March the 8th is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate and highlight the valuable contributions women make to our world. One day is not enough, so this is part of a month-long series of posts celebrating female artists from Australia.
Today’s feature artist is Maeve Marsden, cabaret artist, performer and writer.
1. What art do you make?
I make cabaret. I perform with three other women (and our band) as Lady Sings it Better, a ridiculous feminist comedy cabaret.
I’m also working with Elly Clough on a new cabaret about the history of gin called Mother’s Ruin, and Van Badham and Richard Wise are writing a musical for us based on Conan the Barbarian which is absurd and hilarious. And I write sometimes. Here.
2. What is one of your proudest achievements as an artist?
My proudest achievement is probably still Lady Sings it Better’s Edinburgh Fringe tour in 2012. We were still very much emerging artists and my co-producer Phoebe and I managed a tour for 11 people. That festival was a turning point in how we approached creative work and it was loads of wonderful, terrifying, exhausting fun. I’m proud we crowdfunded it, and I’m proud the show went well. I can’t wait to do it all again next year!
3. What has been a challenge recently, and how did you overcome it?
The big challenge for me in the last year has been making the decision to quit my “day job” so I can pursue creative projects. It was a scary jump but I am bucketloads happier now and am really excited about this next phase. I’m not sure I “overcame” the fear around leaping off with no secure income, I just did it.
Working as an artist in Australia is incredibly difficult, financially. Distances are long so touring is expensive and there isn’t really funding for comedy or cabaret.
‘Til recently I had to maintain full time work in order to fund my performance career. Now I am managing it with a crazy mix of two contract roles consulting on some wonderful education projects, freelance writing, performing and my savings!
I often wonder what kind of art I could make if I weren’t always worrying about ticket sales and whether or not we’ll be able to pay our collaborators. It’s taken 5 years to get to a point where I can even consider a life as a full time artist.
I am lucky to have a wonderful partner who is really supportive of the change, and who is making a career change herself. We can eat on a budget together!
4. What are you most excited by creatively right now?
All of it! I am operating on a “say yes” policy with creative projects. After directing and performing in Lady for the past five years I am excited about working with other writers and directors, and about trying out new ideas and seeing if they work.
I am excited about all the incredible women working in music and comedy in Australia at the moment. I’ve seen some brilliant work lately and I’m hoping we’re seeing a shift in the male dominance of these two areas.
Feminism is, more and more, becoming part of the conversation, not just in activism but in pop culture too, which is brilliant.
5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given about growing your career as an artist?
After our first season at The Red Rattler in Sydney a friend said “this is an Edinburgh Fringe show”. That gave us a goal, something to work towards, so was really helpful.
As for advice, my co-producer Phoebe always says that it’s important to know you’re replaceable.
There’s someone else out there who is talented and hard-working too. Make yourself irreplaceable by being a person others want to work with.
I don’t know, there have been so many little pieces of advice and feedback that I’ve taken on over the years, I could answer this question for ages!
6. Where can we find your work and connect with you?
15-19 April you can see Lady Sings it Better at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Details and tickets here.
9-16 May you can see Lady Sings it Better at the Sydney Comedy Festival. Details and tickets here.
(Photo credit: Viv McGregor.)
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