Emma Campbell stars in STICK, by Carolyn Burns, directed by Martha Goddard, recreating her role from the 2012 stage show, THE ONE SURE THING.
How did you get into acting?
I’ve been doing drama classes since I was about 12 years old but it wasn’t until I was 17, when I was in Year 11, that I was in my first production, atyp’s Ismael and the Return of the Dugongs. Pretty much since then it’s turned into something more than drama classes I’ve done outside school. I suppose drama is something I’ve always been interested in.
And you have had a lot to do with The Voices Project, right?
Absolutely – I’ve been part of a number of different facets of The Voices Project: when I was in Year 12 I used one of the pieces from the very first year’s stage show, when I used BOOT for my individual performance of my HSC. BOOT for me was a really accurate portrayal of friendship between teenage girls. I went to an all-girls’ school and, for me, it was that relationship breakdown between two friends with one girl who finally realizes she isn’t being treated well by her friend and I’ve seen that happen to people. I think, that’s probably the biggest thing about the two pieces (BOOT & STICK) is that they are honest and straight up about what a teenager’s life is like.
I was then in TO BE, the teaser trailer for the project, where I had to recite the To Be or Not To Be monologue in a cold and wet carpark. And you can see my elbow in one scene in BAT EYES (I’m sitting next to Mia!). And then I was in the 2012 show, THE ONE SURE THING, where I first performed the character of Louise in STICK.
Why did you want to get involved?
For me, The Voices Project is a very important initiative by atyp because when I was in year 12 and looking for HSC pieces, there’s very much an assumption that for you to do well in your HSC drama monologue, you have to play a character that is the complete opposite of yourself. So you have to be a ‘Southern Belle’ or you have to be a ‘Shakespearean wife’ and that didn’t really work for me when I was looking for monologues because I felt like I was lying. The Voices Project is really good because they are producing they are producing quality monologues by young people for young people about young people, so it’s kind of removing that stigma that writing for young characters isn’t worth it and won’t get you the marks.
Tell us about STICK.
STICK is a piece about a teenage girl, Louise, who has recently been diagnosed with Crohns Disease, which is an auto-immunue disease. There’s a really dark sense of humour throughout the whole thing, and there are moments when she is really quite sarcastic and I really liked that because that’s how my sense of humour is.
One of the pieces that really stuck out for me was the interaction with her father because her father is not quite sure about how to deal with the whole thing, he kind of just starts rambling, and coming up with these weird facts and it really spoke to me as it’s something I can see my dad doing. When he doesn’t know what to say he’ll just tell me something about World War I that he knows. I really liked that it wasn’t mopey or depressing and there are parts when it is really quite lighthearted and funny.
Performing a monologue, especially one so long, was really interesting. When I first did STICK (for the stage show) it was just after my HSC and it’s a real task to try and keep the energy through the whole thing. I suppose that’s the most difficult thing because you are on stage by yourself for ten minutes…which is a very long time!
Working on the piece for the show was a great experience, because instead of working yourself as you are for most of the time when you are in Year 12, I had the opportuinty to bounce ideas off the entire cast and I think that gave the piece a lot more depth than if I had done it as a Year 12 student.
How was performing STICK on film as opposed to in front of an audience?
Being on screen is really different from performing on stage because it’s much contained and much more internal, whereas on stage you’re told to try to project and to entertain a roomful of people.
On screen you’re just trying to get that emotion through the camera so it doesn’t need to be so big and that was a very interesting process. It was much more about her self-reflection than she was trying to convince this roomful of people she was okay like it was in the stage show.
Working with Martha kept the piece fresh, which was something I was worried about, because it had been 10 months since I’d last performed it. Martha had found a whole bunch of videos on YouTube of girls talking about their experiences of Crohns and we’d watched a video of a girl putting on a colostomy bag which was quite intense and it was much more emotional an experience than it had been for the stage show.
Why did you want to perform STICK?
For me, what really struck me about STICK was that it was very honest and for me it felt like how a teenager would be reacting rather than how an adult imagined what a teenager would be saying…so she was worrying about stuff that probably wasn’t quite existential. She wasn’t questioning the meaning of life…she was just worrying about stuff that a teenager would be worrying about. And Carolyn (Burns, the writer) really manages to capture that teenage voice.
And what’s next for you?
I’m in my second year of a combined Bachelor of Education (Secondary)/Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney so really at the moment my main priority is uni … and working (as a tutor and a study skills presenter) so I can afford to be at uni…
I definitely haven’t put drama and acting to bed forever, it’s just not at the forefront of my mind like it was 12 months ago. A lot of people automatically assume I’m studying to become a drama teacher – I’m not! I’m studying Modern History and English. But I’m still pretty involved with atyp as an atypical member, and I still go to the theatre regularly, so it’s still a large part of my life.
Read Carolyn Burns on STICK, here.
Read The Original Monologue
“They told me I’d be getting sick, but actually I’m just getting awesome.”
In a local support group, Louise shares a darkly comic perspective on what’s it like to be a teenage girl with Crohn’s Disease.
Sometimes it’s easier to reveal yourself to strangers. .
Writer Caroyn Burns, director Martha Goddard and performer Emma Campbell talk about the writing and making of STICK below.