Lisa Fa’alafi is an independent performance maker, choreographer, designer and the co-director of Polytoxic, an artist collective that creates work with a political, contemporary and satirical bite. This April, she’s heading to St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts to perform Hot Brown Honey, a show that’s loud, proud and feminist AF (we personally CANNOT WAIT for this show).
We chatted with her this week.
SDTC: You wear a lot of hats. Does one come more naturally to you?
LF: Wearing multiple hats came out of necessity. As an independent artists for over twenty years, you quickly understand that it’s vital you operate across many roles. You become your own producer, marketing person, business manager AND artist all at the same time. Funding in the arts can be so competitive and the game pushes artists to be all of these things all the time, so over the years I have acquired many different skills that I now utilize in my work, and I try to share these with younger artists.
Luckily, I have always had a love for all aspects of making. I’m quite a visual director, so when embarking on making work, I often see all the aspects and have the skills to deliver it. Thankfully, now that I have found my collaborators, I am able to bring my ideas and concepts to a highly skilled team and deliver an even higher level of excellence, and that’s when it gets really fun.
Walk us through a typical “tour” day.
When Hot Brown Honey are on tour, we are like family. We often share houses together, so making breakfast and morning chats are the usual start of the day. For me, I take the morning slow: coffee in the sun, a few emails and some stretching. The day then can be anything from media interviews, fixing costumes, hand-making our merchandise, meeting local community to sometimes having some self-care time like nature walks or eating great local food. Then, before you know it, it is show call. Makeup time, warm-up the body and voice, sound check, and then it’s time to shine!
Next we assemble at the doors to the theatre, ready to meet our audience as they enter the theatre (now the Hive), make them feel welcome and relaxed and ready to make some noise with us. Then it’s that moment when you take a big breath to ensure the body, mind and heart are ready to deliver seventy-five minutes of fire, sweat, raw, fierce, femme-empowering performance!
We invite the audience to engage, to raise their voices with us, dance in the aisles, feel united in this moment alongside us. The show finishes in the foyer with our audience. This is a time for reflection, conversation, tears, selfies, hugs and a debrief. We give this time to our audience, so if they need to unpack anything they have seen, we are there with open hearts for discussion.
End of the night, the false lashes come off, reset the show, share notes, pack bags, jackets on to walk home for cups of tea, showers and to bed, ready to do it all again tomorrow! #HBHlife.
Your work doesn’t shy away from tackling political and social issues. Why is it important for you to grapple with them through art?
These issues are our every day. Artists all around the world use their art forms to make sense of the world they live in, and we are no different. Art has a huge capacity to make change in the world, and we feel the urgency for change is real, so we use our time—our art—to do exactly that. We know making space for our stories, making noise about injustice, smashing stereotypes and letting others see faces like theirs reflected back on stage is important. We do it for those unseen, erased, forgotten so that together we can feel empowered, loved, respected and important.
In the words of Dr. Angela Davis: “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”
Have you always felt this confident in yourself and your work?
I think as an artist you are continually on a roller coaster ride between confidence and learning and almost imposter syndrome and feeling unworthy. It’s the nature of what we do. You often have to be vulnerable to perform and tell your own stories, so that can be challenging to your psyche. Luckily, I have surrounded myself with other powerful artists, so in those times of doubt, we are able to lift each other up.
What is the best thing about being your current age?
Now heading into my mid-forties, I feel more myself than ever before. As a woman, I think I have battled many social and cultural structures during my life, but from talking to other women, by the time your forties come around, a lot of us start to care less and less about what’s expected of us. By now it’s definitely our time to shine. We are matriarchs in training, we are role models and with that comes a new sense of belief in oneself. #Decolonize&Moisturize
What changes would you like to see ASAP for Women of Colour?
That we can be safe in the world. We need to be seen, heard, we need safe spaces, we need people to stand along side us for injustice, to wake up, rise up to rewrite a system that has done nothing but empower only a few. We cannot make all the changes alone, this needs to be a community effort. In the words of our elder Dr. Lilla Watson: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
What do you hope audiences take away from Hot Brown Honey?
In an act of Radical Fierce Love, we at Hot Brown Honey lay it on the table. We invite audiences into our world where we stand centre stage shining brightly for all to see. Too often we are portrayed as the savage, the maid, the victim, the perpetrator, but in our shows we defy these labels. We ask you to celebrate with us. Celebrate all that we are.
Our Truth. Our Courage. Our Complexities. Our Resilience.
We ask audiences to join us as we take back our stories and explode the stereotypes that follow us. Together, let us laugh at them, dismantle them, and re-write them with open arms and middle finger raised.
We welcome audiences into a world where, for a moment, the paradigm shifts, and where we strut as the Latest Models of Our Ancestry.
For us, this is our call: to dance, to shout, to laugh, to cry, to rise up and to transform current conversations.
Welcome to the Hive. Welcome to Hot Brown Honey. We are here.
Hot Brown Honey runs April 5 & 6 at the St Lawrence Centre for the Arts. Get your tickets NOW so you don’t miss out!