Described as a “rapid fire variety show,” WA Exposé will bring the best of drag, burlesque, music, comedy, circus and performance arts to The Rechabite on Friday, November 26 (get more info and tickets here). Featuring a diverse blend of 12 incredible acts, the unique concept of WA Exposé gives all performers the exact same amount of time on stage and invites audiences to experience art forms they might not otherwise seek out. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with the creator of the show, nationally acclaimed Opera Singer Aria Scarlett, to find out why it’s set to be a local showcase like no other.
Where did the idea for WA Exposé come from and how long have you been preparing for this show?
The idea for WA Exposé came as one of Perth’s major avenues for artists to pursue was cut off from us, travel. Often, artists from Western Australia believe that they need to leave the west coast (or sometimes the country) to gain recognition for their work before returning home. As this pathway was closed to us in March 2020, we had to become innovative for live arts to stay relevant in a wash of digital content.
I began having the same chats with artists on repeat and started asking what we could do to promote the local scene’s incredible talent. What did artists seek out when they left to perform interstate or overseas and how could we emulate that here?
I decided we needed a space that a wide audience could experiment with seeing new forms of art they may not otherwise seek out. As an opera singer by training, I was already very aware of the need to make classical music more accessible and wanted to adapt that model to other forms of arts. I began working on fleshing out this concept in June 2020 and saw the first iteration in December of that year.
How did you personally come to perform music, and how has your background influenced this production?
I like to say that I wanted to study music theatre but my two left feet propelled me into classical music, where I’d be allowed to stand still. It’s a good line but not entirely accurate. I was intrigued by the idea that I could sing in a language you didn’t understand and still tell you a story you would follow and enjoy.
After five years of study, I got to step out and tell stories through songs across the country. I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with aerialists, burlesque dancers, fire twirlers, and hip-hop artists.
The common aim of storytelling is prevalent no matter what genre you occupy and I began to wonder why we put such harsh lines between genres with the same goal. Joel Davis, my co-producer is a singer and electronic producer who knows more about putting together a track from start to finish than I could hope to retain. Their star was rising with the release of Moon Vibes and I needed to have them on stage.
Joel performed at the second installment of WA Exposé and we started having conversations that aligned. Our backgrounds were in entirely different musical genres and still, we found ourselves overlapping, we wanted the Perth arts scene to be recognised as a whole and for audiences to be able to expand their viewing into forms they may have not considered.
I knew I had to have Joel on board for the third WA Exposé installment, the combined talents and efforts have helped us get the show out to many more people.
And how is this show different from performances we might have seen before?
WA Exposé works the way a tasting menu in a restaurant does, it offers high-quality samples of a wide variety of arts to lovers of the genre and new patrons alike. The rapid-fire concept means every single performer is allotted the same amount of time onstage, a max of 10 minutes, to show you what they have to offer.
If you’re a lover of the art you’ll be propelled to seek more out and if you’re new to the genre, this is the artist’s chance to make a new fan out of you. Just like in a tasting menu, you could be converted or not and either way, a new course will be served soon!
We invite the audience to feel uncomfortable but will always keep them safe. As co-producer Joel Davis says it’s a “contemporary cultural experience” that has to potential to widen an artist’s audience.
There is such a diversity in the performers…but is there a particular quality you look for that makes them a great fit for WA Exposé?
We look for talent and potential above popularity. Our lineups have consisted of emerging talents alongside established artists and we treat them the same, with the same rules inside the rapid-fire concept. This is another way we give artists a new experience with audiences.
Joel and I don’t employ a booking agent, we are active supporters and members of the Perth arts scene, we are heading to big stages and small venues to watch and meet incredible performers who we then get to have on our stage.
And is there anything in particular you are looking forward to on the night?
I remember performing at Barefoot Black Tie at Shark Bay in 2018. I was fresh out of my degree and worried that I wouldn’t be well-received standing in the waters of Little Lagoon in my gown singing opera, 826km from home. After the show, an audience member came up to me and said “I didn’t get the point of opera before but now I do!” I was thrilled, there can’t be any bigger compliment than creating a new fan of my favourite music.
At WA Exposé I’ve talked to staunch metal music fans who are watching drag for the first time or burlesque fans who are experiencing folk music in a new way. These are the conversations I get to have after every show, new fans are born in the audience, and talking to them after the show is my favourite part of the night.
What’s next for you and the team? Any more events like this in the future we can look forward to?
The vision of WA Exposé isn’t the current model that shows are built on, we are the exception and we’ll continue to work to make genre-less shows more accessible and more frequent. The proof is in the audiences, the people to who we are forever grateful.
You can continue to support WA Exposé via Instagram and Facebook and see when and where our next show is by heading to our website. Most importantly, if anything we’ve said today struck a chord with you, the next show is November 26th at The Rechabite, and tickets are available via Megatix. We can’t do what we do without an audience. Support your local scene and they’ll provide a wonderfully unique experience in return.