Tom Crotty | 25 | Performer, Writer, and Theatre Maker

Black and white portrait of performer, writer, and theatre maker Tom Crotty, lounging on sofa wearing a corset and high boots.

Speciality time: Independently and professionally the last 4 years

Inspiration for starting: I loved performing as a kid. But as an adult I found it as a way to voice things through different characters, and gave me permission to perhaps be someone who at the time I didn’t think I could be. Probably around teenage years it became a way of expressing myself.

Full time, part time or hobby: Full time

Claim to fame to date?
The big one was when I was 8, I was in Shania Twain's Forever And For Always music video. It’s a love song and it’s beautiful. I cannot wait for my wedding because I am going to play it.

Share a little bit about your training?
After completing high school, I completed study in media arts and production, a Bachelor in Communications major, but concurrently I was still obsessed with performance and live art.

I was president of the UTS theatre and Arts society. After getting that qualification I realised I spent a lot of my time at uni doing theatre and Arts, so I decided the next year to do a diploma in stage and screen during the day at Sydney Theatre School. During the evenings I spent my time at Screen Wise doing an intensive course. It's Australia’s leading screen school.

A cool opportunity to engage with film and tv practitioners because I had sunk my teeth into theatre, but film and tv was a different beast. It was very interesting. I had to audition to get in. Really as part of being a performer the largest chunk of the work is getting ready to do auditions and research, that is the majority of what you are doing time wise.

I describe making a career as an artist as a war of attrition where you have to be firm in your belief.

Most proud accomplishment?
Last year and the beginning of this year I performed a One Man Show by myself written by a Britain playwright. Just me on stage for an hour. At Chippen Street Theatre in Chippendale and then we took it to The Adelaide Fringe in Feb in 2020. That is the Fringe you want to be at in Australia. That was a 1-week show. I loved it. It did not come without challenges, but I grew the most in this process. I auditioned to the company to get it, but it was a great growing relationship with the writer digitally from the UK, a good intro to COVID-19.

I started writing professionally in 2020. I am everywhere now, I have to be, you can’t just be in one sector to survive. 2020 has allowed space to do more things. You are not running from your customer service job to your hospitality job to an audition. You have time to work on your ideas. I recently got a residency to develop a piece with Shop Front in Carlton and it kind of segue’s from the One Man Show, because performing and engaging in the show and having a relationship with a writer ages away, it made me think “oh I can just write my own stuff and do my own work”. No people pleasing, you are on your own. Yes! It got picked up and it's an exciting time to be making mistakes. No Rush.

The effects of COVID-19 on your ability to do your craft?
Theatre has been shut down, live performance has been taken away for 2020 and what it really has revealed is the reality of funding structures with live performances and how nimble and fragile they are.

Because the way forward is not ‘we can allow people back in theatres and we are all good to go’. We need to find the money that has been lost! The only companies that can maintain the regular upkeep and functions going during these times are the large international theatre companies. Like Opera Australia and Sydney Theatre company.

With the roll over from production to production, you are continuously investing in the next project. When you don’t have that bank because you have sold a season's worth of tickets, but now that all needs to be returned, well you have no money. In the respect of live performance the effects are massive.

On the flip side, sometimes the best art comes with limitations. When you set yourself guidelines and you have to work against them ie. 1.5 meters apart or not being in the same room it sparks new alternatives, like live stream or the dreaded Zoom performance. That is the nature of such a massive shift in how we are moving as a society. We have to compromise and move with it and although there is nostalgia for what we had before COVID-19, it’s a good reminder for where we need to go.

The only great thing is it does not stop writers writing, it does not stop actors practicing on their craft or designers thinking or imagining. They are still doing their thing, they just do not have capacity to share it right now. When things do come back people will be hungry for what has been forming behind the scenes.

How did you feel when Lockdown was first announced?
I actually felt a huge sense of relief. At the beginning of 2020 I was at sort of a crossroads. I was not sure of what the next 5 years looked like or what my life looked like. I was asking myself big questions about career, finance and family and then the world stopped, and I had time to not rush the answers to those questions and I was not so freaked out about getting the next gig. I was allowed to take a break. Which as a sole trader essentially you do not get that.

Music with online screening has had a great year. It is not all bad. Film and TV production, we are going to see a lull because of the impacts of lockdown on shooting schedules. It will be interesting to see what the dip in 2021-2022 will look like.

How do you feel about not being able to perform?
I had an audition on the weekend and it was the first time in front of people for so long. I had done tests in front of the camera, but it was good to be back in the room cold reading. I realised how much I missed it. For the intimate scenes we had to keep a distance of 1.5m, but it was good to have that vibe in the room. To want to do this you have to be resilient. It's very competitive now because everyone is looking for the call outs! It's much more competitive now.

What do you think will happen to society as a whole, if the general public can’t access the arts - either to practice or to enjoy watching?
The great thing about Art, it allows you to gestate on ideas and beliefs and stories. Right now we are bombarded by social media, black and white, right and wrong. And we are very politically charged right now without the release of going and living and experiencing something that sits with you longer than it takes to read a Facebook status. Now we are looking for safety or security and things you can touch and see immediately, but I hope people are waiting at the gates to run and experience new things.

If we try and social distance in the theatres, we will not have enough bums on seats to break even. There is a reason you are so crammed in at the theatres and that is to cover costs and make a profit. If it's half empty you do not make a profit. So many moving parts behind the scenes.

What are the positives of COVID-19?
Writing more, my voice and vision has changed and allowed me to reflect on who I am, and what I want to say, and has allowed me to be proud of being a queer artist and what that means for my practice. Pre COVID-19 it was all about’ just get the gig’, but I sacrificed my creative voice, but now I can sort out what I want to say, who I want to say it to and how I want to say it. In a weird way it brought me back to reflect on who I am. The stipulations of JobKeeper and JobSeeker have been tedious for artists, but it barely helps. They offered 2.5 million but when you look at who it went to it was not accurate. The Australian Arts industry creates over 2 billion dollars a year and they really have not come to the party.

If you could ask the politicians to do one thing for performing arts what would it be?
For the future of the Arts, what is our national identity without the arts? How do we know what we are without this and what do you think we are without the arts? Is it money and sports, is that it? Is that what Australia is?

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