Comedy, theatre, circus, burlesque, cabaret – and accountancy – is there anything Emma J Hawkins can’t do despite her “short stature”? ELISSA FRIDAY finds out.
Where in Geelong do you live?
My fiance Ryan and I used to live in live in Melbourne and now we live in Grovedale with our energetic staffy dog called Hank. Ryan went to uni here and I went to uni in Ballarat. Most of my family are from England, I just have my brother and my mum and dad here in Australia.
We just bought our first home last year in February, which is very exciting. Ryan and I plan to get to married next year, hopefully in April.
Do you mind if I ask your age?
I’m 39 – I don’t mind you asking at all.
What type of performing do you do?
Well, some people call themselves a triple threat performer but I kind of have more than that because I do circus performing and other things as well, kind of out of necessity because there’s not enough work for a performer these day, you really have to diversify a bit. I worked for Circus Oz which was one of the mainstream shows that I did.
What inspired you to perform?
I decided when I was 10 years of age that performing is what I was going to do. I’m not sure where it came from. It just came out of the blue. My parents had pretty normal jobs so it was something a little bit different to do.
I think I did school plays as a child and remember enjoying being on stage. It has been a driving force for a long time.
When and where did you do your first performance?
I think I was 10, I remember chasing a boy with a frying pan. I think we were doing a captain cook re-enactment at primary school, it’s all a little bit of a blur. Then in high school I did musicals, then I went on to do amateur theatre, then I studied at Ballarat and then became a professional.
How many shows have you done to date?
I have no idea! Well I did eight musical shows a week for a whole year. Probably a good 30 or 50 singular shows maybe. I’ve also created my own work quite a bit, when I’ve had gaps in performing work.
Have you had opportunities to travel with your work?
I’ve travelled a lot around Australia, and I think a lure of living out of a suitcase is diminishing somewhat as I get older. I’ve been pretty lucky with getting on with the people I work with. I’ve been overseas before with shows. I took my own show called One More Than One to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and it won some awards there. I also toured an Arena theatre show called Eat Your Young, that was about 15 years ago, that I won in Singapore. It was about a futuristic look at how children are treated in an institution. It was a strange title.
Last year I toured three months in America with a show called Big Bad wolf and I went to Canada as well. I didn’t get time to look around, though, it’s pretty hectic on tour, and we had to drive the set around with us too. People think its glamorous lifestyle but it’s not.
Have any of the shows involved anything risky or risque?
I’ve done burlesque, so that’s risqué I suppose, so I’ve done that and can tick that off my list. The circus was probably a little dangerous. I didn’t do aerial, so it wasn’t overly dangerous, I was doing acrobatics. I was even on a revolving stage, so it all has the potential to be dangerous.
A few times in the circus you get knocked on the head, but you just keep going, I’ve not had any blood or broken bones.
You performed in The World Side Show Festival that was held in Ballarat during May appearing in a show called The Wild Women of Sideshow, which has been described as a ‘celebration of girl power’, tell us more?
I have an act now on the walking globe. You walk and balance on it. The Wild Women of Side-show was all women doing amazing things. Often women can be overlooked, and it was nice to have all women and strong women. We were all varying ages too, so it’s nice that we can all still be seen. It’s the second time it’s been on and hopefully it will happen again.
Tell us about your solo show, I Am Not a Unicorn, in which you play a wicked queen
As a short-stature person people were curious about my life, so I decided to create a show around it using fairy-tale characters to depict the show. People do look at me like I’m a unicorn sometimes when I’m walking down the road, so that’s where all that came from.
I created I Am Not a Unicorn with director Maud Davey. It’s a humorous play, a comedy show where I tell stories. It’s been going four years this year.
Being a 50 minute solo show, it is much harder than being in a team because you have no-one else to play off.
It will probably have another season this year sometime in Melbourne. I performed it at the LA Fringe last year. I also performed it at the Melbourne Comedy Festival the year before that.
You played Fleck in Love Never Dies and it was nominated for a Green Room Award.
Yes, I was in the Andrew Lloyd Webber show. I played the role for a year, so that’s what people would know me from. It was pretty exciting that it was nominated.
We are intrigued by the The Divine Miss Em, who is she? Please introduce her to us.
Ha ha ha, she’s someone I tend to use in festivals and events. I have two main career progressions, the mainstream and the alternative. I tend to use her for the alternative things. She’s more out there than me. Known for her dancing, she does the side-show MCs and things like that, she’s wacky. She’s homage to a favourite actress of mine, Bette Midler.
Tell us about your skills at number crunching.
Oh ha ha, that’s something I recently learnt to do. I’m a fully-fledged accountant now and I have a small business called Small Fortune, a play on words. My clientele is mostly creative artists. I love it. It’s so different from the creative world, because numbers are so certain, there should only be one answer.
It involves a lot of maths and spread sheeting. I felt like I needed something a bit more reliable workwise, now I have a mortgage and other adult things like that.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I’m in to sci-fi and murder mystery novels. My family and my partner love it too. I like Agatha Christie novels. I like days when I can just stay at home in my jammies. That’s the great thing about working from home I can stay in my jammies, ha ha ha.
We just planted winter vegetables in our veggie garden. It’s pretty nice to grow your own veggies. We’ve got broccoli, eggplant, Asian greens. The dog and the garden and the house are new roots in Geelong for us.
What’s next for you Emma?
I haven’t really cracked the film and TV, that’s something I would like to do as I get older. Even playing a role that has nothing to do with my height, like an accountant or something.
I’m about to do a show with the Malt House which is very exciting. That’s coming up in August, which is called the real and imagined victory of the Elephant Man, which is a pretty amazing story to put on stage. I’m very excited to be part of that.
I haven’t really talked about the fact that I’m an artist with a disability.
I just think it deserves to be seen on film, TV and stage, and just like a real world, we’re out there too. So it makes sense to me that disabilities are depicted in our art forms as well.
It’s more interesting to see different types of people. We need to push accessibility in all areas, on and off stage.