Binge Fringe Magazine

INTERVIEW: A Digital Pint with… Surfacing Acts Theatre, telling us ‘How We Begin’ at VAULT Festival

Today we’re joined by the team behind the VAULT Festival queer New Writing piece How We Begin to talk bisexuality, queer love stories, visibility, twenty-somethings and Gin & Tonics. Surfacing Acts Theatre comprises of the show’s Writer, Elizabeth Lewerenz (EL) and Director, Elizabeth Benbow (EB). They are joined by Antonia Georgieva (AG), the show’s Co-Producer, to discuss the process behind bringing a queer love story to the stage and what it means to be bringing a show that puts bisexuality at the fore to VAULT Festival in February.

You can catch How We Begin between February 14th and 19th at 18:30, 18:00 and 15:00. Tickets are available through the VAULT Festival Box Office.

JM: “Hi Elisabeth, you’ve written a show for VAULT about a queer love affair – tell us about your process and what inspired you to put pen to paper.”

EL: “Hi Binge Fringe! I wouldn’t say the play is strictly autobiographical, but it is based on a situation from my own life. I wrote “How We Begin” during an emotionally turbulent time and it was a good way for me to put some of those complicated feelings to the page and to start dealing with them (I should mention that I don’t think playwriting is a great form of therapy. I did go to actual therapy afterwards). The play came together fairly quickly – I wrote the first scene to apply for the VAULT New Writers Programme and had a draft ready for rehearsal a couple of months later. I met our director, Elizabeth Benbow, towards the end of the VAULT programme and the play grew from there, so it’s a pleasure to bring it back to the festival where we feel it has always belonged.”

JM: “How has the process been working on such an intimate piece – what have you gotten from the experience of it all?”

EL: “It’s been a joy. How We Begin was my first experience of a professional rehearsal room and it’s been wonderful to witness everyone’s process and to see how the play changes and grows when it passes through everyone’s hands.”

EB: “I love every minute I get to work on How We Begin. We’ve strived to make it a collaborative process, with everyone having a voice and a space to play with any and all ideas. Because of the intimate nature of the piece, we wanted to create a safe and creative space, and it has been an utter joy to experience everyone throw themselves in whole-heartedly, and share and create together. It’s how I always wish to work.”

AG: “It’s been a dream come true to work on How We Begin and bring it to the VAULT Festival audience. The play is coming full circle and will hopefully find its audience back where it all started. I’ve really enjoyed seeing it all come together and could not be prouder of what the team has achieved and is continuously working towards.”

JM: “Tell us a little about the vibe and atmosphere you’re hoping to create as the show arrives at VAULT Festival in February, what can the audience expect?”

AG: “How We Begin is ultimately a love story, celebrating the sometimes messy and complicated aspects of being queer, grappling with your identity and finding your place in the world. As a love story, the show quite fittingly opens on Valentine’s Day – a day to celebrate love, but also a reminder that not everyone is able to celebrate their love in the way they might want. We hope our audiences feel the love that has gone into making the show and providing meaningful representation of queerness on stage, and immerse themselves into the atmosphere of celebrating all love.”

JM: “Your team describes themselves as wanting to tell “powerful, joyful, messy stories of queer female love” – what drives that and how does that piece fit into this landscape?”

EL: “The number of queer stories on our stages and screens has definitely increased in the last couple of years, but I still feel like stories about bisexual characters are few and far between. It took me until my mid-twenties to figure out I was bisexual and I think part of the reason that the realisation came so late was because there were next to no bisexual people or characters that I could identify with. Visibility isn’t the whole battle, but it is important, so I hope How We Begin helps with that, even a little bit. I also firmly believe that queer stories should be allowed to be messy, because figuring yourself out often is.”

EB: “So often queer stories, particularly female-centred queer stories, are told through the male-gaze, hyper-sexualised, or end in tragedy.  We feel so passionate about pushing against these stereotypes, and telling the everyday unique, simple, messy, complicated, beautiful lives of queer women and their relationships. As Elisabeth said, Bi visibility isn’t the whole battle, but it’s certainly part of it, and one that is so often hidden, and if our play sheds just a little light on that, we’re on the right path.”

JM: “Tell us a little about how How We Begin connects with the queer community.”

EB: “We wish to connect with as many people from the queer community as possible, both those within the theatre world and outside of it. Particularly twenty-something’s, because representation matters, so please get in touch and come along!”

AG: “We are also exceptionally proud that the script was selected for publication by Nick Hern Books. It features in the Plays from VAULT 6 anthology alongside 4 other plays. It’s a real recognition of the great quality of Ellie’s writing and the impact the piece can have.”

JM: “Now that we’re gearing up for VAULT 23, what are you most excited for?”

EB: “I cannot wait to share in those dark and damp tunnels, with all the other talented artists, VAULT Festival really is a family and playground for anyone in the theatre. And, of course, to see as many shows as possible!”

AG: “I’m excited just to be back at the VAULT Festival after last year’s cancellation. This festival and the space it holds in is a celebration of the amazing talent across the performing arts.  I’m also really excited to see how the audiences will react to How We Begin. It’s a really special piece and it’s been a long time coming, so I can’t wait to be back in the buzzing atmosphere of the VAULT Festival.”

JM: “Fitting with the themes of our magazine, if your show was an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage (think cocktails, mocktails, shots, beers, be creative!) what would it be?”

EL: “I think How We Begin would be a Grapefruit Gin & Tonic – fruity and bright with lots of zest. “

EB: “I reckon we’d be an Irish Espresso Martini – utterly delicious, a little bit naughty, and could potentially keep you up at night!”

AG: “I’ll have one of each!”

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together novel-length reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2023), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them