Relaxed Performances – good for audience – good for all.

I have been reading or listening to interviews about relaxed performances. Many of these focus on the benefits for the audience.

I have just finished two days of consecutive performing of “Curious Jac” at the Spot On Children’s Theatre festival at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. One show per day was a relaxed performance. The benefits are also for the performers and I want to expand on this a little today.


As the performer there are three fundamental ways that the experience differs; warmth, surprise and practicality.

By far the top of the list is that there is genuine warmth that develops in the theatre throughout the show. It is palpable. It is hard to explain and I will try my best so please stick with me. At first all are expectant and getting used to the space and what is going to happen in front and around us. As the story and performance take over there is a moment when we all converge emotionally. The room fills with this enthusiasm and becomes a pulsing energy that is warm, it holds you as a performer and human and it brings the story to life. This warmth is also filled with the enthusiasm of being there, the sheer joy and raw emotion of the audience.

That is the magic of theatre for all. It is a moment in time, it is un-recordable and if we tried to re-enact it we couldn’t. It is the pure energy of being in the moment and it is the epitome of performing. And yes, this moment can happen in relaxed and non-relaxed performances. When you put it together with the surprising array of responses and the honest enthusiasm of being there that the relaxed performance audience tends to hold it is rare and I believe fairly unique to relaxed performances.

Second are the surprises.

This audience constantly surprises all of the performers with their ability to truly think out of the box. I ask for a lot of interaction and input and this audience will ask questions and give perspectives that are heartfelt, creative and honestly things I had not considered previously.

An example; Curious Jac the show is about a girl who is curious, always asks questions and loves adventure. She has her questions answered by stories from around the world (Why So stories). I ask the audience for their questions. One boy asked from his heart – “Why don’t we all play instruments. I mean some people are poets, some people sing but why don’t we all create with instruments?”

Another question – “Why do we all see things differently?”

These and other amazing, thoughtful questions that have stayed with me. So true and honest and I am still considering.

Also the responses to a story or event in a story can be surprising. This week one child came to the front to help in a tug-o-war section of the Anansi story of how the Spider got his skinny waist. This was the first child I have encountered in the three years of performing this theatre show that had absolutely no interest in competition. Not even to fulfil a story. The notion of a competitive action did not enter his physicality at all. He genuinely enjoyed being on stage, being seen and held the rope although there was no connection at all to competition with the other helper and pulling on the rope. I was shocked, it’s the first time that has happened and it was awesome. He challenged an assumption that I have relied on for years – that we all understand competition’ even if we aren’t a competitive person by nature. I feel so happy to let go of that assumption and to be taught differently by this one persons ability to stay in his body and perception of the world!

These kinds of events make me feel alive and honoured to be there.

Finally the third difference is the practicalities.

For me as the storyteller and the live musicians this means a few practical differences that impact our time. We are all on stage as the audience enters and we all intro the music, the story line, any interaction and cues for large sounds. Practically it means we are on stage longer. A relaxed performance adds 20/30 minutes to a 55-minute performance.

The house lights are kept up and people can enter and leave at any time. This can be distracting as the storyteller. You can mix where you are up to and a person leaving can grab the attention of the audience. You have to be good at catching yourself, any shifts in your attention or concentration; you have to be very good at finding your grooving again and again and again.

In fact a relaxed performance is the ultimate test of your performance and creation skills. When you have openly given permission to leave or call out whenever the audience want you need to make sure you have no boring bits in your play and if there is you will know it in seconds.

For me as the writer of the script and the performer that has got to be the ultimate test. And I LOVE it.

Performing stories on stage is wonderful. Performing with intuitive musicians is a blessing of creative interaction. Performing to an audience an honour and to a relaxed audience it is a heightened honour and joy. I hope all performers and creators out there jump in and do the relaxed performance shows.



technical note

For those not in the know a relaxed performances “are designed … to extend a warm welcome to anyone who might find it difficult to follow the usual conventions of theatre etiquette.” This includes  people with autism, Tourette’s or other non social norm compliant conditions.

House lights are normally left on low and strobe lighting may be removed. Loud noises or explosions are either taken out entirely or reduced. The audience is free to go in and out as needed and latecomer rules are relaxed. Making noise during the performance is not discouraged. There are additional staff members on hand to assist as required and the cast and crew has awareness training before the performance. Chill-out areas are provided for anyone who may become overwhelmed by the performance. The house opens earlier. In some performances a cast member will speak to the audience before the show, welcoming them.

Restarting this blog with a moment of beauty

Today is not a special day. I am sitting at home. Its cold. I’ve cleaned the house and I feel depressed. I’ve lit the fire early cause it comforts me. I can’t seam to warm up. I feel overwhelmed by police shootings, racial injustice, politics in the world, the Standing Rock situation, The Okinawa situation, Syria, Australia’s treatment of refugees, local injustices (markets being taken from the community minded as they now represent profit). Too many things going wrong.

And in that large world of injustice that circles and surrounds my awareness and my family, I experienced a moment of beauty this week. So I will stop and write about that. I want to restart this blog to share a moment of beauty…

I run a weekly storytelling session at a mental health recovery centre. I go in for one hour and share folk tales, fairy tales, myths and more.

Typically this elicits a discussion about the story, the places it’s set, its country of origin, personal experience. Well – it elicits discussion and story sharing for approx. one hour. I have grown to love these sessions. I enjoy the stories and interests of people in the group, the discussions are candid and feel very real, we go beyond the niceties or politeness’s very quickly. Stories can do that.

This week an Aboriginal elder came to sit in on the session with me. We will call him Unc. He is awesome. He is a dedicated leader and worker in his community. We have interacted and worked on different projects over the years. It’s fairly safe to say I admire, respect and love him and his wife very much and the fact that he drove up here (about an hour) out of interest and support was extremely honouring.

Every person in that centre responded the same way I internally felt. Honoured. From the moment he walked in it was palpable. The energy in the room was buoyant to begin with, there had just been singing and choir participation filling the space. As soon as I began to introduce Unc one gentleman immediately took him on a tour of the centre, its facilities and program. Grabbing as much personal contact time as he could.

Next we all sat down to share stories and questions. Well not all – its not that orderly a process. Some people sat down, others joined when they sensed what was going on and that they wanted to be a part of it. Some people walked by numerous times and joined later.

The introductions lead to conversations and questions straight away. Questions and comments that seek connection, recognition of similarity. I love the way we do this as humans – “Ohh you grew up there. We camped there every summer/my mums from there/my brother lives down that way…”

Who are you? Who are we? What about all this Aboriginal people and alcohol talk? What happens after death? Do you know your stories? I have heard… I was told… Is it true… I’ve had experience of that…I know that feeling…

“How do Aboriginal people treat mental illness?”

Sometimes a question is so honest and from the heart that everyone in the room stops. This was that moment. We all stopped. If it was a movie, this was the slow-mo part.

And Unc’s answer – “Well, by doing what you’re doing here. We share stories, time together…”

We shared stories, bad jokes, we laughed, we honoured a father recently passed, and we created a space of friendship and wellbeing.

The time slipped away and we went 30 minutes overtime and could have gone longer. Some of the centre workers were able to stay and sit for a while (they are usually ridiculously busy) some of the people forgot their smoko break (small wins).

There aren’t any photos, no recordings or podcasts for me to put here. It was a moment in approximately 15 peoples lives.

I wish for a world of many of those moments where we are validated on our journey for health (individual and community).

You’re OK. Keep doing what your doing. Share stories, connect, listen.


Creativity and innovation

Creative play leads to innovative solutions – this post is written as a storyteller and coach of a robotics Lego team.

I have been silent on the blog for a while. Work and life tick away and continue to offer me opportunities, surprises and much joy. One of the new adventures I have embarked upon is Robotics Lego.

Robotics Lego is pretty much as it sounds. Making robots from Lego MindStorms Kits. It is a worldwide activity and the official name of the competition is FIRST Lego League – you can learn more here

A brief overview, for those whose life hasn’t been overtaken by FLL. 20,000 teams worldwide. Approximately 250 teams in Australia and growing fast. Think AFL for the mind. The kids design build and program robots from MindStorm kits (Lego). That’s the super fun bit. In our club we meet once a week and have a range of activities lined up for them to work on – build a sumo robot and then compete against each other – build a road runner, ladder climber, catapult and then pitch them against each others. The kids are hands on engaged, receive immediate feedback from the robot, not an adult. That is they see the robot fail. Then they race to repair/redesign/rebuild/reprogram till they get the success that they are aiming for.

The link between a storyteller and a robotics coach is – creativity. Our group of kids age between the 8 and 13. They are open creative thinkers and I encourage any and all ideas to be tried out. Anything. Basically I see it as the perfect opportunity to fail, laugh, even enjoy the spectacular nature of the failure and then work for the recovery. Love the recovery.

I am one of the coaches of the competition team – Komplete Kaos Inc (– these are a core group of kids that have competed at national level for the past two years only. In year one they won the rookie of the year award. In year two they came second in the country and received an invitation to compete at The Open European Championships in Pamplona. We fund raised like crazy, worked as hard as we could and these kids earned a first place for innovation.

The competition has four categories overall. One; the robot game (how many points their robot scores on an international table), two; the robot judging. The kids ONLY answer any question about the robot design and programming when faced by 3 judges. Three; a innovation or research project. Every year there is a theme. This year was Natures Fury and the kids have to choose a real world problem (floods for us), research it and create an innovative solution. Komplete Kaos Inc designed and created a working prototype of a smart phone app to assist people to prepare and stay safe in a flood emergency. They also designed and created the social media campaign to go with it. (Because for kids – these are all immediately connected). The fourth category is called Core Values which means how they work as a team and within/amongst their community.

At the Open European Championships there were 95 teams from 47 different countries and our team achieved a first place and in innovation! For me, this is a huge achievement and one to be very proud of as they have been recognised for their creativity, a way of thinking and an approach that will serve them well into the future. After a long trip there were many reasons to feel proud as a coach (and a mum of two team members) but in particular I wanted to note the beauty of an artists approach to science and learning and the ability of kids to flourish under that approach.

I put it down to creative play, the artist’s approach – where nothing is wrong. Give it a try, fail, redo, retry, persist. This approach will give us creative thinkers and innovations in the future. Heres to the importance of the arts in all life – including programming, robotics, science and design amongst 10 to 12 years olds.

Overcoming fear in Peru

One of the most unexpected aspects of touring has been undertaking television interviews. For some reason I did not foresee this AT ALL. The first TV interview I agreed to was in Colombia. I showed up at the theatre at the appointed time. Two other artists were there and my interpreter was not – (a recurring feature of my interpreters ‘work’). We walked to the television studio – no interpreter there either. I walked into the studio room and fear took over. A camera man, a live show and a tv host that spoke so fast that I found myself blinking 60 times to the minute.

I was able to answer her first question – my name and country, but it was a rapid downhill slide from there. Something about parenthood and kangaroos? I think? I had to ask her to repeat the question a few times and Im pretty sure she didn’t understand a word of my answer and moved on to ignore me for the rest of the interview – thank goodness there were two other artists.

I wasn’t asked to do any tv or radio interviews after that. Until, ofcourse, I got to Peru. My first task was a tv interview. Overall I did three interviews and I have to admit they got better and better. In the first place Peruvians do not speak as fast as Colombians (I’m not sure anyone in the world does!) and my three weeks in Colombia had done wonders for my Spanish.

Mainly though, television in Peru is fascinating. Peruvians are highly political and have free speech. Their president had just been imprisoned and opinions and emotions were flying high. Every time we got to a tv station the hosts were espousing interesting, ruthless, honest commentary. I was in heaven. Australia certainly lacks this form of in-depth, open conversation regarding politics. What a joy to step into.

I talked politics, culture, and told stories and put to bed my fear of the tv interview. Thank you Peru.


Cuzco, Peru

From the large-scale professional festival of Abrapalabra, from living and sharing with numerous performers from around the world I embark on ‘the other side’ of touring. My arrival in Cuzco heralds a shift in my travels. Firstly it is cold. Very cold. I have to put on most of the clothes that have with me. Cuzco is high altitude and I was unsuspecting of all that entails. Thankfully my bag did arrive!

On my arrival in Cuzco I am met personally by the director of this festival, Wayqui. The festival is in its 3rd year and growing. It is a touring festival and a creation from his heart. Overall we are a team of 5 or 6 and we will become like family.

Wayqui, Cuzco

Wayqui, Cuzco

Miguel, Cuzco

Miguel, Cuzco

Nino Mirones, Storyteller, Mime artist Cuzco

Nino Mirones, Storyteller, Mime artist Cuzco

I have a day for acclimatisation, so we take the chance to walk, look, share and eat. Peruvians LOVE their food and with good reason.

Cuzco touches you with colour, smiles, indigenous faces, history, destruction, survival and pride. Walking through the streets of Cuzco I was struck by the dignity of the cultures here. Peru has managed to maintain historic and cultural identities with strength. Not everyone speaks Spanish and the Indigenous freely speak their own language with pride: in the market place, in the streets, amongst each other.

I feel buoyed by the sound of their language floating above and around me. I feel comfort in not understanding rather than stress that can occur in other countries/situations. The beggars, the sellers, they do not accost. They smile. They draw you into their world with a smile and warmth and then introduce you to what they have to sell – a photo with them, a doll, or information about the rocks you are standing on. The market stall holders were gorgeous. I have a video of one explaining the significance of symbols, stones, giving me gifts.

My welcome to Cuzco is heartfelt, with warmth and openness by the local population. I feel the weight of history around me and a multiple examples of how it can be negotiated. Overall I feel the strength of culture. I am very happy to be in Cuzco.

Serpent rocks, Cuzco

Serpent rocks, Cuzco

Mercardo, Cuzco

Mercardo, Cuzco

Mercardo Centro de San Pedro, Cuzco

Mercardo Centro de San Pedro, Cuzco

Goodbye Buca

Nostalgia. The dominant feeling of the moment is nostalgia. Yesterday I said goodbye to people who I have known for only 10 days. Some of them will be friends forever, some I will see again one year and others not.

A number of things stood out when I look back at the trip overall. These include;

Sharing a small hotel room with two others has some drawbacks (think snoring, three women – one shower, sheer quantity of stuff laying around) but it makes for solid strong fast friendships. Some of the conversations we shared as women, storytellers and travellers will feed me for years.

Sharing the one hotel and common room with storytellers from around the world meant we ate together, were scheduled to travel to gigs, near and far together and secure a bond aided by mishaps and successes. Some of the conversations I will hold close for a long time include;

In what language do you think?

In what language do you dream?

In what language do you love?

What is the place of humour in our work?

And offcourse what array of regional swear words can we teach the foreigners?

The spontaneous music and song that floated through the garden and hotel rooms. The sound of a voice ringing out in joy and pain according to the songs lyrics.

The children, who hugged, kissed and gave me gifts. The smiles on the faces of the audience and staff. The love and attention they paid to the stories.

The loving smiles and assistance of all the workers. What a joy they were. Also the magic of receiving the photos from Nelson (photographer). I hardly knew he was there but he has a magic eye and a gift for performance photography.

Being invited into peoples houses for a meal, for a walk, to just share some time together. Having a conversation over lunch and having the chance to learn more about the family life was very special.

Time moves on and now I am in Cuzco. Ill keep you informed but first impressions are just fantastic. This is going to be good.

(NB: This is a bit late and no photos as the connection here is not so strong. I have plenty of photos on facebook if your interested – Lillian RodriguesPang)


There are times in your life that contain magic, and words cannot transfer the sentiment or heart felt experience to another. This was my experience of Zapatoca. From the moment the transport arrived I knew this trip held something special.

Two artists one assistant, one driver, one old lady, and loads of packages squeezed into a sedan filling the interior, the roof top and the boot. Over the following two hours we left the city limits and embarked on some spectacular mountain passes. I love the way the scenery changes, in particular the dogs. From the pampered pooch in the city, to the household pet who is out on the suburban streets, to the street dog surviving by its whits in the countryside. For me they serve as an allegory for the wealth, density and access of a region.

Bucaramanga is in the Santander province of Colombia. According to Wikipedia it is the fifth largest economy in Colombia, and has the sixth largest population in country, (1,212,656 people in the metro area alone). It has the nickname of the ‘City of Parks” it is very green and it does not feel like a rushed or busy city. On this day we travelled to Zapatoca, which is to the northeast and at altitude.


It was built in the early 17th century by the Spanish conquistadors. It remains preserved by strict building regulations. More so, it remains preserved by the residents pride and tenderness. There are living flowerpots on the external walls of the houses and shops. The town is clean beyond belief. The church is spectacular with carved wooden doors and holding a position of pride at the top of a hill and in front of the central square where everyone congregates.


Most striking is the warmth of the people. All the people. I have to say that this show was performed to some of the sweetest teenagers I have ever met. Ofcourse some came to see the curious foreigner, to help, to be close, others hung back. When it came to participating, sharing and enjoying stories all were in it together – teens, parents and children. They stayed back to talk, to touch the puppets and to spend time. They laughed, hugged and joked freely and made me feel relaxed and happy to be here. At the end of my time here my only thought was; “This is a place I could live.”


There are numerous little towns in this world and I feel privileged to have visited this one as a storyteller, to be received with warmth and to be continuing my adventures.