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Jordan’s storytelling from one’s upbringing

BY FELINO DOLLOSO – Jordan Shea is a Filipino-Australian writer, his heritage is from Baguio Philippines.

Fil-Aussie writer Jordan Shea

He is dedicated to showcasing the narratives of Asian-Australians and how they relate to our conversation around national identity.

After completing an MA – Writing for Performance at the VCA – Victorian College of the Arts Melbourne Australia, he has gone on to have plays performed/developed/workshopped at Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir Theatre, Old 505, ATYP, Old Fitz Theatre and has worked across the screen sector for In-Between-Pictures and Fremantle Media. Jordan is one of the Philip Parsons Fellows for Belvoir Theatre, and has completed a yearly residency for an arts organization every year since 2017. He has taught playwriting workshops for schools, City of Sydney and major universities. 

Why did you decide to pursue a career as a Writer?

Story has always been an enduring love of mine. I had a Lola who lived in Nowra, two hours from Sydney. Usually, my Uncle and Dad would use this time to tell me stories of their upbringing and their lives. Oral history and storytelling was something that ran deep in my upbringing. My Lola was able to recount the invasion of Vigan by Japan during World War II, and tell me heaps of stories from her childhood, same as my Mum and some of her siblings. I amassed a bank of these beautiful stories that I felt really intersected with who I was. They were all so vivid and descriptive. I thought I might be able to have a go at writing these stories, or using them as influences to write them. 

When did you know of your interest in the Creative Arts in particular writing?

I had a very tough time in school as an English student. There was a lot of emphasis on analytical writing, which is really mundane. Quite literally, if you followed structure, and sounded book smart rather than poetic, you were heralded as some kind of future genius.  I turned everything creative and tried to make it really performative, much to my English teachers’ chagrin. I distinctly remember them sitting me down and saying ‘that’s not how the world works’, and I did everything to fight against it. Writing was a saviour for me in my early adult years. I could use my words to hide, engage and fight. When I went to uni to study Drama, I did a creative writing unit, and thought ‘yeah, this is it’. 

What projects or work have you been involved in Australia and or overseas?

I am very lucky to have worked steadily since graduating from the VCA five years ago. My plays include: Ate Lovia, Kasama Kita, One Hour No Oil (w/Kenneth Moraleda), CAGE, The House at Boundary Road and a new musical I’m working on: Lola! with Vicky Falconer-Pritchard. I have also done multiple residencies over the past four years, with major companies and fringe venues. 

How important is it for you to share stories about your Filipino heritage?

 There’s nothing else I can do. It’s a complicated heritage and culture, and the discovery is lifelong, so I’ll be doing it for a while.

Who would you say as having a great influence on you and in what you do? 

A few people. Raimondo Cortese, a teacher, who gave me a fair share of confidence and kindness when I needed it. Melissa Reeves, who taught me to let go of being nice in my writing. Kenneth Moraleda for his unwavering, continuous honesty. I’m also influenced by the writing and work of Anchuli Felicia King, Michael Pigott, Jean Tong, Vonne Patiag, Tamara Natt and Yve Blake. I really like what they do. There’s probably a lot more, but it’s always changing. Email me for suggestions of people you should know:

Who would you say as an interesting person/s you have worked with and why?

I find my current partnership with Vicky Falconer Pritchard really interesting, because she has an effervescent musical mind that I’m in total awe of and works well with what we are trying to do. 

Any current projects you are currently working on?  

I am developing a new musical with the Hayes Theatre Company, rewriting Ate Lovia for the Fitz and kwento, which was postponed, and developing a new work about teaching. 

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

Having an idea and writing it down, even for five minutes.  If that happens throughout the day, then that’s the best.

What else would you want to accomplish?

I’d love to write a novel, and do some tv. 

What advice would you give to other aspiring Pinoy-Aussie Writers who are keen to start a career in the industry?

Your cultural connection and identity is not decided on by anyone but yourself. Engage in discourse. Understand the complicated. Research what has come before you. 

article By Felino Dolloso (c) November 2021