“Theatre has changed me”
This month I sat down with Michael Logo, WEYA performer and Support Artist, to reflect on his time with the company and the exciting opportunities he has lined up for the future.
Since joining us in 2016, Michael has performed in six productions, been employed as a Support Artist in Victorian University Secondary College and St Albans Edge, and is now well on his way to the next step in his career as a professional actor.
After completing a year at Verve Studios and starring in several short films; Eli the Invincible (2011), Hiders (2013), Burning of the Mekong (2016), and in a feature film, Is this the Real World (2015), Michael came to WEYA looking to continue acting in an environment that felt comfortable.
“Not many people let you speak or be Samoan. They want you to be what they think Samoan is. To be able to express myself through my art…yeah, that’s what Western Edge can do.” At WEYA we pride ourselves on putting participants’ voices at the forefront of our practice, so to hear it firsthand from Michael is affirming.
Michael’s performances with WEYA are renowned for exploring issues that resonate with him; his community and culture. In 2016, he performed the ghost of Hamlet’s father and translated Shakespeare’s prose to Samoan, speaking his language on stage for the first time while wearing traditional Samoan attire. The performance is still spoken about amongst those who were in the audience and encouraged an influx of young people to join the company to explore their own language and cultures through performance.
When I asked him about how he feels about bringing his personal experiences into shows, he mentioned his recent performance with the Footscray Edge, Lele, Butterfly, which he describes as his favourite performance by far. The themes of the show allowed Michael to explore parts of his Samoan culture with his family that had, until then, been left unspoken in his household.
He starts off by pointing out how unusual it is for him to speak to his father about ‘something other than food’. Laughing at the memory, he continues, “I wasn’t sure about some of the things we were doing in the play, so I said, “Hey Dad, hey Aunty, what do you think about this?” And then they looked at me funny and went back to eating. About five minutes later, out of nowhere Dad said, ‘it depends on the village’”. And from there, the conversation began flowing as his father opened up, sharing with Michael more deeply about his culture.
“The Matai system – there’s definitely a good side but nobody talks about the bad side. The themes in Lele, Butterfly were true to what it’s like in Samoa; punishment by death in some cases still exists,” Michael said. “Australia is a whole other world and there are so many subcultures. Sometimes the good things about this culture is the bad thing about the other culture. You have to figure out what’s right for you and that’s what Lele, Butterfly was about – what is your truth?”
This was a major theme for the Footscray Edge’s production: how do you live in two worlds? How do you discover your truth? The production also holds a special place in Michael’s heart as he was joined on stage by his cousins– something he’s been doing playfully from a young age; picking scenes from Cool Runnings or Power Rangers and recreating them in his backyard. Together they sung, performed choreographed stage combat fight routines and danced to an original new rap – obviously there is no shortage of talent in this family.
At WEYA we aim to help young people make sense of their world through art. What Michael spoke about next is a powerful example of how we are achieving this.
“Growing up, I always liked to fight. If I didn’t use violence, people wouldn’t even listen to me. In school I could get away with it, but now in the real world I can’t do that anymore. I try to talk my way out of things, but I never used to be like this; balanced,” he chuffed.
“In a way, theatre has changed me,” he reflects. He says seeing conflict resolved through conversations has helped him. “I was like ahhh they always solve things through words, rather than physical violence and action. I realised there were other ways, I could use my words to win.”
For Michael, theatre has been a vehicle for him to communicate his frustrations and be heard, and we are so proud to have provided a positive and safe space for him to develop his skills as a young adult and an actor.
In 2018, Michael auditioned for the highly competitive John Bolton Theatre School and received a scholarship to begin full-time training in July 2019. He’ll be juggling working as a WEYA Support Artist for Victorian University Secondary College, performing with WEYA’s Footscray Edge, starring in a new Australian feature film (name embargoed at time of writing) and auditioning for TV and stage across town.
When I ask him how he’s feeling about having such a creatively busy year he answers, “I know it’s going to be intense, but it’s a step in the right direction for sure.”