Kate Fabray is director and lead actor of her new show (No) Leaves On My Precious Self, showing at the Drayton Arms on 12 August. It takes the audience into the world of an emerging actor, sharing the challenges they face on their way to making their performing arts’ passion into a career. Here Kate tells us about the motivations behind (No) Leaves On My Precious Self, her experience of the theatre industry so far, and how more people are slowly become fed up of maintaining an certain image on social media.
When did you realise acting and directing was your calling?
When I got a place at a stage school at age of 10. It was so much fun to be there, and brought me a lot of joy. I figured out I totally did not mind doing it for the rest of my life!
Which one do you prefer? Directing or acting?
Acting. Directing was never an ambition of mine, more of a skill (if you can call it a skill) I figured out was useful to learn and try.
For this production, out of interest, did you have auditions for the lead act, or did you feel you might be the best person to encapsulate the narrative of (No) Leaves On My Precious Self?
To be honest I started putting up this production because I was desperate to do some theatre, and was struggling to get cast. So I decided to take the matter into my own hands, and see what can come out of it. I was doing it for myself, so auditioning someone for the part never crossed my mind. That said, obviously I could have found someone who would do it better than me, it is very possible, but it has never been the aim.
What was the inspiration behind (No) Leaves On My Precious Self?
I just had to find a topic I was able to write a 45-minute long script about. Also, I thought this production was a good opportunity to show as much of myself as possible, and ‘life of an actor’ subject felt like a right direction. Close to home enough, and uncomplicated for a one-woman show. I also could see how I could incorporate all the singing and dancing into it, without overcomplicating the script, or making it too random.
How did you decide the name/title of the show from?
I wanted something catchy and attention-grabbing, but if you watch the show, the title actually makes perfect sense. It sounds very weird without the context, but this is exactly what I talk about in the show – having or not having some leaves on one’s self! Trust me it makes perfect sense once you watch it haha!
The show looks at the mind and life of an emerging actor. Do you feel that there isn’t enough literature and information on the the day to day life of an actor, or the acting industry as a whole?
There definitely is enough. But if you look at anything around you, arts or not arts related, so many things are in excess. Do we really need another coffee shop chain? Another beauty magazine, or a make-up brand? Another ‘Charlie’s Angels’ or ‘Tomb Rider’ remake? Another spiritual leader telling us how to live? Do we even need another actor in me, when there are already so many? A ‘yes’ would be an unlikely answer. But I do not think it’s how it should be looked at. Everyone has their own way of thinking, their own artistic vision, and their own take on a subject. Just because this subject is well-explored, does not mean that my take on it would not bring something fresh or new, or would not be looked at from a completely different angle. After all, my experience might differ dramatically from someone else’s, therefore our shows might look/ feel completely different, even being on the same subject. Or let’s think about the most trivial subject, love. No one thinks, oh there are enough songs about love, no need to write any more. There is enough books about it, and articles, and talks and everything, let’s stop questioning anything about it anymore, there is enough material to refer to in a moment of doubt. That would sound blatantly absurd. So as much as I feel there is enough information on actors and acting industry in general, I don’t think there is any harm in touching the subject.
Do you think that the focus of looks, beauty and appearance has become more important because of social media?
Yes, definitely. But I think it’s starting to slowly decline, and is on its way down. From what I see around, it feels like people start getting fed up with this need to maintain certain something on social media, as well as with this massive gap between how people are on, let’s say, Instagram, and in real life. We all know someone who looks nothing like on their Instagram in real life. I see more and more of my mates taking Instagram and social media in general breaks. So, again, I feel by now this issue has blown up to a completely absurd proportion, peaked some time ago, and now slowly reversing. Ironically, it feels like people start craving something real and something true for a change.
Have you performed at the Drayton Arms theatre before? If so, which production?
I have by now, as my first (No) Leaves On My Precious Self show was on July 1st. But not before that. However, I have been a big admirer of Drayton Arms for some time now, and it has always been my first choice for the venue. I was over the moon when they took my production!
First of all, I can’t thank Audrey Thayer, programming director of the theatre, enough. I am so grateful she booked my show in, gave me this chance, and has been absolutely wonderful all the way through. I have never produced a show before, and literally learnt as I went. She bared with me, explaining and helping with everything along the way. It was not the space itself that helped a lot, I intentionally created a very simple production that did not require any props or complicated technical arrangements, and could be easily performed in any space. It was all other factors put together, that let me be in a right head space that allowed working on the show. A great programming director, great atmosphere at the theatre and the fact that I booked my first choice theatre brought me a lot of comfort and made me feel much more confident than I was in the beginning – all that helped a lot in bringing production to life.
Do you feel your play can relate to other industries outside of theatre?
Definitely. After finishing the script, I purposely asked ten people not related to acting or any form of arts to read it. None of them had this issue. Whatever job you do, self-confidence and self-worth play a vital part. Being comfortable enough to stand your ground, or be okay not being liked by someone or not getting on with someone is something everyone faces at some point. And how you deal with it is only down to your relationship with yourself. So I really don’t think you have to be a performer to be able to relate.
How do you want the audience to feel when they see (No) Leaves On My Precious Self?
That was my first question to myself when I started putting the script together. I know exactly how I want them to feel, I just don’t really know how to put it into words! You know this feeling of lightness and calmness you sometimes get after finishing a good book or a good film, and you suddenly stop worrying and just want to get on with things! Like you suddenly think, ‘I can do it, and everything will be okay, and I am okay and all is good, life is great!’. Don’t know if I’ve explained it clear enough but basically that’s the feeling!
As a theatre-maker, what would you say is the most gratifying part of what you do?
Breaking your own barriers and overcoming fears. It is very liberating thing that changes you a lot. And I’ve experienced it more than ever before with this production. Because I have written the whole thing myself, directed it too, and it’s only me in the show, I am the only one responsible for every single aspect of it. I did not expect how different it would feel from being cast by someone else. I honestly have never been so scared or unsure before. And here is something almost anyone in arts can relate to – while writing and rehearsing the show, sometimes I really could not tell whether what I was doing was amazing, or simply a piece of sh*t. Concentrating on the process and filtering out all doubts and fears is a massive mental job. Because before anything else, first of all I have to relax both mentally and physically, and put myself into right head space. So at the end of the day, it’s between you and you. Doing the first (No) Leaves On My Precious Self show was a very liberating experience in a sense that I had to overcome absolutely new type of nerves I never knew existed. It is a very, very amazing feeling of breaking down your own limits and barriers that exist nowhere but in your head. I don’t even care anymore how others like my show – now that I majorly overcame fear and all insecurities, I am just so happy to be able to do the show that that is all that matters.
And on a lighter and a slightly cheesy note, just doing what you love is very gratifying. So every aspect of theatre-making is!
(No) Leaves On My Precious Self is showing at the Drayton Arms on Sunday 12 August, 5 pm. Go to the the Drayton Arms website to purchases tickets now here.