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Artist Spotlight – Brianna McCarthy

In this series of blogs, we take some time out to interview our wonderful Q Theatre team and Studio Q tutors.
Today we introduce you to Brianna McCarthy (also known as Bree), an artist, teacher and arts worker based on Dharug country/Penrith.
Bree currently works with Q Theatre as one of our Project Officers and teaches our Studio Q Stepping Up drama classes for ages 9 – 12 on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Hi Bree. Can you please tell us about your creative/performance practice and how did you get your start? 

I’m a writer, puppet artist, and theatre maker working on Dharug land, Western Sydney. I got my start at Studio Q in 2006 and have since trained and worked professionally with organisations such as Q Theatre, ATYP, PYT, Shopfront Arts Co-Op, WSU Centre for Society and Research, and Outloud.

In 2019, I wrote and directed my debut play A Game For Flies, which played at PYT Fairfield.  In 2022, my debut manuscript Finding Liminas: The Sudden Tree was shortlisted for the Text Prize 2022. During the same year I also wrote and created a shadow puppet short film called Murriyang: Seven Sisters Rising, and a solo show called Dragon Hearts.

In 2023, I am creating a series of new works called Tales From Liminas. My work is characterised by an interest in environmental philosophy, a sense of wonder and playfulness, and my experimental approaches to storytelling.

What’s your favorite type of theatre and why? Can you share a performance or artist that has had a great impact on you and your career? 

I love puppetry, physical theatre, dance theatre, and anything weird or experimental! Two shows that I am always referencing is The Complication of Lyre Birds which played at Campbelltown Arts Centre in 2021, and The Encounter, which is an old Complicite show that I got a burned DVD copy of from a friend years ago and never gave back.  

How did you first hear about Q Theatre and Studio Q? How did you first get involved? How else are you engaged with Q Theatre/Studio Q? 

I started drama classes with Q Theatre at the very beginning. The program had just started running in 2006 and I was quite sick of soccer. I started drama classes and quickly fell in love. I spent each Saturday of my childhood at The Joan learning about devising and performing for the theatre. Then as a teenager I was engaged in writing and professional development programs at the Q, and Originate three times, until I eventually became an assistant teacher for Studio Q. After learning from Studio Q teaching artists Amber Virtue, Rowan Bate and Kate Bobis, I was promoted to a lead teaching artist and took on two classes of my own. Now, I do this while also working in the Q Theatre office to make all the other projects happen.  

What do you think about the theatre/performing arts community in Western  Sydney? How do you think artists in or from outside the area could be more engaged with the Western Sydney arts community? 

I think we should all just make exactly what we want and not have to worry about how people outside of Western Sydney make sense of it. I am always reminding myself that our population here makes up 10 percent of the national population, and we are far bigger than Eastern Sydney. So I love work that is unapologetic, and refuses to simplify itself.  

Tell us about the class(es) you’re teaching. What is the best or most exciting thing about your class(es)? What’s your most memorable experience from teaching at Studio Q? 

My favourite part of the job by far is watching how the confidence of my participants grows throughout the year. When a young person finds their big voice and musters up the courage to speak loud and clear in front of a large audience…that’s my favourite thing.  

Do you have any advice/words of wisdom for young artists looking to pursue a career in the performing arts? 

Keep practising! Keep singing, writing, dancing, telling stories and do it every day! 

What was the last production you saw and loved? What are you most looking forward to seeing on stage at The Joan next? 

I loved this years ArtsLab program created by Shopfront at 107 in Redfern. It’s super grass roots, warm, and uplifting to see all the brand new work.  

Anything coming up in your creative practice or teaching that we should keep an eye out on? 

There’s always something being announced on my instagram @bomburia and my website briamccarthy.com. Keep your ears peeled for more shadow puppetry and magic in 2023!  

Image: Studio Q Showcase 2022. Photo by Christopher Hayles