Three Minute Squiz With… Jo Kadlecek

Jo Kadlecek is a part-time theatre-type. Not only has she co-founded her own theatre company, she’s written a play – “Speak . . . easy” – that will be featured at the upcoming Sydney Fringe Festival. And that’s not even her day job… Please welcome Jo to this week’s Three Minute Squiz. 

How and where do you Squiz?
It’s the first thing I read when I turn on my computer in the morning at my day job. I work as a creative director at a women’s foundation so I love getting a sense of the news from a perspective that both resonates and oozes personality. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve read something and said out loud (to my computer), “You guys are so clever!” And if it’s a particularly busy day ahead, sometimes I’ll glance through the headlines to get to the Squiz the Day bits, my favourite.

Your bio says you’ve worked as a reporter, author, journalism lecturer, public relations officer, waitress and bad soccer coach. Which has been your favourite role?
Journalism lecturer, no question. I was teaching at a uni in the United States and set up a news service with top journalism students. We partnered with local newspapers (who’d had to lay off reporters—you know, the economy), so my students were covering community issues and getting their stories in the papers. What a joy to watch them run with a story, track down the right interviews and information and edit it with me so that the local papers published them, some on page one. Many have gone on to work for various dailies in the US.

Last year you set up Joining The Dots Theatre. What was behind that?
I’ve had a life-long love of theatre—the combination of a live audience interacting with a story that actors bring to life is just an amazing experience to me. So two years ago when I met Alison Chambers, a Sydney actor and mutual theatre lover, we began to dream about doing our own theatre, offering unique stories and perspectives on stage while also trying to care for our actors/crew. (It’s not an easy industry to be sure.) And because we’re not, um, young-ish any more, we thought, “Why not?” We’ve joked that we’re “two old broads still dreaming”, not wanting to get to our 80s, sitting on a porch and wondering, “What if?” So Joining the Dots Theatre was born. (The name has a double meaning—joining people together around good theatre, but also honouring Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Day and Dorothy L. Sayers. We’d love to offer shows that reflect Parker’s wit, Day’s activism and Sayer’s intellectual rigor.)

And now you’ve written a play which is going to be performed at the Sydney Fringe Festival – congrats. How does that feel?
I’m in awe. For real. Is it corny to say I don’t want it to end?

Give us the downlow on your play…
“Speak . . . easy” follows DJ Havel, a fictional Sydney writer who’s stuck. She’s pregnant, on a deadline and reeling from her mother’s recent death. Enter Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Day and Dorothy L. Sayers and DJ suddenly finds her muse – IF the three Dorothys will behave!

And who are the women featured?
These three women are literary legends who continue to invite an international following, so to bring them to the stage for this imagined conversation is really exciting for me. I mean, I’ve only thought about it for 15 years, researching, chatting, teaching on the three Dorothys. They lived at the same time and burst onto the scene around the same time, 1920s, with a profound impact. Parker went on to help start The New Yorker magazine, Sayers wrote her detective fiction as well as cultural commentaries for the BBC and Day co-founded the Catholic Worker. Prolific is an understatement for these women writers.

We love the promo line that it’s about “writers, women and wisecracks”. Sounds right down our alley… What sort of night will we have when we come to see it?
An inspiring one, methinks. The very talented director Nicholas Papademetriou has taken my play in a beautifully creative direction. I love it! And I’m not sure there’s a more perfect or gifted actor to play the lead than Adele Querol; she brings great complexity and fun to the role. Each Dorothy, too, is on stage the entire show, so I really do believe you’ll have an inspiring, funny, deep and moving night of professional theatre. Bring tissues. Really.

Name four people – living or dead – you’d kill to sit down to dinner with.
Dorothy Day, Dorothy Parker, Dorothy L Sayers. Oh wait. But while we’re at it, how about Dorothy Hewitt, the great Australian playwright, and Dorothy Tagney, the first woman of the Australian Senate? What an amazing conversation that would be… over whiskey.

Your first album?
Carole King, Tapestry. I still can “feel the Earth move under my feet.”

Your favourite book/writer?
Just one? Aren’t writers allowed to have heaps of favourites? If so, I choose Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” And anything by British writer Rachel Joyce is great, plus I love the non-fiction of Dorothy L. Sayers, especially her “Unpopular Opinions” because why wouldn’t I? Oh, and for my token male author, (who’s hardly token) “The Boy Behind the Curtain” by Tim Winton. Wow. Just wow.*

The best piece of advice you’ve been given?
It’s a toss-up between Flannery O’Connor: “The writer never has to apologize for staring; there’s nothing that doesn’t require her attention.” And Dory from Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Leadership. Because it’s really people who serve others who seem to know what really matters.

What’s your worst and best habit?
Worst: justifying an extra order of chips for lunch because I’m eating a salad.

Best: justifying an extra order of chips for lunch because I’m eating a salad.

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story Australians should know about but don’t?
Honestly, the faithfulness of church ladies. Seriously. Kids whose parents might not be around get help with homework, refugee families in a new country get home cooked meals and friendship, elderly people in their final years (whose families are far away) get personal visits, neighbours doing it tough get lovely Christmas hampers, prison inmates get hand written letters, and college students get regular prayers and notes of encouragement. Each act of kindness inspires me that some sense of morality and decency is still alive across our culture… because of local church ladies.

“Speak . . . easy” is on from 3-15 September at Annandale Creative Arts Centre in Sydney. Times and tickets here.

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