Actor, Writer, Theater Producer
Founder & Artistic Director, Stillpoint
Location: Brighton, U.K.
Performance has always been a part of actress Rachel Blackman’s life. Trained in Australia, where she began her acting career, she now pursues her passion in the U.K. While she’s been in such pop-cultural phenomenons as The Matrix and Weeds, for the actress, there’s nothing like the communal experience of live performance.
Rachel produces her own original performance work through Stillpoint, the theater production company she founded. As the award-winning company’s artistic director, she brings together artists to collaborate on projects that explore and embrace human realities, connection and freedom.
What keeps you busy?
Tending to my loves: family, friends, creative visions, projects. Recently, I’ve gotten into making raw vegan cakes. I’m not vegan but I love the idea that they’re good for you and they taste amazing.
From the early days to what’s currently on your plate
Performance has always felt like a very natural part of my life. I grew up in a family of professional musicians. I did ballet from the age of 4 and lots of artsy stuff, but it was training as an actress that put me in touch, for the first time, with some kind of emerging path.
I worked for awhile as an actress in Sydney, then moved to the UK in 2002, following love. I had a desire to make my own plays but was scared to start. I set up Stillpoint in 2007 to produce my own original performance works as well.
At the moment, I am beginning work on a new piece called Expert! about embracing things I’m crap at. I’m not really convinced by ‘experts’ and ‘expertise’, whereas ‘failure’ is a much more interesting concept. Philippe Gaulier says about failure, ‘(you) will feel ridiculous. And ridiculousness is good for (you). It’s good for everything. To feel ridiculous and sensitive is a part of freedom…’ So the show will explore this notion of freedom and feature a lot of things I can only ever fail at like classical music and math – lots of math!!
I’m also directing a piece for an amazing spoken word artist named Talia Randall. We have been making a theater piece together called Bloodlines.
The rhyme or reason
I am a pronoiac and a lover of wrangling form out of chaos. A lot of my theater work is about exploring that. Recently, I feel drawn to respond in some way to the disconnection a lot of people feel from their own bodies, the planet and our systems of governance. I get the sense there is a feeling that a lot of our ‘experts’ are false prophets; snake oil salesmen – and there is a yearning for something more honest and direct. Art can help with that.
One day, I’ll look back and laugh at this…
When I went in to audition for The Matrix, I walked into the waiting room and realized I looked completely different from all the other actresses auditioning for the role. I assumed someone must have misread the casting brief and I was furious. I did an angry audition and wanted the whole industry to f- off(!), but I ended up getting the part. Doing Revolutions was a life-changing experience.
Another instance I can look back on occurred a few years ago. I have a tendency, when I’m inside a project, to massively overload myself and not realize it until it’s too late. I agreed to perform all three of my solo plays back to back in one day in London. It was a bad idea. The night before, I had a massive panic attack. It was terrifying. I thought I was dying – my hands went numb and I couldn’t get up or call out – I seemed to be having a heart attack. I needed to tell someone I was dying, so rather than bother my friend who was asleep next door, I decided to call my relatives in Australia because I knew they’d be awake! Madness! Somehow, I made it through the night and the next day ok.
When the going gets tough…
I remind myself that everything passes. Also, this quote from Eckhart Tolle has been really useful: ‘If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. If you want to take responsibility for your life, you must choose one of those three options, and you must choose now.’
Full speed ahead
What keeps me going is meditation. It has saved my life and does so again and again.
The moments that make it all worth it
Being in that bliss-flow state. The privilege of doing what I love.
#Hero / #Heroine
Words to live by
What is this moment that is happening now? What makes my heart sing?
Although live performance is what burns inside me, I’d love to work in film again. I have a script I am developing with that in mind. Film has so much more capacity to reach audiences than live performance. But I believe we need live communal experiences as well. In this anti-religious era, they provide a kind of secular communion.
All images courtesy of Rachel Blackman and Stillpoint.