Kip Williams on love and LGBTQI+ storytelling

Brooke Boland

A special panel discussion at NIDA will put LGBTQI+ storytelling and representation centre-stage this Valentine’s Day.
Kip Williams on love and LGBTQI+ storytelling

Kip Williams. Image supplied.

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Sydney Theatre Company Artistic Director Kip Williams will join the panel In Conversation: Love is Love to discuss LGBTQI+ storytelling and how his personal and professional lives intersect.

‘I’m excited to talk about the experiences of both making stories for the queer community, and also growing up and seeking out those stories and the impact they have on you, the importance and value of them,’ he said.

Last month, the 2010 NIDA Directing Alumnus took home the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Direction. On 14 February for NIDA’s 60th anniversary, Williams returns to NIDA to share more of his story. Williams will lead a panel discussion hosted by comedian Tom Ballard, featuring the director of hit multi-award-winning web series Thirty and Queer Screen board member Leah Pellinkhof, award-winning performance artist and theatre director Harriet Gillies, and up-and-coming queer theatremaker Chris Edwards, the panel will focus on LGBTQI+ depictions on stage and screen, and the impact of these depictions on the panellists’ own lives and careers. 

‘It will be good to talk about challenges that the queer community faces, both now and historically, and the things that have been done to progress that,’ Williams said of the event.

‘I think a lot of LGBTQI + people still struggle with their identity and there are still huge amounts of homophobia and transphobia, and huge amounts of heterosexism that exist in our community. A talk like this creates a space for us to have a conversation about those issues, but can also just inspire young people to know that they can become storytellers and they can be the ones to go on to tell their stories with nuance and complexity, and with pride and compassion and with understanding.’ 

When asked if he feels the representation of LGBTQI+ people has changed over the duration of his career in the arts, he said yes, but added, ‘there is [still] a way to go’.

‘I was a teenager at a time when Brokeback Mountain came out and it was this big scandal – that was a film that was directed by a straight director and performed by straight actors. I remember going to see that film as a teenager and thinking, “This feels like a very limited expression of one experience of the queer community”. That film made great headway in terms of taking things a bit more mainstream, but I think we’ve come so much further in terms of the nuance and diversity of storytelling and I feel really heartened by that,’ Williams said. 

‘I feel like [LGBTQI+ stories] have become more mainstream and more nuanced in their depiction. I still think there is a way to go, but progress has definitely been made and there are greater improvements made [in having] actual members of the community tell their own stories.’ 

One recent issue Williams hopes to discuss at the upcoming panel is the representation of transgender people on stage and screen, and the need for trans performers to play trans roles. He feels drama schools can play an important role in helping to solve this issue in the future.

‘We need our drama schools to be training young trans actors so that we have those actors there to tell their stories. I think institutions like NIDA can play a clear role in the artistic community by contributing a diversity of voices to that community,’ said Williams.

‘NIDA has a role in terms of the storytellers that it trains and recruits, and the permission and freedom that it gives its students to tell the stories that they need to tell.

‘I hope [these storytellers] feel inspired by the conversation we have, and I hope they ask some tough questions too,’ he concluded.

In Conversation: Love is Love is on 14 February for NIDA’s 60th Anniversary. Visit nida.edu.au/love-is-love to find out more about this event.

About the author

Brooke Boland is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.