Carissa Lee Talks About Navigating Barriers in the Australian Arts System in This Interview

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Carissa Lee is a Noongar actor and writer whose work spans from critical analysis, to theatre, to the new ABC Kids series, Planet Lulin, where she plays Principal Cruz. Carissa’s critical work has appeared in publications like IndigenousX, and Witness Performance, where her writing examined culture and the arts through an Indigenous lens.

In the following interview, I asked Carissa about her journey into acting and how her writing has informed her work as an actor. I’m lucky with the array of people I get to interview and talk about their work with, but this chat with Carissa was a particularly enjoyable one given the way we discuss her writing and acting, while ultimately asking the question about what our national cultural identity really is. As we yarn about Carissa’s work, the conversation sways into talking about identity and the expectations to become a spokesperson for your community, especially as organisations, the arts community, and society as a whole pushes towards greater ‘diversity’ in their workplaces.

My concept of diversity is vastly different from the singular mindset that much of society has of diversity. I’m a disabled writer, and have been open about how I live with a disability in my workplace, but it’s important to note that my disability is non-visible, and as such, I can’t speak for the entirety of the disabled community when it comes to talking about what our lives are like. My life is vastly different from those who live with visible disabilities, yet, because I’m part of that community, I’m almost expected to talk on behalf of all disabled people. This is part of the conversation that arises, where we discuss touch on the societal expectations that come with that push towards diversity.

Elsewhere, Carissa talks about what having a supportive teacher meant to her growing up, the manner that regional accents are massaged out of actors during training, and the work of Andrew Bovell, in particular his play Holy Day, which played a major role in Carissa’s work as an actor. We also talk about the joy of a kids show like Planet Lulin, which is an absolute delight and sees actors like Lisa McCune dressing up in weird and wacky costumes and simply having the best time. It’s the kind of show I wish I had growing up.

I hope you enjoy this discussion with Carissa as much as I enjoyed running it. Read Carissa’s writing here: Nostalgia for a Better Future.

To find out more about Carissa’s work, follow her on Instagram @_carissalee or on Twitter @CarissaLeeG.

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Andrew F Peirce

Andrew is passionate about Australian cinema, Australian politics, Australian culture, and Australia in general. Found regularly talking online about Sweet Country, and reminding people to watch Young Adult.

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