All Tied Up | Q&A with Rachael Maza
BLACK TIES, the hilarious and heart-warming immersive experience is nearly upon us!
As the biggest mob of Aunties, Uncles and cousins from both sides of the ditch approach for the blackest wedding ever, we caught up with director Rachael Maza to find out how the wedding planning is going.
How did it come about that this was a cross cultural project?
I wanna start by saying this is long overdue. A project waiting to happen for a long time. Just waiting for the ducks to align. For several decades now there has been a growing vibrant network of First Nation to First Nation artists and activists in dialogue across several countries: Canada, New Zealand and Australia. It's from these gatherings that ILBIJERRI has developed a strong relationship with Te Rēhia. When the opportunity came along for a collaboration it was a no-brainer we would want to collaborate with them. Acknowledgement must be given to Stephen Armstrong of AsiaTOPA who was the first to back the idea of a collaboration and put his money where his mouth was, and a passing conversation with Jonathan Bielski Auckland Festival Artistic Director (while touring JACK CHARLES V THE CROWN to the festival), who said ‘We’d be interested in coming on board should you be thinking of doing a collaboration over here’. The next pivotal partner was Wesley Enoch (Sydney Festival Artistic Director) who was fundamental in getting the project up by enrolling the state festivals to back it.
The opportunity to collaborate with a fellow First Nation theatre company was extremely exciting for me. I have partnered with many organisations in my time at ILBIJERRI but none of them First Nations. BLACK TIES is the fruit of an incredible process of working that is specific to who we are as First Nations peoples and builds on 2,000 generations of storytelling! It is critical that the collaboration has been truly cross-cultural on every level of the process – co-writers, co-directors etc. The journey has certainly had its challenges, but good challenges, massive learnings on both sides. We have worked incredibly hard, but it has always been with joy and we have felt uplifted.
Why did you decide to set this story at a wedding?
The idea that it should be a wedding between a Maori woman and an Aboriginal man was decided very early in the process by the writers in response to the provocation: ‘Let’s make a show that our families will enjoy! The show your aunty, your nan will have a great time at, and will want to come back to again’. We knew it must have food, be funny, and have lots of music. Weddings are such a familiar trope! – but no-one will have seen it done like this! Everyone loves ‘love’. Everyone has family that drives them crazy!
You each have such obvious pride in your own cultures and heritage and respect for the other’s – did that make it easier to poke fun at yourselves and each other?
What we soon realised when making the show was the room we had to make fun of ourselves because we are coming from a place of deep respect for each other. Although we are both First Nation peoples with similar histories, we are also very different, with many misconceptions and misunderstandings about each other. We realised we could have fun with each other in a way someone non-First Nations couldn’t. In fact, we found ourselves trying to find how far we could take it before it got too offensive. We have found that line!
What makes for a memorable wedding for you?
Weddings for me are about love and family. The most memorable weddings for me are those that are kept simple, real and down to earth, when it’s celebrated with a big mob of family and friends who all bring food to share, there's live music, and much singing and dancing into the wee hours of the morning! Ideally they’ve kept the cost down so that the money saved is better spent on a house deposit or the honeymoon. One very memorable wedding I went to, which was particularly inspiring, was a beautiful Noongar couple whose wedding was conducted entirely in the Noongar language, on sand that had been designed by a Noongar artist / family member, onto which every guest put their own hand print. The bride and groom swapped Kangaroo skin cloaks. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that day that the children of this couple would be very blessed and would grow up proud and strong in their culture.
BLACK TIES is on at Perth Festival from 13 - 16 Feb, BOOK NOW.