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Short Talks – Shirley Van Sanden

So many good people interact with us online and walk through our doors at the Centre for Stories, and so we’re pretty proud of the little community we’ve grown. Collaborations often turn into comradeships and patrons become friends. Short Talks is a series of interviews highlighting the remarkable people who have connected with us at the Centre for Stories. Some are writers, poets, and storytellers, and others are arts workers, community leaders, and small business owners.

We invite you to get to know our friends a little more.

Today we feature Shirley Van Sanden.


How did you get involved with the Saga Sisterhood project?

I suppose I got involved with the Saga Sisterhood project because I was geographically convenient. Caroline at the Centre for Stories asked a neighbour of mine, Leith Taylor, if she would like to be involved and Leith knocked on my door and extended the invitation to me. Leith is well known in the Perth and international theatre scenes. Years ago, she was instrumental in organising a project called Artists for Refugees that I was also involved in. I suppose she thought of me because of my South Asian connections, as well as, my experience as a theatre maker.

You’ve had many years of experience as an actor/writer/director in a range of different productions and projects. Is it hard to focus-in on a project and how do you determine what makes a project worthwhile?

I love having ideas for projects. I find that I can have loads of ideas but to focus-in on one is difficult if it is in an undecided state. That is, if there is no real avenue for getting the idea off the ground and into production. However, once it is decided that a project is to go ahead, I usually find the focus because it becomes a necessity.

As for what makes a project worthwhile, I think that the number one thing is passion. I need to believe in and be passionate about a project, but what makes it a joy is if others are also of the same sentiment.

How do your own life experiences interconnect with the stories developed for Saga Sisterhood?

The Saga Sisterhood stories are all based on true life experiences that I think will resonate with most people. I have often put items in safe places only to realize later that the places were probably too safe (and the items will never be found again). I have yearned to travel abroad to ‘find my people,’ to sever an emotional umbilical cord, and I have certainly wanted to be someone’s priority number one. This is a bit of a sneak peek at the stories for The Blue Room Theatre.

Shirley Van Sanden is wearing a black and blue striped top smiling at the camera.

This weekend’s showing at The Blue Room Theatre will feature four storytellers, yet the project involved quite a number of talented women, many of whom had never considered performance before. Tell us how this process worked and give us a sneak peak of one of your favourite stories.

There are four storytellers in the The Blue Room performances this Saturday. I came to the project for the last of the story workshops run by Sisonke Msimang at the Centre for Stories and had the privilege to hear a number of amazing true life experiences. I really did not know what to expect but was very excited by what I heard.

As to how Sukhjit and I decided on who would be in the Saga Sisterhood, that basically came down to the practicality of who was available for the rehearsals. We basically gave the storytellers tips on how to be in front of an audience, what to do with their hands, where to look, how to actively listen and not pull focus, and we worked on vocal projection. We had five storytellers for our first showing at the Centre for Stories which resulted in more of the original storytellers wanting to be involved. This was lucky because for our following performance at the Centre for Stories, one of the original five was away so we topped up the team with a new storyteller. For the Blue Room show, four of the storytellers are available which fits well into the 60-minute time frame. I don’t have a favourite story, I like them all for different reasons, but I can say there will be a flavour of India and a bit of Bollywood involved, so come along and give the Saga Sisterhood a go!

Tickets to Saga Sisterhood at The Blue Room Theatre this Saturday 27 July are available here and are just $15.00. 

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