Like most artists, there have been many occasions when Eve Gordon has wondered where the next pay cheque is coming from and whether it will be enough to pay the bills. It comes down to the age-old dilemma: do you do something you love or for the money? This is the territory circus theatre company The Dust Palace, which Gordon founded four years ago with Mike Edward, explores in its latest show Love and Money.
"It's devised from Mike's personal experience as a male stripper when he needed to make ends meet because he had a two-year-old daughter and was trying to put himself through drama school," she says. "It incorporates a number of real life stories based on interviews with friends and associates who have worked as strippers. It's a fascinating world full of cliches and the assumptions the rest of us have about people who take their clothes off for a living."
Known for burlesque-orientated works such as Burlesque As You Like It, Venus Is ... and Circus Non Sequitur, this production takes The Dust Palace in a different direction. While it's still highly physical, incorporating aerial and acrobatic work, it is more story-driven and has involved bringing in Leighton Cardno and Jaimee Edward as writing partners.
Gordon, who has combined running The Dust Palace with her role as Stacey on TV3's The Almighty Johnsons, says Love and Money moves the company toward more traditional theatre production though they're describing it as a cirque/theatre play. She agrees there will be inevitable comparisons to the film Magic Mike about male strippers. "We were totally surprised when the film came out because we'd been working on our show since probably the beginning of last year - so it's nearly two years and it comes very much from Mike's own life. We made a conscious decision not to see the film because we didn't want to be influenced by it."
Love and Money concludes a busy year. Having built up a loyal following, the company is getting an increasing number of corporate bookings along with invitations to national arts festivals. This year alone, it's been seen at Splore, Erupt Lake Taupo, the Right Royal Cabaret Festival in Taranaki, the Fuel Festival and at Auckland's Q. Gordon also worked with NBR Opera New Zealand as circus co-ordinator and performer on The Bartered Bride, which meant perfecting new skills such as acrobatics atop stacked chairs.
She and Edward, Shortland Street's resident love rat Zac Smith, have also found a base for The Dust Palace; a high-ceilinged factory in a Penrose, which will become a permanent rehearsal space as well as home to their circus theatre school. They intend to run children's classes and workshops for professional performers. It's a big step, but says Gordon, a logical one.
"I'm stoked. I couldn't have imagined things coming together as well as they have. There have been a lot of times when I felt like giving it all up but I've spent nearly a decade perfecting physical theatre techniques and styles and invested too much time and effort to stop, really."
Pretty brave for a girl who says she wasn't a physically courageous child. "I was actually quite timid but as I've got older, I've got braver which is unusual because usually it works the other way. I trained at Unitec where I met the amazing Beth Kayes [who runs Theatre Physical] and became totally fascinated about how you can tell a story with your body rather than words."
Love and Money features Eve Gordon, Ascia Maybury, Geof Gilson, Mike Edward and Edward Clendon.
What: Love and Money
Where & When: Tapac, November 15-24by Dionne ChristianMike Edward and Eve Gordon in Love and Money.