🦉 Owl & the Albatross

Producer — 2022 | Theatre Works

🦉 Owl & the Albatross
This story is about growing up queer in a world which isn’t good enough… & how we make it better.

Written for early secondary students by Paris Balla, and presented at Theatre Works as part oft he VCE Playlist. Owl & the Albatross is a love letter from queer young adults who missed out on seeing their stories growing up—stories with queer kids who don’t like being told who they are and what their name is and now they have something to say.

Owl & the Albatross began in a cramped bedroom in Melbourne’s southeast suburbs in 2019. The script went through twenty versions and we built over ten different albatross puppets over the years. We hope this story makes you feel less alone, and that our future might be just a little brighter.

About the Show

Writer's Note

Dear 15 year old Paris,

You don’t know me yet, but I’m you ✨from the future✨. So… I wrote a play for you? But I don’t think you’d really care that much about it tbh. You’re into boys, and vintage makeup looks and playing your ukulele around school because you’re “not like other girls”. You haven’t heard of the term non binary yet and you’re the token straight girl in a lot of your friendships. You’re absolutely terrified about the future because you don’t know whether you want to do physics or theatre and also because it seems like the world is collapsing around you and the adults in charge aren’t doing anything about it. You’re really not much like Owl at all, other than sometimes talking back to teachers and the existential dread, but still this play is for you. It’s to show you what’s possible, to remind you that there are incredible incredible people around you who love you and support you and your dreams.

Oh man I can’t believe you haven’t met Sarah Branton yet, or any of our cast or crew who are just so amazing! Dude you’ve written a play!!! And it’s on a stage!! And you made something like 11 different bird puppets, and 19 drafts, and were part of constructing a set and designing costumes and directing! That’s so many hats! Owl is going to remind us both to take a rest sometimes, to lean on the people around us a bit more and to spend more time looking at the ocean and birds and just breathing it all in because it’s actually okay to stop sometimes and everything might fall apart around us, but at least there will be people to help us rebuild it.

So yes, this play is for you, and it’s for all the other silly anxious kids like you who grow up to be silly anxious queer adults and for all the other silly queer adults who didn’t get to have stories about silly queer kids like them.

I can’t wait for you to see it.

Lots of love,

Paris from the future.

P.s. the future is pretty cool

-Paris Balla

Director's Note

Queerness is a question.

Hear me out on this.

Queerness is magical. Not a new concept I know, but it’s true. To be queer is truly to be an oddball, to look out at the world and go “huh… so that’s how we’re supposed to do it?” and then doing something completely different. To be queer is to be alive, to feel grief in the pit of your stomach after a phone call, to smell the scent of your favourite person, to stare as a bee gently nestles into the heart of a flower. That shit is magical to me. The mundane, the human, the most boring moment of your life right before the next moment that absolutely blasts your heart open. That is queerness in my world. That is magic.

Queerness is a question.

This show was made for young queer hearts, for curious minds, for older generations who really do want to understand but don’t have the language to ask yet, and for anyone who holds the world in their gentle hands. Owl’s journey within the play is really a question, perhaps the question that we all ask in our lifetimes.

Who am I?

That question in and of itself presents a lifetime of magic, and this play presents a contemplation on taking that question out into the world. Who am I with you? Who am I looking out into the ocean? Who am I when there’s a giant albatross flying over my head?

These director’s notes are becoming very existential, but I feel that is correct.

Queerness is a question.

A question of existence. Of everything that has ever been and ever will be. The play does not exist without me, without you, without the magic within all of us.

Without every person that has touched the work and touched those who have lived within it.

Without the queer ability to look into our own existence and wonder what happens next?

So.

What is your question?

-Sarah Branton

Writer Paris Balla (right) & Director Sarah Branton (left)
In Conversation with Paris Balla & Sarah Branton
“The show really represents that deep desire to make a change in the world, and the looming responsibility of what it is to be alive, all expressed through young minds and bodies.” In their fInal week of rehearsals, co-directors Sarah and Paris chat with us about ‘Owl and the albatross’ and the future they wish to create as young and queer theatre-makers. Q: Can you briefly tell us how your collaboration as co-directors on this project came about? Sarah: Paris and I met when we were both at univ

Crew

Paris Balla Writer & Director
Caitlin Begg Technical Operator
Sarah Branton Director & Dramaturg
Callum Cheah Sound Design
Tara Daniel Educational Notes
Ryan Hamilton Producer
Jemma Law Stage Management
Jason Lehane Puppet Fabrication
Tiernan Maclaren Set Construction
Kyra Ryan Lighting Design

Cast

Oliver Ayres plays Jack
Don Bridges plays Albert
Cassandra Hart plays Jane
Mikaela Innes plays Puppeteer
Geo Valentine plays Owl

Reviews

Review: Owl and the Albatross at Theatre Works
Review by Stephanie Lee Writer Paris Balla and their Co-director Sarah Branton spoke on opening night about hoping young queer audiences will be able to see to see themselves in way they haven’t before on the stage. With the show being a part of the VCE playlist this year, I think that their aspirations will be realised. Owl and The Albatross at Theatre Works is a little beacon of hope for change not without struggle but also not facing insurmountable obstacles. The play follows protagonist Owl,
Owl & the Albatross | Stage Whispers
Stage Whispers is a Performing Arts Magazine and Website
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Special thanks to Monash Uni Student Theatre, Yvonne Virsik, Ryan Mangold, Justin Heaton, Spencer Tripodi, Georgia Kate Bell, Patrick Clements-cramp, Caitlin Harry, Tayla Harry, Ashleigh Baxter, Bee Montagner, Morgan Macleod-Finke, Sam Pringle, Oliver Cowen, Nicola Pohl, Meredith Cole, Maria Elisa, Eddie Muliaumaseali’i, Samuel Rowe, Emily Shelmerdine, Amanda Dhammanarachchi, Stacy Holman Jones, Chris Cody, Karl Willebrandt, Fleur Kilpatrick, Fiona Gregory, Jane Griffiths, Dianne Toulson, Adam Gardner, Steven Mitchell Wright, Kitan Petkovski, Tom Ray, Margaret Arnold, Vic Opera, Anthony De Masi, Penelope Bartlau, Imogen Titmarsh