There are a lot of theatre companies in Melbourne, but SPARC isn’t just another one of them. Comprised of adults who live in unstable housing, many of the members have trouble accessing their communities. The ensemble meets weekly, and in November, they’re premiering Are You Lonesome Tonight?, inspired by their mutual love of Elvis Presley.
We had a chat to Katie Lockett, the Artistic Director of SPARC Theatre.
SPARC Theatre is an unconventional company in that it’s comprised of adults who live in supported housing. How does this influence your work?
The members of the SPARC ensemble are considered some of the most marginalised and isolated members of the community. Many have little access to support and services, and some live in situations that may be considered unsafe.
We explore themes of community and connection as a direct response to ensemble member’s experiences, that’s what Are You Lonesome Tonight? is about.
We also endeavour to provide a safe environment to celebrate any, and all, creative offerings. To be heard and valued is a privilege that many members do not always have within their housing, and so my intention is to be able to provide that in a creative forum on a weekly basis.
This completely determines the direction that the group takes.
How did the whole theatre company start originally?
The company began in 2005 as a response to a need for cultural activity for people living with acquired brain injury, and psychiatric disability.
You also work with individuals who live with substance-related brain impairment, mental illness and disabilities – can you tell us a little about that?
Working closely with mental illness and brain impairment is both colourful and beautiful. You learn to embrace the unexpected.
Generally the experiences of these individuals are beyond anything that the majority of people experience, and therefore often so are their creative offerings.
I believe people that have experienced and overcome great challenges often perform without fear. I reckon that when you have lost so much that there is little left to lose; that’s when we discover the really exciting and brave side of human nature.
Elvis is a pretty big pop culture icon – what drew the members of SPARC to him? Are there any particular memories or stories that you have about him?
Elvis Presley is an icon that connected the ensemble.
Every member had a story, a memory, a favourite song. Many of them connected through listening to “The Elvis Hour” every Sunday on the radio. He would be there, in their homes providing joy and a point in the day to look forward to. It was this common connection, and the fact the Elvis is such a big pop culture icon that made me excited about creating this work.
Are You Lonesome Tonight? is about bringing people together, and by finding a common ground communities will connect, and everyone knows something about Elvis.
My first thought was Elvis impersonators. What can we expect from Are You Lonesome Tonight? How accessible is it to those of us who haven’t had much to do with Elvis?
Are You Lonesome Tonight? is primarily about connection. How we avoid loneliness and isolation.
It’s a group of humans celebrating a famous human, but mostly they are celebrating each other, and inviting everyone to join the party.
Elvis may be in the building, but it’s SPARC Theatre who are the stars of this show!
Are You Lonesome Tonight? runs for three days only, from Friday 20 – Sunday 22 November, 2015, at Greyhound Hotel Main Showroom, St Kilda. Tickets are $8-$18 and are available online.