WAYFINDER

Our Admin Officer, Kirste Vandergiessen, who is very skilled in her admin and organisation abilities, is also a writer and digital illustrator! Fleur was really determined to find her a role at RYT to support and nurture those abilities while doubling as a role to document the day-to-day of RYT. 

 

Thanks to Tully Barnett and Dr. Sarah Peters from Flinders University, RYT was able to acquire some funds to support Kirste in some time for documentation, writing and creating. 

 

RYT is a tiny organisation, with one full-time Fleur and two part-time staff (Alysha and Kirste), which means that a lot of the important documentation, reflection and data collection of RYT events often falls through the cracks. This is what Kirste’s secondary role is about, filling those gaps and making sure we’re showing the community what RYT is really about.

 

Kirste’s documentation role has been funded for 20 weeks. In this time, Kirste will be posting weekly Mini Outcomes (things like interviews with RYT regulars, making playlists, writing poems, etc.), attending some of RYT’s classes to watch, listen and chat, writing a Final Outcome (a fictional fantasy short story, with illustrations), and putting some hours into her own personal writing project. 

 

Keep up to date with everything Kirste documents on this page.

Wayfinder banner image. Illustration of a dark forrest, and a caped character staring at the tower before her.

NAVIGATION

KIRSTE’S PERSONAL WRITING PROJECT

 

Note: “Live Doc” does imply this is unfinished, unedited and grossly neglected. This is for viewers to see Kirste’s full writing process.

DOCUMENTAION CREATIVE OUTCOMES

WEEK 1 - THE WHO, THE WHAT & THE WHY

Howdy there. Thanks for coming. Welcome, welcome.

 

I’m Kirste, some of you know me as RYT’s admin officer, last year I worked with Writers SA on the No Limits: Young Regional Writers team as their Riverland Coordinator (we also won a Ruby Award, not to brag… but also totally to brag), I’ve done a lot of work with Alysha Herrmann, and Part of Things, I also work with Our Town Berri, I’m a writer, a digital illustrator, producer, and bartender. So yeah, there’s a good chance you’ve seen me around.

 

Anyway, thanks for visiting this page! You might have some questions:

 

What’s Wayfinder?

Wayfinder is technically two different projects.

  1. Creative documentation for Riverland Youth Theatre.
  2. A small personal writing project. A fantasy/adventure short story, in which some of the creative documentation will reflect in this story, and maybe illustrations!
 

What Am I Doing?

I’m spending the next 20 weeks listening, watching, chatting and absorbing all things RYT. Once a week I’ll update this page with Mini Outcomes – creative things like poems, letters, out of context quotes, comic panels, profile sketches, interviewing RYT regulars, taking photos, making playlists, pinterest boards, etc.

 

Once a month I’ll be updating the personal writing project (which may also be referred to as Wayfinder or the Final Outcome in future posts).

 

Why Am I Doing It?

In the time that I’ve worked for RYT, I’ve learned a lot about its recent history. When Fleur jumped on board, everything was such a rush for her – so many events, participants to keep track of, RYT was growing at a rate that the team couldn’t keep up with and some things (like reflection, data collecting, documentation and taking a lungful of air) fell through the cracks. It’s been an adrenaline rush for two years. But finally we’re taking some steps to remember to slow down, take breaks, rest, reflect, and savour the moment.

 

So, that’s where my role comes in.

 

I wish I remembered or wrote down how this came about. But I’m pretty sure it was Fleur just asking how I would feel about doing a writing day at RYT and me replying with ‘um, yeah?’. Which is funnily how a lot of ideas happen in the RYT office.

 

Literally a week after that conversation, we were meeting with Tully and Sarah on Zoom. Fleur started by talking about RYT’s needs for documentation and connection with community, and how she wanted to see me supported as an artist and writer. Tully offered us the funds to cover an extra day of my wage for 20 weeks, mentoring sessions with herself and Sarah, and before I had time to breathe (or even fully realise what was even happening) everything was locked in. I was in the office alone, I leaned back in my chair and just went ‘what the [redacted] just happened.’.

 

Mind you, I’ve only been working for RYT since the start of May – so just over three months. This project was locked in on June 20th – a month and a half after I started working with them.

 

The lord works quick, but RYT’s Creative Director works quicker.

 

It’s been thrilling and refreshing to plan and think about a whole new project (two, technically!), but it’s also forced me to face Writer Kirste – and her cobweb-threaded hair and dust-covered shoulders, after being left in a dark corner for so long.

 

I’ve neglected writing for, what feels like, a long time – it’s been about a year, I think. So coming into this project, I’m already juggling a bunch of complicated feelings. There’s such a huge sense of pride, and excitement. I feel ridiculously lucky, and seen, and valued as an artist, and privileged.

 

But there’s also this weight of fear. And guilt, actually.

 

There are so many people that are fighting against towering waves on my behalf to make sure I don’t get lost at sea. And I’m not certain I deserve it. Or, at least, there might be someone else who deserves this opportunity more than me. You’re telling me that a girl who hasn’t touched her work-in-progress novel for a year is being paid to write once a week? Make it make sense (please, someone).

 

But I also have to take a step back and think about the why. Why am I being given this opportunity? Why is this project so important? Why aren’t I writing?

 

The reality, for a lot of artists, is that we cannot just work as artists. Right now, I’m working three pretty demanding and very different jobs – admin assistant, communications support and bartending. I spend a lot of my mental, emotional and creative energy in these spaces and that leaves little in the Creative Well when I actually do have the opportunity to dive into my personal projects.

 

Which is why being gifted this opportunity from Flinders University, Riverland Youth Theatre, Tully Barnett, Dr. Sarah Peters and Fleur Kilpatrick, is so generous.

 

Paying writers to write. Paying writers to think. Paying writers to show their process. Paying organisations like Riverland Youth Theatre to have a staff member to document the joy, the laughter, the chaos, and the panic that comes with running a youth arts organisation. I want to see this role in all arts organisations.

 

So, as you might be able to tell, I’m taking this project incredibly seriously.

 

Until next time,

 

Kirste x

WEEK 2 - The Blank Page & Filling The Gap

Here’s what you missed at RYT

  • Term 3 classes began
  • Fleur recovering from sickness
  • Alysha out sick
  • Zoe started on placement
  • The Bacchae has its cast
  • Fleur has had some successful writing time
  • Fleur and Alysha working really hard on our major project War of the Worlds
  • Lot’s of “ahhhh panic” from Kirste (re: taking on her first class, 3rd Place with Zoe)
  • Zoe did lots of driving (re: teen pickups and drop offs, and meetings to promote her program in September!)
  • Kirste found paperwork from 2004, while sorting through the biggest pile of mystery papers on top of the filing cabinet.
  • Fleur was told she looks like Madonna
  • Gave many long hugs to our Teen in Residence
  • Teen in Residence shared raccoon memes
  • Kirste admitted to a room full of teens who like metal, rock and alt music that she’s only really been listening to Taylor Swift recently.
  • Big conversations about how school’s a badly constructed system that doesn’t actually help or benefit students. Also school has a lot of dumb rules.

 

I didn’t expect these long-winded blog segments to be part of my documentation process, but I’m finding it’s the format I gravitate towards when I start my writing day – which is interesting considering how many creative outcome ideas I have written down. But I start with a list of dot points, like above, that I’ve collected through previous weeks and it naturally forms into word-vomiting about my week, reflections and experiences.

 

 

Finding ways to fit Creative Brain between Admin Brain, Comms and Marketing Brain, Bartending Brain and Producing Brain has been a much more difficult flip than I anticipated. I don’t feel particularly creative. I’ve taken lots of notes while sitting in the office and chatting to office visitors, but finding ways to translate those conversations and experiences into creative forms has felt like such an impossible task. So candid journal-style-writing is what you’re getting – at least, for this week.

 

 

No matter how many plans I plan, the plans never plan. As a hyper-organised person, this is a devastating realisation.

 

 

Even yesterday (August 17), at my first 3rd Place & Digital Art Jams class for the term, I went in thinking I would interview one of the teens with a list of questions I preplanned, or draw the title banner for my Final Outcome piece.

 

 

Here’s what I exited with:

 

 

screenshot of a white page

 

 

 

Horrifying. I’m pretty sure everyone drew something except for me, actually.

 

 

But! The reason I came out with a blank page is because I got so caught up in talking and connecting with a bunch of cool, complicated and interesting young people, most of whom I’d met for the first time that night. Zoe and I asked the teens why they came to 3rd Place. Most of the answers were “I’m here because X is here” or “I always come to 3rd Place” or “I just wanted to hang out”, there was a really honest response from one of them.

 

 

“I struggle making friends.”

 

 

And that’s exactly what 3rd Place is for. Connection. So for that evening, I wasn’t just the artist, I was facilitating conversation, making sure everyone was included, asking intentional questions about everyone in hopes they’d all find some common ground in interests.

 

 

We’re going down a tangent now, but I promise we’re circling back. I had a conversation (many, actually) with Alysha Herrmann a few years ago, in which she asked me what my ultimate goal was in the arts industry – where do I see myself fitting? And even though I hadn’t really thought about it specifically before she asked, I told her that I wanted to be a support person for emerging artists.

 

 

As it turns out, I am doing that – in ways I didn’t expect – as RYT’s admin officer. Not in the typical admin officer role job description, but something I’m beyond happy to take on.

 

 

Teen in Residence, Rowen, came to me with a piece of writing they’re entering in a competition last week and asked if I had time to read over and give some feedback. This moment with Rowen, plus 3rd Place, were enough for me to realise I’m fulfilling that role as a support for emerging artists.

 

 

So I sent through edits, feedback and suggestions, and they sent their revisions back to me. Their piece is so powerful, visceral and paints such a clear image of their experience of gender dysphoria.

 

 

text from Rowen's piece of writing, most is blurred out. Green highlighted text shows where Kirste made edits. Highlighted text reads phrases: "ringing in my ears", firm pressure of the fabric", "in my life", "genuine", "for the first time", "tear rolling" and "."

 

 

 

It’s moments like these that show me that our roles at RYT are important in more ways than what’s seen on the surface. Sometimes we have to wear multiple hats.

 

 

Fleur for instance, comfortable in her role as Creative Director, is working so hard to hold the fort as company manager too. She’s always transparent in her feelings about how she doesn’t think she’s doing enough or doing it right. But to quote Alysha, “you are doing the hardest job at the hardest time”. Managing a youth arts organisation in regional South Australia is demanding. As the only full-time staff member at RYT, that’s so much for her to carry. But she does it.

 

 

Alysha is our Community and Digital Artist, facilitating online spaces for our outer-Riverland and statewide creatives. But she’s also lurking behind the scenes, keeping our budgets looking beautiful and organised, sitting at Fleur’s desk when Fleur takes (well deserved and long overdue leave) looking for gaps in the organisation and finding ways to fill them, and building some strong foundations for our board.

 

 

And on top of that, we’re all trying to make sure our young creatives are being supported and nurtured in a safe environment.

 

 

Yeah, no wonder the creativity gets a little lost.

 

 

So, to recap:

  • Adapt to the environment participants create and let them lead the way.
  • Plans don’t always go to plan, and that it’s okay.
  • Our roles are more than just our job titles – we do those jobs and we do them well, but this organisation requires us to be more than that. And sometimes the “more” is more important and impactful.
  • Being creative is hard.
 

Anyway, I’ll leave you with those thoughts. Until next time,

 

 

Kirste x

WEEK 3 - Refilling the Well & Sleeping

Here’s what you missed at RYT

 

  • Kirste was on leave and she has no idea what happened 🙂

 

WEEK 4 - APAX, Percy & The Writing Process

Here’s what you missed at RYT

 

  • Kirste came back from leave to 94 unread emails – Kirste’s nightmare.
  • Fleur, Alysha, Rowen, Axel, Sam and Mik go to Cairns to pitch War of the Worlds at APAX!!!
  • Rescheduled Tweens Sketch Comedy
  • RYT was visited by Maeve MacGregor and Percy!
  • Percy poured water into her gumboots
  • Percy helped Kirste with her invoices
  • Percy worked at Fleur’s desk for about 2 minutes and learned how to run the whole organisation (sticky notes are important to her process)
  • Maeve sifted through the very outdated policies and started updating them for us – featuring a very pretty spreadsheet.
  • Pussy Riot attempted murdering Kirste (Kirste is allergic to cats)
  • “Please no blood drinking in the vehicle”
  • Many cute group photos from the team in Cairns.
  • Cancelled online D&D

 

Here’s a collection of photos, you may have seen some on Facebook.

Mik, Axel, Rowen, Fleur and Sam at APAX (photo by Alysha)
Fleur, Rowen and Axel on stage, going over their scripts. Rowen is giving a thumbs up to Fleur.
Percy's wet footprints on RYT's office floor after pouring water in her gumboots.
Percy drawing Kirste a treasure map (this image was used to inspired the intro of Wayfinder!)
Rowen, Alysha and Axel smiling under an electric-blue light

I’m consciously not doing a reflection of the list above, like previous weeks. This week I actually forced myself into creative writing. No blank pages [insert flexing arm emoji]. But you’re also getting a little bit of reflection about my writing process… sorry 🙂

 

Live Doc Link – if you want to keep an eye on the story progress (and keep me accountable).

 

Three very important lessons I’ve learned as a writer:

  • 3am ideas are the most groundbreaking ideas you will ever have.
  • Write the 3am ideas down. You absolutely will not remember it tomorrow.
  • Do not question the writing process.

 

And all three of these things came into play this week. At 3am on Monday, my brain got attached to the word Barley, the word repeated over and over and over, and at some point it wore me down enough to make the decision that it would be Wayfinder’s main character’s name. When I woke up on Tuesday and read my notes back, I audibly groaned.

 

But it’s fine right, I can just change the name.

 

Wrong.

 

The thing about naming characters is sometimes the names cling to them. And no matter how many alternatives you try, they just don’t stick. Instead of trying to yank “Barley” away from my main character, I decided all my characters, creatures and places would be named after grains and grasses. As it turns out some of them are very fantasy-esque. Admittedly, this particular 3am idea wasn’t the most groundbreaking, but the solution feels pretty genius. So, if a name sounds dumb, don’t question it – it’s part of the process and definitely intentional.

 

So, what can you expect when you click into the live doc? I didn’t have much of an idea of how to open this story, but after Maeve and Percy visited RYT, and Percy drew me a personalised treasure map (pictured above), the intro became quite clear. And, as mentioned in previous weeks, my experiences at RYT are going to influence this story. A win is a win. Thanks Percy.

 

I’m not usually someone who shares my work before it’s finished. But I thought this was be a good opportunity to start moving away from that fear. Readers also have the option to make comments! If there’s something you like, or something you don’t like, or something you want to flag, or if you want to laugh at a grain-character-name, be my guest.

 

À bientôt,

 

Kirste x

WEEK 5 - TEENS, GODS & WORM CREATURES

Here’s what you missed at RYT

 

  • Kirste sat in and watched Bacchae rehearsals – hilarious and fantastic, in her opinion
  • God character exploration
  • Poe worshipping
  • Board Chair, Clint and Vice Chair, Eliza visited RYT
  • Clint fixed some wobbly tables
  • Zoe started her 4-week program Hey Anxiety! Let’s Move!
  • Discussions about crushes on animated characters
  • “Toast makes me anxious”
  • Kirste joined the Online D&D discord and watched how a game session plays out — much more corpse dragging than she expected

 

Hello there,

 

Welcome back to the “Kirste spends a lot of time trying to remember what happened this week” program. I have an awful memory, but I’m pretty good at taking notes – usually. I did not take enough notes this week. 

 

Here’s what I do know. I spent this week popping into some of our regular classes! Partly because of this project, and partly because they look like a riot (ha). But also, as the admin person I write and promote these classes but only understand the surface level of it, I’m a curious little creature and had to know more.

 

The Bacchae rehearsals and Online D&D were lots of fun, also a really great opportunity for me to spend a little more time with our regular teens – who I am slowly getting to know through 3rd Place. Each of them are such bright, energetic, funny, and complex individuals. We spent some time talking about our weeks – from trying out embroidery, to meeting cool trans artists, to new puppies, everyone had very exciting weeks.

 

This is representation of me with the teens now (ironically one of their names is Arlo):

Roza Diaz from Brooklyn 99 holding a puppy and threatening the life of anyone who messes with the puppy.

I furiously scribbled notes while everyone was exploring their characters, developing their godly-persona – what that godly-persona does, and how people can worship them. 

 

Here are some poems that came out of the dialogue exchanges.

A poem of dialogue from Bacchae rehearsals: I took your stylus What did you do I’m buffering your videos What did you do I’m glitching your mouse What did you do I’m interrupting your procrastination What did you do Be creative Make things But they’re bad It’s okay, let them be bad Create Fairy claps Be creative
A poem of dialogue from Bacchae rehearsals: You are special You’re special What do you see in the clouds Poe Dead people Cat poop Sometimes we take a long time to answer a question And searching for a word but it’s on the tip of your tongue Mhmm yes Accept help Heart hands Everyone’s brains are different We worship with self-love Caring for others Acceptance Taking our medication Hugging our emotional support plushies
A poem of dialogue from Bacchae rehearsals: I am the thing you read at night I see what you read I can see through your camera I see your history Starting to feel stressed Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me To be continued No! Bad plot means it ends Yes! Chapter updates, yeah, you’re welcome Harry Styles fics We want Gay endings Rewrite the canon Moon x Earth dynamic is overdone No, it’s a classic

And as for D&D, I had no idea what was going on. There was digital dice rolling. Math that made me go ???? Terms that made me go ahhhhhhhh??????? There was monster-fighting. The monster was a cat-hater, attacking Ryot (the D&D equivalent of theatre cat, Riot). The dragging said monster’s corpse. Talk of tearing his beak off and wearing it as a party hat. What a crazy hour. Hilarious. I couldn’t stop laughing at all the shenanigans and chaotic teamwork.

 

It’s endlessly inspiring and heartfelt to see how connected these teens are to each other, how supportive they are, and how comfortable they feel with each other, and with the RYT team. I have such a sense of pride knowing that RYT and our program has been able to be part of that connection.

 

All in all, a pretty great week.

 

See you next timmeee~

WEEK 6 - OUR IMPACT

Here’s what you missed at RYT

 

My role as Writer in Residence means documenting the everyday of RYT life and the impact we have on the people that come through those doors. Our impact is so much more than recording numbers – which is basically all our annual data reports require. So much of the Good Stuff is often missing. RYT’s impact often shines through in quality and impact rather than quantity, but there’s little opportunity to show that. Which is where I come in.

 

Due to some pretty massive projects RYT is undertaking this year, our capacity looks much different than previous years. We’re doing less term classes, and the classes we are doing are running for less weeks; this is an active decision we’ve made to make sure the staff are taking care of themselves, and to give the organisation a little room to breathe, and to give our team some time to focus on our major projects. But it does mean our participation and event numbers will look much lower than previous years, and to some that will seem like we’re doing something wrong – that we’re less successful than previous years.

 

But we’re delivering some really incredible and gigantic projects, in which a lot of our teens and participants are highly involved with. For example, War of the Worlds, this is a huge, huge, huge production and already this year our crew have made a trip to Cairns for APAX and about to embark on a two week development at Fairfax Festival in Swan Hill. The experiences, skills development and networks they’re building through these events is so valuable — in so many ways, now and in their futures.

 

We’re even seeing impacts on a smaller scale. The piece of writing that Rowen asked me to read and give some feedback on a few weeks ago (I posted about it here too) has been shortlisted for a competition! So much joy and pride radiated from them. Electrified stimming, hopping and dancing all day. 

 

Our impact holds more weight than just the number of people we have in the room.

 

This week Fleur, Alysha and I talked about the exhaustion we feel (professionally and personally) and how there are so many problems in our industry (and beyond), that we feel a little powerless against it. We often see the Big Picture Problems, and they’re quite overwhelming at times. There are so many problems to fix, but not enough time, energy, capacity, resources or solutions to even begin the repairs.

 

We do a lot of good at RYT. And we need to remember that in the midst of our “ohmygod the world is burning”, we are doing good. We’re offering incredible opportunities to our young artists – things like attending APAX, and Fairfax Festival, developing War of the Worlds with other youth arts orgs across SA, developing The Bacchae (with the potential of showing it at Adelaide Fringe and River Fringe!), offering our artistic experience to help develop their skills, offering safe spaces and people, a listening ear (for good and bad times!). I keep calling these small impacts, but I assure you that for our young artists and participants, what we do means so much to them.

 

As I said, we don’t often see the impacts our projects have. So in my admin hours, I’ve been collecting information about some of our previous major projects and events. I’m writing down the excited babblings from the participants, asking for their favourite moments, listening to all the things they’re doing.

 

In my experience, moments like these sometimes just evaporate from the internet, and the only evidence of these incredible and impactful projects lives hidden away in our brains. Which is annoying in general because these projects deserve to hold their spot on this world wide web, but also particularly to our emerging artists and participants that are looking for them in the future (sometimes for reminiscing, sometimes for CVs!). It’s so important to make sure this kind of documentation is available – for all kinds of reasons.

 

There’s now a new tab on our website totally dedicated to some of these projects. For a project like War of the Worlds, for example, I’m able to keep it updated with every progression, collect reflections from Alysha and Fleur (who can give us big-picture views for the project), testimonials about the impact the developments have had on our teens, photo documentation, and other fun bits. The page is still a work in progress, only some of the buttons work, but I’ll slowly work away on it in the coming months to make sure we’re recording our impact.

 

Until next time, 

 

Kirste x

WEEK 7 - WRITING. HARD.

Here’s what you missed at RYT

 

  • We installed sensory swings at RYT! Regular teens dove straight into the swings when they arrived at the office – very excited and even gave us a dramatic rendition of “I’m just Ken” while swinging.
  • Grant writing for building capacity – RYT is drowning in 15-year outdated policies and we need some help.
  • Is it affect or effect? And why can we never work it out?
  • Whales are cool
  • Fleur started out wanting to be a classical singer – she comes from a family of musicians – but then she wrote a play about how depressed she was, won an award at 17 and decided that playwriting was the way to go.
  • Zoe’s a writer too! She’s writing a novel.

 

This week I was supposed to write (of the creative variety), and then write about my writing. But as it turns out, I’m in a deep writing burnout. Like I said in earlier weeks, I haven’t sat down to write since late last year. I added a little to Wayfinder’s live doc, but I have to admit I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and did a little bit of drawing this week – classic Kirste procrastination (“You need to write.” // “But what if I didn’t.”).

 

While the sketches, the Pinterest board, and the playlist (links at the top!) are all adding to my understanding of the story, it’s definitely not adding any actual words. And don’t get me wrong, all these things are part of my writing process, so I’m glad I’m showing it off. But I’m aware that this week it was more about avoiding the words, than adding to my understanding of the story. Now that I’ve recognised it, I’m wondering if it’s worth changing the format of Wayfinder – maybe short comics would be a better way to tell this story.

 

Anyway, here’s the sketch of Barley:

sketch of Kirste's main character from Wayfinder, Barley

In other news, I also spent some time thinking about my unfinished novel (sitting at a respectable 60,000 words), which seems like a tiny thing, but feels like a huge win. I didn’t open the document, but I did think about how much I missed the story and characters. The next time I take some annual leave, I’d love to spend some time rereading and potentially finish it. I could absolutely use my time in this grant to revisit it, but I’d really like to finish a small writing project before jumping back into a novel-sized one because novels are very overwhelming to think about sometimes.

 

And in conclusion, writing is hard.

 

Bye bye,

 

Kirste x

WEEK 8 – Legacy, Fairfax & Cleaning

Here’s what you missed at RYT

 

  • Everyone (Fleur, Alysha, 10 of our regular teens) away for Fairfax Festival – the office is so quiet.
  • SO MANY deliveries of shiny, new, sensory toys
  • MORE EXCITING NEWS FOR ROWEN’S HEYWIRE ENTRY BUT NOT SURE IF I’M ALLOWED TO SAY ANYTHING.
  • Teens Ace and Ash tested all markers, pencils and pens in the office
  • Zoe and Kirste purged the craft supplies and gave the theatre a Big Clean
  • Kirste’s Mum and Dad helped her build a shelf for the new sensory toys

 

I’ve spent a lot of time this week thinking about legacy. Legacy in the spaces we hold, in the things we do, in the words we say, and memories we leave behind. Everything we do leaves a whisper in this world. Sometimes those whispers roam untouched forever, but oftentimes they curl around our loved ones, rest on the shoulders of friends, are kept tucked away in the pockets of anyone we’ve had conversations with – not active in everyone’s mind all the time, but not quite forgotten either.

 

How do we make conscious decisions about the legacy we’re leaving on our paths – environmentally, professionally, personally.  Are we leaving this world a better place than the way we inherited it? What will people remember about us? How do we want to be remembered? How are our everyday decisions making a difference in the world and the lives around us?

 

Short tangent: Rose & Flower Festival will be visiting RYT for a few weeks. It’s exciting to think that, after a week (with another to go!) of being alone in the office, that the hall will smell of fresh flowers, be full of warm, spring air, and be bustling with movement soon. Anyway, Zoe and I dedicated a few hours to deep cleaning the hall – mostly because of Rose & Flower Festival, but also because the hall was in desperate need of a big clean. 

 

As we swept away the decades-old dust, I thought about RYT’s legacy. There’s legacy in the equipment left out from previous events and workshops, in the pile of computer and tech donations, the mannequins dressed with dusty costumes (not sure what the costumes were for, but it was fun to imagine), the unfinished woodwork carvings and the left-behind air-dried clay creations.

 

All those events and workshops were run by our tutors adding to their individual legacy, the events are part of RYT’s legacy, but they’re also part of the participants’ legacy. Inheritance and passing down indefinitely. Skills that developed, conversations held and friendships made. All legacy. Everything we’re doing at RYT, and what has previously been done (good and bad), leaves those whispers. We see it in the unfinished projects left in cupboards, old tech towering in the store room, boxes and boxes and boxes of archived files, tangled knots of yarn, stained whiteboards that refuse to wipe clean.

 

With a 38-year legacy, RYT is full of whispers – with room for many, many more.

 

I don’t have any conclusions or answers to the big philosophical questions. I’m just the menace that poses them. So, what are the whispers you’re leaving behind?

 

Here’s a photo dump.

Week 9 - Monsters, Zombies & Aliens

Here’s what you missed at RYT

  • Not much – this is week 2 of an empty-ish office
  • Kirste and Kirste’s mum recycled the cans and bottles
  • Lent out two boxes of wine glasses and two easels  
  • Three teens who didn’t go to Fairfax came to hang out on the sensory swings and play board games with Zoe
  • Zoe’s teen watched a lot of Heartstopper and gifted us with a whiteboard full of quotes (pictured below)

I don’t know what to tell you guys. Teenagers like energy drinks. I liked them as a teenager, too (I’m now 28 and no longer like them but will still drink them). They like them a lot. They don’t like them for the caffeine hit, and in fact, they drink so many that the energy component of the energy drink has zero effect on them anymore. Some love to take caffeine naps. Most of our teens are neurodivergent, energy drinks have a much different and mysterious effect on their brains than neurotypical brains. Our recycling bins are overflowing with the cans.

 

One of the few teens that didn’t go to Fairfax visited the office a few times this week and between their Heartstopper watch party, was decorating our whiteboards with their thoughts and quotes they like. Including a quote about teenagers being prepared for the immediate destruction and survival of a zombie apocalypse. You could walk up to any teenager at RYT – maybe any teenager, period – and they could tell you their very detailed plan of how to survive a zombie apocalypse. Guaranteed. And when I say prepared, I mean fully fledged plans – where to camp out, where to get supplies, delegating roles to each other, how to make defences. They are ready.

 

I wonder how – in a hypothetical zombie apocalypse – how they would handle the energy drink shortage. I reached out to one of our Teen in Residence and posed this very scenario, and the result was: surrender to the aliens. Survival minimal without Monster.

 

 

 

This was a very niche topic for your Wayfinder update, but honestly I think it’s a nice reflection of our our thought processes work here and how inspiration for this blog strikes  – do something (recycling cans and bottles), think something (so many energy drink cans), think something else kind of related (teens really love this stuff), forget about it, do something else (teen writing quotes), think something (zombie apocalypse quote), remember that other thing you forgot, and in this case, mash them up (no monsters in the zombie apocalypse, teens would be good at surviving the zombies, but not the Monster shortage).

 

Until next time (which is right now because I didn’t upload this when I should have last week),

 

Kirste x

Week 10 - WAIT, HOW MANY?

 

In light of Week 9’s theme of energy drink consumption, and a lovely chat with Dr. Sarah Peters and Tully Barnett from Flinders University this week, I’ve been struck with inspiration. And this week we’re testing out a creative data spreadsheet.

 

I’ve talked briefly about how RYT is required to collect numbers for our funders – this includes how many events we’re hosting, participant numbers, website hits, how many of those people are under 25, how many events are we hosting for families – the categories can get pretty specific. These numbers are important to see in an overall sense, to understand the demographic we’re hitting, and maybe areas where we need to put more focus. It’s also interesting for us as staff to see those numbers, sometimes after a year-long program everyone will sit back and say “wow why are we so exhausted?”, and the collection of numbers will say “because you’ve tutored 150+ classes and seen 1000+ participants in that time”.

 

So, with this in mind, I’ve recreated a spreadsheet that looks similar to the one we complete about every six months for our funders. But this one is to collect numbers that encompass the RYT vibes, that reflect the soul of the organisation. These are the numbers we see on a daily basis at the office that aren’t necessarily more important than the other numbers, but they are equally important to fully understand Riverland Youth Theatre as a whole. 

 

We’re not just the amount of classes we run or the amount of participants that walk through the door. We’re the 57 crumpled Monster cans ready for recycling, we’re the thousands of kilometres travelled in the last two months, we’re the 13 pots of tea consumed, we’re the limitless words of support and comfort offered to distressed teens.

 

I’ll be updating this spreadsheet as often as I remember (and have time during admin hours). Thanks to our regular teens for the category input opinions and Fleur for adding her own numbers.

 

Until next time,

 

Kirste x

Week 11 - Chaos, chaos, chaos

Here’s what you missed at RYT (in just one day):

 

  • Storytelling consult for one of our P.O.T. LUCK storytellers and contract signing
  • Meeting: Planning 2024/25
  • Meeting: War of the Worlds
  • Meeting: Policy updates
  • Visit #1 – promoting their event
  • Visit #2 – someone wanted keys to the room next door and discussed the floor
  • Collected the Murray Pioneer for the RYT article (and Kirste’s brother’s interview!)
  • Phone call asked for ticket prices for Spooktacular
  • Planning for RYT role for Spooktacular on Friday
  • Followed up on a grant we are waiting to hear on
  • Followed up on a contract waiting to be signed
  • Sent a free ticket offer around
  • Set up radio interview about Ally Awards/Alternative Prom
  • Set up a meeting with AC Care about a homeless kid
  • Fleur had a blood test
  • Meeting: Youth Arts Chair with Theatre Network Australia
  • Requested a variation for some funding
  • Visit #3 and #4 – Teen and Li coming to craft
  • Clay teeth being made in the shared workspace
  • Visit #5 – Teen for Bacchae monologue writing with Fleur
  • Teens, Kirste, Li teaching Fleur about fanfic (pairing, tags, trigger warnings) and incorporating them into Bacchae monologue (Kirste can’t believes she gets paid to be here)
  • Sent feedback for Exploring Neurodiversity (attended the day before)
  • Drove a teen home

 

I had a lot of input from Fleur and Alysha for the list above – they work incredibly hard and talk to a lot of people to ensure we can do fun things and fund those fun things. This is a compiled list of all the things that happened at RYT (and Alysha’s home office in Mount Gambier) just in one day. One day. And these are just the Big Things we did, not including all the little bits of admin and the mountains of emails we sent through the day.

 

Sometimes we get to the end of our days and we’re exhausted (after-dinner naps are a regular occurrence at my house), and feel like we haven’t accomplished much. But this is the proof that we do. Look at that behemoth of a list, yikes.

 

Anyway, I thought a lot about the weird guilt that comes along with these thoughts. Our to-do lists can get so long, the expectation we put on ourselves to complete them is sometimes unrealistic. I know there are things that need to be done, and sometimes deadlines loom heavily, but our bodies and brains need rest. Otherwise how do we carry on for the next day – the next week, month, year, decade. Sometimes we need to close up shop an hour early.

 

Even in the context of this blog – week 11’s post is a week late and it’s because I didn’t complete a mini outcome, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Again, the guilt nipped at the back of my neck. So instead of forcing myself into a creative headspace that isn’t working (writing), I let myself channel a form that is working (drawing). I was kind of hoping this project would inspire me to jump back into writing, but if it’s not working it’s not working. 

 

Take a step back, jump back in later.

 

And look what came out of it: drawings of our 3rd Place teens. Our little crew of funny, caffeine addicted, creative, compassionate, and wonderful young people.

Week 12 - REVOLVING

What happened this week? I could not tell you. Awful memory + tired brain are factors coming into play here.

 

I do remember talking to Fleur about how quickly our teens are growing up, and how soon they might move on and away from the Riverland, onto their adult lives, into jobs, into their dreams. But it got me thinking about how our door is always open for those teens who need another space, for the teens who want to create, for the teens who want to find their peers. Our space is always changing, revolving. Ready to welcome the next wave of teen chaos to crash through our doors.

 

We are the open arms

Warmth, welcome, compassion

Twists and curls

Through archways and doors

 

With these thoughts in mind, I made a revolving door style zine of the RYT office that I’m very proud of (all from memory, patting myself on the back). Below is the digital download if you want your own mini RYT office and please feel free to colour it!

 

ZINE FOLDING TUTORIAL 

Week 13 - MEET THE TEENS

Here’s some things we hear the teens say:

  • “Do you know how much Dangerfield shit you could buy with that???” – Teen in Residence after reading through their name and gender change forms and finding the fine amount if you commit forgery.
  • Me: “You guys don’t know Hilary Duff?” // Teen: “I know Hilary Clinton.”
  • Teen 1: “I had the biggest crush on Jack Skellington.” // Teen 2: “I don’t know if it’s a crush or gender envy, but same.” //  Teen 1: “I wanna cosplay him.”
  • “Toast makes me anxious.”
  • “Pigeons are FBI agent droids.”
  • Teen: shows Fleur and Kirste 1000 memes and Pinterest outfits

At 3rd Place this week, I asked our teens to participate in a questionnaire. In part, I was trying to get to know them, learn more about their connection with RYT, collecting data for future RYT plans, and some of their questions will help me make some decisions about the Wayfinder creative outcome.

Interestingly, our teens are always up for discussing things as a group, but all three of them opted for the written version (always, always great to give alternative forms of communication). One of our teens went non-verbal – they were still happy, engaged and communicating with us, just no words – and one of our teens really wanted to listen to their music. They made sure to ask any clarifying questions, the curious creatures – “what are the dice for?”, “what do the different cards mean?”, “what’s the agenda here, Kirste?”.

Honestly, as a curious creature myself, I just wanted to get a peek into the minds of our most creative participants and they delivered. What an interesting and wonderful collection of young people we have.

Hi there, state your name for the record? 

A

A2

L

R

 

Age? 

A – 14

A2 – 14

L – 15

R – 16

 

Species? 

A – witch

A2 – human

L – pan child

R – Human, unfortunately.

 

You’re a regional artist — what does that even mean? 

A – I live in the Riverland 

A2 – I do art in a specific region

L – an artist from a regional place

R – An artist that lives and operates within a small community

 

You come to RYT a lot. What do you do at RYT? 

A – chill and hang out with my friends

A2 – draw

L – sit, read stuff on my phone, and other activities

R – Help out and hang around the office, help with some events

 

What kind of things you makin’ or doin’? Writing? Gaming? Drawing? 

A – drawing creepy dark anime sketches. Listening to indie rock and heavy metal

A2 – drawing a lot of shit

L –  writing, gaming and reading.

R – Writing, gaming, drawing, making pins, painting

 

Who’s your favourite fictional character right now? Tell me about them. 

A – Klaus Mikaetson (The Originals), Jesse (My Babysitter is a Vampire), Damon and Kai (Vampire Diaries)

A2 – Ahsoka Tano (Star Wars) – is a padawan and the old apprentice of Anakin Skywalker. (Kirste’s note: same buddy)

L – Mackenzie (Lucifer) – she’s a demon bounty hunter!

R – Sanji, literal malewife

 

Psychic powers, wings or fireballs? 

A – Demon powers

A2 – Psychic powers

L – Wings

R – Fireballs

 

If you could run RYT for a day and there were zero limitations, what would you do? What would it look like? 

A – I would make it dark with Slipknot and Cranberries posters. I would make everything a gothic and grunge theme. I would draw anime dark creepy shit and hang those up. I would drink ice coffee and eat sushi all day.

A2 – Drawing and eating. It’s already pretty cool.

L – It would be absolute chaos! Lots of music and Monsters.

R – I have no idea, that is WAY too much power

 

How has RYT changed you or how have you changed RYT? 

A – RYT has made me feel more myself and I’ve been able to meet new people

A2 – Drawing

L – I have become more accepting of myself and I made new friends

R – It has made me feel more confident and comfortable in myself

 

What do you love most about coming to RYT? 

A – I can be myself and spend time with my friends.

A2 – People are cool and don’t hate me for being who I am.

L – The freedom of being myself

R – It is safe and comfortable

 

Roll the dice (a whole set) what are the numbers? 

A – 4, 30, 1, 12, 4, 3

A2 – 4, 4, 6, 6, 20, 11

L – 3, 2, 6, 2, 16, 6

R – 3, 40, 5, 12, 3, 4, 2

 

What kinds of events do you dream about happening at RYT? 

A – Things that have to do with LGBTQIA+ and stuff that’s different from normal events

A2 – Drawing

L – Monster drink party and our very own CosCon (Cosplay Convention)

R – More Alternative Proms

 

What do you love most about being creative? 

A –  I can go all out with my imagination and there are no limits

A2 – Drawing

L – My liberties

R – I am in control

  

Pull a card (deck was full of Pokemon Yu-Gi-Oh, Uno, playing cards and tarot cards).

A – Scyther (Pokemon)

A2 – Dark Blade (Yu-Gi-Oh!)

L – Monster Reincarnation (Yu-Gi-Oh!)

R – Temperance (tarot)

 

If you were in charge of RYT and you had the power to give it a new name, what name would you give it? 

A – Hall of Weirdos

A2 – Drawing and Theatre People

L – Gaybies Association

R – No idea

 

This is a magic glass ball. What does this do? 

A – It can show you people you want to see. You are able to see what they’re doing.

A2 – Thingy thing things

L – Gives me my gender and an endless Monster allowance

R – Shows you everyone that is talking shit about you behind your back

 

Week 14 & 15 - ????

What happened? Where are we? When are we? Who are we?

 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I’ve missed two (three) weeks of updating this blog. Ally Awards, Alt Prom, Calamity Corsages, and ADSA’s conference in Adelaide – Artists, Archives and Absences (more about this in the next post!). It’s been a few busy, busy weeks. I’m very tired.

 

Through my admin hours, I’ve been slowly adding to our Projects tab with things from Ally Awards and Alternative Prom – Alysha has also added to the War of the Worlds and Honeyshire pages, so we’re on the way to that page being complete with fully functioning links!

 

From Alternative Prom, our friend, Sage Wilde curated an activity where everyone wrote down where they think they’d like to be in 10 years time. Rainbow pieces of paper filled with dreams and goals and hopes and excitement quickly started filling up the make-shift clothesline.

 

I’ve also since made it into a little booklet that lives in our office.

  • Boss of RYT (from our 9 year old participant who’s determined to be boss in two years)
  • Being gayer and greater than ever
  • Mechanical engineer
  • Married to Sage

 

But it really got me thinking where will we be in 10 years time? Cue existential dread.

 

Such a daunting question and, honestly, it stumped me for a little while. I sat with my pieces of paper for a long while before writing anything. The art industry is still new to me (in terms of a career with a tangible salary), so it’s hard to think about where I will be in 10 years within this world. I want to write, draw, create, work with young artists… so hopefully somewhere there.

 

RYT is almost 40 years old. Where will it be at 50? What will it look like? Who will sit at these desks? Where will our teenagers be? Will people still be reading this blog after it’s over (hello if you’re reading in the year 2033)? What does our legacy look like and how has it changed?

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I’m looking at the calendar full of projects we have planned for 2024. I’m thinking about how this time next year there will be another RYT office baby. I’m thinking about how we communicate with the community about who we are, what we do and when we do it. I’m thinking about how we tell people we’re more than the Riverland, we’re more than Youth and we’re more than Theatre. I’m thinking about all the questions I have and how distressed I get when I don’t have all the answers.

 

Sarah, Tully and I have had these incredible conversations to talk through some of the last couple of points. So in the next few weeks I’ll keep thinking thoughts, and hopefully those thoughts lead to some answers.

 

Tune in next time,

 

Kirste x

Week 16 - Away, Away, Away

I was not at RYT this, neither was Fleur! We were in Adelaide for the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama & Performance Studies conference – Artists, Archives and Absences. I was going to write a whole thing that reflected my experience of the conference, but instead here’s a bunch of out of context notes copied and pasted straight from my notes app that I took through the sessions:

 

Dramaturgy — after two panels I still don’t know what this is means lmao (make that meme ‘I still don’t know what this word means and at this point I’m too afraid to ask)

I love that academics choose something they’re very excited about and get to nerd out about it for their thesis and at conferences. Hell yeah, go you. Kinda like a PowerPoint Presentation Party.

 

Having a hard time understanding some of the talks, just a lot of vocab that I don’t understand. Also the thesis language is dense af. I’m so deeply impressed by all of these people.

 

Sometimes it feels like I need to read the relevant texts before listening to the conference or work within that niche of the industry to full appreciate and understand. Something I’ve always found challenging about academics. Why is the language always so inaccessible? Or am I just stupid?

 

Really loved Hayden Moon’s take during his session. He painted a beautiful picture of all the things I needed to understand before he delved into the academic nitty gritty.

 

‘The arts matter, but please don’t do illegal things.’ – Davina Wright and Meredith Rogers

 

Something about being in a room full of artists makes me remember that I am an artist. And that I love it. And that I miss it.

 

I wonder if I were to go back to uni if I would have a different appreciation for it. Maybe at 18 I wasn’t ready to take on the academic world. But at 28 I would have been. Without my uni degree and wallowing in 3 years of the Art Sads would I have met Alysha? Would I have worked with Writers SA? Would I be working with RYT and Our Town Berri? Would I go back, absolutely not.

 

Professional development is so integral to artists. Really happy I get to be here with Fleur.

 

Fleur does an incredible job of advocating for me as an artist, not only by initiating the conversation with Sarah and Tully about my residency, but making sure I’m included in arts conversations and invited to events (this conference).

 

List of words that make me feel out of place (stupid)

  • dramaturgy
  • Neo liberal 

 

How many compliments Fleur received on her dinosaur dress: xxxx

 

I told Fleur about how I feel like I’m not understanding anything — very much a fish out of water kind of experience. There are always going to be spaces that feel inaccessible to people. How do we use language in away that everyone can understand and feel welcome in?

 

The chewed end of a pencil. Furiously scribbling notes. Names of authors and academics that have written dense texts that I will never read.

 

Creative vs academic. Performers are wonderful speakers. Super engaging and more accessible. Body moving, not reading directly from paper, videos, etc.

 

Ghosts walk these halls, 

Sit in these empty seats

Linger in these presentations

Their shadows smear the work of the living

Filling the hollows between their words

Haunting

Ghosts attach themselves to these archives

Waiting for each page to turn

Rediscovering the hurt

Experiencing the trauma once more

Teaching our futures

Haunting

Ghosts slide down cheeks in wet streaks

Sing songs of past lives

Reemerge in memories and faces

Crack the cast of newly healed skin

Demanding to be remembered

Haunting

Ghosts swirl in the chest of failures

In the memory of footprints leading up staircases

Curling in the cradle of hearts

Overshadowing the fun and the good and the friends

In the final handshake freeing me

Haunting

These ghosts will remain.

 

Weird being back at Flinders, a place that didn’t leave the best taste in my mouth. I applied and was denied a place in the Honours program. I’m sitting in the lecture theatre where I took and failed my first exam. Linguistics. A class I didn’t want to take, but the option for elective classes was slim. In fact, most of my university degree was elective classes. Don’t think about it. You’ll get angry again. Anyway I’m sitting in the lecture hall where I failed my first exam, and I’m sitting here as an invited artist. I’m here representing Riverland Youth Theatre with my very cool boss. With a little bit of perspective, I know I would not be where I am without the bad experience of my uni degree. But this place, that diploma shoved somewhere on a shelf in my wardrobe, is not the reason I’m in the arts industry today.

 

Fleur is so great at talking about RYT. So great. There’s lots of highlighting the wonderful things we do, while also bringing attention to the fact that an arts organisation probably shouldn’t be the ones responsible for these things (feeding food insecure teens, sitting in hospitals with teens who’s parents won’t, booking mental health appointments, attending meetings when teens experience homophobic bullying, etc.).

 

As someone that uses a lot of brackets (I like that it seems like there’s another, much smaller voice working at the same time as my big voice) bibliographies and referencing hurts my fucking brain.

 

Add to spreadsheet: How many times have we loaned out the easels

 

My creative data spreadsheet was a hit – many laughs, what a win.

 

Writing sometimes doesn’t look like writing, sometimes writing is gardening, doing dishes, showering, walking, playing with your pets. Just as attending a conference isn’t always being at the conference, sometimes it’s going to a plant nursery and buying chicken food with your boss. Recovery from social interaction is definitely part of the conference experience.

 

This is like the 1ooth time I’ve thought about this in two days. I know a thesis is mainly meant for other academics to read, but it always brings me back to how we intentionally use words and language. I’ve had this conversation with Alysha about if we were to hand a contract to our teens, would they understand it? Is it functional? I don’t read academic articles or chapters because I often feel like I don’t understand what they’re talking about. Some of these topics were so interesting to me and I want to continue hearing/reading these topics, but I think I’ll lose interest if I can’t understand it. Is there a reason academics write like this? Is there a generator that can simplify the language for me? How can I break into this world without wanting to curl into myself for feeling stupid?

 

Our teens would love so many of these PHD students, Tris Niemi, Hayden Moon and Leigh Fitzpatrick. Fleur had a chat with Tris and I think they’re interested in coming down to visit the teens and even come to Bacchae when it’s showing in Adelaide! I’m so excited for our teens. The love meeting queer arty adults.

 

I’ve been so lucky to not only attend this conference, but be invited to attend and have my work featured and promoted in one of the panels.

 

Always feeling so fortunate to have adults (established artist artist adults) that are always making sure I don’t get lost at sea the the waves of beer and lemon lime bitters (bartending) and file organising (admin).

Week 17 - THE LAST WEEK?

Hello, for what may be the very last time (or… is it?).

 

I’ve had such a wonderful time collecting and documenting the impact, value and chaos of the RYT office. It’s been a lovely way to stretch my creative muscles after being scrunched up like a prawn at my admin desk, scanning over spreadsheets and checklists like a madwoman.

 

Unfortunately, the funding for this project has come to an end! Somewhere along the line, my pay rate was adjusted which unfortunately caused a domino effect to this project — chewing up the funding quicker than planned.

 

So, one of my proudest contributions to this project is the Creative Data spreadsheet and here are some highlights of the totals! (Sept – Dec)