On the Couch with Margi Brown Ash

Margi Brown Ash - photo by Stephen Henry PhotographyWho is Margi Brown Ash?
Performer and playwright, actor and director, therapist for artists, mother of four, mentor and friend.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I would know several languages and be able to paint well enough to exhibit. And even more importantly, I would be able to magically appear in multiple cities so that I could spend more time with my family.

Who inspires you and why?
Young artists of all sorts: they push their own boundaries and, in doing so, push mine. The artists I work with inspire me with their work ethic, talent and enthusiasm. My family inspires me to keep going when the going gets tough especially my grandchild, Sybella, whose joy of life is infectious.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I would build a boutique arts complex: visual art, good books, tasty coffee and contemporary performances, the primary focus being on healthy living for artists. A Green Room for artists, where they could belong through their transitional times. That is what the research for my PhD has focused on for the past six years: how do we belong in our complex world?

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I love Europe and, in particular, Finland and Denmark. I love going to the theatre there, not understanding a word spoken, but ‘reading’ the performance through the actors’ body language, the design, the musical score.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
SOUTH BANK, GALLERIES, LIBRARY and COMMUNITY GARDENS: The Queensland Art Gallery/GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) is an international destination, situated at the far end of the Cultural Precinct at South Bank, followed by a walk along the river to the beautiful community vegetable gardens.

Then METRO ARTS coffee shop and gallery in downtown Brisbane. Metro Arts – we call her The Old Broad – is where I have had a studio for over 16 years, as it’s the hub of Independent Artists in Brisbane. Finally, Brisbane Powerhouse and the floating walkway: BPH has the best theatre location in Australia, situated at the end of a long floating walkway that links the city and New Farm.

What are you currently reading?
The Lonely City by Olivia Lang. Just as Lang turns to art to understand loneliness, I turned to performance making to comprehend belonging. I am also reading One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters by Larry Dossey. He unpacks the concept of universal consciousness, something that many of us suspect could exist, but do not necessarily understand it. Larry Dossey describes this as one mind, many brains.

What are you currently listening to?
My son Travis introduced me to Silvía Pérez Cruz, perhaps the most powerful and emotive singer I have ever listened to. She is inspirational. The other musicians we listen to on the way to work: Lou Reed’s Perfect Day, both his version and Antony’s cover. One cannot help but feel connected. And there is always ABC FM Jazz.

Happiness is?
For me, happiness is family and feeling at home, wherever that is in the world. Home is a warm sense of belonging. Happiness is a long walk with my love, my partner of over 30 years. Or drinking tea, perhaps a champagne, with our four children and their partners, when they are in town, discussing art and social stories. Happiness is my grandchild Sybella, her smile and the way she holds out her right hand as if to say ‘Da Da!’

What does the future hold for you?
Presently I am finishing writing up my PhD, a rich exploration into what it means to belong. A six year journey. I’m ready to finish it so that I can write a book for artists about resilient living. Having been an artist for 40 years and a therapist for 17, this workbook would bring these two worlds together in a very practical way.

My most pressing wish is that our own independent company, Force of Circumstance/The Nest Ensemble, be picked up to tour The Belonging Trilogy in 2018-9, three award winning and critically acclaimed plays about belonging and unbelonging, home and un-home, connection and resilience.

My son, Travis Ash (Sydney) performs with me in all three plays as musician and storyteller and our directors, Leah Mercer (Perth) and Benjamin Knapton (Brisbane), production manager Freddy Komp (Adelaide) and designer Aaron Barton (regional Queensland) have worked with us for years. Whenever we mount a production it feels like a huge family gathering from around Australia.

Margi will be performing two of her shows back to back in a rare Double Bill performance – her award-winning Eve and the acclaimed He Dreamed a Train at the Brisbane Powerhouse from 29 June 2017. For more information, visit: www.brisbanepowerhouse.org for details.

Image: Margi Brown Ash – photo by Stephen Henry Photography