Still Life: Open Studios by Checkpoint Theatre

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Dana Lam is perhaps most famous for being a former President of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), alongside having published a photobook during the heady GE 2006 days. But did you also know that she’s a trained artist?

Once taught by Milenko and Delia Prvacki, Dana has been given the chance of a lifetime: produced by Checkpoint Theatre, Dana will tell the story of her life through a brand new, full length play in early 2019. Titled Still Life, the work previously received a dramatised reading in November 2017, and takes a look at Dana’s life as a daughter, mother, grandmother and wife from the 1950s through to the present through the lens of art and art-making.

In an extension and evolution of their pre-existing works-in-development programme, Dana has also been given the chance to live out the full artist life, with Checkpoint Theatre having rented out an empty room in Goodman Arts Centre for Dana to transform into her very own studio. Here, Dana has been given free reign to explore her artistic side, creating everything from still life portraits of friends to woven dolls. As part of the programme, Dana also presented an excerpt of the production (directed by Checkpoint co-artistic director Claire Wong) over the weekend in that same studio space, edging it ever closer to the final product next year.

By setting it in an artist’s studio, surrounded by works she herself has created, Dana affords a newfound strength to the work as she finds power in this familiar space, owning it as she walks around it and recounting anecdotes of her life. But instead of simply diving straight into each anecdote, Dana creates an entry point through her art, effectively linking each lovingly crafted piece to an episode in her life, giving a strong visual precedence to better evoke the themes she attempts to bring out in her play. At one point, Dana describes the act of painting a subject and their usual reactions while looking intently at an audience member, painting in real time as she speaks.

In its current state, one feels as if one has been brought on an deeply personal curatorial journey not just around the studio, but into Dana’s very mind and artistry, her life on display in a different kind of gallery. While it will not be staged in this same space come 2019, Still Life then has the potential to transgress the border between installation and performance art, able to become something truly unique and moving in its own right, assuming it retains the same sense of intimacy that gives the script extra punch. We’re certainly looking forward to seeing how this work continues to develop and the kind of product it will finally result in, as Checkpoint Theatre gears up for an exciting 2019 season ahead.

Still Life is set to premiere in early 2019, with details to be announced soon. For more information, follow Checkpoint Theatre on their Facebook here

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