Mark Sheppard’s an actor, writer, an experienced clown, and a graduate of the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). This week sees him plunging into an intensive creative development workshop in Cairns to shape his new play, ‘Synesthesia Part II’ (working title).

The work will use text, music, dance, circus and scientific theory, to explore a world of sensory connections where the past is a cornerstone for the future. Creative producer for JUTE Theatre Company Yvette Walker described the narrative as a sensory feast.

“The narrative includes family recipes for chicken soup, memories of a Cairns childhood, the taste of the first mango of the season, the cleansing of the Barron (Walsh) River and the flourishing of the amazingly sweet Black Bream …” Ms Walker said.

As part of the creative process, the writer, director and performers all come together to develop the production.

“It’s the beginning of the second stage of development. It involves all kinds of minds coming together. Sitting to talk, and watching performers within a space, watching the way bodies move in that space, also influences the creative process,” Mr Sheppard told NIT.

‘Synesthesia Part II’ will form part of JUTE Theatre Company’s Dare to Dream touring series for 2020. It will premiere at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, before touring to 10 remote far north QLD communities.

Sheppard wants to bring his perspectives on identity into remote communities, and to inspire young people to embrace their own power.

“I want grow that sense of belonging and inspire our young mob. To know where you come from gives you strength to move forward into this kind of evolving future.”

“We perform to the school first, then spend the week in the school teaching workshops about theatre, public speaking and a different way of learning in writing.”

“We make sure they know it’s not about getting things right, it’s about a different way to express yourself. Then they get an opportunity to perform what they’ve learnt at the community show.”

“The most rewarding parts for me, are those moments when you see inhibitions leave. At first, they are shy to get up, but by the end you’re telling them to give someone else a go.”

Mr Sheppard has spent much of his artist journey on ‘Synesthesia Part II’ exploring what identity means for him.

“In my writing, the first point of call is home. Growing up as a young fella in Mareeba, I would have loved an opportunity like this. Having a black artist come to the community. I think about what I might have missed out on, what I wasn’t aware of.”

“There were moments where I came across questions about my identity. I’ve spent so much time searching, I’ve looked everywhere else except within.”

“When I realised, I had to own that. It’s not about bearing the flag for it 24/7 but it’s about how you are bearing it within yourself. It’s in my heart and that affects how I move through the world and interact with other people, how it influences the way that I write.”

“I think this process for me is about empowering the kids to be in their emotion. To allow them to have a place rather than pushing that aside. To let them begin to understand themselves, putting the choice back on them to start looking at their dreams and how they can work towards obtaining some kind of platform and pathway to achieving their utmost potential.”

“For me, I’ve always had that doubt, those little thoughts that niggle at you. But it’s about a fuller understanding and acceptance of who I am.”

“You must be able to funnel your emotions, have ways to express yourself and have an awareness and acceptance of the different and varying parts of yourself.”

‘Synesthesia Part II’ will host an array of talent, including dramaturgs and directors Briar Grace Smith and Fiona Wirrer-George; performers Rita Pryce, Cleopatra Pryce and Warren Clements; and designers Simone Tesorieri, Simona Cosentini, Kim Bowers and Merindi Schrieber.

The 2020 Dare to Dream program is supported by the Arts Queensland and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.

By Rachael Knowles