In the wake of Nana Elsie's death, a young woman tries to piece together fragments of family legend, fact, and memory left behind. In the process of grief, she meets Elsie long before she was a nana, discovers the incredible life she led and the legacy that she leaves behind in the memory of her family.
Local creative Lily Empson brings newly devised work, Elsie, to The Meteor from October 7 to 9 as part of The Meteor's Boil-Up Creative Development Programme.
A biographical piece, Elsie is based on the life of Empson's own Nana Elsie, and is performed by granddaughters and sisters Lily and Lauren Empson. An exploration of how shared memories are a tool to hold on to those we love, Elsie combines physical theatre with contemporary dance to "honour Elsie and tell the story of the full life that she led".
"We always think of our grandparents as old and never really stop to think of them as how they were when they were young," says Empson.
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"When Nana died, my family started sharing all these stories about her. We found an old suitcase and hatbox filled with black-and-white photos of her as a young woman, and at her funeral so many people came and shared memories and stories of her. For the first time, I started seeing her as more than a nana. I felt like I had just discovered her ..."
A work grounded in the importance of family, Elsie has seen Empson join forces with her sister Lauren to create and perform this personal piece documenting the life of a wife, sharemilker, mother, and nana.
"Being able to share this process with my sister and being able to share stories with family has been a really positive experience," says Empson. "One thing that was so important to Nana was family. She was the one who brought everyone together - her dining table was where we congregated. Her death certainly brought everyone closer together again, which she would have been so thankful for."
A work that has been developed with support and mentorship through The Meteor's Boil-Up programme from January 2021, Elsie will be Empson's first full-length showcase of a work of her own devising. No stranger to Hamilton stages, Lily's most recent projects include working as a co-choreographer for Moving Parts NZ's Shifting Dynamics in this year's Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, and as a dancer in their 2020 season of Enough.
Empson also played Arcite in Tahi, T'ai, Tasi's Two Noble Kingswomen (2019) and choreographed Hamilton Musical Theatre's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum earlier this year.
Elsie will be running at The Meteor Theatre from October 7 to 9 with 7pm performances. Tickets can be found at $20 general admission and $18 concession (Gold Card, student ID) along with further information at themeteor.co.nz.