Writing Place 2020

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Creating Space

By Emily Dash

Creating space means so many different things to different people. Living as a disabled person, I am well-versed in creating space for myself and others. For as long as I can remember, I have been fighting for my right to take up space – for my body to be properly seen and treated with respect, for my voice to be heard and listened to, to feel safe in public and private places.

As an artist, I feel a responsibility to create space for opportunities to make work and for diverse stories to emerge. I am used to the hustle, trying to stake a claim on an industry that remains inaccessible to me and my community – along with so many others. Never has this felt more urgent or meaningful than in 2020, for more reasons than one.

But then the speed of life changed overnight. As the world and our industry seemed to come to a standstill, like many I was left scrambling to figure out what came next. It turned out to be a time of transformation and questioning every facet of my identity. My tendency towards compromised health meant that my self-isolation started earlier and lasted longer than most, and with the situation so unstable I still spend most of my time inside.

My changing relationship to physical space took on a new meaning, and transformed my emotional landscape as well. In every sense of the word, boundaries were drawn and reset. Whether my deepest ethical principles and ingrained habits or my closest relationships, everything I had once clung to for security was put under a microscope. Incidentally some, like my decade-long commitment to vegetarianism, have been thrown out completely. Others have changed irrevocably, like the sad slow burn of friendships in which all that remains is the memory of what you used to be.

My passion for life as an artist remains constant, but the form and content of my arts practice shifts to wherever opportunity knocks. As always, artists adapt – we are the first to embrace and advocate for new ideas, sometimes out of necessity and especially when you face other barriers. We must remember that all hope is never lost for us. Within the tumult, there are glimmers of hope.

While it is far from a panacea and presents its own unique challenges, the move towards online platforms may be a move towards a more accessible society. It has meant that people who might be traditionally excluded can engage meaningfully with the wider arts industry – through online performances, for example. If we can harness these means to help us find new voices and lift them up, perhaps we can take hold of an exciting opportunity: to create beautiful spaces from this darkness.

About Emily Dash

Emily Dash is a NSW-based freelance writer, actor and producer who works across theatre and screen. Her debut short film “I Am Not A Work of Art” was part of Metro Screen’s 2015 Screenability program. Her second film Can You See Me Theatre’s “The Cards I’m Dealt” (2015) was shortlisted for Tropfest Short Film Festival 2016. Emily wrote and starred in both these works.

She also co-wrote and starred in Johanna Garvin’s short film “The Milky Pop Kid” (2017), which was Highly Commended for Writing at the Sydney Film Festival 2017. She was the sole writer of “Groundhog Night”, which she also starred in, which was directed by Genevieve Clay-Smith for Bus Stop Films and is part of the Sydney Film Festival 2020. Emily is scriptwriter and project manager for Maitree House. She also participated in AFTRS State Talent Camp 2019 with “Pearly Gates”, was selected for the upcoming AFTRS National Talent Camp 2020, and Screen Australia SBS Digital Originals 2020 with “Freewheelers”.

Emily did a writing and research internship with Matchbox Pictures in 2017, from which she was credited as a consultant on ABC drama “The Heights”. As a 2018/19 PACT Resident Artist, she created her own play “Freefall” (2019). Selected theatre credits include “Chrysalis” (2017) for Midnight Feast Theatre, staged reading of “The Normal Heart” (2017) at Darlinghurst Theatre Company, and “CONNECT” (2016) for Red Door Arts and Ever After Theatre.


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