Staging Stories: A Little Piece of Heaven
Dick Carney | Ruth Carney
Michelle Hall | Paris Norton
John Harvey | Sam Paine
Annie McKinnon | Alison Ross
In 2015 Orana Arts commenced the Staging Stories project. Funded through an initiative by Create NSW, Staging Stories aimed to develop and provide support for Aboriginal playwrights and performers across the whole of regional NSW.
In 2015 Orana Arts supported six workshops in Dubbo to bring together Aboriginal people with an interest in theatre; be it storytelling, performing, writing, acting, or fun. Aboriginal theatre is rare in regional NSW with limited opportunities available for Aboriginal people to be creators, participants and audience members.
As we developed the project it became clear how important it is to tell Aboriginal stories from Aboriginal perspectives and that regional NSW is rich with stories lived by Aboriginal people. One such narrative is the life story of Narromine Elders Dick and Ruth Carney. Keen to have their experiences presented on stage, the couple began working with professional playwrights and producers to develop their story into a script.
A reading of the initial script was staged in Dubbo – at the Black Box Theatre in the Western Plains Cultural Centre in November 2017 – to showcase the draft script and process, as well as some special insight into the stories behind the stories. It was an incredibly special event and the response was overwhelming, with audience member Karen Hagan saying:
Thank you for inviting me to this fabulous event. I felt so thrilled and thankful for the opportunity to learn about the lives of Aunty Ruth Carney and Uncle Dick Carney. I felt that the format was intimate and welcoming; entirely appropriate for the subject. The vibe was wonderful and the venue perfect. The event gave me an important and extraordinary insight into the hardships experienced by Aboriginal people in rural Australia through the voices of those who had lived it. It also spoke to the dignity, integrity and strength of Aunty Ruth Carney and Uncle Dick Carney, and their love for each other. They have brought a special light to me personally.
In 2018, the creative process continued, with Melbourne theatre maker John Harvey and regional writer Sam Paine working with Dick and Ruth Carney and artist Paris Norton to stage a full production. This show — a storytelling extravaganza titled A Little Piece of Heaven — featured set and audiovisual staging from Sydney-based Annie McKinnon and Brisbane-based Alison Ross. A Little Piece of Heaven was performed to full venues in Narromine and Dubbo in August 2018 and received rave reviews.