WORDS BY MADELEINE DORE AND ALLIE IMLACH | First published in Spotlight: The Arts Wellbeing Collective Magazine, Edition 2
We all bring an element of performance to our daily lives. Be it in our professions, our interactions, a family gathering, or what we curate on social media, we often put forward a version of ourselves to suit a particular environment.
At times the performance is so convincing that we do not recognise that others might be doing the same. Especially in our careers or projects, we are so accustomed to people concealing their vulnerabilities and doubts that we compare our messy behind-the-scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.
This disconnect and comparison is the inspiration behind the new podcast House Lights Up, created by Allie Imlach for the Arts Wellbeing Collective.
‘We see the finished product and everything appears to be perfect and polished, but behind the scenes there is so much time, work, energy, doubt and fear that everyone has to grapple with and navigate it in order to do what they do,’ says Allie Imlach.
The podcast series delves into the behind the scenes of creative life through honest conversations with performing art workers, and specialist clinicians who have experience of working in the performing arts: Greta Bradman, Chris Cheers, Cristina D’Agostino, Monica Davidson, Rachel Dunham, Gabriel Edwards, Susan Eldridge, Matt Heyward, Luke Hunter, Zoe Knighton, Ian Peel, Rob Tremlett (AKA Mantra), Anne Wood and Deone Zanotto.
From the audition process and the mind on stage, to vulnerability, validation, and compromise, each episode of the series asks performing arts workers about the challenges of forging a career in the arts, and strategies for overcoming them.
‘All of our interviewees were so honest and didn’t sugar coat anything – they just told it like it was and were so generous with their insights,’ said Allie.
Behind the scenes of making a podcast
Having worked at Arts Centre Melbourne since 2012, Allie is currently an advisor in the Risk and Compliance team.
Alongside an honours degree in professional communication, Imlach has a background in audio storytelling, editing and crafting narratives as a program producer and on-air presenter for 88.3 Southern FM.
With her studies complete, Allie had both space and curiosity for a new side project and approached the Arts Wellbeing Collective to put together a podcast.
The first step was to define the why. While her current role in the risk and compliance team might seem ‘far removed’ from the topics traversed in the podcast, there is a strong link between sustaining the arts and sustaining individuals.
Allie wanted to delve into the inner lives of performing arts workers to uncover the challenges and strategies for sustaining a career.
‘I feel like that warts and all storytelling is so important for people to have an opportunity to share and hear about the bumps along the road,’ she said.
The second step was to find a subject matter that would appeal to a diverse audience.
‘As someone who is not a performer, I can empathise that performance is not something that everybody’s brain is wired to do, but we can all relate to that fear of failure or things not being as good as we’ve hoped.’
Irrespective of industry, profession or passion, the challenges explored are something we can all relate to, adds Allie.
‘We all experience bumps in the road or feel like imposters. We can all be vulnerable to criticism or failure, and judge ourselves harshly.’
The next step was to dive into planning the podcast. Rather than have set topics and questions, Imlach wanted to maintain an open mind throughout each interview in order to unearth themes and see how they would fit together as a whole.
‘I went about it in the most labour-intensive way as the conversations were very unstructured. Even though that meant there was a lot to do in editing and post, it meant the episodes could reflect the conversations honestly and in a way I hope the guests would be proud to have their story nestled within.’
Lessons from House Lights Up
Common themes that emerged spanned issues such as compromise, self-criticism, perfectionism and validation.
On the insidious nature of perfectionism, Greta Bradman’s approach is to reframe it. ‘I don’t think perfectionism is a bad thing, I just think when you buy into the idea that there can be a thing called perfect, that’s when you’re in trouble.’
Gabrielle Edwards on the other hand, navigates perfectionism by applying the 80/20 rule, explains Allie.
‘It’s about recognising sometimes you just have to dive in, even when you’re not ready, and accept that a percentage won’t be perfect and that’s okay because you have done the work anyway,’ Allie noted.
What the podcast illuminates is that we all experience the same challenges, everyone faces the same fears and doubts, but all have various approaches and can apply a myriad of strategies for navigating them.
‘I wanted to show the diversity and similarity of experience that people have in this industry. While there are common threads, the approach was always different,’ concluded Allie.