Dogshrine: Spirituality and the Mind/Body Divide

Anthony Kuiper sits down with writer and director Jai Leeworthy to talk about his upcoming show, Dogshrine.

So I know Dogshrine is religious but what exactly is it saying about religion?

I wonder what that means, for it to be religious…

Revolving around some sort of content that is in itself to do with theology and explaining our existence.

I have done a lot of investigating into theology with this play, because one part of what I’ve done is essentially created a religion. I think perhaps my deeper interests are in what we call spirituality. At a really abstract level, the idea of a division between the body and the mind/soul/whatever. Metaphysics. 

I’m interested in what it means for someone who believes in this binary divide when you talk about the body as opposed to someone who believes that the body is just physical and that is all there is.

I think that has really enormous political implications when you talk about things like gender. For instance, the question of, is your gender entrenched in your experiences of having a male or female body? Or is it something perhaps more fluid, defined through language and cultural histories?

I’ve seen other works of yours or I’ve been involved in other works of yours and they too are to do with religion.

I think the most important thing to me to investigate in art is why we have religion and how does it matter whether you’re a part of that religion or not. Because it’s obvious to me that it is very meaningful to engage with a belief system in that way. It was meaningful for me to move away from that. I guess in lieu of going to church every week… I wanted to investigate the multiplicity and variety of beliefs.

How does Dogshrine do that?

On the one hand, I don’t necessarily think that Dogshrine is about religion. I think it uses religion as a lens through which you can understand the central character, particularly in terms of gender.

How does Dogshrine pose that question of gender? Does it just raise questions or does it try to resolve them as well?

Personally, I’d easily fall on the side of the latter. But as a writer I have tried to explore the question in all its details and nuances rather than provide a simple answer. Ultimately, I think a political view is just a personal view and it reflects something about that person, but as a writer the best you can do is try to tell that person’s story truthfully. I think directing is probably a different matter. I don’t really know, though – I’m new to directing so I really have no idea what audiences are going to take from the show.

What have rehearsals been like? What’s been your highest moment?

Rehearsals have been really good. I’ve had a really good connection with Niamh (Niamh Vlahakis), the main actress. We both feel very similarly about the topics we’re trying to explore here.

Definitely, I think a highlight of rehearsals so far has been the first time we really tried to improvise dialogue between Niamh and Gen (Genevieve Cassin) who plays the Dogshrine, or… all of the Dogshrines.

We had a technical session. It was Gen playing this character that exists in solitude in this dessert. Its only purpose is to count and Gen was really enjoying the act of counting. So Niamh’s character enters, and tries to get information from the shrine – and it’s this hilarious situation where the Shrine is trying to get Usa [the main character] in on the fun of counting. She’s singing, she’s rapping, she’s speaking with a Scottish accent – it was silly improv but it was hilarious.

Amazing. When’s it on and how much for a ticket?

Sunday 23rd August and Monday 24th of August.

3 pm on Sunday. 1 pm, 4 pm & 7 pm on Monday.

It’s in the Grand Buffet Hall, which is just off the stairs between the first and second floor of Union House. Tickets are $10 concession and $15 full price.

Tickets for Dogshrine are available here. Photography: Nathan Brown.

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