmed moments of joy.
I love some of the visual artists who are creating street art in the area also – particularly Creepy. I have also loved Shaun Tan’s work for ages – he counts as local originally right?
Any advice for those trying to enter into the creative community in Perth?
Andrea: Do what you are interested in and passionate about. If you care about something, you’ll stick with it and other people will catch on eventually.
Kerry: Start now and work on anything you can. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and work long hours – working with people who are better than you will make you better. Turn up to as many shows as you can and talk to the artists behind the work.
What do you love about Perth?
Andrea: The lack of mud and rain, the beaches, the fact we’ve only got two AFL teams (I love footy btw). It’s the kinda of place where just when you think you know everyone, you discover someone or something new – there’s always room to explore and it’s not a small as people think.
Kerry: The people. Hands down. I moved and was only supposed to be over here for a year… fifteen years later I am happy to call Perth my home.
What does Perth need?
Andrea: Better public transport and cheaper beer.
Kerry: I concur. We also need to support small bars and arts events in the cultural centre and CBD. They create a safe environment that dissipates the club scene in Northbridge.
Most frequented coffee spot?
Andrea: Lincolns. Homemade Pollywaffle cakes are made there and they are divine! It’s my dog’s favourite cafe too because he’s in love with a little shitsu that lives near by.
Kerry: Urbanistar. It’s just moved to inside the New Edition Book Shop on William St, Leigh makes the best long black in Northbridge. I’m only allowed one coffee a day so it better be good.
Best live music venue?
Andrea: The Bird. By a mile.
Andrea: Peasholm Dog Beach. It is complete with a wash area for your sandy pup before the car ride home.
Kerry: I’m a Ginger. Beaches are not really the place for me. The regime of sunscreen lotion for my face in fifteen minutes of sun is ridiculous. I’m not going to increase the surface area exponentially for some sand in my crack.
Rottnest or Margaret River?
Andrea: Rottnest. Earlier this year we flew over to Rottnest in the 4-seater air taxi with our guest from Los Angeles, Brian Finkelstein. It was the most terrifying experience of my life, but from the sky Rottnest is stunning. I also got my first bike from Rottnest when I was 4yrs old, Dad snuck it back on the ferry for me. Yep, daughter of a crim.
Kerry: I have never actually been to Rottnest. A crime, I know. I plan to rectify that this year. In the mean time I choose Margaret River for the wine. As inexperienced as I am in beach sports I am contrastingly very experienced in drinking vats of wine.
Thanks for the chat, guys! If you’re keen in hearing some stories and being thoroughly entertained, then head down to The Bird tonight for Barefaced’s May edition. The theme tonight is BLUSH. Doors open at 7:30 and entry is $10. And stay tuned for an extra special We Love Perth edition of Barefaced Stories in August! We can’t wait.
All photos are by Andrew Bell and are courtesy of Barefaced Stories.