Ian Houston Sinclair is a playwright and theatre practitioner. Predominately developing work under his performance company The Wet Weather Ensemble. A Contemporary Performance graduate his theatre work includes Adam and Eve
, Red Cross
, Acts of Undressing
, The Bearskinner
, A Reptile Dreamed
and The River Whispered
. Most recently writing and animaturing Spare Part Puppet Theatre’s Hachiko
and taking part in the Watermill Center’s Fall/Spring Residency Program to develop new show Bird Boy
Sinclair is currently in New York interning with Times Square Arts, taking part the W.Weins dramaturg training program and writing two new plays Nocturna
and Evil Summer
. Ian is recipient of the Western Australian Playwrights’ Development Initiative, the Jump National Mentorship Program and is an SPPT First Hand Emergent Puppetry Artist. Awards include the 2010 Perth Theatre Trust Equity Award for Best Newcomer. What did you want to be when you grew up?
A cowboy. Then Storm from X-men
. Then I saw Jurassic Park
and wanted to be a Paleontologist because I guess I thought that involved a lot of exhilarating chase sequences where I out smarted raptors. When did you know you would work in the arts?
Pretty early on. My mother is from Zimbabwe, and every summer I would go over with her to visit family. One year, to keep me busy, she put me in a local production of Cinderella. I played the part of a bee. I was only a bit part bee but I thought I was the star. Not much has changed.
Plus I was the chubby, high voiced drama department kid in high school, so go figure. How would you describe your work to a complete stranger?
In my work, my characters, people, animals, objects and places are constantly falling into fantasy worlds.
The world is a really hard place and humans have this amazing ability to escape. I know that’s how I survive everyday by living out the alternative universes in my head.
There’s a sort of frenetic, thrown together, late night TV show or video game logic to my work also. I love found objects, food puppetry, breakneck text, beautiful messes and colorful dresses. My work is a landscape of the mundane neighboured with the imagined. The urban and the unexpected.Is there a mission to your work?
I want to transport someone to a completely different place. To build a tangible world, break that one apart and build another, I want to catch the audience off guard. What's your background – what did you study to get to where you are?
I studied Contemporary Performance at Edith Cowan University. I had some wonderful teachers who stressed to us the importance of play. To play like a kid. That to make work you have to get messy. Whatever messy means to you. What's the first thing career related you usually do each day?
Stretch. Then email. Then hot chocolate. Can you describe an "average" working day for you?
When you’re freelance there isn’t an average day. It’s usually structured around the project I’m working on and the amount of work I have. One day (or night) might be spent just sitting in a café application writing and then the next day is a school workshop with thirty kids.
My average day at the moment is 7am yoga, check email, 10am go to Times Square Arts where I’m interning or the dramaturgy program I’m currently a part of. Afternoons are for grants, application or creative writing. Tonight I’m also working at an arts event. I’m a night owl which helps.What's the one thing - piece of equipment, toy, security blanket, – you can't work without?
I have this tattered old grey op shop sweater that I love to snuggle up and write in… I can’t really write without it. Also have a blue and black friendship bracelet and my grandfather’s ring that I need on me 24/7 to think creatively and focus.What gets you fired up?
A great conversation. Someone telling an unusual or weird story. The best is a good piece of gossip.Who in the industry most inspires you?
Internationally, Simon McBurney and Théâtre de Complicité, Blast Theory, Robert Wilson, Little bulb theatre, Forced Entertainment, Pacitti Company, Castellucci, Saint Genet, Wole Soyinka, Peter Handke, Tony Kushner and Agustina Bessa-Luis.
Locally, young performance companies such as Hold Your Horses, Weeping Spoon, Side Pony, Little Y, Mythophobic Productions and The Duckhouse are like big brothers or sisters. You know you just wanna impress them.
I go through extreme fixations, right now I’m trying to get my hands on anything by Spalding Gray. His style was wonderful and mind blowing. And the work of Absolon. Discovering his practice was life changing. What in the industry do you despair about?
That profit is placed before exploration, authenticity and experimentation. I think all artists and art forms have a responsibility to push themselves and their audience. That’s how we learn who we are. Not by ticking boxes and counting change.
Locally, there is also distinct lack of pathways for those coming out of university or other training courses. It’s like "Here you go. We train you up now fend for yourself." That why Spare Part’s First Hand Program has been valuable and unique. They acknowledge this gap. What is the best thing about your job?
Collaboration. I get to work with all sorts people in truly unique places. I’ve also had the amazing opportunity to travel so much this year all over the world. It’s been eye opening. What’s the most challenging aspect?
Keeping motivated. I sometimes have mini breakdowns. I go what’s the point of it all?! I’m going to go earn some real money, maybe then I can buy a boat and have nice things.
And being freelance can often be very lonely, daunting and financially risky. If a project or funding falls through, you don’t get an audition or aren’t short listed for anything. It can be disheartening. What are the top three skills you need in this industry?
Be a triple threat. Dance. Sing. Act. Have Spiderman’s reflexes, Batman’s fighting spirit and Superman’s charisma. I have none of those things. There are no ideal skills. The more unique the skill set. The more unique the artist. What advice would you give anyone looking to break into your field?
I still feel like I’m trying to break in! The advice I’d give is don’t be afraid to make mistakes or fail. Failure has her own beauty and rewards. How do you know when you missed the mark?
You just do. And failing that someone…or everyone will tell you. I’ve missed the mark so many times I not sure where it is anymore! The important thing is to acknowledge this, be reflexive and keep going. There’s more adventure in missing it anyway.Which of the below phrases best suits your career development to date and why?
a. "The road to success is always under construction. "
b. "Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor."
c. "Success is best measured by how far you've come with the talents you've been given. "
d. "No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself."
B. Because I love a good D floor. Even though I’m the awkward one who needs a lot to drink just to get up there and can’t bust any impressive moves. But no one’s hitting on the wallflower in the corner. When do you know you’ve made it?
When people build you a temple.