With a Bachelor of Media Arts under her belt, Jemma Boyd is a trained vocalist with a background in musical theatre and cabaret. She is currently the composer and lyricist for Adelaide’s Calamity Productions, having both composed and performed in their recent production The House With No Name at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
You’ve just finished your season of The House With No Name at the Fringe Festival and having witnessed its previous success, what’s the reaction been like?
The reaction was pretty positive. I think we’re getting the laughs at the points where we’re supposed to be having laughs so I think everyone is getting where we’re going with it. It’s been going pretty well.
You’re not only a performer in the production but the lyricist and composer of all the music in it. How does it feel to see your work performed and receiving such a reaction?
It’s always good especially in the funny parts of songs, the comedy element getting through to the audience, that’s really good. A con of it is I have to listen to my own words over and over and over, but it’s the same with Josh, the writer [of The House With Name]. We’ve heard it all a million times so getting the audience in is really good because it reminds you why you write [the songs] and that they are actually funny.
So what inspired you to pursue this direction in theatre and composing?
My family is pretty musical. My dad’s a songwriter as well. My grandma is a singer. My mum plays trumpet. I also really like music that has characters and plots so musical theatre I’m right into. And anything like concept albums and stuff like that. I actually like to think of The House With No Name a bit of a concept album because it has a plot and similar characters, all that kind of stuff.
You have a Bachelor of Media Arts, how did studying media arts help you in pursuing this direction?
We started our Calamity Productions group because we felt there weren’t enough theatre aspects in the media arts degree. The degree itself helped a lot because we got to speak to the people like Justin and Peter, who were our tutors for drama based subjects. They really helped because they were so supportive of what we were trying to do. They weren’t worried that we weren’t doing like a straight play or a traditional drama or anything like that. They gave us really good feedback and just helped us so much. Like our set [for The House With No Name], we got sandbags from them. We’re still using them up. Even after we finished our degree, we’re still coming to them for advice.
So they gave a bit more direction?
Yeah and just to have someone to say yes you’re doing the right thing by getting out there. Your degree is supposed to get you to do stuff afterwards and continue on with the arts which is really hard to do after you’ve finished your degree. So UniSA helped us a lot. We were rehearsing in the theatre before we did the first run of [The House With No Name] at Magill so that was really cool.
Did this and your previous involvement in other productions help to cement your love for theatre?
For sure. [The rest of Calamity Productions are] going to hate me for saying this because they’re all film majors but I personally think that theatre is so much more of an adrenaline rush. You get instant gratification because you say something and you get the audience response. I think [theatre’s] really exciting at the moment, especially musical theatre and musical comedy. Shows like ‘Book of Mormon’ at the moment are going off. It’s good to make your own.
Where does your creativity come from when composing, what inspires you?
I do a lot of improvising because I’m not musically trained. I know a little bit of guitar and piano but a lot of what I do is just experimenting and just seeing what sounds good. [The House With No Name] in particular, only one song that was planned from the get go, as in it’s going to be this genre and it’s going to be exactly like this. And that was my song because I was going to be singing it! Everything else was a lot of experimenting and getting feedback from Josh, the director. I was also working with my dad because he helped with the composition of songs [in The House With No Name] because he’s more musically trained than I am.
So what’s next, any goals you or Calamity Productions are working towards?
I think we’ll probably do another Fringe show next year. We’re also looking to do lots of film stuff. I personally would like to do some other recordings, I’ve got lots of my own songs that I want to try and get out there. But we’ve got stupid ideas for whatever comes next. So hopefully get there for the next Fringe and maybe we can try and tour. So that’s it at the moment. Hopefully we can tour, that’d be really cool.
Words by Bridget Kerry.
Images by Calamity Productions.