Medina Sumovic: Australian Theatre of the Deaf
Interview with Medina Sumovic, Artistic Director of Australian Theatre of the Deaf
The 24 Hour Experience – Ballarat, Saturday 21st November 2015
SYN Media ‘Art Smitten’ reporters: Lauren Klein & Osman Erciyes
LK – How did you become involved with The 24 Hour Experience?
MS -Ashley Heenan (Deafaccess Gampians Coordinator based at City of Ballarat) wanted to set up this project. He contacted Arts Access Victoria and the deaf arts network and asked us if we would want to be involved. He asked us if we knew a deaf person from Ballarat and so I contacted Marnie (Kerridge) because she is from Ballarat. I don’t live in Ballarat now, but I did live here for 9 years so I’ve got good links with the community, and I know Ashley because he’s the Deafaccess Grampians Coordinator. So I said “Yes!” straight away because I know that the people are here. It’s lovely to show deaf people and it’s great to see that the profile increases. It was an easy decision to become involved and we are really pleased that we did.
LK – And how did the ‘Seeing Stories’ ensemble come together?
MS – We wanted more people to be involved. We emailed lots of people and they emailed us their stories. We had a lot of different groups and we did a lot of writing of scripts and then we decided that we would choose actors who were available and that Marnie could be involved with. So, at the same time, we had many stories from their experiences, but we had other stories from other people and their experiences too, so we negotiated the stories that way. It’s been a very exciting thing to be involved with; it’s a new group for the Australian Theatre of the Deaf – ATOD.
LK – Is there only one branch of ATOD in Ballarat? Are there other ATOD branches around Victoria that you collaborate with?
MS – The ATOD was born in Sydney and it moved to Melbourne about 7 years ago. It’s now based in Melbourne under Arts Access Victoria. Sometimes from time to time we have some funding to do some performances, and these things prop up, and when we are successful we can run different projects. The deaf community really loves the Australian Theatre of the Deaf because that’s how they access their theatre, particularly as it’s around deaf culture and background. It’s a wonderful theatre that we can connect to and that we’d like to see happen more frequently.
OE – The stories that were presented today, were they actually personal anecdotes, or were they collected from members of the deaf community?
MS – Well the stories are from us and other people. There’s a bit of a mix. We had two workshops where deaf people came and shared their stories and they were really emotional times, we had lots of laughter, lots of tears, they were very personal stories. Sometimes it was the first time that some people had told their stories; so it was a real spiritual connection. So sometimes there are combinations of three different stories but they have similar themes, different people have similar experiences. So we all represent many different stories from many different people.
LK – Are there any future projects in the works at the moment?
MS – Well, it really goes back to funding. If we can secure some funding then we can develop some theatre or some short projects. It’s very hard because the government keeps cutting our funding! It’s very frustrating.
LK – Yes that must be very frustrating! I think that projects like ‘Seeing Stories’ in the 24 Hour Experience is a great initiative to connect people who have had little exposure to, or involvement with, the deaf community. I hope that we can see more work like this.
OE – Thank you for your time and for speaking with us.
MS – Thank you so much, thank you.
This interview was conducted through an Auslan interpreter.
The Australian Theatre of the Deaf (ATOD) performed ‘Seeing Stories’ as part of the 24 Hour Experience’ in Ballarat. For more information about ATOD, you can visit their websites: http://artsaccess.com.au/deaf-arts-network/about-atod/ and https://www.facebook.com/austheatreofthedeaf