Rob Pensalfini is a busy and much-travelled man. I found out just how much when I asked him (jokingly) what had brought him to Verona. He’s currently directing and appearing in Two Gentlemen of … for the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble. He’s also QSE’s AD, and has been since its inception in 2001. He’s proud of the fact that QSE has grown and, indeed, lasted for over a decade. That’s pretty good for an independent theatre ensemble. ‘We have a committed core of artists and it now feels artistically stable and progressive.’
But first … the road from Perth (where Rob, the son of Italian migrants, was born and raised) to Brisbane – wound its way via the US and the Australian western desert country. By the way, Rob has a PhD in Theoretical Linguistics from MIT (Boston). The Boston part is important to Rob’s story. You could say that it was here that he had his theatrical epiphany or, at least, that the seeds for QSE were sown. Continue reading Rob Pensalfini (Interview 30)
As I Skype with Niki-J Price she tells me she is enjoying a little stillness in the Brisbane rain – ‘a bit of a homesick moment,’ she says – she’s Welsh by birth. Niki-J’s taking a short break from rehearsals as part of the Empire Burning company. There’s a run-through that night, ‘and it will be my first ever appearance on the Sue Benner stage.’ Niki-J is one of the cast in Eugene Gilfedder’s new play which opens on Friday at !Metro Arts as part of their Independents’ season for 2011. ‘I’m more than thrilled to be working with such an amazing cast. What a gift it is to be sharing the stage with some of Queensland’s finest male actors – including young Finn (Gilfedder-Cooney) who is not afraid to take such bold steps.’ I think to myself that she is probably going to be right at home in this company. Niki-J herself is a fine actor – on stage as bold and courageous as they come.
I’m keen to find out more about her and to find out what feeds her artist’s imagination. I begin by asking her a question that’s been puzzling me for ages. What’s the ‘J’ in Niki-J stand for? She tells me it’s for ‘Jayne’ but she only added it when she was 18. ‘At the time I thought a second name would be nice,’ and so she became Nicola Jayne Price – a good Welsh name, I note and one that morphed over time into Niki-J.
As a child, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. ‘It was a small, mid-Wales country town – all a bit incestuous; you’d walk down the street and see someone you were related to.’ When she was 13 she discovered the local youth theatre, and that was it. It was there that her eyes were opened to a wider world, and where, she confesses, she learned to drink and smoke. The first play she appeared in happened to be Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, the same play, incidentally, in which she appeared in December last year for Fractal Productions in Ipswich and at the Old Museum in Brisbane. Continue reading Niki-J Price (Interview 18)