On the Couch with Hazem Shammas

AAR-Bell-Shakespeare-Macbeth-Hazem-Shammas-photo-by-Pierre-ToussaintWho is Hazem Shammas?
Hazem is an actor, optimist, family man and earth lover born in Palestine and raised in Sydney. He is a father of three young boys and likes to read, play music, stay fit and walk for endless hours anywhere and everywhere preferably in a mountain valley somewhere wild.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I always tossed up between a national park ranger or firefighter. Maybe both one day as we face more global warming events.

Who inspires you and why?
Every selfless fearless warrior fighting for climate and social justice everywhere mostly unrecognized; Also the dynamic group of Arab Australian brothers and sisters who are changing the literary, art and storytelling landscape of Australia, the contemporary Australian Arab literature and art movements now are lead by so many inspiring artists, many friends who continually inspire me redefining what our stores are in our own words, on our terms and beyond the tropes, and above all, Suzannah my wise, strong and tireless partner and mother of our beautiful boys who, as with mums everywhere, sacrifice the most, do the hardest work with the biggest hearts and absolutely no reward.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Be the change. Face that figure in the mirror and do the real deep tough change. That’s the ultimate challenge beyond any burpee or boot camp obsession. I think we can all make a difference if we sort our own shit out. Stop, slow down, breathe, look at what we really need and want, look at our consumption, look out how we harm ourselves and our world, look at how we keep our homes, ourselves, what we put in our bodies, what we express out of them be it thought or action, how we look after our kids, not just ours but each others together, look at how we treat our elders and what we learn from them, look at how we open or close to different cultures. We’re flawed fragile imperfect beings that are capable of compassion, joy and gratitude always for ourselves, each other and the earth. and plant more and more trees.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
My family village in the Upper Galilee is always a must visit, I like going back to connect with our roots, then an unwind in Tuscany or anywhere in Italy, the country and the people feel like family, Suz has lived there in the past and we love big there.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
It’s always the Blue Mountains. Whether it be a hike out to Pulpit Rock, a walk through Blue Gum forest, a stay around Blackheath or hike to the foot of the three sisters. I just think the beauty and spirit of this country embraces you there and one gets a sense of what we might have lost after white settlement.

What are you currently reading?
On Guilt: The Force Shaping Character, History and Culture by John Carroll; a lesser known academic work well suited to Macbeth and the manias of our times. Great read!

What are you currently listening to?
I’m juggling between The Cure’s Faith and Pornography albums, a nice deep darkness that suits Macbeth and Farid Al Atrach, an old Arabic legend and fave of my dads.

Happiness is?
Calm breath during a quiet morning watching the sunrise while three little boys slowly wake and join you for cuddles to the sounds of bird song, greeting each new day together with love and gratitude.

What does the future hold for you?
Rejection from three monosyllabic teenagers who think dad’s a dick for watching sunrises. Then growing  wonderfully and gracefully old with partner, Suzannah. Lots of yoga and more happy breathing would be a major success. Plus another acting award or two.

Hazem stars as the titular character in Bell Shakespeare’s production of Macbeth – currently playing at the Playhouse – Sydney Opera House until 2 April; before playing The Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre: 14 – 22 April; and Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne: 27 April – 14 May 2023. For more information, visit: www.bellshakespeare.com.au for details.

Image: Hazem Shammas – photo by Pierre Toussaint