Debuting at Wellington’s Litcrawl festival tonight, My First Time wants to throw whatever writing is against a wall.
Litcrawl co-director Claire Mabey wants you to know that the festival isn’t just about books.
Like, she believes that if you write a thing down, you are a writer. Yes, that includes tweets, but it’s also an older concept - poets, journalists, novelists, playwrights are all writers, but they’re playing entirely different games with words.
My First Time, a performance debuting at Litcrawl, wants to challenge all that by asking questions like Are you a writer if your stories are heard, not read? Are you still a writer if your words hang in the air?
The show bring together three pieces of writing from three New Zealand writers that will be performed by actors.
Mabey got the idea from a similar show that she had seen in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014 called Letters Home.
While that show was developed into a three hour theatre show that asked the audience to walk through each scene, immersed in the action, Mabey wanted to “start things small” with My First Time.
“They’re not highly produced… They’re a first reading, a first draft. They’re all in an infancy stage - and that’s the point,” says Mabey.
Faith Wilson is one of the writers to be featured at My First Time, and only one actor will be performing her work.
Her story centres on a young Samoan woman who has to get some extensive dental work done - and then becomes very enamoured with her white male dentist.
This particular desire, for a white man from a brown woman, is a recurring theme in Wilson’s work.
She recently ran a project on Instagram through the username f*cksimondenny, where she professed an extreme desire to well, f*ck the acclaimed New Zealand artist Simon Denny.
“For me, it’s a good metaphor to transplant the desire and confusion I have around my identity. Growing up, as an afakasi [ed: half white, half Samoan] it was a big thing for me - I really, really wanted to be white,” she says.
At the end of each performance, the audience will be asked to provide feedback.
Director of Wilson’s piece Miranda Manasiadis says that asking for critique will be an interesting process for both the writers and audience members.
“It will be like having a third character in the room, really,” she says.
Manasiadis says the whole show is centred around the process of writing, and around growth of the work, and so she is looking forward to an audience that talks back.
“The whole process has really stretched the work … I don’t think the writing would be anywhere near as strong if we hadn’t revisited it again and again through its performance.”
OUR PICKS FOR LITCRAWL
The best of the poets, writers and yarn spinners this weekend.
Toby & Toby Live - Caroline 1 Manners St, Saturday 13 at 7:15pm
I mean, obviously. The men behind RNZ online column are going to bring their sharpest pencil to try and cartoon live. These two have been behind some of the most on-point social commentary of the last couple years. Plus, it features essayist extraordinaire Ashleigh Young of Can You Tolerate This? fame, who, if her Twitter is anything to go by, will be just as funny, vulnerable and sweet live as her book.
2. True Stories Told Live - Wellington Central Library, 65 Victoria St, Saturday 13 at 6:00pm
No pressure - it’s got to be true? This event markets itself as no-frills storytelling (a la New York’s famous The Moth) with no audio cues or nothing, and features writer Emily Perkins alongside Wellington’s brand spanking new mayor Justin Lester. If you want to see how committed Lester will be to the city’s art scene, maybe you should go see his art.
3. Crip the Lit - CQ Hotels 223 Cuba Street, Saturday 13 at 7:15pm
Crip the Lit is dedicated entirely to artists who identify as having a disability. It’s refreshing to see a space carved out entirely for those with different needs, when disability is so often relegated to the side or rendered invisible. These artists want to “broaden the human experience”, so take this opportunity to go forth and be validated if disability resonates with you - or listen and learn a new perspective.
4. I Ain’t Sorry - Layers Laundrette & Emporium 282 Cuba St, Saturday 13 at 8:30pm
Curated by Faith Wilson and Hana Pera Aoake, I Ain’t Sorry looks to be both angry and essential. The readers at the event will share stories of “difference” - namely, how they have been marginalised in their own communities. Knowing both Wilson and Aoake’s previous work, I Ain’t Sorry will no doubt further explore both artists’ occupation with race, and growing up as biracial in Aotearoa. Recommended to all that still go with the apathetic millenials only eat brunch myth.
5. People of Letters - San Fran Bathhouse 71 Cuba Street, Sunday 13 at 7:30pm
Although this one carries a $40 price tag, it makes the list because it looks really… Lovely. Various famous people, including Wellington Labour MP Grant Robertson and poet Hera Lindsay Bird, are paired up with people they love to write letters to them, and then presumably read them aloud. Letters have always been special - but now, you only really write them as sentimental gesture, a literal love note. Expect explanations of cute in-jokes, embarrassing stories, and an overflow of important literary people being goobers.