Platform For Fame
Friday June 8, 2001
WHEN ANDY WARHOL said everyone could have their 15 minutes of fame, did he wake a sleeping giant? In recent years, the quest for fame has created a new world hunger of sorts, typified by the deluge of reality TV, popstar and whowantstobe shows sweeping the Western world.
Fame has its price. And a timely new play that opened in Northcote last night explores this modernday phenomenon of the hunger for celebrity that can consume those who seek it.
Shimmer tells the journey of 20 young women engaged in a Popstarslike audition process to claim the coveted prize of ``stardom". The play interconnects two stories - the modernday audition and the ancient Greek myth of the Danaids - to create a highly relevant cautionary tale.
The idea for the show came from a 1999 newspaper article that claimed ``53 per cent of young women have ambitions to become leading entertainers or highprofile actors". A City of Darebin cultural worker saw the article and commissioned playwright Angela Costi to write a play based on it.
``He wanted me to explore that in the northern suburbs," says Costi, 33, who wrote Shimmer last year, based on interviews she conducted with about 25 Darebin women aged 14 to 29.
``One question they found to answer was if you had to choose between love and fame, what would it be?" says Costi. ``Some people chose fame; quite a lot chose love, (and) quite a lot were pissed off that they had to have one or the other ... like: why can't a woman have it all?
``But a good third went for fame. The twothirds that didn't go for fame were caught up in - as we all are - with individual pursuits, that you have to somehow make a difference and not be anonymous.
``I feel we're living in an age now where we've got women like Toni Collette, Natalie Imbruglia, Kylie Minogue, all these women, and where popstars are being manufactured all the time. Young people are getting their 15 minutes of fame ... They're seen like demigods in a way ... They become marketable and packaged. And that is alluring, especially if you're from the working class," says Conti.
In Shimmer, the danger of being exploited is conveyed by an overseeing judge, who in the end leaves the group of women to decide who will win ``stardom". Intertwined with the contemporary story is the myth of King Danaid, who had 50 daughters. On their wedding night, he commanded then to murder each of their betrothed, or else their new husbands would claim their kingdoms and power. Only the eldest daughter defied him and she was cast out for, essentially, putting her principles before money and power. In Shimmer the Danaids are represented as a chorus of women who portray the darker side of the modernday women consumed by the quest for fame.
Shimmer is the third production from Platform Youth Theatre. Its first, Platform, inspired the theatre group's name. The group's Awgie awardwinning Hogs Hairs and Leeches was produced in 1999.
The play's cast was found through wordofmouth and through schools. Some of the girls had worked with Kelly Auty, 43, a professional singer and singing teacher. She says the cast of 25 ranges in age from nine to about 35, including young mothers, university students and secondary school students. No one who auditioned was turned away.
``Because we wanted to blow out that thing about everyone having to be perfect, we made a decision very early on that anyone who auditioned would be involved in some way," says Auty. ``So we've got all shapes and sizes, all ages, all hair colors and that's one of the beautiful things about the show."
Although a wellintended move, it meant the play ran the risk of having an inconsistent cast. But incredibly, not one woman's talents are below par, says Auty.
``It's amazing because the ones who auditioned only did it because they knew they were up to it. So we've got a really strong cast."
Director Lyn Ellis cast the roles which, says Auty, was a process that left no egos bruised or noses out of joint, despite the potential for it to produce the very traits of stardom the play condemns.
``They're so into it," says Auty. ``They don't approach it from an egotistical point of view. It's just been 25 women going, `Yes, were doing this and were a great team'."
• Shimmer, written by Angela Costi and Kelly Auty, directed by Lyn Ellis, is at the Northcote Uniting Church Hall, Northcote, on June8, 9, 15 and 16 and June10 and 17, at 8pm.
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