You’ve probably heard of Lisa Nowak. Not because of her career as a NASA astronaut working on the International Space Station. But because in 2007, she drove for 14 hours straight from Houston to Orlando, allegedly wearing adult diapers with a plan to confront her lover’s lover. Our society is fascinated by stories of fallen women.
A group of artists will revisit Nowak’s story in development for Drive – a theatre work looking at that 14-hour car ride. Rebecca Meston, the writer and creator of the project, first heard Nowak’s story when it hit the headlines, but something about it stayed with her.
“I live in regional Australia, in a country town, and I drive a lot to Adelaide,” she says. “I’m constantly in a car on expressways, and often I have my small son in the back of the car. When you’re driving these long distances, with a child in the back, suddenly the world is very big and very small at exactly the same time.”
The project is Vitalstatistix’s first Incubator Residency for 2017, which allows artists a fortnight to develop a new project before a work-in-progress showing for an audience. Developments like this are a chance to play with a work on the ground, and Meston and her collaborators are using the time to experiment with movement.
When Broadsheet visits Vitalstatistix’s home in Port Adelaide, the group is working with movement consultant Roz Hervey and choreographer Larissa McGowan to find a dance vocabulary for both the elite training of NASA and for the feeling of driving across the country.
“My focus is on a 14-hour drive that is also 14 hours in somebody’s head,” says Meston. “But I’m also really interested in prising open the story and it being a very physical story about what a drive like this is in the body.
“For someone to just have all of this grief, but you just keep pushing it down and compartmentalising it … at some point it’s got to come out. I’ve been playing with this idea that when you see a shuttle launch going up, and you see all the smoke and fire – that is something that is going on in her and she's been just been pushing it down and pushing it down. And it's like the body deals with the grief at some point. You can't run from it.”
This Friday and Saturday, Vitals will open the doors to the rehearsal room for two work-in-progress showings. For Meston, it’s a chance for audiences to see the process of making theatre.
“It’s like going into the back area of a proper baker: seeing him making his pastries, and the sweat and the tools that are involved,” she says. “It's really about educating audiences and developing audiences, and that's, to me, such an important plight: to help audiences understand how people make.”
Drive shows at Vitalsatstix in Port Adelaide on Friday May 12 and Saturday May 13 at 7pm. Entry is free but booking is required.