A love affair with New York and lunch with Larry Moss… just two stops on actor, director and acting coach Gabriella Rose-Carter’s journey towards creating Q44 Theatre, a magical creative space in Melbourne’s Richmond, dedicated to giving artists a space to learn and a platform for their work.
Tania: Tell me about the beginnings of Q44?
Gabriella: I went back to New York with my family for my birthday in 2013, and had lunch with Larry Moss.
Tania: As you do.
Gabriella: As you do. We were having lunch and he said, “How’s it all going?” I said “Good”, and he just looked at me and touched my hand and he said, “It’s time for you to get out on your own”. I got really emotional because it was something I always wanted to do.
It was completely unexpected. He didn’t know me, I met him once at a master class and he knew I was part of the faculty at Sixteenth Street. Some mentors are there for a long time and others just come at the right moment and then disappear. It was one of those moments.
So it sat with me and I went home to my partner and I was like “Larry just said I’ve got to get out on my own”. I couldn’t stop thinking and talking about it. Then when I came back one of my students said “My mum has these art studios in Richmond and one has just become available and I think you would love it. Can you go and see it?” and I said, “Yeah, sure.”
I get so excited about things and then they’re nothing like I expected, so I decided to change my tactic a little bit and go in with no big expectations. I literally walked through the door, looked at his mum, looked at him, they went to start talking and I was like, “I’ll take it”.
I had no idea of how I was going to pay for it, if she needed a bond, if I had to sign a contract. All I knew was I could hear the train go by, there was something New York about it even though we aren’t in New York and I thought wow, this could be a great place for it.
Tania: How has it evolved since it started at the end of July 2013?
Gabriella: I was teaching two classes then, and I came up with the idea of producing plays. I was tired of being a frustrated actor always trying to get work and handing over my creativity to the casting and agent gods. I thought, Larry’s given me this seed and I think it is not just to get out on my own as a teacher, I need to get out on my own as a creative so I can be responsible for my own creativity and my own work. I think there are so many talented creative people out there and only 1% getting work. If that’s such a struggle, why can’t we create our own platform where we can be working in a place where we are aligned, can learn how to collaborate, be encouraged, championed and strengthen our relationship around how we see ourselves, instead of getting caught up in ‘my agent doesn’t get me any work’, ‘I can’t get an agent’, ‘blah blah casting person won’t see me’. This way there’s no time to be thinking of all those things because you’re doing it, and if you do get the audition or gig, there’s no ‘what if this runs out’ because you’re constantly doing it, you’re constantly being creative.
Tania: And when it started it was just you.
Gabriella: Me. Yes.
Tania: And now you have company. How did that happen?
Gabriella: Well, people got on board and again none of us were being paid we were volunteering. Anthony started volunteering and he said - you’re going to make me cry - he said, “I see your vision”. He’s been amazing in terms of the business side of things and we have this beautiful way of complimenting each other. We back each other up, so it’s really gone from teacher student, to mentor, to a beautiful creative friendship. He jumped on board, and others started to follow. People were seeing the potential after the first year.
I’m a really big believer in doing. We can all sit around and say ‘oh yes I’d love to do this’ but as the saying goes talk is cheap and doing is a lot scarier than talking. When I started it, I got Suzanne (Heywood) to direct the first play and I said to her “I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m not going to pretend to anyone that I do, because I don’t. All I know is that I have things to offer. I’m going to make mistakes along the way. I will fail. Some people won’t like the choices I will make. I’m willing to sacrifice that, to keep doing and to being creative.”
I think people appreciate that; that I’m learning with them. It wasn’t part of the plan. I have to be as honest as possible so it’s that thing of I don’t know the answer to this and we can work it out together.
Tania: It gives other people permission to do the same thing.
Tania: So what makes Q44 different to other theatre companies in Australia?
Gabriella: Predominantly the education element of it. What I loved about my experience in New York and one of the things I love about The Actors Studio is the fact that you have a place to go, a tribe that speaks your language, supports you, encourages you, champions you, challenges and raises the bar for you to be the best creative person that you can be. People are training all the time. There’s no ‘Now that I’m an actor I don’t need training anymore’ because an athlete needs to constantly train to be the best they can be, a ballerina needs to constantly train.
So we are not only telling stories about the human condition that can change and shift ideas, but also educating the community that actors, creative people performing drama and telling human stories need constant training to keep mastering their craft, like any other profession. We’re not excluded from that. It’s not just about being yourself.
Tania: New York is clearly a major influence, and the studio was named after the Q44 bus, did you ride it?
Gabriella: No I didn’t ride the Q44 bus. I watch a lot of John Patrick Shanley’s videos on youtube. He’s a lecturer and has this brave way of communicating and writing about the human condition. He’s got a really beautiful understanding about what it is to be an actor, a director, a writer, a human being, and links it all together. It’s amazing how his writing moves through and connects to other cultures, not just Irish catholic. It totally resonates with me, and my Hungarian background. I was watching this lecture he did at a school and at the very end he said, “life is like the Q44 bus, you miss it, you miss life”. It was really emotional and I was like wow, that’s what I’m going to call it.
New York is one of my mentors if you like. I love it, I hate it, I’ve seduced it, we’ve had wild sex together. New York taught me to embrace the creative I am and that it doesn’t need to be conventional. You can do it any way you want. There’s no one way of doing this, so even when you’re riding the bus, you get on the same bus, but not everyone will see what you see.
Tania: How do you stay connected to that?
Gabriella: I just have to think about it. Just the words... you saying ‘New York’, I get connected. It means so much to me because of what it helped me learn about myself. I feel like I’m indebted to New York in a way, and the best I can give it is to create Q44 and to keep passing on what it gave me. That’s really important. I feel like that’s my journey.
Tania: You talked about wanting to create your own work instead of waiting for the casting gods. What advice would you give someone embarking on that journey?
Gabriella: Know what story you want to tell. Ask yourself the question, why do you want to be an actor? Do you want to be an actor because you have to get something from it or do you want to be an actor because you have to give something, and what do you have to give? That’s an important question, and no answer is right or wrong. But if I want to do this to get mass validation then that’s the actor I’m going to be. Know that’s what you want to do and then back yourself 100%. If it’s about giving something and telling stories about the human condition for the greater good of the community, then know it and own it.
The clearer you can be on why you are doing it, the more clarity you have to assist with your choices. Maybe you want to create your own thing or maybe it’s going to pilot season. Don’t do it because other people are doing it. I think it’s that easy. If you’re trying to do everything then your meandering and meandering isn’t backing yourself.
Tania: So what inspires you, how do you stay energised?
Gabriella: My son. I learn so much from him. He’s so curious about things, and has no fear about being a beginner. He constantly reminds me that thing of learning something from the beginning and practicing. Even at such a young age he gets really frustrated. He wanted to whistle because one of the boys at school knew how to whistle and he couldn’t. So I said to him keep practising, practise makes you better, and eventually he did it. So he’s conquered the whistling, but by me teaching him, he’s teaching me that back.
Tania: Is it important to you that your work inspires other people?
Gabriella: It’s not something I’m conscious of. I do it to help people align with what they love and why they want to do it and find a platform to be able to express it. I’m big in helping and supporting that, and if they find inspiration then I’m proud of that, but that’s not the objective.
Tania: What’s you inner critic like?
Gabriella: Since Q44 my inner critic doesn’t have a lot of time to talk, which is nice. I feel like I put it in the work. I like to take things in me and put them in the work.
Tania: How do you do that?
Gabriella: By helping and supporting. For example if my inner critic is active and I can see it in someone else, I can share a story of my inner critic. Shining a light on it dissipates it, but it also unites us. Then there’s no hierarchy. I like to throw it on the floor.
Before I created a platform for myself and other creatives, my inner critic was a lot stronger because I felt like my creativity was in the hands of others. Now I have a platform for it, if it comes up I explore it and I go to therapy and that helps. [laughs]
Tania: And the last book you read?
Gabriella: The Element! Ken Robinson.
Tania: How did that inspire you?
Gabriella: The taking Arts out of mainstream education and schools, which is what he talks about, is really moving to me. We need to put it back in. Little people are so in tune with that part of themselves. It’s important!
From August 15th, Q44 Theatre presents Sex With Strangers, Laura Eason’s exploration of privacy, identity and digital media, directed by Gabriella. You know you want to see it! For booking information and to find out more about Q44 visit their website, or connect with them on Facebook.
In the interest of full disclosure, I train with Q44 so have experienced the magic, and the work first hand.