Delighting in spirit of women

Claire Sara and Nadine Kemp have drawn on their own experiences to create Finding Hephzibah....
Claire Sara and Nadine Kemp have drawn on their own experiences to create Finding Hephzibah. Photo supplied.
Two Dunedin performers ask 'wherefore art thou Juliet', writes Charmian Smith.

How can a woman of today relate to the innocence and purity of a character such as Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet?

The question puzzled Claire Sara when she had to do a monologue for her theatre studies course.

Now she and Nadine Kemp, founders of Urban Heart Productions, have developed the question into a show Finding Hephzibah,, which opens as part of the Dunedin Fringe Festival next week.

Both are students in their early- to mid-20s and in their final year of study: Claire in theatre studies and Nadine in performing arts and business.

Nadine started dancing American jazz when she was 8 and has always loved performing and choreographing, having her own vision and doing her own thing.

Claire loved performing at school but at university discovered she enjoyed directing and play writing more than acting.

They first collaborated on a show in 2012 and about a year ago formed Urban Heart Productions to write, direct and choreograph their own work and produce it themselves.

''I'd always enjoyed the idea of collaborating with people. I love taking other people's ideas and creating something different or having something to add on to that. I think that is why I like working with Claire rather than just being on my own. I like having someone to share it with,'' Nadine said.

Finding Hephzibah is Urban Heart's second production - the pair staged A Ryan family Christmas late last year and will produce Claire's new play, The final hour of Barrington Brown at Allen Hall lunchtime theatre in May.

Hephzibah is a Hebrew word meaning ''my delight is in her'' which they feel encapsulates the idea that women are delightful, Claire said.

''At the end of the day women have a spirit of femininity and even if that isn't defined clearly through a general sense, there is something innately unique about women and it's very precious and very delightful.

"It's something that needs to be stood up for and fought for and preserved no matter what circumstances women face, no matter what job they are in, what part of the world they live in.

"It needs to be redeemed, particularly with over-sexualisation and objectification and all the different roles women are forced to face,'' Claire said.

For the play the women have drawn on their personal experience. The most powerful thing you can do on stage or film is to tell the truth, they say.

Nadine says ''There are a lot of things that cloud my vision of seeing who I actually am. I think I've only started to realise that in more recent times and a lot of that comes from dealing with things in your own life and events that have happened to you.''

Both women are members of the Elim church and hold a strong Christian faith that informs their work.

''We believe we were created with purpose and were created specifically. I believe I was created with specific giftings and I think sometimes those things or that essence can be clouded by what is happening in your life,'' Nadine said.

''I know a lot of the time I identify myself with what I do rather than who I am or the essence of me or my character. Simply the fact that I am loved and I am created with a purpose and I was created on purpose, I think that's really important because in my life personally I have strived to be something out of what I do rather than simply being.''

Although their belief influences their work, the piece was created so others could relate to it without feeling preached at, Claire said.

''We genuinely are artists and have a unique way of presenting art, and that is our priority with this show, that it is relatable to all women regardless - and all men - regardless of their race, gender or religion.''

Finding Hephzibah is a devised piece, with music, dialogue, choreography and film. Singer-songwriter Joshua Baines is writing music for the show and has a supporting role in the production.

Footage by Jonathan Guy is like a backdrop to the show, portraying images relating to themes, ''dead'', ''searching'' and ''found''.

Nadine explains: ''We want the film, the dance and the spoken word to work together so when you look at the work on stage you see a whole picture as opposed to having film, dance, dialogue.

"It's part of the challenge to get that picture right and have the elements being influenced by each other and to work together to tell the story.''

See it
Finding Hephzibah by Claire Sara and Nadine Kemp is at the Fortune Theatre Studio on March 20, 21 and 22 at 7pm.


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