Alistair Ward seeks the in-between moments in this moment in time

by | Nov 23, 2022

this moment in time, by Alistair Ward, is described as a queer play about leaving behind your twenties, following your gut, and how one fleeting conversation can alter the path of your whole life. An intriguing concept fuelled by Ward’s real conversations and interactions in airport terminals while travelling, this moment in time is a tribute to what can be created with strangers if we only take the time.

Addressing the foundation of the work, Ward explains that he was fortunate enough to do a solo trip overseas earlier in the year and what struck him were the connections he made with people that could’ve easily never come to pass. “By chance a stranger and I were sat next to each other on planes or in waiting areas and one of us would say hello and then by the end of our conversations we were no longer strangers, ” he says. “We’d either add each other on Instagram, or not, and then go on with our lives. But within these conversations there was a spark that happened where we both felt seen and understood.”

But the actual genesis moment for the work came while Ward was sitting in a tiny airport in Alabama, after staying with a dear friend for a week. “And as I was waiting for the delays it struck me how we as a collective were all on the same path in that moment – all thinking the same thing but not conversing with each other. So I got out my laptop and started writing what I imagined some of these conversations would look like. This was after numerous conversations with beautiful strangers throughout my trip.”

Ward says that what surprised him the most about these seemingly casual conversations were how honest the people involved were – how close they felt and how beautiful the moments were. “There’s a freedom about talking to a stranger where you don’t have to hold anything back and you get to be your most authentic self (if you choose to) and you get to ask the big questions about each other’s lives,” says Ward.

“We’d talk about failed marriages and estranged families and careers and what life looked like at 50 compared to 27. We talked about our mistakes and the lessons they taught us and what our dreams and hopes were for the future. There was a comfortability there that made you feel like you had an ally and a friend on this journey, especially as a solo traveller.

Also, the surprise in what can come from finding the courage to talk to someone.”

The work explores mental health, dealing with grief, fear of change, following your gut/ intuition, spirituality and growing up in your twenties.  Ward describes them as the usual themes, but along with these are queer-led narratives that are a part of the Pansy Production catalogue.

“That we’re all just making our way in the world, doing our best and we’re all not that different. That we’re all connected and you never know what someone’s going through.

And sometimes it’s important to just say “Hi.”

Heartstopper (Queer Netflix TV show) was a big inspiration for that – how the word “Hi” can bring about so much joy and opportunity, and how you never know what’s just around the corner.

Also I want the audience to be lightly challenged to get out of their comfort zones, whatever they may be – something I’m also challenging myself to do.”

Ward acknowledges that this was easily his fastest work yet as the dialogue just poured out of him, though it took a few months of ruminating and writing thoughts on his notes app to get to that place.

Ward went overseas with the goal of writing a play, a short film, an episode of a TV show, etc… “the usual big expectations we put on ourselves to achieve when we’re supposed to be freely relaxing and recouping. But after the last few years of lockdowns it took a bit longer for the inspiration to hit.” So, instead of writing a play he filled journals with stories and experiences and fresh thoughts whilst holidaying.

He began writing these thoughts down on July 4th, 2022, at an Alabama airport, and with roughly three months of daydreaming and finding the story and characters etc., he ended up writing the play in four days. And then after a week or so of cuts, discussing the script with the team and hearing it out loud – it was finished.

“But a big, beautiful lesson this year has been how important the editing process is and being able to leave some sentimental or favourite lines/ dialogue for future projects,” he says. ” Also being able to take the inspiration from my own life, but then creating fictionalised characters with different lives to mine and those around me.”

The play is a nod to Russian playwright and short-story writer, Anton Chekhov, with its storytelling focused on the “in between” parts of life.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the in-between moments,” says Ward. “The parts of life that we don’t often write about or make movies about – as much as we do the climaxes in our lives. The moments we don’t post about or share with the world. Our dark night’s of the soul and our hibernation periods where we are building up to something great.”

Ward admits to reading a lot of autobiographies and being most interested in that period of time between the end of a chapter and the start of a new one. “So what happened in the year between drama school and their theatre debut. Or between graduating University and getting the big job – everything in between interests me more than the ‘big break.’”

With this play Ward wanted to focus on that transitory space that we all inhabit but don’t focus too much on. How does an interaction with a stranger in this liminal space change our paths moving forward? And why this person, this moment in time, this particular stranger? “These are the sorts of questions I ask myself – so I assume others do, too.”

An award-winning graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Ward lives a well-rounded creative life. Living in New York City for three years he performed in numerous off-Broadway plays (Life as we know it, Waiting for the Sun) before spending a year working as an actor in London.

In 2019 he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in his autobiographical first play, twenty-something which won the People’s Choice Award at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. In 2021 he launched his queer-led Melbourne based production company, Pansy Productions, and with it his second original play, Drama School: a play, which he wrote, directed, and starred in, in early 2022, to sold out audiences

While back in Melbourne he has also performed and directed at Chapel off Chapel (You look like your Father and The Execution will not be Televised), La Mama (Chronic and The Fly) and The MC Showroom (Drama School: a play and The Consequence of Kindness).

As a creative, Ward says that queer stories and characters are key for him. “As a gay cis man I want to play queer roles and explore stories that we haven’t been given the chance to see,” he says. “Following on from the footsteps of all the incredible content that has come before, I’m so excited that we’re getting to see more hopeful, normal, everyday-life queer stories. And living my own personal, privileged human journey I want to focus on stories of friendship and unrequited love and following your dreams and addiction and finding yourself in your twenties and getting self-aware. And spirituality.”

Ward likes to write real people with real problems who want more for themselves but aren’t sure how to get there. People who are on a growth journey towards awareness and joy.  “Stories adjacent to my own life, my own experiences as a 27-year-old approaching 30. I’m an optimistic realist – so I want people to feel seen and heard and understood as they are… but with a lot of hope at the end of the tunnel.”

As if penning the two-hander wasn’t enough, Ward stars alongside actor Ruby Vadiveloo – both studied together in New York at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA).

While possibly problematic for some writers to act in something they have written, Ward embraces that duality and says he loves being a multifaceted artist who gets to use all the tools in the toolbox. “To write and produce and star in something I’ve created is pure joy and knowing there’s opportunities for other artists with every project is truly gratifying.”

Ward admits to generally knowing when to switch off from being a writer, to being an actor and vice versa – as acting is his first love it comes the most natural. Also unlike his first two productions, he’s not directing this show – “so I already feel like I’ve taken a massive weight off my shoulders. Plus I always start the process as a writer and producer and then leave the writer behind as I bring the actor into the rehearsal room.”

“Also, for this show as it’s a small team I wanted it to be collaborative – so both the director, Mashaka Gunnulson, and the other actor, Ruby Vadiveloo, were able to put their inputs into the script after it had been written. But once we’d had a couple of read-through’s the script was finalised and the writing hat was taken off as we moved forward in the process.”

Ward does acknowledge that, because most of his writing comes from his own life experience, the only challenge in writing characters that he plays, is their similarities to him and finding the core in them that is different to him. “Though I’m now learning to lean into that, as my stories are my superpower.”

Produced by emerging company, Pansy Productions, which launched in 2021, Ward explains that the intention of the company is to create opportunities for emerging and diverse artists, giving a platform for people to learn and grow both as artists and people. “That’s my philosophy when I direct or create – how can we learn and grow into our most authentic selves and hopefully be more confident and grounded at the end of the process – as human beings. And that is my intention when writing characters and stories,” he says.

Pansy Productions was Ward’s way of taking charge of his life and deciding what path he was going to follow. “As an actor for nearly a decade I decided I wanted a firm grip on where I was going and where I saw myself – so I decided to create my own work and opportunities for myself and others. I also understood that having a production company meant I could be of service to other artists and creatives, lifting others up and giving a platform that I have craved throughout my career.

In some ways it’s the TV shows I love that inspire me and the kind of content I put on stage. Fleabag, Before Sunrise (film trilogy), Insecure, Please Like Me, Heartbreak High… these series show people at their rawest trying to make their way in life, and those are the kinds of stories I put on stage and will eventually put on screen.”

Moving forward the company aims to produce other creative’s stories, mentoring emerging artists to showcase their work to the world and continue to give opportunities to the countless independent artists that want to work and be a part of the creative process.

“Also in our last two shows we’ve had a proven track record of attracting first-time theatre goers to our shows. People who wouldn’t usually spend time at the theatre love coming to our shows, which I’m very proud of.”

Inspired by real conversations had in airport terminals, this premiere season of this moment in time invites Melbourne audiences to experience a very personal and intimate tale of painful truths, trust, and laughter between two strangers. Because if you’re not learning life lessons in transit… you’ve probably stalled.

Says Ward: “Come see some emerging talent from Melbourne’s best, a diverse team putting together a show about connection and growth – something we’ve all craved these last few years.

For an hour of your time I can promise you’ll be moved and will be left thinking about your own comfort zones and what your next chapter might look like. And then you can exit The Butterfly Club for a beautiful dinner in the city or a night out.

We’d love to see you there.”

December 5 – 10

www.thebutterflyclub.com/show/this-moment-in-time

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