Perth community joins Shari Sebbens in Black Swan’s Our Town

Ian Michael, Abbie-lee Lewis and Shari Sebbens. Picture: Bruce Hunt d490330
Ian Michael, Abbie-lee Lewis and Shari Sebbens. Picture: Bruce Hunt d490330

THORNTON Wilder’s Pulitzer prize-winning drama Our Town may be considered an American classic but when Black Swan State Theatre Company performs the play this month during Perth Festival it will be quintessentially Australian.

More than 100 community members have become part of the cast, joining actors Shari Sebbens, Ian Michael and Abbie-lee Lewis, where a doctor will play a doctor, a teacher will play a teacher and so on.

“Clare Watson (director) keeps calling it ‘Perth does Our Town’,” Sebbens said.

“So it’s not in period costume, or speaking with American accents and it’s very much what today’s Perth community audience interprets Our Town to be.”

Sebbens, who starred in The Sapphires, was in Thor: Ragnarok and most recently filmed ABC’s The Heights in Perth, said the production was a beautiful love letter to the playwright’s childhood, his home, what he loves about his community and about the world.

“We follow two characters in particular, George (Ian Michael) and Emily (Abbie-lee Lewis), so it’s a little bit of a love story,” she said.

“It’s a slice of life; it’s bittersweet and has some amazing, big philosophical ideas. I’m not a philosophical person but this has kind of turned me into one.”

Sebbens is a Bardi and Jabirr Jabirr woman, who grew up in Darwin on Larrakia country in the Northern Territory, currentlybased in Sydney on Gadigal land.

She lived in Perth in 2006 while studying at WAAPA and began acting at age 11 after following her best friend in joining the local youth theatre group in Darwin.

“I just wanted to do everything she did, so I joined too,” Sebbens said.

“Within three months, she had stopped going but I loved it. I was 13 when I decided I wanted to try to become an actor.”

The career decision now has her playing George’s mother Mrs Gibbs in Our Town, where audiences will wear headsets while watching the play unfold under the stars in the State Theatre Centre Courtyard.

“It means we can be a lot more intimate in scenes and people in the back won’t feel like they’re missing out on anything,” Sebbens said.

“They’ll hear ambient sounds that’s all specified in the text and I think there’s a Foley stage with people making the sound live.”

Sebbens said she hoped the play gave audiences an appreciation for the little things in life and wonderment at the bigger things as well.

“This play for me has led to a real sense of responsibility to each other on this planet as humans, no matter what colour we are or what culture we come from,” she said.



What: Our Town

Where: State Theatre Centre Courtyard

When: February 8 to 23