EVE ST JOHN

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if you’re reading this, then it must be Friday, and the Melbourne Fringe program has been announced, wherein you may or may not have spotted an event that is a touch of poetry, a touch of ritual, and a touch of…well touching actually! (pg 70)

Cut to earlier this year, I was drawn into watching Catfish with my wonderful lady lifeperson. This episode caught a young man masquerading as a woman who bullied him in high school and using her image as a front to flirt with men. One such duped man, after initially being horrified and embarrassed by the discovery, returned to the remorseful keyboard con and encouraged him to find God amidst revelations drugs, prison and self-harm had accompanied his catfishing. I understood perfectly: because when nothing in life can heal an infected wound, we look beyond life. We seek a place in ourselves willing to support a fantastic idea of salvation and forgiveness that cannot connect to the cruel darkness of life as we experience, so must be constructed in an imaginary oasis. Many find religion repelling, toxic with extremism and prejudice. But there is still something in ritual, in faith, that matters.

Cut to seeing Black Birds at Testing Grounds around the same time, having fallen in love with their poetry work woven into physical performance regarding race, womanhood and connections within self. After the show I was inspired to write about my own experiences with racism, and shared these with the women to thank them. They suggested I do as they had done, and share my work, even at Testing Grounds. Hmm.

Cut to attending a spoken word poetry evening the previous year. I’ve never quite gelled with these open mic events. A poet gets up, pours their heart out and all the while you can’t really focus on them because you know another is only a few minutes away. Judging work in this way felt like going to the cinema while your phone vibrates in your pocket, the distraction of something else keeping you from immersing in the hard work of the artist.

Cut to today. Tickets are now on sale for EVE ST JOHN, an immersive, interactive, individual poetry audio experience. I’ve collected a series of works written over a ten-year period and co-aligned with some spiritual and metaphysical cues I’ve taken from life as I’ve experienced it. Those who buy a ticket are welcomed into an eleven-minute experience of some of these works and a zine of the whole catalogue. During the experience, you will hear the works while I gently wash your hands, face and feet.

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EVE ST JOHN is a collision of mythologies, informed by a tonne of metaphysical memes like the zodiac, the tarot, the Bible, the Oracle of Delphi, Bardic tradition and Hawaiian psychological affirmation practices. The purpose is to give people a chance to experience poetry in a different way: free from distraction, heightened senses, hearing a variety of works by one poet and getting to engage with that poet directly. It’ll be intimate, quite the experiment that I’m very grateful to Testing Grounds for believing in and hosting.

Only thirty-six people will have the opportunity to see the work over three nights. That’s twelve people each night I will interact with, and each of these people will hear poetry no other ticketholder that night will hear. Each of the twelve experiences feature different works, offering you a unique experience to discuss and keep memory of.

So if it’s something you’re into, snaffle one of the thirty-six tickets.
If it’s something you’re not sure if you’re into or not, check the facebook out where I’ll be posting content and teasers, see if you can be tantalised.
If it’s something you’re not into, hopefully it’s something you’re into sharing. Support independent art, support experimental art, support Australian work.

B.

#TBT The Great Dim Sim Experiment or What I Learned on a Game Show

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Well that was the most bizarre thing that’s ever happened to me. Like seriously.

I have just finished watching myself compete on a general knowledge game show against two other deserving, wonderful individuals for the ultimate goal of $1M and making my Nonna tear up. I didn’t make it to the ultimate as some very kindly enthused to me, but I certainly did not embarrass myself as I think some people secretly wondered.

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My brainwave to try my hand at being on a game show came the same way I’m sure it comes to most: I was watching Million Dollar Minute and decided that my at-home play was sufficient to warrant serious thought into contending. Usually I cast this impulse aside because I’ve lived in Adelaide where not much of anything is filmed. But this time, they even screened an email to contact. So I did. And I got an audition. I told almost no-one, so afraid of how mocked I would be if I was so bold as to big-note myself.

I arrived at the audition to see approximately 120 people milling around, gathering for a chance at the Million Dollar Minute. Fresh-faced, virile young men in suits, deadly-endearing older ladies, mums, couples with matching mullets, entrepreneur-looking millenials with clipboards on conference calls while we waited. One guy without any shoes on, one young woman reciting facts to herself alongside an apparent boyfriend with poor body language and facial expression playing with his phone (I suspected a Trivia app. Or Tinder). All of them had clipboards, and seemed infinitely more qualified and deserving than me. I considered going home. I phoned a friend and asked whether I should.

We were eventually filed in, and that’s when I noticed it. I noticed what was making me feel really unbalanced. As we started sitting down, countless people started calling out greetings to each other, ‘oh my god, Terry?! Haven’t seen you since Temptation in 2010!’, ‘Saw you on the Feud! Goes to show you can’t pick ’em hey?!’, ‘Dave, hard luck on Hot Seat mate, I never asked you, how sweaty was Eddie at your filming?! God he was reeking at mine…’

They all knew each other, this phenomenal community of game-show-gurus. I was entranced by this concept, even though I have a competition-crazy cousin (shout out). I sat down next to a lovely woman named Betty (not even kidding) who was up to her fourth attempt on the show, and had already been on Hot Seat, Temptation AND Contest which she found to be a lucrative way to supplement her retirement- “it’s great, you know you get to go out for the day, get your hair and makeup done, meet some new people and sometimes walk away with a stack of money. Beats sitting at home making jack!”. I couldn’t fault her, although if she hadn’t got in, I mightn’t have Buckleys. I’m embargoed from talking about the ways we get in, but somehow I made it through (Betty sadly did not). We were warned time and time again that we may not be called, we may need to try again, and it was at solely the producer’s discretion if we were M$M material. As it turned out, it would be only a matter of weeks before I was deemed so. FIRST LESSON: personality is not always trumped by genius.

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Betty’s advice was that I make statements about myself that would look hilarious on television. Oddly enough they decided not to go with my moniker of “Hip-Hop Dancer for Jesus. Reformed.” nonetheless I arrived with my fancy blue shirts (OK they were mostly purple) and waited to be called up to play. We we warned again that depending on how things went we may not play all day, we may have taken time off work for naught. Which was OK by me, this was my first rodeo and I was giggling and getting involved like a modern-day Muriel Heslop “I’m going to be on a game show, and I’m going to be a success!”. And then I got called up first. To boot, they decided they liked the outfit I turned up in, scarf and all (“This looks more you, am I right?”-very astute dressing-room-maybe-producer-person). SECOND LESSON: be yourself. You’ll be more recognisable that way.

We had some preamble and dorky promo bits to do, during which my featured answer screened across the nation was “THE DIM SIM!”. Yeah, genius.

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Then they sat us down to get to business. Three trivia rounds, cash prizes along the way. Now here’s the important bit of this whole journey.

There is no clarity like casting off your competitive instinct when in the midst of a competition.

I repeat, there is no clarity like casting off your competitive instinct when in the midst of a competition. Just before the first question was asked on film, I realised that I liked the champion I was against, and the young woman between us, likely had her own reasons for being in the room. I realised that the purpose of the show was not for me to win, but for me to enjoy myself, be real and honest, learn a few things and above all things, choose humility over personal gain. As it turned out, I believe this led to the episode being called “really good television” by the carryover champ, host, producers and friends who watched. I have no regrets about the outcome of the show because for the first time in my anything-but-athletic-twig-legged-life I was credited with “good sportsmanship”. And that was the real win for me.

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Some will choose to take advantage of my small success, some others will choose to look at my experience as nothing more than win, lose, or could’ve done better. I made a conscious decision at the beginning of the show to just make peace and have fun with the two people on the journey. At the final round I decided to put myself first, and go for my own interest alone. And it was at this point that I lost. For whatever reason: maybe I wasn’t smart enough, maybe I panicked, perhaps they asked questions I was bound not to know, or the universe conspired for me to only win that much. Either way, I believe the outcome directly relates to the choices I made. And I’ve seen other people make the choice for glory over namaste and the character value of humility come to rub them on the back.

Check out this amazing kid, Jacob Williamson a spelling bee rain-man. He was born to win it, but he made a choice. And learned. And took it really well. And was made a better person, a better competitor, a better study, a stronger contender in all fields for it.

I love this other story from a more high-profile individual about what an early loss in her career has meant for her strength, her risk-taking, her ability to inspire, and her thirst for success. Not to mention the pseudo-feminist-anthem it has engendered thanks to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her TED-du-force.

When I first considered going on a game show, I aspired no higher than Fran Fine. This episode of jewel-of-my-childhood sitcom The Nanny, was about when she went on Jeopardy and although it pokes fun at her intellect, really you never know what can happen in that environment, and it was her own knowledge and simple desire to have a chance that got it for her in the end. Give the episode a watch. For old times’ sake. Franny and the Professor.

So there’s the action plan. Compete, compete, compete but let the outcome go because the success really is in how present you are as you campaign for whatever success comes your way. And keep close the tools for being humble, you’ll never know when you’ll need to be. Good luck!!

B.