We talk to Breathe writer and actor Dan Goodwin about his show, the process so far and connection:
What is Breathe all about?
Um. Lots of things. I think.
It would be simple to say that it’s a show about schizophrenia, but that feels like a cop out. It started out like that maybe, but now it’s more a show about connection; how we play and exist inside something which people don’t know how to talk to, or about.
How do you live well, happily, when you don’t know what to say or do. You know?
Where did the idea for the show come from?
It kind of blindsided me if I’m honest! I went to drama school convinced I was gonna write plays about being gay, and then a schizophrenia diagnosis happened and I guess that’s my life now?
I was half way through my Masters when I was diagnosed, and figured I had the choice of either ignoring it or making it a part of my craft. So I made a show about it.
There was also the option of dropping out of school and into an institution, but I kindly declined.
How has the process been so far?
Terrifying! And exciting and explosive! This mahi started out as a solo piece 3 years ago, and I never thought it would be anything more than a way for me to process this new perspective (at the time) of living with schizophrenia. It’s like becoming a parent, suddenly everyone is saying “your life is never going to be the same again”. And that’s terrifying.
I’m a weird writer, I think. There’s poetry and jokes and abstract scenarios. And I like writing like that! But whether other people like it always feels like a shot in the dark. So to have people offer their perspectives and talents to the work so openly, gifting it an entirely new form, reminds me just how fortunate I am, and how phenomenal Auckland's creative community is. To have people engage so openly with mental health as well really hits like a gut punch.
There are plenty people living with mental health experiences who are not so fortunate and are suffering. And that’s bullshit. So to work within a process with people passionate about fighting that, feels amazing.
Storytelling makes up the majority of our everyday lives. It’s in our psyche. Outside of stories, I don’t think we have much meaning really.
Who is in your team?
I have the absolute privilege of being a part of Taurima Vibes, an amazing team of people committed to facilitating safe and engaging spaces in the arts. From there the wonderful Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho and Gemishka Chetty have come on to direct and produce respectively.
On the floor performing and creating we have Ben Moore, Natasha Bunkall, Camilla Walker, and Aiwa Pooamorn (as well as Anjula Prakash who isn’t performing in Auckland but IS joining us in a later Wellington season). They’re phenomenal. Coming in to the space everyday with such an engaging group of creatives has been such a blessing for this mahi.
What do you love about storytelling in the arts?
Connection. I know that’s pretentious but it’s what my head tells me. Don’t @ me. I mean even outside of the arts, storytelling makes up the majority of our everyday lives. It’s in our psyche. Outside of stories, I don’t think we have much meaning really. Pessimistic, maybe; overly pensive, definitely. But I’m psychotic and I have a reputation to maintain.
I’ve never been the kind of person to say “if you think about it, we’re just machines really”. And if we are then I think we’re really good ones. Elon Musk would be proud (but fuck that guy).
I do think though that we make meaning by putting ourselves side by side with other people and things (or machines if that’s your vibe) and noticing that “Hey, we’re different… that’s cool. Why are we different? How are we similar?”.
Our days are filled with those moments of connection. Mostly we take them for granted. All the arts have done really is given them a language, a space, and organised them a bit.
The arts aren’t special, they’re ordinary. They’re human. And that’s amazing.
What do you hope audience members take away from the experience?
The same thing I said for what I love about storytelling, I think. I’ve never been phenomenal at connecting with other people. Schizophrenia makes it harder, that’s fair, but I wasn’t exactly Ellen DeGeneres to begin with (she seems friendly right).
We’re all people. And that’s a cliche, sure, but we all go through 24 hours in a day, and we all hoard memories and experiences; some good, some not so good.
Sometimes it gets overwhelming. I know for sure I can be overwhelming. When it all gets too much, I think there’s an instinct to throw out lots of offers and hope one of them lands. I say too much, I write too much (I’m doing it now). It’s messy and it’s scary.
But we’ve got you. No matter what happens, we’ve got you (...whoever “we” is for you).
I hope you leave knowing that.
Breathe is on at Basement Theatre from 21 - 25 Aug. Book tickets or find out more here.