Monday 19 December 2016

The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar - Midsumma preview

As the end of 2016 approaches, there are a plethora of 2017 calendars being released, including the first all male redhead naked calendar, the University of Sydney student naked charity calendar and even a calendar featuring near naked 'hunks' helping animals in distress. Well now the Helendale Hornets are now getting in on the action. Written by Jake Stewart and presented as part of Midsumma Festival, The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar will look at the lengths a local football club will go to in order to secure itself a future.

However, this is not the only event to be told, as Stewart informs me there are a number of interesting stories to be told from within these small country towns. "The play is actually three independent stories told simultaneously, with Helendale being just one of them. While we tell the story of the Helendale Hornets photographing their nude calendar, we also delve into the Lynx-scented dynamic of an all-male classroom in Galshank, as well as the events surrounding a hunky celebrity arrival at a caravan park in Karandah Heads.
These three stories are all told with a young gay protagonist at the helm," he explains. "As we have been rehearsing, it's been exciting to watch the ways in which these stories illuminate each other. As is the sheer wonder of watching eleven brave, funny, talented guys work together to tell three complex, socially pertinent stories."

Stewart has always found the performativity of masculinity fascinating and there was no better way to explore this idea than through a football club. "It
just seemed like an obvious place to observe it in all its sweaty glory. My intrigue regarding the guys that gravitate towards enthusiastic athleticism has its roots in my six years spent at an all boys high school and three years playing local footy," he says. "From then until now I've grappled with understanding their willingness to pursue sporting greatness, or even the prospect of getting up in the morning and looking forward to mud and kicking and perspiration. Additionally, I've always thought there to be something quite bafflingly transfixing about the ungenerous stoicism of the classically male conversation – a staple of the Helendale clubroom."

The eleven males who have been cast for this production have been working hard in rehearsals at creating the 'mateship' so prevalent in football culture. "The cast and I have spent a lot of time talking about the idea of camaraderie, and the ways that men behave when they're in particular groups and situations. Many of them have never been part of a team sport, and so conveying notions of 'squadly mateship' and the locker-room environment has brought about some real fascinating conversation," Stewart tells me. "At this point we've kind of pinpointed the resident experts within the cast when it comes to any questions relating to the matey, football team dynamic necessary for the play to work. As such, we've developed a real vocabulary for observing, explaining, and dissecting the behaviour of blokey, sporty mates."

For Midsumma Festival last year, Stewart wrote another play called Fraternal, which was an exploration of what happens when two brothers' love for each other moves into the physical and emotional. While The Helendale Nude Footy Calendar seems to be lighter in tone, I was curious if his writing style is the same regardless. "The process is always unique to the project. With Fraternal there was a lot of research, conversation, and workshops with some very talented actors to turn it into what it was. This play took a little longer to write and develop, and structurally it proved to be a lot more complicated - the structure now having turned into one of my favourite elements of the thing," Stewart explains. "When determining the nature of the writing process for a play, I often find a helpful thing to look for is the reason that the play is gonna suck – if I can find that and keep an eye on it, and conquer it before opening night, then I can guiltlessly let the curtain go up."

Venue: Bluestone Church Arts Space, 8A Hyde St, Footscray
Season: 24 January - 4 February | Tues - Sat 7pm
Tickets: $24 Full | $19 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

Photo Credit: Conor Herbert

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