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Performance Art stalwart Valerie Berrie


Acor and emerging director Valery Berrie


From a young age Valerie Berrie was surrounded by loved ones who introduced her to the world of performance. She was brought up memorising poems and performing it to families and friends.

Felino Deloso

Inspired by her siblings who Berrie says are her best collaborators and continually inspire her to better herself. She found her own voice and pursued a career in performing arts. Watching her perform, you see an artist who exuberate warmth, and joy within solitude. That solitary figure draws you in, calls you, beckons you to want to hear what she has to say.

Valerie Berry is an actor, performance maker, theatre educator and an emerging director.Throughout her practice, she has focused on collaborative and interdisciplinary processes.She has worked with, Contemporary Asian Australian Performance (Double Delicious : Sydney Festival and Asia TOPA 2020), Yana Taylor (Leading is Following is Leading: Liveworks Festival 2020, Performance Space), National Theatre of Parramatta (Swallow,Dir: Kate Champion),

Cake Industries (Sydney Festival 2016, Robotronica Festival 2015/2017, Fun4Kids Festival 2017), Polyglot Theatre (Paper Planet: Sydney and Norway), Theatre Kantanka (Missing the Bus to David Jones and Clubsingularity), Blacktown Arts Centre, Urban Theatre Projects, Belvoir, Branch Nebula,

Performance Space, Sydney Theatre Company (Attempts on her Life- Dir: Benedict Andrews), Performing Lines (Tour Germany and Adelaide Festival, Ur/Faust-Dir: Benedict Andrews; and National tour of The Folding Wife), Bell Shakespeare/Canute Productions (National tour: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes), and Campbelltown Arts Centre.She co- directed/facilitated Shopfront Theatre’s 2015 Junior Ensemble show, Chasing your Shadow (Shopfront 2015 and Way Out West Festival, 2016).Valerie is one of the mentors and facilitator for CuriousWork’s Beyond Refuge emerging writers/makers program.

In Adelaide, Valerie has worked with, ActNow Theatre ( Performer/Facilitator – Theatre of the Global Majority, Facilitator- Outreach Leadership Program and performer/devisor- Like me, Like you), Vitalstatistix (Border Crossers) Adhocracy 2017 and with Paul Gazzola (OSCA) for the SUE Project.Valerie has had an on going collaborative partnership with multimediaartists, Anino Shadowplay Collective (Manila, Philippines) and Paschal Daantos Berry, since 2005: The Folding Wife (National tour); Within and Without (PSpace and Blacktown Arts Centre); Arkipelago (Jakarta, Indonesia); Arkipelago2: Intima-sea (Yogyakarta, Indonesia), and This here.Land, forPerformance Space’s award winning, Liveworks Festival, 2017 program.

From what age did you know of your great interest in Acting/Performing Arts? What was your first project?

We always had an awareness of performance, since we were children. I think Filipino’s are raised in this way or instinctively, we have it in our nature. We are definitely exposed to it at school.Also, my Nanay and Tatay were educators and Mum, especially, loved American literature and that meant part of our home education was to memorise poems and perform it to relatives and friends.My first professional project was called Offshore. It was a play set in the Philippines. My brother Roman encouraged me to audition as no one from our youth group was interested!

I played the main character who worked in an offshore factory owned by Australian bosses and she starts a movement, protesting about the terrible conditions the workers are under.Performing in that play had a lot of impact on me. Not only in portraying a Filipino character but also, I realised that theatre was this amazing vehicle to tell stories that matter. I went on to train as an actor after that.

What are some of the projects that you have been involved here and overseas?

I really value and love my younger brother, Paschal and my projects/collaborations with Anino Shadowplay Collective, a multidisciplinary group of artists, from Manila and Australian director Deborah Pollard.We’ve had three major projects together, The Folding Wife (which toured the north/eastern states of Australia), Within and Without, and This. Here Land.I will always have a soft spot for the first one woman show I worked on after training as an actor. It was called Lotus War. It’s about a woman’s memory/experience during Vietnam war. Being part of that project made me open my eyes to the resilience of women in traumatic situations. How much we do and contribute historically and yet, not given any acknowledgement.

Early in my career I was in a play called Ur/Faust, directed by Benedict Andrews. We toured it to Germany (Weimar and Munich) and was programmed in the Adelaide Festival, 2000. That was also my first overseas trip outside of Australia.

Of the work you listed above, which one would you consider your favourite or the best oneyou have undertaken so far?

The Project close to my heart is really The Folding Wife. Paschal and I havecollaborated on a few short pieces before, both in theatre and in radio. This play was special.When he first ventured into playwriting, I think he enjoyed writing for me. There’s something wonderful about working with siblings, you have that shared history and you know each other’s rhythms.

Paschal wrote it to begin with as a way to process our Mum’s sudden passing. It started as a long prose, which was very dense to read. But during a residency trip to Manila, he got a better sense of what the work should be. That’s how we started our long artistic relationship with Anino and Deborah Pollard. It became this story about diaspora and how as people we are such great assimilators. But there comes a time when you have to make a choice and be a voice that can be heard.This play was huge for me. Not only because I was the sole story teller, portraying three generations of Filipino women, but also this was really the first time I reconnected with culture and community and fully embraced my Filipino Australian place as a theatre maker. It also made me look at performing and theatre making as a priority. That’s what makes my heart full, apart from being with Family!

Who would you accredit as having the greatest influence on you and in what you do? Who would you select as the most enjoyable person/s you have worked with and why?

My Family is first and foremost my greatest inspiration. They are my bestCollaborators and as siblings (there’s four of us) we all have strong opinions and ideas!My brothers, both artists, constantly make me want to better myself. They are both very focused and have abilities to inspire change.As a performer, I didn’t look up to anyone in particular. I remember seeing Deborah Mailman in Seven Stages of Grieving and I was in awe of her story telling skills and the way she held space.

Also watching Theatre de Complicite’s work, The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol really made me move towards Physical Theatre. When I finished my acting training, I was involved in a few mainstream theatre Productions. But the industry wasn’t ready for an Asian performer, who didn’t conform and who didn’t fit a certain aesthetic. So I needed to find a place in the landscape to belong. That’s when I discovered the work that Performance Space was doing, at their old home, in Cleveland St, Redfern. There I found my voice, a place for experimentation (it felt good to ‘fail’ in the safety of that space!), cultural diversity and a welcoming program/space that encouraged different ways of making.

What project are you currently working on? What are planned in the next five years?

I am wearing different hats this year. I am exploring Directing. Also facilitating workshops and just being in leadership roles that require me to contribute artistically, and be a support and mentor to emerging artists from culturally diverse backgrounds. I’m up for that kind of challenge now, I think!

I’ve always got projects I’m attached to and interested in. But it all depends on funding at this stage. I’ve been working with a company in my hometown Adelaide, ActNow Theatre. I have been involved with them as a performer, maker, facilitator and lead artist, especially for their program Theatre of the Global Majority. A series of free workshops for POC artists. I will be continuing that vein of work with them this year.

In five years time? Who knows! I’ll see how I go with the directing hat. I’m really enjoying it so far, including the anxiety and challenges. I would consider it again if I feel that it’s the right project. I think definitely more workshop facilitation and also more creative writing. But really, I want to focus on taking on leadership roles to help engage and energise POC Artists. Be a part of the movement forward. Be a part of a dialogue that empowers all of us to feel more visible.

What was the most enjoyable/best part of your career so far?

Performing always gives me a sense of fulfilment. Especially if it’s a work I really believe in. Collaborating and making theatre, especially devised ones, empowers me every time and is very joyful. I’ve been very lucky to work with some wonderful collaborators who are now part of my theatre family. And being able to travel and see places when you are doing something you truly love, I think, is a great privilege. I will always be grateful for that.

What else would you want to accomplish?

The artistic landscape for POC performers is getting better but we still have a long way to go. When I think of the time I started, when I had to find my own way and find ‘my people’, it’s disheartening. But there’s always a way, even if you have to dig it yourself. I always say, resilience is an overused word, but it’s true that we need that instilled in us. I would hope, that within my creative lifetime, the change/shift will be bigger and the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ will be smaller. I will do my utmost to be a part of this movement forward so our emerging artists have the freedom to explore themselves artistically. That they have the tools and they have the spaces to be able to do so.

Do you have any projects coming up?

I am directing my first full play! I have co directed before in devised pieces but this is going back to the roots of my training. Analysing text and getting to know the characters. How each one connects to the other and how those relationships serve the overall arc of the story.

The play is called Let Me Know When You Get Home. It’s being produced by the National Theatre of Parramatta in association with CuriousWorks.  It’s part of a program called, Launchpad, Double Bill, showcasing two emerging writers from Western Sydney. I am working with a very talented Filipino writer, Miranda Aguilar. They have been working on this piece for a few years now and it’s wonderful to finally be able to put it on its feet. We open on March 18 and the short season ends on March 20 at the Lennox, Riverside Theatres. I am also performing in The Living Room Theatre’s piece for March Dance called, The Foul of the Air playing at The Landlord, Summer Hill, March 30- 31.

What advice could you give to other aspiring Fil-Aussie Actor/Director/Performance Artist who are still trying to establish themselves in the industry?

Keep The Faith. That’s been my mantra since the beginning, some 29 years ago! If the passion is strong, keep at it, stay in it. Don’t get distracted by other people’s vision of what ‘success’ is. That’s for you to figure out. Keep connected. Cook up ideas and bounce it off with other creatives. Write your own stories. The industry will catch up, soon enough. So, what’s Love got to do with it?

For Valerie Berry, Everything.