I've always been passionate about performing. I'm not sure if it was the exposure to live music, or seeing my grandparents, or a bit of everything. My grandpa played the church organ and my grandma sung in his choir and their love of Bach ignited a fiery passion in my 5 year old self. I studied the violin, viola, flute and a touch of piano before deciding that voice was my instrument of choice and was lucky enough to have parents who would happily drive me to countless music lessons and rehearsals and wait outside in the car. It was a very loud day in our house when I graduated from the cardboard violin, to a real one.
At age 11 I was travelling around Tasmania with my family and one day I just couldnt get out of bed. Mum & Dad thought I was avoiding the hike up Cradle Mountain (fair assumption), but when I couldnt even get out of the car to visit the lolly shop, they knew something was wrong. This was also the same year I'd accidentally ridden my bike off a (small) cliff in the Flinders Ranges and injured my back. Little did I know, this would be the start of my chronic pain.
By the time I was 14, I’d gone from being the popular, fun, life-of-the-party, to the girl who was always off sick, would get excused from PE and who cried all the time. Lower back pain and exhaustion now drove every aspect of my life. I quickly learned that in order to keep friends, I needed to hide the pain stricken, exhausted girl and be the witty and entertaining girl they knew and liked. And so, I found myself living most of my life as a performance; high school was my stage.
Performing was ironically when I felt free from the act. Singing allowed me to express my true feelings rather than hide them behind a humourous façade. I felt capable, powerful even; I could bring an intensity shunned in my everyday life to a performance and be given a standing ovation. Plain words could not express the trauma I felt at having my body constantly let me down and not be able to show it. But when I sang, I could sing of tragedy and unrequited love and death and the whole auditorium would be enraptured. People would weep and thank me afterwards. It was the only time I could be unapologetically me and I was addicted.
But this addiction took a toll on my body. After fifteen years of specialists telling me there was nothing wrong with my back or lungs and that my health challenges were caused by being overweight, I was finally diagnosed with a mild form of Cystic Fibrosis at the age of 28.
I had always told myself if I waited long enough and worked hard enough, my voice would heal, and my breathing and back pain would improve. Hearing this news from the respiratory doctor was the first time I'd been given a straight, definitive answer. My breathing was never going to improve no matter how good my technique was; I was never going to sing on a world opera stage.
While the devastation left me winded, it was a relief to realise that it wasn't my fault, and no amount of vocal rest, sinus rinses or antibiotics would change that. This was the first time I’d allowed myself to even consider that I’d never perform opera again. I'd moved to the other side of the country for Uni, had created a life for myself in Perth and now I was trying to work out what to do with my life. So what does one do with a life full of lived experience with chronic illness and countless years of wasted operatic training?
When I try to isolate what it is I loved about opera, after stripping back the grandeur and elitism, I realised that it was connecting with my character and making people feel something which made me feel so alive. Have you ever watched something, be it on a screen or a stage that connected with you so deeply; you were moved in a way you couldn't find words to describe. That’s what I lived for and I started to think maybe I could find it through acting.
I want to share how chronically ill people manage behind closed doors. I want to normalise talking about tools we use to make life more manageable, and I want to remove shame around discussing health challenges and struggles. Many people can picture debilitating, acute pain, however, comprehending the constant nature of chronic pain seems to be lost on most. When people say 'feel better soon' I feel so disconnected and alienated from others. Bring into it the invisible aspect and I face a never-ending and isolating battle of being misunderstood and not being believed.
More than 20% of Australians live with some form of a disability and our stories deserve to be told, cast authentically, and made by inclusive crews. I want to elevate the voices of disabled creators and contribute to a better understanding of what people with a disability face so we can all work towards empathy and inclusion.
Edith Cowan University
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts Honours in Music
2009-2011 & 2015
University of Adelaide
Elder Conservatorium of Music
Bachelor of Muisc - Classical Voice