Perth actress Jo Morris plays "Stellllaaa!" in Black Swan's upcoming production of A Streetcar Named Desire, alongside Sigrid Thornton as Blanche. We caught up with Jo in between rehearsals to hear how it's going and what it's like:
What is your favourite thing about working on A Streetcar Named Desire?
It's very difficult to highlight just one thing - being a part of this truly epic story that is so richly textured; having the opportunity to delve into a character who is so beautifully complex and layered; and having the time in rehearsals to play and explore with the director, the other performers and the technical team to try to communicate the incredible world of Streetcar to our audiences. It is such an extraordinary challenge! I guess if I had to choose a favourite it would have to be attempting to do justice to a character like Stella. I am a bit in love with her, and right now I am having such a blast trying to find and capture all her nuances and richness. And then there is Sigrid! It is such an honour to work alongside such a fearless and incredible actress. She is a real inspiration!
How do you approach a character like Stella?
When you start looking a little deeper, you discover that Tennessee has left so many clues about his characters in the play... tiny little details that build layer upon layer until eventually you have a fully dimensional human being who is beautiful and full of flaws, and completely honest. He actually does so much of the work for you, and so I spent some time prior to rehearsals commencing just extracting these little clues about my character, and compiling them, and dreaming. I love having time to just dream about who this woman might be, its such a luxury. At some point during that initial dreaming period I wrote a biography for Stella, tracing her entire life up until the point where the play begins. This involves some research into the era, in this case the late 1940's, and also the world they inhabit, that is New Orleans. I look for lots of visual images that speak to me about the world, women of the era and streets and bars of New Orleans. It all helps to fuel my imagination! And after that I just like to let it all sit and bubble away for a while, before rehearsals begin and we embark on the mammoth task of text and accent and blocking and physicality and paying homage to such an incredible world. Hopefully by that point a sense of the character has entered my bloodstream and manifests not just intellectually, but physically and emotionally as well.
Its a busy time of year for you. What was it like balancing rehearsals for this show while also performing in another show for the Fringe World Festival?
Well, there was really only one week where both shows crossed over, but I would say that I really love keeping the momentum up when it comes to theatre and live performance - one can inform and inspire the other and vice versa. And in this case, both shows are so completely different (one is an absurd comedy that had its first audience at Fringe, and one is a classic tragedy that has had many lives) that I find it often serves to keep me really open and adventurous as a performer. And really it's hard not to be inspired constantly, throughout the month of February in Perth with so much incredible theatre going on. It's definitely my favourite time of the year!
A lot of your past Black Swan performances, including Death of a Salesman, The White Divers of Broome and The Crucible, have all been set in the past, but what does the future hold for you?
Theatre is my absolute passion, I am so lucky to have found the thing that lifts me to a higher level of existence. And so I hope to just continue having the privilege of telling incredible stories, whether they be classics that still resonate deeply or new works that explore untrodden terrain. I'm incredibly excited to work with a bunch of very funny people later in the year on another Black Swan show, Laughter on the 23rd Floor by Neil Simon. And I have a couple of my own projects on the burner that I hope to see come to life, one a new work commission by Finnegan Kruckemeyer, one of my favourite contemporary Aussie playwrights which I will co-produce and perform in I am incredibly excited about it.
What can audiences expect from this production?
Bravery, lots of it!! Sex, heat, music, passion, incredible drama, complex relationships, and hopefully they will recognise themselves in each of the characters, and in doing so feel the tragic nature of the play resonate ever more deeply.
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is playing at the Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA from 15 March to 6 April 2014. Tickets on sale through Ticketek.