Aly Loren
Aly Loren

On queerness, creativity, and food puns.

Tell us a little about the path you took to find yourself here, about to speak on the Queer Youth Panel at MELT Festival.

Hoo boy, it’s been a bit of a ride mates. One day I was pondering aloud about a little 10-minute performance art-Esque idea I had for a friend’s birthday backyard performance party, next minute a Real Life Director said if I wrote a full show he’d direct it and help me put it on the stage.

10 shows in a row later at Melbourne Fringe Festival last year we decided to apply for MELT (I mean I was just stoked at the idea of maybe just going back to Bris for a bit to attend the festival; let alone perform and speak on a panel. Like, in front of people) and we got in.

I was soon contacted by the Festival Director James Lees and Producer Tanya-Hiroko Martin to be a part of the panel, moderated by the perspicacious Benjamin Law and alongside ultimate powerhouse Aretha Stewart-Brown and the ever-talented Josh Daveta, what a treat!

Just between us LOTL readers, this is the first time I’ve been on a panel, so come watch me pop the revolutionary cherry with some incredible people who are changin’ the world. I have total imposters syndrome but I’m incredibly humbled to be included. I hope some younger queers come and see that we have voices and we have power, and I hope that older queers can watch and see how far we’ve come since they paved the way for us and that everyone else sees that the fight isn’t over post-marriage equality.

If you had to summarise yourself as one food item, what would it be (and why)?

So why are you limiting me to this “one” food item nonsense? I love food too much for this I’ve had two dinners so far tonight but I have to go with a burger.

But like a big delicious juicy burger. I’m trying really hard to relate this to myself but I just really love burgers. Lettuce says it’s cos I’m colourful from my head tomatoes, I relish each moment, I like to patty – it’s rare, but after Morbier (it’s a cheese pun look it up) I always seem to get myself into a bit of a pickle, and your mayo may not find it hard to ketchup to me.

And I love a good bun.

….Like pun.

As a young, queer creative, what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and what helped you overcome it?

Honestly, the most difficult part was actually believing that I’m allowed to have a voice. It’s not like anyone has heckled me and said outright “you shall not perform here you blasphemous gay!”, but I’m learning so much about myself and the world all the time that I often get stuck in a spot where I’m like, okay, are people other than queers gonna care about queer content when my friends used to just go all quiet when I started telling dating stories about girls instead of boys?

Are people just gonna ignore me when I tell them about my gender identity and how I don’t feel like I fit into the male/female binary? Do I even care what people think?

Being surrounded by beautiful queer (and otherwise) people are always what helps in that case. Feeling validated is more than just being told “your human experience is valid” behind uncomfortably clenched teeth. Seeing queers in popular theatre and music.

Being at a party when the band The Internet dropped their album and hearing Syd the lead singer sing about girls! So much excitement and screaming! Having queer art being shown everywhere here in Melbourne, I could pick almost any night of the week and go and see something by a queer artist and/or performer.

Meeting passion and spirit and hope and hearing stories and helping each other. My eyes and heart light up every time another queer person succeeds and speaks (whatever their personal definition of success is, but that’s for another time), you’re all the reason I can do this at all because you do too. Thank you for showing me a way that allows me to process things and talk about feelings and tell stories that work so wonderfully for me.

When people full of kindness and magic came up to me after my shows in tears or just so happy that they saw it – I can’t even explain to you how that feels. That’s what keeps me creating because people told me it mattered to them.

And on another very important note, I see people like me with privilege (white, supportive and comfortable family, housed and with enough to keep bread on the table) on stages and given platforms all the time. In the conversation about having a voice, do I really need to take up more space? I don’t think that this is a matter of “overcoming” whatsoever though, this is just a constant conversation and learning experience. I hope to be as open to discussion and criticism and responsive to calls for accountability as I can be if or when that arises, and am dedicated to speaking about my experiences but not over anyone else’s.

What can people expect from one of your performances?

If you haven’t met me before you’re really gonna meet me after one of my shows, catch me at the bar afterwards and give me a hug (or just a hey hello) because I’m gonna be wrecked in all senses of the word but oh man I’m here for all the feelings.

Expect real stories, feelings, original songs, a shit hot drummer, laughing (even if it is at my expense), shared secrets (only because they were too scared to tell people when they were happening), a ripper sexy story or two, a party game, a bird and most importantly a feeling of togetherness through sharing and real human vulnerability – and you’re all gonna be there with me. I’m gonna try my absolute hardest to break down that barrier between performer and audience member and I want you to feel so super welcome, even in the confronting parts. I’m always open for chats post-show and I wanna get to know you too!

You are also performing in Share My Blankets at MELT Festival – what is the inspiration or story behind this performance?

Sure am! I wrote this with the help of an incredibly talented director and the pretty okay guy (kidding love you) Dirk Hoult of Tilted Projects (also from Brisbane!). I gave you a bit of a run down up there, but essentially the show takes audiences through the past 5 or 6 years of my life, its a “coming of age” coming out story that is comprised of my original music, stories, writing and other bits of performance art. It’s a cabaret show, the “fun cool older cousin who used to buy you booze before you were of age” of entertainment, so bring the bubbles in and let’s have a bloody good time together, hey?

We pieced bits of my writing through all these years and today together and formed a framework that tells the story of a confused late teen/young adult struggling with everything from queerness and gender identity, to falling in love with my best friend, to sexual experiences both good and bad, to learn about mistakes I made years after they happened and ending up in a place where there isn’t really an end.

The point of the show is to share with you what others have shared with me – gifts. Metaphorically and physically, of course. I want to try and continue the circulation of that gift of permission for everyone to be vulnerable with their loved ones and their support networks and communities, and populate space in their own storytelling. It sounds kinda wanky when I explain it like this but MELT thought it looked pretty good I reckon. I wanna share more about the show but Dirk might get cranky saying I’m sharing too much – come and see it I really hope you like it. If anything, you might get to see me tell stories about people who will be in the audience that have never heard them from my perspective before, and that can only ever be fun right?

What does an ideal future look like to you – your personal projects, and the creative scene as a whole?

I’m gonna talk about community arts here, not Hollywood because this is quite broad. The future of the arts must be inclusive and accessible and everyone must be invited.

It won’t be just high-brow and overpriced, it will cater for differently-abled people from venue access to relaxed performances to interpreters, you wouldn’t have to have a university degree in theatre or English or some shit just to be able to understand the entertainment, it would be from creators, actors, illustrators, writers, producers, and those with a story to tell from all different cultures, beliefs, families, backgrounds and life paths.

It will be as respectful and mindful as it can be, speaking in Australia, that we are telling these stories and sharing experiences on Stolen Land, where Indigenous Australians have told their stories for over 60 000 years. It will be funded by government bodies as well as private ones and given a larger priority. It will be accessible to children and as highly accepted by general society as other professions. It will learn and grow just as we do as a society. It will identify where the problems are and will take accountability when it makes mistakes rather than cover its ears. Anyway, hopefully, that’s the case. I think just listening to a diverse array of people is important, y’know, compassion. There are lots of really amazing works you can look up by some powerhouse creatives. Can you let me know if this will be printed or online? If online I’d love to link some resources if that’s cool with you babes.

Oh lol, I forgot to talk about my future projects. Look my brain is a big hot mess and I always have ideas and never know how to get them out. I wanna collaborate with a whole bunch of people. At the moment I’m doing a project and dreaming a little dream of being a cabaret performer while it’s actually playing out. I never thought this could happen to me, who knows what I’ll do next. All I know is theatre is amazing and I wanna do it more. WOW, what a pitch.

Local creatives you’ve got your eye on and why?

Gosh I’ve been outta Brisbane so long I might’ve lost touch a little bit but I’ll give ya a couple I know! I’ve just discovered Being Jane Lane, a sweet as a queer punk band, yes I love it! So important to be loud and yell about things that matter to you or even just things you like and hate! Good job playing at Pride! Good luck team!

Alisha Jade of Women in Australian Comics is also awesome, she’s doing amazing stuff making light of comics from women, queer people and people of colour. Yeeeees diversity baby!

Am absolutely FROTHIN’ to watch Two Weeks, a Brissie-made web series by Mary Duong, am all eyes on that online release date guys. It showed at Brisbane Queer Film Festival and I can’t wait, there’s nothing quite like seeing queers parade on screen around your hometown :’).