On the Couch with Stephen Zappia

Stephen Zappia AAR On the CouchWho is Stephen Zappia?
I am so many things – an Italian-Australian (though I prefer wog, thank you very much), a gaybo, a gamer and a theatre geek! During the day I work as a director at a consultancy, but at night I write, produce and perform theatre (it’s my secret identity, shhh). I have written, produced and performed many shows over the years as part of the Sydney Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, as well as independent seasons. They’ve ranged from character comedy to original musical theatre, but my heart and soul lives for cabaret. Aeroplane Jelly holds a particularly special place in my heart, as it’s auto-biographical and hits the sweet spot between funny and poignant. There isn’t much about me I don’t touch on in the show, so I shall leave it there to avoid spoilers!

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I always wanted to be a teacher when I was growing up, and I reckon one day I probably still will be – if for no other reason than to finally see what actually goes on behind those mysterious Staff Room doors!

Who inspires you and why?
Robin Williams was a huge inspiration growing up – I was fascinated by the sheer number of characters that came pouring out of him at any given moment. I remember being OBSESSED with Aladdin, in particular the Genie, and then watching Mrs Doubtfire and being told the guy that does the voices in that job interview scene is the same guy that does all of the voices for the Genie – my mind was blown, and I never looked back. More recently, big fan of Hans and Reuben Kaye (hey gurls) – I love what they each do with their platforms and the space they create with their shows, and they are both my favourite flavour of irreverent queer madness.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Expose people to cultures and communities they aren’t typically a part of, and hopefully in turn create some empathy and compassion for those cultures and communities! Not just the queer community, but others too – I really do believe even the most bigoted have a seed of good in them, if they could just see how similar we all really are they might think twice before spewing hateful vitriol. Also, implement universal basic income ASAP.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
The Scottish Highlands – hands down the most magnificent place on the planet. The views, the people, the food…I’ve spent so much time up there yet I still am not entirely sure any of it was actually real. If you don’t believe in magic, that part of the world will change your mind.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
ACMI is awesome, especially since the refurb. Such an awesome experience and I am such a fan of the way they have incorporated modern tech into it. Oh, and The Butterfly Club of course! Always an excellent show on there! Nudge nudge wink wink…

What are you currently reading?
I’m about to start Red Rising by Pierce Brown. I have the board game and keep having it recommended to me!

What are you currently listening to?
I seem to be experiencing a youth reclamation moment right now: Savage Garden, Garbage, and “Stacy’s Mum” (technically the more modern Post Modern Jukebox version) – obsessed. A mate recently introduced me to “Stacy’s Dad” on the YouTubes – where was THAT when I was in high school?!

Happiness is?
Genuine, deep human connection. And any dessert that is both soft and crunchy.

What does the future hold for you?
I’ll keep performing Aeroplane Jelly as long as there is demand for it, but I won’t lie – I’m definitely feeling the itch to work on something new. A sequel called Sticky Date Pudding is in the works, I’m also toying with a live game show concept and a new musical, plus sooo many other exciting new ideas!

More generally – the dream is to be able to do the job I love during the day and the theatre that nourishes my soul at night. The balance is hard to strike sometimes, but it’s always worth it. Oh, and at some point I’ll definitely be camping in the Scottish Highlands while eating dessert and listening to Darren Hayes’ dulcet tones!

Stephen presents his show, Aeroplane Jelly, at The Butterfly Club, as part of the 2024 Midsumma Festival, from 29 January – 3 February. For more information, visit: www.midsumma.org.au for details.

Image: Stephen Zappia (supplied)