On the Couch with Jaya Berged

Jaya-Berged-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Jaya Berged?
I like to describe myself as “playful nonsense”. I used to be a lawyer, now I’m a theatremaker and creative coach. I’m a mum to a ridiculous little dog. I’m the creator of The Axe in the Ceiling coming up at Melbourne Fringe, but that is more what I do than who I am. In essence, I’m just a person who loves being alive in the world and lives to experience it in a ton of different ways every day.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
Everything and nothing! I have lived my whole life doing things differently from one year to the next, whether that’s in my career path, the communities I connect with, the content I engage with, my religious practice, where I live, what I eat, who (and how) I love, and even my name – every part of me has known change deeply, and I love it.

So in one sense, I would (and will) do it all differently when time comes to change things up, but in another sense, I would (and will) continue to do things exactly how I do them, because changing things up is built into how I live. I just want to experience everything, so I guess I’ll keep doing things differently till I’ve done it all or till I die, whichever comes first!

Who inspires you and why?
My parents. I spent years running around in circles avoiding who I am and where I come from, but after a lot of introspection and self-discovery, I’ve found myself wanting nothing more than to be what my parents embody for me.

My mother is a fun loving, creative, free spirit – she does whatever the hell she wants and excels at it, often defying other people’s expectations. She embodies the principle of “it’s never too late to start” (which includes “it’s never too late to change”).

My father is intelligent, ambitious, and he doesn’t let anyone tell him “no”. He has unshakeable self-belief and works hard to get to the top even when he’s starting from scratch (and he enjoys the challenge of starting from scratch). I’m inspired by how my parents practice being autonomous, driven, and passionate people who work hard for what they want without regard for naysayers and gatekeepers.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I feel passionate about the concept of a full, free, unfettered human experience. My way of making a difference in the world is finding opportunities to break down barriers and invite people (myself and others around me) to spaces and experiences that might normally not feel accessible to them.

In my theatre practice, that looks like collaborating with artists and enthusiasts of varying skill / experience / ability / exposure levels, and creating a safe space for people to level up their individual craft in a collectively supportive community context.

At a more personal level, it looks like doing my best to hold curious and non-judgemental space for everyone in my life, and normalizing celebrating people’s autonomy so that we can all truly be our fullest, most relaxed, most fulfilled selves around each other.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Phillip Island, because it’s easy to get to, it’s really pretty, and I LOVE PENGUINS!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
There is so much to see and do in Melbourne and surrounds, that it would have to be person-specific. For friends who love the outdoors/hiking, I’d take them to Werribee Gorge State Park or Hanging Rock. For more artsy friends, it would have to be the NGV or an independent theatre show at a venue like La Mama. For pizza lovers, I’d take them to Takeaway Pizza in Preston (which despite the very generic-sounding name, is actually pretty special pizza!).

What are you currently reading?
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I’m about halfway through the book and it’s been a fascinating journey so far. Many lightbulb moments, many “oooh, more please” moments, many “ohhh so that’s why I’m/we’re like this!” moments. I am absolutely loving this read.

What are you currently listening to?
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, haha, I’m actually “reading” an audiobook! But in terms of music, I’ve recently had The Piano Guys’ cover of Gustav Holst’s Jupiter on repeat, I’ve fallen asleep to it many times this year. It’s super pretty and grounding.

Happiness is?
Creating a theatre show with a group of artists from the community when everyone is in it for the joy and fun and meaning and fulfillment of the process and experience, as opposed to in pursuit of an agenda. Nothing against agendas, agendas can be meaningful and fulfilling in their own ways, but happiness for me is in the playful, connected, unburdened freedom of collective creativity for its own sake. The process of creating The Axe in the Ceiling has overflowed with happiness for me.

What does the future hold for you?
In a general sense, life, experiences, connection, creativity, adventures, and a whole lot of happiness, I hope! What that looks like right now specifically is my upcoming Melbourne Fringe season of The Axe in the Ceiling and also Andha Yug, both shows I’m very proud of and would love for audiences to love with me. And in the future after this season, hopefully many more shows that I can create, love and be proud of in similar ways!

Jaya is the writer and director of The Axe in the Ceiling – which will be presented at The Motley Bauhaus, as part of the 2023 Melbourne Fringe: 7 – 22 October. For more information, visit: www.melbournefringe.com.au for details.

Image: Jaya Berged (supplied)