If you’ve ever wondered what the coming-of-age musical Spring Awakening would be like if it were queer, Michele Gould’s 107 is the musical for you.
- Reading time • 10 minutesMusical Theatre
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Inspired by her own private school experience growing up as a queer woman of colour, emerging writer and composer Michele Gould’s musical 107 tells the story of four teens of colour as they navigate high school’s highs and lows.
Ahead of the work’s premiere at The Blue Room Theatre’s 2022 Summer Nights program, Gould joins Isabella Corbett to chat about the importance of empowering marginalised voices, and what it was like to write a musical with no sheet music.
Isabella Corbett: Welcome to the Festival Sessions, Michele. For Seesaw Mag readers who don’t know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
Michele Gould: I’m an emerging musical theatre writer and composer whose focus is on making art by diverse artists, for diverse artists. My first musical, PASSING, premiered at Fringe World 2021 and received a warm reception from the Asian-Australian community. I’d love to see more people like me, with stories from underrepresented communities, on bigger stages.
IC: Tell us about 107, the work you are presenting at Summer Nights 2022.
MG: 107 is a new, original musical with a punk rock soundtrack that plays on tropes and stereotypes of how young girls — especially women of colour — are represented in media, and flips them on their heads. I just thought: “what if Spring Awakening was about lesbians?”
From conception to execution, everyone involved with the process is an artist from a diverse background and their voices and belief in the work has really shaped it into what it is.
IC: What inspired you to make your musical 107?
MG: The show is a fever dream of my own private school memories, my rambunctious friends, and my experience of growing up queer. It’s something I wish I could have seen when I was at that stage of figuring everything out, and the cast and crew have all shared similar sentiments. It’s a dream project for me.
IC: What makes your show different to all the others on offer at Summer Nights?
MG: The show tackles some pretty hard-hitting and serious topics, but at its heart, it’s a boisterous, ridiculous, super-fun punk rock musical. It was important for me and our director Daley Rangi that we tackled these issues with nuance and sensitivity. I wanted to create a work that I would want to watch myself, which unpacks the tough stuff but doesn’t re-traumatise me — and the marginalised members of the audience — in the process.
IC: What do you hope audiences will take away from 107?
MG: Ultimately, the show is about friendship and self-determination. The girls make it through the dumpster fire that is their high school experience with their inside jokes, lewd stories and each other. Nobody has to come and save them — they do it themselves with tools they already have because, albeit flawed, they’re good people at heart. I hope that audiences can see themselves in these characters. It’s a show that says: “High school was tough, but we made it.”
IC: Take us behind the scenes of your show – what happens backstage?
MG: The dynamic within the team is incredible. We’ve got some superb singers (have a listen to the teaser below!) and comedic geniuses. We’ve found so many moments to let the cast improvise and their suggestions have ended up in the final script because they’re brilliant.
I also don’t have formal training in music, so we don’t have sheet music for the show, which is a musical. We have 12 songs, and all of the parts and harmonies have been taught aurally. It could have been a mess, but everyone is so generous and understanding, so we made it work.
IC: How was the show devised?
MG: 107 started out as ukulele chords and cringe-worthy demo tracks — I am both proud and mortified that anyone heard those early recordings. But we had a show, and a really brave one. So from there, it was just a process of figuring out where and when I could see the work performed, and who was keen to do it with me.
Putting on a show is such an adventure. The people that I’ve met, whether they’ve stayed on for the run or mentored me throughout, have really made the show what it is and I couldn’t be more grateful.
IC: Aside from your own show, what are you looking forward to seeing at Summer Nights 2022?
MG: Summer Nights has an awesome line-up of new work. Our director Daley is debuting their powerful work Takatāpui, which features original spoken verse mixed with a sick-ass vocal processor and loop pedal. I am also excited to see Utopia, which is the first Australian work by Afghan writer and director Amir Musavi. I feel so inspired by the artists around me; it’s been a tough time, but this generation has a lot to say and we’re not going to be quiet about it!
IC: What’s next for you after Summer Nights 2022?
MG: I’m a workaholic but 107 has taught me to slow down and enjoy the process and the people I get to work with. I feel humbled and grounded by the work, so I’m excited to just receive feedback from the show and figure things out as I go.
I do have a few projects on the shelf that I would love to open back up, namely PASSING, so we’ll see where the music takes us. I’ve even had a few people ask if it’ll have another run — I will bring it back to you guys, I promise!
IC: What is your favourite part of the playground?
MG: Probably the sand.
Pictured top: ‘107’ shatters the stereotypes of how young, women of colour are depicted in the media. Photo: Andrea Lim
“The Festival Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing in Perth’s summer festivals. Stay tuned for more!
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