Tag Archives: Youth

Dear Me, 19. #idealist #failure #RAAsummit

I wrote/said some words at a conference last year. A nice lady from ArtsHub was in the audience and asked if she could publish those words on ArtsHub.

I said yes. So she did. You can read them here now.

Some other people in the audience also said some nice things about my words in person and on twitter, like this:


If you want to say nice words to me on twitter, you can too (here). I will say thank you. We can be friends. Or whatever the equivalent is in the Twitterverse. Twits?

Night, loves.


Who the hell do you think you are? #watershedACT

What is your brand?

Have you googled yourself? Found anything you don’t like on there?

My first session at Watershed this morning was led by Canberra Youth Theatre’s Artistic Director Karla Conway and in the program promised to strip back the surface layer to delve deep into your art, ‘you’ll be suprised to discover how little you know about yourself as an artist’.

Karla also has a second identity – that of Canberra Roller Derby’s ‘Karlotta Karnage‘ and her session this morning drew on some key lessons Roller Derby can teach us as artists.

Lesson #1 – I was late so I missed the official wording but essentially

Names matter. Pick a good name and cultivate it. This is your brand.

Lesson #2 – Bios should be bad ass

A lot of people are too nervous about pigeon holing ourselves. Sometimes you have to pick something. (I’m definitely guilty of this). It’s not about letting go of what you’ve done in the past but evolving and being present with the work/position you have right now. Karla ran an independent theatre company in WA, she’s been a performer and musical theatre. All of that shapes and informs her current practise. But if you’re too broad no one knows who you are and what you’re doing. So Karla is a director/dramaturg. That’s the work she’s making.

Karla spoke about studying directing at NIDA and never getting feedback from the tutor. We all habitually seek this ‘what did you think’ and turning the question around on to ourselves means that we learn to have our own back. We have to learn to step away from our work to see what is or isn’t working. This also helps to identify the elements that are specifically you.

I could never recreate your work. Because I cannot be you and you cannot be me. Rather than striving to be someone else. Strive to be you. – Karla Conway

Karla also questioned – Do you live in the past or the present in your bio?

We’ve all done things.  Many of us write bios that tie us to what we’ve done in the past. What are you doing now? What’s your aesthetic? What are you excited about? What makes you different?

Biography vs manifesto. Context. What are you using it for? Is this for a funding body or the program of a show? It is for your peers? The audience?

The key here I think is that you’re actually buying me, not my past work. I am the brand. It’s about if the person I am and the way I work is the right fit for you and what you want to do.

This really rang true for me. Karla asked us to spend a minute writing our bio.
Conclusion – I’m not so great at being ‘bad ass’, however that’s not my voice or my language and I’m actually okay with that. Unsurprisingly the words I jotted down was intrinsically linked to my identification as a regional artist and as a parent. This is an important part of who I am as a person obviously but it’s also at the heart of the ‘why’ in the work I have made and want to make.

Karla also asked us to autowrite in response to a series of provocations she presented. Provocations invited us to consider the work we were first exposed to, the work that excites us, frustrates us, inspires us, the work we’ve always wanted to make and what’s stopping us and how we define ourselves through our work.

Again, there were no surprises here for me. I regularly interrogate my work and myself so there was no new information here. My entire universe hinges on me constantly questioning EVERYTHING. But there is always (and was again) a clear pattern of how I betray myself and my skills and my potential with my own fear. I am, and always will be my own worst enemy. And actually fuck me. Fuck me for being the worst kind of coward.

Moving on,

Lesson #3 – Sometimes a girl’s gotta eat shit (this is a Roller Derby Term for stacking it)

If you don’t attempt it. You’ll never master it.

Come at me world. (See above fuck to self)

Lesson #4 – It’s inevitable, you’re going to get injured

Art is a vulnerable place to sit permanently. It’s okay to have a mental health day. It’s okay to rest and recover. You have to reassess and reignite.

Lesson #5 – Don’t cut the track

Limitations and boundaries can be your friend. Don’t be repressed by your limitations. Set the boundaries and then operate as violently as you can to create the best work you can.

Lesson #6 – Some days will bring wins.

Keep them in perspective

Lesson #7 – It’s all about the fans

What are you making for the audience? What is their experience? Always be thinking about the audience when you’re making the work.

It might be a cool idea – but why does your audience want to see that?

And yes, there is an audience for everything. But why are YOU making this? What does it mean? Why are you doing? Why are you connecting with that audience? And what would they be interested in?

Lesson #8 – Fight hard for your position on the track.

You have to be disciplined and invest in your craft. Constantly evolve. Know what your place and context is and work on that.

Lesson #9 – Persevere. Because at some point when you least expect it, magic happens.

Lesson #10 – At the end of the day we are all on the same team.

We grow our art by supporting each other. Go and see each other’s show!!

Look forward, not back.


Watershed – Keynote – Baba Israel

Today (April 11th 2013) is the opening day of Watershed, the second National Theatre Summit for Young and Emerging Artists happening over the next few days in Canberra.  Coinciding with both National Youth Week and Centenary of Canberra Celebrations and in the lead up to the Australian Theatre Forum, Watershed has brought togther 50+ young artists (under 30) to connect/inspire/challenge/interrogate/consider/share.

After a very brief registration period and welcome from the implementation committee here in Canberra we launched straight into Baba Israel’s keynote.

A google search for Baba Israel reveals all kinds of interesting things. Links to various youtube videos (many well worth checking out) and various articles and profiles about his life and work.

None of them are as interesting as the man himself in the flesh. Baba fills the space and his interactions with an openness of spirit, a deeply caring masculinity that is refreshing and very special me thinks. Right down to his endearing orange tee and cap and improvised spoken word response to our desires for Watershed (#watershedACT on twitter in case you’re wondering).

At the heart of it, Baba is a storyteller and his keynote shared the story of his artistic life starting from his earliest years as the child of deeply artistic parents (raised by parents who were core members of The Living Theatre), Baba was present in the rehearsal room as a baby, being held by Directors and other creatives in room as his parents worked. Like many young people, he had a period of rebellion,  attending a science high school – that didn’t work out – but the arts remained an integral part of his life and way of engaging with the world.

Baba touched on the value of this early exposure to the arts, which I really agree with, although my own road into the arts was quite different, much later in life and more accidental. I wonder how much this early exposure and immersion in an artistic life/community shapes the confidence to explore/experiment/fail that I often struggle with. Thought for another day perhaps

Anywho – Baba honed his skills as a street performer with a lens on creating and reclaiming space (a nice link to my recent adventures at Creating Spaces). Baba spoke a lot about the power of improvisation in this early days and as his career continued to develop. The importance of enjoying and being present in that moment – responding to what is actually happening around you. Again this repeats themes from Creating Spaces and leads into a deeper discussion about having a willingness to try and fail and try again. Yes, universe I know. I know.

I don’t need lights and a stage. I can explore and express anywhere – Baba Israel

Through travel, accidental discovery and connections with others Baba discovered hip hop and hip hop through theatre as a tool for community development and education and from what I can find on the interwebs, this is *some* of what he’s best known for now (as a hip hop and spoken word artist).

Baba also spoke at length about play back theatre, which dovetails quite closely with fourm theatre/theatre of the oppressed and I am interested to learn more about play back theatre myself over the next little while.

There was so much shared actually that my notes are a little bit of a mess. I will curate this blog post a little better tomorrow when I’ve had some sleep but in the meantime…..

Some of the key questions/ideas I took away:

  • Creating spaces where people have agency is where the youth sector shines
  • As an artists you are constantly ’emerging’ and rediscovering yourself
  • We are all resources for each other. How can we best connect and tap into those resources. #tapthat
  • I (Alysha) really do love spoken word.
  • What are the reasons that a particular community doesn’t or can’t connect with theatre/performing arts
  • Professional doesn’t always involve money. It can be about commitment
  • Diversity doesn’t always happen accidentally (in fact it rarely does). Diversity often needs to be deliberate.
  • How do you maintain longevity in a company context – the importance of developing a shared language
  • Research can deepen one’s practise. It’s okay to have a break from ‘making’
  • A lot of theatre spaces usher young people in and then usher then out. How do we create spaces that young people can own?
  • Local. International. National. Instead of Local. National. International.
  • I should learn more about tele presence

You can find Baba here and here.

Also – YES, YES and YES to Contact’s board hearing the veto of their youth panel on choosing the next Artistic Director. If it’s a youth theatre company, all the major decision should absolutely be informed by and made with the young people of the company. So glad to finally find someone else that gets this and can articulate it the way it feels to me.

CYF Day 1 with the PM

The first official day of the Commonwealth Youth Forum has been a one of deep reflection for me, one which again has reminded me of how little I know and how much I want to know!

After a lovely breakfast in the Atrium Restaurant at the Esplanade Hotel (our venue for most of CYF) we headed into the official opening ceremony.

We were greeted by very warm, affectionate & insightful Myf Warhurst as our Master of Ceremonies before the ceremony was officially opened by our Prime Minister, the Honorable Julia Gillard, who was something of a surprise to me. It wasn’t the content of her presentation but how she came across in person. The Prime Minister shared her hopes for the forum, that we retain our idealism as it leads us to change and visionary thinking and she then shared 3 examples of inspiring stories from amongst CFY delegates. But what stood out to me is how poorly television captures her. In person she seemed incredibly genuine, slightly awkward, generous and almost endearing which is certainly not the picture I had of her from television and paper based media.

During the opening ceremony the Commonwealth Secretary General Kamelesh Sharma also gave a call to action, proposing that ‘Youth’ should be mainstream – not just the responsibility of dedicated departments – but instead every decision made should consider how it affects both young people and women. And here’s a handy & interesting fact for everyone – across the Commonwealth Nations (which include over 50 independent countries) – over half the population of the commonwealth is under 29. There are more young people living now than at any other time in history. The Secretary- General in his parting words asked us to be ‘ a well spring of optimism for the Commonwealth and the future.’

I want to speak more in depth about some of the issues that his speech raised in me, however I need time to percolate some of those thoughts before sharing – so stay tuned.

The opening ceremony also included a vote of thanks delivered by Federal Minster for Youth, the Honorable Peter Garret (of Midnight Oil fame, which both the Prime Minister and our Master of Ceremonies Myf Warhusrt made reference to!). Minister Garret also reiterated that the participation of young people must be embedded in decisions and planning for the future.

We were also privy to the thoughts and vision of CYF planning group Chairperson Alan Hyunh who asked for achievable action & tangible. Our final speaker the Youth Caucus Chair? (I think, I missed part of her introduction unfortunately) also asked us to ‘Make it meaningful. Make it real. Make it count.’ And again echoed earlier speakers in saying ‘ Young people must be an integral part of decision making for the future. What can you do to help as one individual to create this change?’

We were also treated by a welcome to country and traditional Aboriginal dance and the Variety Youth Choir who sang their own take on the Song of Joy and We are Australian.

Essentially I’ve just given a description of the running order of the Opening Ceremony. That isn’t what it meant to me though. The internal response and reflection I had to each of the speakers, the welcome to country and the choir was something highly personal. As I sat in the audience surrounded by a sea of colour, both in clothes and in skin, hair & flags I felt deeply moved in a way I still cannot fully capture.

In a way that says deeply and wordlessly and inherently to me that this actually does mean something. This goes beyond the communiqué and what it does or doesn’t achieve. That is important but the CYF is both something less and something much more than that end point.
There are deep frustrations with this forum and this system, many of them began to quickly bubble to the surface during our working sessions in the afternoon and yet this opportunity in and of itself is a moment to be inspired, to be empowered, to find answers and backers and ideas simply by talking to other delegates. I have learnt so much (not nearly enough!) just by being in a room with people living in circumstances so far removed, and yet so relevant to my own. The sense of reaching out and having others reach back is so precious.

On arrival to Perth yesterday I met the other SA delegate Khadija Gbla in the Shuttle Bus (Khadija is a proud Sierra Leonian and she is an absolute treasure and we should be so proud to have her as a South Aussie), Khadija was incredibly entertaining on the almost hour trip to Fremantle but the thing which stood out most from our conversation was the image of dancing and food, two things which are so easy to share, to break down the barriers and allow people to see each other as human.

The Human Side of the Commonwealth is the one that reaches out to me most deeply.

And this quote from the day perhaps sums it up most neatly ‘Peace and Understanding can not come from a book or religion. You have to venture out and touch the Nations.’

I’m going to leave it there for the first day but will catch you up on some of today’s work from our working group with tomorrow’s post. I’m working with the group ‘Youth Enterprise, ICT, Sustainable livelihoods & the Economy’. For quotable moments throughout the day be sure to follow along with the twitter hashtag #cyf2011.

2011 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) presentation for Berri Rotary

This is a copy of the presentation I made to the Berri Rotary Club in thanks for sponsoring my attedance at this year’s Rotary Youth Leadership Awards:

17th October 2011

So I need a volunteer. Thank you!

Here’s a lonely little toothpick. Try and break it.

It breaks easily yeah?

Here’s another one.

So it’s pretty easy to break an individual toothpick. It takes barely any effort at all.

But what about a bundle of toothpicks? Can you break this bundle tied together? It’s a little harder.

That message most of all, is the one I took away from RYLA. As a team we are stronger, when we work together and we are connected we are harder to break.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name’s Alysha Herrmann. I’m a parent. I have an almost 9 year old son named Zacharie who of all the people in my life inspires me every day to try and become the best version of myself that I can be.

I’m completing a teaching/Arts degree which I’ve been doing since 2008 part time, when I finally finish I’ll be qualified as a secondary Drama/English teacher and I’m majoring in Literature and Sociology for an Arts degree.

Most of my work and passion though is as an Artist. A performing artist to be exact, I originally trained as an actor although I don’t get to perform much living in a regional area so I mostly work now as a project facilitator & director (especially with young people who I’m very passionate about) and as a playwright. I also occasionally write bad poetry and even worse songs! My work as a playwright has been performed in Canberra, Adelaide, Queensland, Victoria and right here in the Riverland.

On Friday night past my work in the Arts was also formally recognised as I was the recipient of the Advantage SA Riverland & Murraylands Sony Centre Arts Award, which is super exciting for me. I’m not sporty so I’ve never really won much in the way of trophies before but I now have a glass pear to sit on my desk!

I’m also a youth mentor working with Renmark High School students & a community mentor with the Berri Barmera Council’s Youth Committee. I’m the President of the Berri District Youth Club and the co-creator and facilitator of the Riverland Youth Connect project.

And I’m a young person. I turned 26 this year. And 2 weeks ago I attended the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards in Belair sponsored by the Rotary Club of Berri. Thank you!

While I was at RYLA I thought a lot about what I would say when I came to report back to you, and I’ve continued thinking about what to say in the 2 weeks since coming home.

I don’t know that anything I can say could actually capture what RYLA is and what it did for me.

RYLA is for young people aged 18-25 and I only just snuck in this year having already turned 26, being on the older end of the spectrum RYLA was a different experience for me than many of the other participants as obviously I’m a little older, hopefully a tiny bit more experienced and more settled in my life. So perhaps some of the content wasn’t new, perhaps some of the guest speakers seemed like an echo I’d heard before and yet my experience at RYLA was moving, was valid and was equally important. It didn’t change my life or introduce me to a whole new world, but it gave me the opportunity to reflect, to re-evaluate, to take time out from my busy life and experience myself through other people’s eyes, which is something that we don’t often have the opportunity to do.

And that is a really, really special gift. Too often we’re living our lives in survival mode, on full throttle going from day to day just trying to keep up. And I’m often really guilty of that. RYLA asked me to step outside of that pattern. To give up my phone, my schedule, my work for a week, my family for a week and put my time and my energy in someone else’s hands. To give 100% commitment to whatever experiences the week had to offer and I didn’t know what to expect. I really only had a very vague idea of what RYLA was from past participants.

As I said before, nothing can really sum it up but I will try and give you bit of quick snapshot. RYLA incorporates guest speakers who this year covered a diverse array of topics including public speaking, conflict resolution, ethics, living your passions, goal setting, self defence (I was teamed with one of the Directors – and let’s just say he never wants to be my partner for self defence ever again!), volunteering & leadership. The week incorporates a lot of self development through a variety of mechanisms including reflection (individually and as a team), team work, sports and outdoor activities, dancing (My highlight of the week was possibly the bushdancing – simply because we barely knew each other and yet everyone gave it a go. Everyone committed to what that experience had to offer. We got out of our heads and into our bodies and moved and laughed together. That really stands out in my mind), games and lots of opportunity for creative expression. It’s also a week’s worth of solid and useful networking with future collaborators, clients and leaders. It’s a week of great food and fellowship. But it’s also more than all of that.

In my RYLA application back in February I said: I hope to be inspired and challenged to see the world from new angles. I also hope to have the opportunity to form and develop new networks with other passionate and engaged young people and through these networks develop new skills and possible co-collaborators on future projects. I hope that I can contribute and offer something valuable to other participants through sharing my own diverse skills and experience.

I was given all of those things – I was inspired, I was challenged, I made & developed new networks with passionate young people as future co-collaborators, I grew my skills & I contributed in a way that only I could have.

RYLA was an amazing week. A week that reaffirmed for me what community means to me. And to me community is all about reaching out to others, to share, to support, to laugh and to cry. This is exactly what RYLA is and was over 7 days – a community. A community of spirited, generous and dedicated young people. Young people who are contributing meaningfully and tirelessly in their respective communities – to spend 7 days in their company was so exciting and reinvigorating for me personally.

I come away from the week refreshed and ready to keep working, to keep building our community, to keep doing what I’m doing with new skills, new networks and new hope.

As a team we are stronger, when we work together and we are connected we are harder to break. That’s the message I bring back from RYLA, that’s the message which resonates most loudly to me in relation to the Riverland.

And I just wanted to show you this short video. My partner and I made it in 2009 so it’s not new and some of you may have seen it before. But this is why I do what I do and this is why opportunities like RYLA for people like me are so important.

So that was RYLA.
Humbling, inspiring, challenging & so worth it.

So where to now for me?

Some of you may already know that I’ve been invited to attend the Commonwealth Youth Forum next week in Fremantle. I’ve been invited as one of 30 Australia delegates to join other youth delegates aged 18-29 from the other Commonwealth Nations to learn about the Commonwealth, debate issues to be progressed to world leaders at Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and benefit from skills-building sessions during the Forum. We’ll also have the unique opportunity to work with international delegates from Commonwealth member nations to discuss global issues.

This is a really exciting opportunity for me personally but also for the Riverland as there are only 2 South Aussies going, myself and a young lady from Adelaide, so it’s a great opportunity to fly the flag for the Riverland and tell everyone what a wonderful community we have here and that they should all come and visit us! It’s also an opportunity for me to be a vehicle for the voices of other young people to share their stories, ideas and concerns at an International forum. It’s also I think a pertinent opportunity to put into practise and build on everything I experienced at RYLA.

To make sure that as many voices as possible inform my time at the forum I’ve distributed a survey which Robin (Berri Rotary President) has the link to if anyone would like to share with their youth networks. People can also email or call me directly. The more people who share their thoughts with me before I head off, the more well rounded and representative of our community I can be.

I’ve been very lucky because The Federal Office for Youth & the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition are supporting me to access this opportunity by covering my accommodation, food & other costs associated with staying in Fremantle for the week, as most of the work I do is in-kind and therefore unpaid it can be really difficult for me to access this kind of opportunity. However I still need to cover travel to and from Fremantle, including flights (which when I checked today were around the $700 mark) and transport to Adelaide and any small contribution towards these costs would be greatly appreciated.

In my other capacity as an artist I’m also continuing work on my independent community arts project PressureLands. PressureLands is a performance project working with young people 14-26 to explore pressure, expectations and success.

The project started last year when I visited all of the local high schools and engaged over 600 young people as part of community consultations through interviews, brainstorming, writing letters and performance exercise around the themes of pressures, expectations and success. 10 young people then came on board to create a performance response to that material and we’re continuing to create that performance which will end up being a play and we’ve just finished registering for the Adelaide Fringe next year which is super exciting.

We have a lot of fundraising to do between now and March but we have a very passionate and dedicated cast who have been selling chocolates, face painting and organising quiz nights so somehow we will get there and we will be performing in Adelaide for week before a week of shows right here in the Riverland. I’d love to see you all at the show next year. The Creative Producer of the next Regional Arts Conference has also invited PressureLands to perform at the 2012 Regional Arts Conference in Goolwa which is another exciting opportunity not only to showcase this project and the amazing young people who are involved but also the Riverland itself.

Lastly in relation to RYLA I just wanted to share something quite personal that came out of the week for me. The residential facility we stayed at during RYLA is called ‘Nunyara’ and on the first day the caretaker explained that Nunyara means ‘place of healing’. It’s a beautiful place up in the Adelaide Hills, you can stand on the verandah in the evening and look out over a lush hillside and see the sea of fairy lights that is the Adelaide skyline, it’s just stunning.

I mentioned earlier that one of the benefits of RYLA for me personally was the opportunity to see myself through other people’s eyes and I really meant that. For me RYLA and Nunyara were truly a place of healing.

Despite everything I’ve achieved in the last 10 years I’ve still been viewing myself as a high school drop out and a teen parent. I’ve still been seeing myself through that lens. Being immersed in the RYLA experience forced me to rethink how I see myself, forced me to see myself through the eyes of others.

There were lots of way it did so, but one that stands out to me is the warm fuzzy activity. On the first day of RYLA we were asked to fill out a little one page survey about ourselves and stick it onto an A4 envelope on the wall and then throughout the week the idea was that if someone did something really inspiring or outstanding or you just wanted to give them some encouragement, you could write them a little note (a so called ‘warm fuzzy’) and leave it in their envelope for them. When I came home and read my warm fuzzies I was really confronted by words I’d never associate with myself, words & sentences like ‘your attitude to life is more inspiring than words can express’, ‘you lead people through your kindness and wisdom’, ‘determined & wise’. I’m not saying I’ll never doubt myself again, I will. I’ll still doubt, I’ll still be afraid, but I’m not just a high school drop out and I’m not just a teen parent anymore and RYLA gave me the chance to see that. So thank you. For thinking I was worth sending. Each of you collectively gave me that gift.

No matter what I’m doing or how I use what I learnt at RYLA, that is something that will stay with me.

Thank you.

End Presentation.

Afterwards I opened the floor for questions. The club gave me a standing ovation. Peter Jarvis said I was the best speaker the club has had in over 18 months, Warren Adams said he noticed that no one touched their dessert as I spoke, they waited until I was finished and that almost never happens as usually everyone starts eating their dessert as soon as it arrives and it showed that I had their attention.

As I sat down again to eat my dessert the secretary of the club indicated that he wanted to support my attendance at the Commonwelath Youth Forum and asked the club to do so. The entire club voted yes on the spot.

Thank you Berri Rotary for believing in me and for supporting me not only to experience RYLA but to take our stories to an International Forum such as CYF.

I’d love for you (whoever you are reading this) to share your stories/ideas/concerns with me as I head to the Commonwealth Youth Forum. You can access the survey here or you can email me with your thoughts at: alysha_herrmann85@hotmail.com

And I’m going to endeavour to blog/tweet/facbook about the Forum whilst I’m there next week. Wish me luck!