Q&A with Kate McDowell

Kate McDowell has just come off the stage after the premiere of Wonderbabes. It was a stellar performance! 

Kate, originally from Lismore, is currently one of NORPA’s Associate Artists. She holds a NIDA Postgraduate Diploma in Writing for Performance and is trained in dance, puppetry and performance. She has worked on NORPA works Dreamland and Journey To an Unnamed World, has been a NIDA Independent Resident Artist with Erth Physical and Visual Inc, Literary Intern at Belvoir and Dramaturgy Mentor to Sprung!! Integrated Dance Theatre. Here we find out about her latest work, Wonderbabes, which she wrote and performed.

Your latest work Wonderbabes explicitly talks young women and the underside of youth culture. Why this story? Can you tell us about this work?

I wrote Wonderbabes to try to understand the the way… I, and other young women, burrow into dangerous places on the hunt for freedom – looking for the way to feel powerful and in control. And then also wanting safety, admiration, love, respect. It’s a lot for young people to navigate and this is my ode to that time of my life when I was willing to try anything to feel the full force of my power. 

You have most recently been in residency at NORPA in Lismore, are you still there and what have you been working on during your residency.

I am at NORPA as an Associate Artist. This year I’m continuing research for Julian Louis’ new work Wildskin and NORPA is copresenting Wonderbabes with producer Marisa Snow as part of the 2018 Season. As Associates we work with the company as they develop their vision for the future. Very cool. 

You graduated from University with honours – tell us about your journey since.

I graduated from the University of Wollongong with Hons in Creative Writing (and Spanish!), and then I studied a Postgraduate Diploma in Writing for Performance at NIDA. When I look back, the last 4 years since graduating have been about building my confidence to perform and direct my own work. 

You currently live in Lennox Head but grew up in Lismore. What is it like to be living and working back in the Northern Rivers?

I’m working from my van in a national park campsite on the east coast of Tasmania right now – with no reception – so I’ll have to send this in the morning. But I do live in Lennox, in a room at my parents’ place, because rent by the coast is crazy high, and low living costs means I can work in the arts. In the city, there’s this huge rush. I needed to get away from that anxiety-pumped culture for a bit. I have to come back here to remember that what really matters is being connected to a place and to your people. And then real inspiration is born out of that. 

What is currently inspiring you?

Right now I’m fascinated by evolving patterns and repetition and performances that go for a really long time. For example, I was blown away by The Second Woman by Nat Randall. 24 hours, 100 men, 1 scene on repeat – inspirational. 
I’m interested in ways that performance can defy our ideas about human tolerance and attention span – I’ve observed that the mind can become drawn in to repetitive action and want to play with that.

premiere in pictures

Photos | @kateholmesphotographer