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Alumni Profile: Tacky Pioneer

Updated: Aug 29, 2018

Emma Clark (SFS '13) spoke with Six by Eight Press about her London-based theatre company Tacky Pioneer and the work involved in making theatre from scratch.

The following are excerpts from an interview published by Six by Eight Press with Emma and her fellow company member Hugh Wyld. The full interview is available here.

Can you start by telling me about Tacky Pioneer? How do you describe yourselves and the work you do as a company?

Emma: Right now we’re describing ourselves as [an] international collective of theatre-makers who primarily work through devised and collaborative processes. We all met on a Master’s degree at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. There are four original members from the U.S., U.K., and China, but currently only three of us live in London. Our fourth is back home in China right now.

Hugh: What’s characteristically Tacky Pioneer? Queer mess. I think we all share an interest in the mix between quite intellectual, quite multilayered, intelligent work and also quite irreverent, pop cultural, camp, and queer forms too. There’s a sort of melding where we in our separate ways all gravitate towards those poles. So I think our work sits in between those two things really.

What is the project you are currently working on?

Emma: In Memoriam is a new devised, interdisciplinary performance piece that we’re developing. It aims to examine the intersection between collective and individual memory and the objects and rituals we construct to hold space for those memories. Our hope is that the performance will be a manifestation of our ideas surrounding the performance of failure, queer mess, colliding genres and disciplines, and a deep-dive into a specific subject area — in this case, how humans pay tribute to what is lost. If things follow their current plan, the resulting show will be part gig theatre, part funeral, part existential meditation, and fully absurd.

Images from Tacky Pioneer's production Astronaut Battery.

Are there particular historical events, people, or issues that you’re thinking about or focusing on at the moment?

Hugh: The way in which we have been working up to this point has been that we’ve each organically taken a sort of pathway and brought a specific focus [to the rehearsal process] with memorialization being our guiding theme. For example, I’ve been looking into the Names Project — the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It’s this huge, public memorial to people who died of AIDS. Emma Harris has been looking into the Jewish experience and memorials in relation to Jewish people. And Emma, you’ve been looking more into war or generally your experiences going to Southeast Asia.

Emma: We have all brought, in terms of our personal interests, some of these national, government-sanctioned, public memorials like the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe with us to the project. And that’s something we’ve talked about — the difference between public and private memorials. Taking these individual interests, we’ve also honed in on specific ways [of making devised theatre]. I have a Chinese funeral ritual that I’ve been looking [at] that involves burning paper as a way of passage and sending things to ancestors. And Emma [Harris - another company member] has been looking at the Kaddish and Jewish recitation and song. We’ve all started to offer those things to one another and we’re potentially all going to learn how to do them together as a way of learning and processing and experiencing those different inputs.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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