THROUGH THE CRACKS: Bonnie Cowan

See AFFECT ME by Bonnie Cowan at #CTF2017!

CTF: Why do you make experimental performance?

To be honest, I think a large part of the reason I found experimental performance was in an effort to dodge the “being an Actor” thing; auditions, finding an agent, competing against a sea of other white female Actors for roles that didn’t resonate with me. In contrast, experimental performance and performance making allows me to completely do my own thing. I make my own art, my own opportunities, my own process. The medium just feels so boundless; there is room to explore and experiment and play. And I’m able to make work that is honest – I don’t play characters, put on accents or pretend to be anyone else – it’s just me feeling a range of emotions in response to a thing. 

CTF: What surprised you the most about hanging out with strangers then making a one-on-one show for them?

Something I realised quite early on was how (polite my parents socialised me to be!) ingrained my own sense of etiquette is! Meeting someone new, especially for the earlier iterations of the project where I stayed in a strangers home for a night, I have this automatic need to be polite. Which is a nice habit for job interviews, but somewhat superfluous when the context of our interaction is so out of the ordinary. Not that I am now exercising my impolite tendencies, but I think it’s something I have to be really conscious of, especially as I’m reflecting on the interaction holistically – did I do that because it was organic to our experience or did I do that because that’s “what you do” when you meet someone new?

CTF: A highlight of developing and/or performing this work so far?

I am such a process person. While I’m (obviously) a big ol’ loud extrovert who loves nothing more than a good natter with someone who hasn’t heard all of my stories before, I think some of the most magical moments of the project have happened in the quiet revelation of the rehearsal room. That point at 4:56pm when caffeine is running low and I’m too close to the performance to assess whether it’s even art (everything is art in the context of art) or just me saying some words and moving in a space. And then, somehow, everything fits into place and the connections between these abstract moments I’ve created is just lying there right in front of me. Those moments. Sitting in the rehearsal room having a good ol’ weep to my mentor about the emotional intensity of an interaction and how hard it is to seperate my feelings from the happenings: being affected by strangers. Performing one-on-one for the (now, not so) stranger and hearing/seeing their reactions to a performance where they are already so familiar with the material – the pleasure in familiarity. It’s those little moments that keep the heart of the project beating. 

CTF: What are three words/phrases that describe your body of work?

Honest, tender, intimate.

CTF: What can audiences expect?

To expect the unexpected? I expect their expectations will be quite limited. Given the nature of the work, I won’t even have an idea of what the evening’s performance will look/feel/sound/smell/taste like until around midday! I’d recommend audiences to take a leaf out of my (scuffed, annotated and yesterday’s-smooshed-kiwi-fruit stained note) book, and enter the space with openness. Enter the cafe as I did that morning: eyes wide, heart open. 

CTF: Have you been to Crack Theatre Festival before?

I have, in fact, never been to CTF before! 2017 will be my first experience the festival as an artist (and hopefully an audience member if I find some time to breathe!)