Natasha Jacobs’ new work If I Can Dream has been conceived alongside Roundabout by Michele Lee with director/dramaturg Sarah McCusker, and The Gully by David Mence with director/dramaturg Anne-Louise Sarks; together, they form Melbourne Theatre Company’s Cybec Readings, an emerging artist development programme for young writers and directors/dramaturgs. The play has been developed in MTC’s Lawler Studio over six months of nurturing, collaboration and advice, but is still very much a work in progress at this stage.
“One point of the programme is that it is really about the process rather than the work being a finite version,” says Jacobs. “It’s been great, because we’ll all meet up – all three of us writers, the three dramaturgs and Aiden (Fennessy, MTC Associate Director) – and we’ve all been reading each other’s work. It’s nice to share the experience.”
Aiden Fennessy oversaw the programme and paired Jacobs with Petra Kalive as director/dramaturg. “He chose people he thought would challenge each other and whose practises might not already be identical in order to make it more of a learning curve, rather than making it too easy.”
Although having only briefly met each other beforehand, Jacobs notes that the pairing has worked so far. “I personally think it was a benefit that we are both actors, just because we’re both coming from that side of the hedge. We have a shared history and experience of theatre from that perspective”. The pair were also mutually fascinated by the concept of the play: “between the two of us we had a lot of knowledge that we could already pool together.”
The title If I Can Dream comes from an Elvis Presley song of the same name. The play discusses “faith, belief and religion, and what people will do in the name of faith” by “using the premise that a church was established on the belief that Elvis was the Messiah,” Jacobs explains. “I’ve always thought it interesting – faith or belief, and what people will do for that belief. Because I’ve always had a love of Elvis, that was a perfect way to discuss it without, you know, making it a preaching piece and without shoving the idea down people’s throats,” she continues.
Crossing over from performing to writing was not a big leap for Jacobs. “Everything in the theatre is linked. Whether you are a designer and a director and a writer or you’re only one thing, it’s all linked. Personally I became a writer because I’m an actor,” she says. “I started writing because as an actor you are limited in the roles you’re offered.” She has thus appeared in most of her own work, including La Mama productions You’re not the Boss of Me (2009) and Her Private Theatre (2010).
The Cybec Readings with be showing at the Melbourne Theatre Company's Lawler Studio from Thursday 18 November to Saturday 20 November.
Roundabout - Thu 18 Nov
The Gully - Fri 19 Nov
If I Can Dream - Sat 20 Nov