Backstage

Meet our 2016 Artists | Tanya Gerstle

Tania Gerstle | Director

Meet Director Tanya Gerstle. Tanya has worked in theatre in Europe and Australia for over 30 years. Melburnians might recognise Tanya as she’s been training actors at the Victorian College of Arts since 1999 as Head of Acting and Head of Theatre, and is currently currently an Honorary Senior Fellow.

Tanya initiated OpticNerve Performance Group to create text-based works with a dynamic staging approach called Pulse. She has adapted a number of works using this method including Five Kinds of Silence (a radio play by Shelagh Stephenson) YES (based on a film by Sally Potter) and Pale Blue Dot. We are so excited to see what Tanya, and the OpticNerve Performance Group bring to George Eliot’s classic tale of inspired rebellion, The Mill on the Floss, when they move in as Artists in Residence this month. Read on for our interview with Tanya.

Describe your show in one sentence
Known for their visceral, physical performance style, OpticNerve tells the twisted tale of passionate, disobedient Maggie Tulliver trapped in the moral vortex of 19thcentury England.

Describe the OpticNerve story-telling style
OpticNerve’s story-telling style weaves a physical ‘language’ expressing a character’s emotional inner world with the verbal text of a narrative.  The hidden story implied by the text is manifested through action. As the actor’s body paints the space through direct physical experience and memory the body becomes content and image. We build the atmosphere and aesthetic of the play’s ‘world’ in an empty space, through the actor’s body, light and sound design.

Our staging style brings a contemporary resonance and intimacy to a complex, classic epic.

Tell us about your initial interest in Mary Ann Evans
Mary Ann Evans (aka George Eliot) became a social outcast by co-habituating with a married man. She made her intellectual escape through friendships with free thinkers and their advanced social ideas.

She published The Mill on the Floss under the pseudonym George Eliot.

My initial interest in the novel was peaked when I read that apparently neither the publishers nor the public ever questioned the gender of the writer, as the writing was considered to be too good to be written by a woman. A hundred years later Germaine Greer wrote The Female Eunuch and here we are a hundred and fifty-five years later telling Mary Ann’s story on the stage.

I have always been committed to presenting stories of ‘women ahead of their time’, women who fought for the right to express their full humanity and this one is no exception. Both the writer and her protagonist are dark, disobedient and passionate women struggling to live an imaginative life.

This story has endured because it deals with humanity at its most complex. 19th century society was bound by tight moral codes. Emotions remained unspoken.

The Mill on the Floss Season: 28 July – 13 August 2016
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