Emma J Hawkins is an actor, tap dance, acrobat, model, musician and dancer. Emma will be performing for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in a one woman show. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Emma is currently seeking financial support for her show. To help her out, you can go to: http://www.pozible.com/project/190436
Now, time for the Q and A!
1. How did you get into performing?
I decided at the age of 10 that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I have been very focused ever since. I grew up being involved in school plays and community theatre and ran my own youth theatre group at 18. I went on to study Diploma of Arts – Small Companies and Community Theatre (Ballarat – SMB Campus) and have been working in the industry ever since from Shakespeare, to burlesque, circus, musicals, children’s theatre, physical theatre and dance.
- What drew you into performing?
For me performing was an equaliser, where I could be judged by my performance rather than my height. This is where I felt most at home and alive, somewhere I could leave my mark on the world and of course it’s so much fun! I just love the story telling, being able to take the audience into another world. Arts should be accessible for all whether as a performer or audience member.
- Have you faced any barriers getting into the performing world? If so, what are they?
In the early days most people believed I wouldn’t be able to make it in the professional world of performing arts and perhaps the challenge of proving them wrong drove me for the first few years. The barriers start from the ground up as it’s harder to get into mainstream acting courses and to find an agent who wants to represent you. When I did start working professionally I was often called “brave’ and ‘inspirational’, I accept it has been difficult but I would rather say I am determined and, surprising to some I am actually very good at what I do. I have faced many barriers. For example, I am not put up for many auditions unless the word ‘short’ is in the brief which I can tell you is not very often and even then they are generally stereotypical roles like elves, etc. If I can’t get in the front door I try the back door and if that doesn’t work I try the window. That is also one of the main reasons why I have worked in many different genres and ultimately created my own work. I was not going to be one of those people waiting for the phone to ring as I could have been waiting my entire life and I am not a very patient person. I had to create the opportunities myself.
- Has your disability made it easier for you to get roles?
My disability has definitely not made it easier to get roles, especially in the mainstream sectors of film and tv. I am often offered stereotypical and not challenging roles, which seems strange to me as I have such a wealth of experience and skills to call from. Not only that but in our normal lives, disabled people are mothers, lovers, lawyers, doctors and a 101 other things. We are however not fairies, elves, leprechauns or tiny people that jump put of photocopiers for your amusement! However on the plus side I have got to work with some fantastic open-minded companies and be a part of the independent theatre scene. I am especially proud of the innovative and interesting work that comes out of this sector, especially the arts and disability projects that are bubbling away at the moment.
- Which one of yours performances stands out for you the most?
I am most proud of the work I have created and produced myself under my company, Atypical Theatre Company. One More Than One dance theatre piece that toured nationally and internationally, winning Best of Fringe (Brisbane 06) and Best Movement/Dance Piece (Melbourne 07). This talked about diversity and difference around the setting of internet dating. I can’t wait to be able to perform in my first solo piece ‘I am not a Unicorn!’ for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (March 31-April 18).
- What is “I am not a Unicorn” about?
A 55 minute theatrical morsel, experience a whimsical tale about trolls destroying the world, the fine art of eating a banana and finding love in your local IGA. Here you’ll meet a host of quirky characters that inhabit this world including John the Train Driver (the average bloke), the wicked queen and the rare horned beast. This piece discusses the concepts of being normal, abnormal, different and special and whether we want to be any of those things.
- Why should people see your show?
It’s an entertaining show where you’ll be taken away to another world, where you’ll get to feel what it’s like to walk in a short statured person’s shoes. Experience an engaging and light hearted look at life at 103cm short. You’ll be supporting the independent theatre scene in Melbourne and Australia, it can be quite difficult to create your own work when you are self producing – wearing many different hats can be very tiring! I promise you’ll laugh, cry and everything in between. I’m quoted as being “a giant of a performer, with a bag of tricks bigger than myself!” I am also having an Auslan interpreted show on Wednesday 15th April as part of my season.