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Published February 7th 2019
Come backstage with Paper Haus
Over a virtual cuppa (or maybe something a little stronger), I had a hearty Q&A with Heather Jerrems (director, marketing manager), Nelson Jerrems (co-director and designer) and Ryan Hunt (producer and writer) of local theatre company Paper Haus Theatre Co to get to know a bit more about the collective creative geniuses behind the company.
Paper Haus Theatre Co in three words: Collaborative, inventive, and surprising!
I sense a German connection. What's with the 'Haus' part of PHTC? We wish we had something interesting to say here, but honestly, we just liked the sound and look of 'haus' as opposed to 'house'. We have a really diversely gifted team so we wanted a name that could 'house' all our skill sets.
Talk to me about the two other sub-brands – Paper Haus Art and Design, and Paper Haus Media: At its core Paper Haus has always had a strong focus and desire to create in all artistic spaces. As artists ourselves we were never sold on the idea of being limited to one particular field within the industry. Our vision for Paper Haus is to continue focusing on creating new experiences, and these sub-brands within the team allow us to explore all possible avenues. We're always looking for new opportunities to work alongside established and upcoming artists on exciting projects – big or small – in the industry.
Once you conceived the brand, what were those first 12 months of initiating the brand and marketing strategy like? Our first 12 months were very challenging. Our core team has a strong background in agency and event marketing which has definitely helped in terms of creating strategy. However, strategising for a 60,000-person festival (and the budget that comes with that!) is so different from strategising for a tiny, local collaborative arts collective. Our ability to be creative and adapt with our processes has really helped us. We're on a journey and are still learning as we go but working towards some great things!
First show? Our first show was called The Zombie Bride, which showed at both Curtin Uni while we were studying there, then Fremantle Festival. It was a musical about a popular 'mean girl' who gets transformed into a zombie by a rogue scientist she bullies. They eventually fall in , and in an act of love, the scientist lures a bunch of the 'townsfolk' into an ice cream truck freezer so the zombie has enough food. I'd like to say we've come a long way since then, but honestly our shows are still just as tongue in cheek!
Fave show? (I know, it's like choosing a favourite child!) Favourite show! That is a tough one. It would have to be The Ruby Red Fatales, which is also a musical comedy, set in the 1940s during the Second World War. The story traced an American female sniper unit who posed as showgirls to trick Nazi soldiers and kill them. The show featured ten original songs played by a live 6-piece jazz band and plenty of stitch-ups, love triangles, and slapstick humour.
Live theatre is, well, live, so has an elevated level of risk. Have you had any on-stage or behind-the-scenes stuff-ups – and how did you mask it/get through it? For one of our projects we had an actor who was unable to continue in the rehearsal period close to opening night. Thankfully Perth has some real talent and hardworking performers and we were able to get in contact with another actor who worked tirelessly to get up to speed. It was a real credit to the team and to the performer themselves that we were able to continue on with the production and make a great piece of theatre.
Little things can always go wrong on show night, but that's why you prepare as well as you can and cross your fingers that, come show night, the cogs keep working as you rehearsed. Just last night in BOY ZONED we had a mic-pack go haywire and fall off a performer. They were in the middle of a group dance routine, but it provided a hilarious moment of contrast between the tight musical number and the struggle of the band to work together, which is actually appropriate for the show. Luckily the nature of BOY ZONED and Fringe World meant everyone was able to have a good laugh about it and work it into the show – the boyband gave the member a telling off for such poor use of technical equipment: "Geez, can you even pull yourself together for one minute?"
Who should go to a PHTC show? We have a fairly diverse audience at our shows – 20s through to 60s!
Who should get involved in the PHTC – on stage or behind the scenes? We love working with young, emerging artists. A lot of the people we work with are studying or have studied at Curtin, Murdoch or WAAPA. We're always looking for new people to work with.
Inspirations/fave artists/theatre concepts? In the current technological era there is so much media we are inundated with, it can be hard to nail down exactly where an idea or inspiration comes from simply because you view so much. Comedy groups like Aunty Donna, The Lonely Island, The Mighty Boosh, and Flight of the Conchords all have a special place in the heart of the creative group, particularly because we have worked with music and comedy in a number of shows.
Beyond Fringe, what other avenues/outlets do your shows come to life? As mentioned we've performed at Fremantle Festival, as well as The Blue Room, and the Ellington Jazz Club. Fringe World has been our focus for the last couple of years; however, 2019 will see the team expand into some new spaces!
Big plans/collabs ahead? BOY ZONED finishes on Sunday 10 February, then our next project will be an immersive show! We don't have too many details to provide on this one just yet but expect an announcement from the team in the next couple of months.