Four star-signs walk into a bar, meanwhile a INFP and an ENTJ fall in love, and across town, a phone lights up with a Co-Star notification that just says “truth”.
Told through personal story-telling, movement, songs and poetry, Leo/Taurus/Taurus is a glittery, energetic, moving journey through our search for meaning, and the tools we use to figure out who we are; from astrology to Myers Briggs, Buzzfeed quizzes to IQ tests; and what happens when we strip it all away.
In this explorative interview, Michelle talks about how Leo/Taurus/Taurus came about, the fluid state of being, what potato she is, and the world of Buzzfeed quizzes, star signs, and Meyers-Briggs tests, plus digging into Enneagrams.
What star sign are you? I’m a Leo myself.
I’m a Leo. I’m a Leo/Taurus/Taurus. So, in a real Leo move. I named the show after myself.
As a Leo, because our planet is the sun, do you ever lean into the ‘because I’m a Leo, everything revolves around me’?
I think that with the hefty amount of Taurus in my charts, I think I’ve managed to counter that a little bit. So I never see myself as 100% Leo. I do like some attention but I also hate all of the attention. I like a little bit of attention, but not too much, I don’t like being in the center of everything.
Is that why directing has kind of endeared you to the realm of theater?
Yeah, totally. You get to have all that Leo control and power without anyone looking at you.
So where did the idea for Leo/Taurus/Taurus come from?
A flat mate of mine, an old classmate of mine was really into star signs. And she always used to talk about how they created this language that helped her understand and communicate with people and I thought that was really interesting and something that I really wanted to explore more and I started noticing all of these different tools and structures that we use to try to work out who we are and communicate with each other like Myers-Briggs, like Enneagrams. Even, polls about what day of the week you’re born on, all these things where we create, because we feel this need for understanding ourselves and need for understanding other people. And I really wanted to explore that further.
I went through that myself a few years ago, doing Myers-Briggs tests and stuff like that. And, you can believe it, you cannot believe it, I understand the controversy, but reading something about yourself on paper, regardless of whether you do the test again, and it’s different or not, the immediate reaction was like, ‘ah, that contextualizes a whole bunch of different things about me that the other aspects of Myers-Briggs – ENFJ or whatever – show that I don’t fit into that’. I’m an INFJ-A or whatever it is, and so that the introvert aspect, for me, really leaned into an understanding why I do these things now. Was that really important for you to contextualise who you are as a person?
Yeah, I think so. I remember doing Myers-Briggs, and reading the results, and being like, ‘this isn’t me. I don’t get any of these things. This is I don’t feel very seen.’ And then I did it again a couple of weeks later, and I got a different result. And this time, I was like, ‘yeah, this is me’. And it was this aspirational thing of who I wanted to be. And then when I was more honest, I actually got a result. And I was like, ‘yeah, I do do that’. And especially I’m quite a thinker over a feeler.
So having an understanding that that’s a spectrum and that other people were thinkers, and it wasn’t just me being a weird, emotionless person. I think any activity that gives you insight into yourself is incredibly helpful. Love languages, as an example, is a really valuable tool that helps you communicate with people where you might normally butt heads because you’re there maybe wanting a lot of attention, but maybe your love languages is not quality time, maybe your love languages touch and you just want to hold hands. And I think understanding where people come from, is a really valuable tool.
I do find that interest that that kind of shorthand of who somebody is on a dating profile, for example, interesting. While I didn’t entirely believe in Myers-Brigg, I felt at least then somebody who might swipe on me might be able to go, ‘ah, cool. I understand this person, is this kind of personality’. Do you find that as move more into a digital age as we communicate, especially now in COVID times where more of our conversations are digitally focused, that shorthand is really important, especially if we can’t have that tangible touch sense of being physically close to somebody, how important do you think that is that we have these kinds of shorthand?
Oh, I think it’s so important. Because I think it’s knowing where someone’s coming from, and also knowing where they’re struggling. To go back to the love languages, in the digital age, if someone’s love language is touch and they’re isolated alone, you’re able then to understand where they’re struggling, or if they’re an extrovert… there was a lot of jokes about how introverts really thrived in the pandemic, because we like staying home and we like being by ourselves and all of a sudden what was that was governmentally mandated to do so, and then all the poor extroverts who need other people were struggling.
Definitely having that shorthand that helps you communicate with other people, whether that’s star signs, whether that’s Myers-Briggs, I think that’s incredibly helpful. And I think anything in any age and any time that allows for better communication is super, super important.
As explained in the synopsis for Leo/Taurus/Taurus, it’s the search for meaning, which we continue to do, we continue to search for some kind of meaning some kind of purpose. For a lot of people, especially when we’re in the midst of a pandemic, where mortality is pushed to the front of our brain, and then the search for meaning and purpose is even more a present thing in our minds. How much does that play into your work as a director in the arts?
Oh, I think completely. I think a lot of my work up until this point has been about finding your place in the world and finding community. As I think especially finding community, I think that’s what theater is all about. I think that the act of sitting in a room together and experiencing something together, is so invaluable and so hard to replace. I think finding community is really important. And that’s what theater is so much about doing. I think when during the pandemic, that’s what we missed.
A lot of is the act of seeing live performance together. Because you don’t get that through a screen and you don’t get that through anything else. And I think even for a long time, that’s what religion has been. Which is what star signs and esoterica and New Age thinking is sort of filling a hole of. As a director, I’ve always really been interested in community and that act of doing something together.
How have you been able to navigate finding that kind of community in the current atmosphere? Obviously, in Perth, we’ve had it a little bit easier than the rest of Australia. Has that made it possible to rehearse?
Yeah, for sure. I feel like in terms of being in the room together, it’s not really something we’ve had to question up until very recently. I think having been doing theater in the last year, it’s never really been a question of like, ‘Oh, are we going to be able to meet up?’, and we’ve all just been meeting up with masks when we had to, or if someone’s sick, they stay home, and we don’t question at all they zoom in. So it’s definitely not impacted us the way it’s impacted the Eastern States and elsewhere in the world.
One of our team members, Lainey (O’Sullivan) is from Ireland, and she’s just come over in the last two months, and she was saying that she hadn’t been in theatre, she hadn’t seen a show, she hadn’t done anything for two years. Because in Ireland, it’s a much different situation, and they haven’t they haven’t had access to it. So as soon as she came over here, she was sinking their teeth into everything so that she could. It’s definitely we’re very privileged to hear that we’ve been able to be in the same room, and the idea of not being in the same room hasn’t been on the forefront of our mind.
What’s the what’s the main narrative of Leo/Taurus/Taurus, because we’ve got four actors here, described as ‘performer and divisor’. Can you navigate what the difference is between a performer and a divisor?
Well, they are sort of there hand in hand, so it’s a devised process, so each cast member contributes the content of the show. And so we’ve had songs written, some poems, we’ve got some shadow puppetry, and a little bit of dancing, and that’s all come from all of us as a collective. It’s not just me writing, every week we sit down and we go, ‘okay, let’s talk about star signs and how we feel about that, and whether we believe in that or not, and what that saying and what that’s giving us’. And then the next week, we were doing Enneagrams, and Myers-Briggs, and then from that research, and sitting down and chatting, we started to produce content, which will go into the show, so it is a sort of multi-form theater piece with not so much linear narratives, but all the different ways that we’re exploring and expressing these tools and these languages.
Does that encourage a little bit more improvisation then?
Yes and no. Obviously in the room, and then in rehearsal, where there’s a lot of like, ‘hey, I got an idea, let’s do this’, or someone will just throw something in and say, ‘yeah, that works’. And ‘that doesn’t’, that it does sort of reach a not so improvised base. It’d be more like pitching ideas, rather than then giving them an offer and then making it up on the floor.
By the sounds of it, there is a wealth of freedom to be able to explore these ideas in the space amongst colleagues and friends. And that must be pretty freeing for both you and for the actors too.
Yeah, totally, I always make it a really clear rule going into these festivals, where you’re not likely to make lots of money, that you have to come in wanting something else. So at the beginning of the process, everyone says, ‘I want to explore shadow puppetry more because I haven’t had a chance to do that’, or ‘I want to play this kind of character’, or ‘I want to do something that I haven’t done before’, because then they’re getting experience with it that they haven’t had before and an opportunity they haven’t had before. So they will come into the process, wanting to do things that are new and different to them and challenge themselves.
Have you grown as a director throughout this piece? Did you enter this with something in your mind and then find yourself having changed throughout the process at all?
Yeah, I think that’s theatre. You don’t always start off with an idea, especially devised (theatre), because you’ve only got your ideas going to the table and your opinions and thoughts and concepts, but you’ve now got four (ideas) and Georgina Cramond our sound designer is also sort of divising with us because she’s playing live sounds, so they all come in with ideas and concepts that I would never have thought of. And you just go ‘alright, well, I had this idea, but yours is better, I’ll let my baby die’.
So as a director, I definitely am going with the flow a little bit because it’s divised and I want them to feel as much as that it’s their show that is mine. And that my job is just to shape it and to make sure it’s all barreling towards the same thing rather than an all over the place kind of idea. You’re always learning and growing, and I think considering myself very early on in my career, so I don’t know everything and they’re teaching me.
Which is always good. Even people who are long into their career, it’s always good to have that self reflection to know, ‘what can I learn from this particular project’. With that in mind, when you had the performers and established the production, did you sit them down and say, ‘we’re gonna sit down and do an IQ test or the Myers-Briggs test together’?
Our first few rehearsals were ‘everyone do your Myers-Briggs’ and then everyone had to read theirs out, and assess whether it fit them or didn’t fit them and how they made them feel. And we did birth charts and Hogwarts houses, which was a very contentious one. And then we did the four humors or the four temperaments. Yeah, we went through all of them, even Buzzfeed quizzes about which type of potato you are. And it wasn’t you went home, and you did it, we did it all together. In a sense of team bonding, but also that immediate reaction and that immediate ‘is this me’, ‘is this not me’, ‘how that made me feel’, was really good to have all together.
So what kind of potatoes came up? Are we talking chips or…?
Yeah, from memory I was French Fries. There’s quite a few French fries. We’re a very French Fry heavy team. A lot of mashed potato, and a few hashbrowns.
What does it mean to be a mashed potato or a fry or a hashbrown? To me, I have this idea of what it means to be those but of course, it’s something very personal in a way, depending on what type of potato you are. But it’s funny how we have these quizzes that are for inanimate objects for food and stuff like that, but they reveal so much about ourselves.
I think it’s more the act of doing rather than the result itself, of that sitting down and being like, when it says ‘pick a colour’, and you just pick a colour without any sort of idea of which colour means which. It’s actually been a while since I did the quiz. And I don’t think it was particularly like ‘you’re a french fry, and that means that you’re straight laced, and a little salty’, and ‘you’re mashed potatoes, you’re a little bit more gone with the flow’. I think it was literally just you answered a bunch of random questions, and then the BuzzFeed algorithm was just like, ‘we decided that that means this’.
And so I think in terms of like, ‘oh, I’m a mashed potato and your mashed potato, and that means something’, it’s more that act of sitting down and answering those questions. How that sort of impacts your internal view of yourself, because you’re sort of defining, like, ‘oh, I want a house in the country. And that probably means something and, and I like houses in the country, because there’s trees outside and I like trees. And maybe that means I’m a nature person. And so I’m earthy.’ I think it’s just taking that time to sit and think about yourself in a not pressurised way.
Do you find that some people take these kinds of tests very seriously as part of their identity as part of who they are? And then as you’re saying it might inform their relationship with nature, and it might change who they are as people? Or do you find that they’re more like a ‘I’ve got five minutes to kill, a Buzzfeed quiz has popped up in my Facebook feed, I’ll do that’. That kind of balance between the seriousness and the offhanded disregard for it, in a way. Did you manage to explore that in the process of rehearsal? Did you manage to find that divide there?
Yeah, definitely. So one of our performers, Lily (Murrell), absolutely, does not believe in star signs, which I thought was such an interesting thing to come into the show with. But I think we have gotten to a point where it’s valuable to know, to have this language and there is something to buy into, and you don’t have to. And we keep talking a lot about this idea of ‘take what you need and leave the rest’. So in terms of star signs, I think it’s valuable in certain ways, but I’m not 100% in that I’m like, ‘well, I’m a Leo and I must behave this way, and that person’s a Taurus, so they’re going to behave that way’.
I think it’s just a nice language and I like the exploration of it. And then another one in our team Ruby (Liddelow): all in on Enneagrams. She was actually one who introduced me to Enneagrams, because I’d never heard of them before. Loves Enneagrams, can ask you three questions and then tell you what you’re type is and what you’re wing is, and find that as a really valuable tool for understanding people, for understanding herself. It’s all about that, taking what you need and leaving the rest, and not putting the pressure on this one thing to be defining.
What is an Enneagram?
Glad you asked! So it’s a test that’s about your fears, and what you want to succeed in life. To be honest, I am still shaky on Enneagram, I leave it the Ruby, she’s the master. But I know that, for example, a type eight, like myself, is often afraid of letting people in and getting hurt, but that there’s like this need to be vulnerable. So it’s all about your fears and your expectations.
So when it comes to somebody, like Lily, who doesn’t believe in star signs, or doesn’t follow star signs, is there a pressure then from people who are really into star signs to say, ‘well, that seems like a very Aquarius thing to say, therefore, you’re an Aquarius’? The applied label that people who are really stringently into something like astrology, for example, they can easily really push it onto somebody who isn’t into it. How did you manage to balance that divide of somebody who doesn’t believe in it, versus people who do really believe in it?
I think it’s just it’s about letting people believe what they need to believe. And I guess just because someone says ‘you’re such an Aquarius’, you can you can take that, or you can leave it. I guess just like being a Leo should mean that I love attention that it doesn’t and I’m okay with not 100% being a Leo. I think it’s this interesting thing, on the identity spectrum it’s this part of identity that you get to choose whether you buy into it or not. And society has very little power over how they label you, and why they’re labeling you that and what that means for you.
I think that to me, is why it’s so important for you know, the presence of pronouns in email signatures, in social media profiles, and things like that is, for me, it is very helpful to be able to go ‘alright, my pronouns are he him, so therefore, that’s how I want you to address me’. That’s a world of difference away from being a Leo, but it’s that affirmation of ‘no, this is what my identity is’. That is, to me, vitally important, it’s taking control of the perceived identity that people often have, which can come from, as I was saying before on dating profiles, you try and minimize yourself into 280 characters and it’s very, very hard. Because people are so quick, we’ve got to move so quickly that we need to get an idea of who somebody is so quickly. It makes it very hard. What do we do to kind of combat that fast, modern landscape where everybody needs to completely know who you are in 60 seconds?
Therapy? It’s something we’ve been talking about a lot of all of these things that you define yourself by, it comes to a point where you keep categorising and you keep categorising and keep categorising until you’re in a box by yourself because you are just you.
Like, there is no other Michelle Endersebee, who is a Leo, who is an INTP, who is melancholic, who is a mashed potato, all of those. The more we we come up with these words and come up with these identities, the more we realise that it might actually just be a myth. And that we are just who we are.
So we’re not going into there saying that ‘this identity is the one that’s going to help you’. Identity is a tool and a trap. So as helpful as it is to have these quick defining things, to combat that, I think that might just be a lot of work by society over a very long time. But maybe our little theater show about choosing who you are, and choosing what you want to believe in cuts out a little corner that’s an escape from that.
Identity is such a heavy thing, it’s such a serious thing, but Leo/Taurus/Taurus sounds like a light piece of entertainment that ideally should have people walking out talking about who they are as people, is that what you want for audiences to experience as they walk out of the show?
I want people to walk out and just immediately look up their astrology birth chart. I want people to think about these things as an outlet and a language and a tool for that identity trap. And that there’s more than one way to define yourself in the world. I just want people to have a long, hard think about who they really are, and what that means.
And then if they need to address something about themselves. It’s all about personal growth, all about changing and things like that. And I think that’s one of the important things, for me at least is that who I am today is not going to be who I am in two years time.
Yeah, we’re fluid human beings.
I think that scares a lot of people. The fluidity scares a lot of people. The person that they knew growing up might be trans now and have come out as being trans and therefore, their identity as a whole is completely changed. And I think that scares people a lot, but this sounds like it’s going to provide some comfort to people, which is really important, because while we are in an evolving changing world, we need a level of comfort there too. Is that what you’re hoping for both the audience and for the performers to give that kind of, ‘hey, it’s okay for change. It’s okay to evolve’.
Yeah, totally. I think that… yes.
That was a long that was a long diatribe. I’m sorry!
It was so very insightful. And now I’m like… is that in the show? I think that we’re such fluid human beings, and I was reading and watching a lot of stuff about what makes us ask who we are? Is that your brain? Is it your body? Is it your attitude? And it’s like a world of psychology, like a lot of thinkers who have been like, ‘I think that being in this one body is what makes you you, but if you were to take your soul and brain out of your body and implant it in something else, is that still you?’ Or if you were cloned, with your exact memories, and everything was just an exact clone, is that you as well. I think there’s a sort of interesting thing in that we’re not solid things, we’re changing and we’re fluid and just because we were something yesterday, doesn’t mean we’re that thing tomorrow.
The image that you’re using to help promote the show is the image of a mirror. When we look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning, what do we see? Some people might not see who they physically are, they might see somebody else. And that is only something that we can answer ourselves. But the mirror is a scary place at times, you know, it can be very scary, but it can be comfortable.
It’s wild that you never really see… there is no one perfect existence of you. There’s the you that you see and the you that you feel, but someone else is gonna have a different view of that, and someone else is gonna have a different view of that. And… this is getting very deep now.
I will wrap this up in a moment, so we don’t have to go too deep…
I’m sure we could go on for hours with this existential crisis. It’s just this idea of you as a concept that’s interchangeable with so many different things. We’re all very fluid, but maybe if it’s saying that you’re a Leo helps give the language to some of that, then great.
I think that’s pretty wonderful. I’m excited to be able to see this. The last few plays that I’ve seen at the Blue Room have come out not changed as a person, but I’ve grown, and that what I find is the comfort of Blue Room is that it is a place that encourages just a little bit of freedom and safety and growth for both the audience and for the people on stage. Is that the comfort for you as a director performing at the Blue Room theater? The freedom for expression and the freedom to explore what you want?
Yeah, totally. Totally. The Blue Room is so supportive, that they’re never going to dictate what you can and can’t say or what you can and can’t do. And I think they’re very interested in new perspectives. And that’s such an important thing in theatre because it’s where diversity, and it’s where new voices come from is that encouragement. So I think the Blue Room support is so important.
So Leo/Taurus/Taurus is going to be on from the 8th until the 12th of February, which is pretty exciting. What kind of audience do anticipate to be able to go to see this kind of performance? I understand it’s 15+ as well.
The 15+ more just we’ve got a little crude language and to cover bases when we talk about things. But it’s not overly raunchy or anything like that. And yeah, I’m expecting a sort of late teen to maybe forties crowd. But it feels very strange to define a crowd just by that age, gender after after this whole conversation. There’s like a lot of Tauruses… it’s going to be a very, very Aquarius heavy crowd. I hope we get a lot of people and that it’s a broad enough, while specific enough concept that it’s appealing, but I do expect it to be quite a young crowd, because young people love star signs.
I loved it when I was growing up, it’s part of your evolution as an adult into adulthood is trying to figure out who you are as people. And, gosh, we still question ourselves and all this kind of stuff, but you know, stronger time than when you’re turning from a teenager into an adult.
Totally. I can only speak up until the age of 28, but I would say that at no point have I felt fully formed yet. So I imagine that especially through the late teens, and maybe, I’m hoping 30, that when I reach 30, I’ll just solidify into a human being. I think it’s such a time of change, because even thinking back to two years ago, who I was and where I was, it was so different. I think this is very much for anyone in a state of flux, but I think that might be everyone.
Well, I’m 37 and still in a state of flux.
Not fully formed yet.
Things change, you know…
Totally, especially with a global pandemic on, we’re all changing!
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