Western Chances Alumni Didem Caia has achieved great success at an early age. She is a NIDA graduate and one of this countries shining literature stars. In part, she credits this success to the recognition she received from teachers who encouraged her passion from an early age.
Didem share’s her story, her passion and her advice for other young budding playwrights with us.
My name is Didem Caia. I’m a writer, speaker and arts advocate.
I grew up in the western suburbs of Melbourne, in a working class family, surrounded by a melting pot of cultures. My grandparents emigrated in the late 60’s and my grandmother was pregnant with my mother. I am inspired by my family’s stories of struggle, sacrifice, sadness, longing and hope- and I carry these ancestral feelings around with me to remind me about hard work, time, and privilege. I have been interested in literature and arts since I was a child. Books and films were given to me as a way to occupy me and keep me entertained while the adults busied themselves with other tasks. Being an only child for the first twelve years of my life, the innate sense of imaginative play presented itself quite early to me, and I have held onto that intuition and inspiration ever since.
I first received a Western Chances Scholarship when I was 14 years old. My teachers and mentors noticed my deep attention to and love of performing arts and realising that I came from a government supported single parent family, they nominated me to develop this further through classes outside of school.
I was excited to be nominated, but mainly, the idea that others noticed my work and my passion when it came to dramatic arts and dramatic writing- made me feel at an early age that I could actually pursue this as a way of life and income. That I might actually be able to have an impact on people with my creativity.
Currently I have the fortunate ability to be able to earn a living and emerge as a playwright through commissions for articles, essays and teaching creative writing workshops for inner city students and communities in areas such as Dandenong. Most recently through the Victorian Emerging Writer’s Festival.
Writing is an abstract way to creatively describe people and the inner machinations of the human condition and how we live, how we prosper, how we hide, how we love, what hurts us, and our preoccupation with time and death. For me, playwrighting is as important and rigorous to understanding the world, as physics is.
What inspires me about playwrighting is that it is alchemical in its form. Lots of different particles come together in order to be transformed into something sacred and life affirming. Playwrighting is symbolic, poetic and can allow humans to sit in a theatre with strangers and give themselves over to a live moment playing out in front of them. This in itself excites me beyond anything else. The sensory nature of the theatre offers humans an experience like no other. By combining language, images, sounds, movement and human breath and emotion- a play can encompass many elements of what it means to be alive.
Striving to improve at this art form is what I live for, because I know how special successful theatre can be. I measure the success of a play on its ability to reach an audience beyond logic, and into something deeper within them. Playwrighting is about energy, and how we as writers compose, this energy to uncover things for an audience.
My greatest career achievements so far, have been, being accepted into NIDA playwrights program in 2012, my first professional production in 2013 and also in 2014, I was awarded three grants from the Australian Arts Council, the Ian Potter Cultural Trust and the Copywright Agency in order to travel to the US and the UK to learn more about new writing development and new writing forms. These are my biggest milestones so far.
My biggest dream for the future is being a globally recognised playwright, speaker and arts advocate. I want to not only write plays that can be performed on world stages, but I want to travel and speak to others about playwrighting, about the arts as a vessel for self-expression, and I would like to grow my career by using my writing as much as I can to affect wider audiences.
To other inspiring playwrights I say this:
1. Write. Australia needs more writers.
2. Please don’t take this art form for granted.
3. Write about what keeps you up at night.
4. Follow your deepest dreams and goals mercilessly.
5. Everyone has a story, understand your own.
6. Don’t be a selfish writer, stories elevate humanity.
7. Tap into humanity, tap into what unifies us.
8. The true role of the writer is a combination between uncovering the many mysteries of our humanness whilst aiming to push our humanity forward.
My next writing project is called ‘The university of longing’, it is a lyrical, fragmented, sensory experience which combines poetry, dialogue and monologue in order to uncover the way- language emotions and human relationships are shifting and changing in an age of advanced technology, addiction, high suicide rates and rising mental health epidemics.
If you would like to support Western Chances recipients in achieving their dreams, like Didem has, you can sign up to be a Big Dreams donor for as little as $10 a month.
Image courtesy Didem Caia
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