After falling in love with performing arts from a young age, fellow Adelaidian Phi Theodoros has embarked on a continuous journey that allows us all as individuals to delve deeper into finding ourselves. With her new show "Finding Me", Phi shares real-life stories from her experiences with people within and outside the LGBTIQ community, where there is a strong encouragement to have an open discussion around the many topics that have made this community as brave and strong as they are today. This is a show that brings together elements of "acceptance, identity, sacrifice and self love, in a world confused by gender, sexuality and adversity". For anyone who has questioned who they truly are, this is a show that is perfect for you!
I was lucky enough to have an e-interview set up with Phi, where I learned more about her passions around these topics and the reasons that made her create her show "Finding Me" - have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, Phi? Phi: My name is Phi Theodoros. I was born and bred in the Adelaide Hills.
Tema: Did you undertake specialized training to become a performer or have you taught yourself the skills? Phi: A bit of a mix! I've been involved in community theatre with Ink Pot Arts in Mt Barker for about 14 years. I also studied drama and media at Flinders University with their drama workshop and theory course. I also come from a very musical family, so I started teaching myself ukulele to differentiate from the family about 15 years ago – now my folks and extended family play the uke too!
Tema: Let's talk about the show - who are the key people involved in the making of Finding Me? Phi: The show was written by myself and James Dean, who I collaborated with for my last cabaret show Depression The Musical. Similar to DTM, Finding Me explores some real stories so there are also a handful of friends that I spent a lot of time with to capture elements of their stories and have them woven into the show.
Tema: Can you tell me a bit about the name of the show "Finding Me" – was it something that you felt you experienced through the making of this show? Phi: That's a big question! The original name I had for the show was "Love Me" and the focus was to be about self love but the more I thought about this the needier it felt, I wanted a title that talked to people being/feeling strong in themselves – not needing validation. When the name "Finding Me" appeared, it just felt right. This show is about 4 unique journeys to understanding themselves, their identities and how to accept themselves before seeking that external validation. As for finding myself… it's been a pretty huge few weeks for me and this show has kept me on track, inspired me to explore new opportunities and helped me remember who I used to be and who I want to be in the world moving forward.
Tema: What is the basic premise of your show? Phi: "Finding Me" is set in a support group where the audience are participants. We welcome 4 unique speakers - Andy, Anita, Bryan and Eve - to share their stories of identity, acceptance and self-love. The session is about bringing people together to share their diverse experiences and help others to understand/empathise and hopefully break down some stigma.
Tema: How did you come up with the concept of your show? Was it something that inspired you, something that you felt / experienced? Phi: I came up with the idea of exploring identity and especially sharing LGBTIQ stories while I was in a BodyJam (Dance cardio) class...the idea bounced around in my brain for a few months, before I started to explore how that could translate to the stage and once James came on board and offered the support group concept everything started to kick into gear. Sharing stories, especially the voice of people that don't always get heard is incredibly important and is a big part of my process with creative work.
(Photo of James Dean by Lachlan Young)
Tema: What can people expect from attending your show? Phi: Finding Me shares experiences told through story and original music. Our support group aims to help people understand experiences that may be radically different from their own, yet people always find something very relatable in at least one of our characters' journey. Also some damn good music, James is an amazing musician to collaborate with and has pushed me to grow as a performer. You will almost definitely leave humming lyrics!
Tema: What are you hoping for your experiences with Adelaide Fringe to do for your future endeavours – are you hoping to take your shows on national / international levels? Phi: We have so many more characters that we'd like to feature in our support group, so we'd absolutely love to bring this show back locally as well as take it on the road. There is something really special and important about this work and that's been reflected really strongly in our audience responses and the reviews on our Facebook page. This show provides a format to share stories, entertain audiences but also help them learn something completely out of their experiences. We believe art is the perfect way to bring communities together, to help people learn and grow without sitting through a lecture.
(Photo of Phi Theodoros by Lachlan Young)
Tema: How have you found Adelaide Fringe so far? Phi: Being a local, I love the Fringe! It's my favourite time of year and I soak up as much art as I can for these frantic few weeks! I think Heather and her team have worked really hard to grow this festival, but are still so on board to support artists and always are so accessible when you need pretty much anything!
Tema: How did you get involved with the Adelaide Fringe? Phi: My first Fringe show was in 2006, a Commedia Dell'arte show called the "Servant of Two Masters" with Ink Pot Arts. This show was a massive game changer for me – we toured to different venues (including the zoo!) and I forged lifelong friendships with my co-performers. As a 15-year-old emerging performer, this was such an important opportunity for me!
Tema: Is this your first Adelaide Fringe? Have you been to any others around Australia / the world? Phi: This is the first time I've performed in a Fringe show in about 8 years! I've been producing lots of community events and exhibitions and youth theatre productions for the past 7 years so its really nice to be getting back on the stage during the Fringe.
Tema: What do you do when you're not touring / performing? Do you work with the LGBTIQ population in other ways? Phi: I work at Life Without Barriers in their Living Arts Program, where I coordinate creative sessions and projects for the vulnerable people the organization supports. Mostly working with young people in foster care, but also adults with a disability, those facing mental health challenges, those facing homelessness, and families from our refugee and asylum seeker program. I also still work with Ink Pot Arts as a youth advocate on their board and coordinate community art projects. My passion for the LGBTIQ community comes from living within it, parading dressed in flowers during the Feast Festival (which is where I made my debut as a cabaret performer back in 2009!) and spending time with my peers, colleagues and friends.
Tema: What made you want to take your show to Port Lincoln in particular (apart from being in the Adelaide Fringe hub in the CBD)? Phi: I'm very keen to bring creative work to regional areas and to provide opportunities for people to engage with unique stories in these spaces. Growing up in the Hills sparked this motivation and I've coordinated many different events in the area to encourage people young and old to explore their own creativity.
Partnering with the team from Rogue & Rascal to bring the event to Port Lincoln was a fantastic way for us to test the show in a completely new space and was so incredibly well received that the café is still hearing audiences chatting about the show a couple weeks later.
Tema: How did you get involved with the venues – Raj House and The Rogue & Rascal? Phi: The team from Rogue & Rascal are very dear friends of mine who were the ones to make me actually register this show for the Fringe. They were very eager to bring some Fringe to Port Lincoln so we made it happen. Raj House wasn't my original CBD venue for the Fringe, but once I found out my previous venue wasn't able to stay open Joel and his team welcomed us with open arms. Very, very happy to be part of the Raj House family and hope to keep this relationship going for future festivals.
Tema: Is there anything else that you'd like our readers to know about you and/or your show? Phi: Our characters are inspired by real stories. There are confronting themes in the show, but they are all important things to listen to and discuss. We hope joining our support group can help you on your journey to finding yourselves and if you want to share your story with us then we'd love to hear from you. Oh, and we have biscuits so come have a biscuit and a yarn with us tonight at Raj House from 6:15pm.
Phi's final show is TONIGHT at Raj House at 6:15pm and tickets are still available via the Adelaide Fringe website.