The Felicity Castagna play The Incredible Here and Now which Jeneffa Soldatic co-directs with Wayne Harrison brings to life memories of coming of age in Sydney’s west, where cruising in the Trans Am and hanging at Maccas is de rigueur. Jeneffa Soldatic has taken the time to have a chat with me about the play, plus her time in New York at the Actor’s Studio and acting with Al Pacino.
Joy – How did you get involved in the project?
Jeneffa – Wayne Harris who I’m co-directing with came and saw a show that I directed in Los Angeles and then he had mentioned the company (National Theatre of Parramatta) so I came along to co-direct with him.
Joy – Do you have an acting background?
Jeneffa – I do, I’m one of the few Australian life members of the Actor’s Studio . I graduated from the drama school in 2004 and then that year I got accepted as a life member, which was quite something at the time.
Joy – that is something, that’s huge…it has such an incredible reputation.
Jeneffa – I know and I really wanted to be a life member since I was a child growing up, and my mum was obsessed with a lot of the actors like the late James Dean and Marlon Brando…
Joy – and what about Al Pacino and Ellen Burstyn?
Jeneffa – yeah I got to meet all of those people and work with them. I’ve been very fortunate.
Joy – that’s amazing
Jeneffa – I remember I had my best friend in from Ingleburn visiting and I was rehearsing and Al was there, it was just me and Al in the studio and my friend had no idea who he was until later on and then she was like ‘Oh my God!’
Joy – With The Incredible Here and Now, did Michael feel like a real character to you? And did the characters resonate personally ?
Jeneffa - I think all of them do, I was talking about this with Wayne just now about the similarities between myself growing up, I grew up southwest and Parramatta is probably a little bit fancier than Ingleburn and Campbelltown but there is still that same idea that you are from a regional place close enough to the city but still a place that has its own identity, like Ingleburn has its own identity. And I’m now finding that at 42 that every time I come home to Australia for work I don’t want to spend my time at Bondi where I used to live for many years, I want to spend it out in Ingleburn.
Joy – How different do you think Parramatta is now?
Jeneffa – It’s changed so much since I was a kid, it’s changed a lot, the tall buildings, and the Westfield just keeps getting bigger and bigger. But is still has that hill that I always remember as a kid, going up the hill in my aunt’s old Holden, I was always freaked out as a kid: ‘oh no, are we going to make it, or will the lights turn red?’
Joy – that’s funny, my mum had an old VW like that. How long are you in Sydney for, the whole run?
Jeneffa – Yes, I’ll be here the whole time and then I have to go back to LA for a job in television, a new pilot. So my background is in acting, and I left because there were no real opportunities and it was very difficult coming from the suburbs, I found, whereas when I went overseas acting was as accessible to me as it was to anyone. Now with the National Theatre out in Parramatta the accessibility for the local people out west is extraordinary in the local stories.
Joy – And people really want to hear the local stories.
Jeneffa – yes, there is a true lack of them. I think everything that the National Theatre of Parramatta is doing is extraordinary: developing playwrights, developing this story and others, there is a strong voice out here that needs to be told and there are a lot of stories and there is a lot of talent.
Joy – And what is next for you, after the LA pilot?
Jeneffa – Olivia Simone who is in this play has just written a film, an Australian film and I’m going to be directing that , and we’ll be filming that in Italy it’s a beautiful movie called ‘Running on Perfect Time’, she will play the lead.
Joy – On a last note, what do you want people to get, or take away from The Incredible Here and Now?
Jeneffa – The thing I love about this family and this story that we’re telling is that this family are really proud to be from Parramatta and they want to stay in Parramatta, and that your identity is in the place where you live, and that that’s a good thing. And this family have a lot of love, which is great.
Thanks so much to Jeneffa for the chat and we look forward to seeing The Incredible Here and Now at Riverside Theatre Parramatta, for more information and tickets see: https://riversideparramatta.com.au/