Oscar Lopez is a Mexican-Australian theatre director. While studying recently, he was awarded the Louise Homfrey Prize for Directing in 2009 and the Hannah Barry Memorial Award in 2011, which allowed him to travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year where he directed and performed in a show based on Shakespeare's sonnets. Besides the classics, Oscar's interests lie in politically charged theatre, particularly documentary and verbatim theatre on which he wrote his minor thesis.
Paul Andrew speaks to Oscar about theatre and Indigo Brandenburg's play.
An early theatre memory?
I went to see a performance of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in Oxford, England when I was 12. The performance was outside, on a little islet on a river. The actors swung from the trees, Oberon and Titania drifted down the river on a beautiful swan-shaped boat. It was the first time I really saw how magical and captivating the theatre can be. It's my favourite of the Bard's comedies.
Your studies and training?
I graduated last year with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Theatre Studies and Creative Writing from Melbourne University. While studying I also did short courses at VCA and St. Martin's Youth Arts Centre. It was at St. Martins that I first started directing during my year-long creative ensemble. I also spent six months on exchange in Paris studying Art History and Jazz/Ballet. I have also worked with Platform Youth Theatre in their Provokateur mentoring program.
A wisdom you recall from that time?
Everything in the theatre means more, symbolizes something greater than itself. That is a beautiful and terrifying thing.
Is there a particular playwright that continues to inspire you?
I am a massive Shakespeare fanatic. I can read or watch his plays anytime, it's like listening to music.
Tying Knots in seven words?
Two same-sex couples want a wedding.
What motivated Indigo to write the play?
In Indigo's own words: "Years ago I heard a report on Triple J about how young males 15-19 are most likely to attempt or commit suicide. Particularly those in rural areas and it's believed that confusion about sexual identity is a significant factor. Basically, kids are killing themselves because they see being homosexual as a dead end, a death sentence. I can't make the real world a better place but I can write plays that suggest there's a better more fair world on the way. That's why my plays have positive gay role models and I've written this play Tying Knots about gay marriage."
Tell me a little something about one couple?
Jo and Kate are deeply in love. Jo is a surgeon and Kate is an architect. They both work full-time and are very career oriented. Jo is vivacious and fun, always enjoys a laugh. Kate is tenacious and determined: she provides Jo with a bit of grounding in the relationship. Jo has long dreamed of a beautiful white wedding, and is really the driving force behind the idea of having a double wedding. Both of them feel very passionately that marriage should be a right for everyone.
A favourite line in the play?
"It's not about the wedding, or the dress or any of those things. It's about civil rights."
How has the play influenced your own way of thinking?
I have really been inspired to examine marriage and what it means to different people. It has made me realize that marriage is a beautiful thing. It isn't necessarily right for everybody but it should be a legal right for everyone.
What makes a play like this so vivid now?
I think change is really on the horizon. We are in the midst of a charged political debate. I think this play will really speak to audiences on a personal, intimate level and make people realize that by not allowing equality towards same-sex couples, the Australian government is sending a message that discrimination against the gay and lesbian community is acceptable. I hope this play inspires people to change that attitude.
And your personal experience of same-sex marriage?
It's interesting that in Mexico City, where I was born, same-sex marriage is legal, and yet Mexico is a hugely conservative, catholic country. It seems odd to me that in a society as secular as Australia, this should still be a religious debate. I feel personally very strongly about this issue: it affects me and many of my friends. I look forward to the end of this discrimination.
How will this play appeal to La Mama audiences?
I think La Mama audiences are very open: to new ideas, to new ways of making theatre. I think this play tackles a controversial issue and utilizes theatrical conventions in interesting ways. I think La Mama audiences will respond to the freshness and dynamism of this production, as well as its relevance to current topics.
What's happening for you this year?
After the season I am moving to New York to study with Atlantic Theater Company and undergo a 10 month internship with Tectonic Theater Project.
Tying Knots by Indigo Brandenburg, directed by Oscar Lopez is now playing at La Mama Theatre, Carlton. Until July 1, 2012