‘Diverse artists on every stage is what we aim for’: Briefs Artistic Director Fez Faanana

‘Diverse artists on every stage is what we aim for’: Briefs Artistic Director Fez Faanana
Image: Image: Kate Pardey / supplied.

Briefs Factory Artistic Director and performer Fez Faanana speaks to Matthew Wade about the “glittery explosion” of Briefs: Close Encounters and childhood expectations.

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When did you fall in love with performing?

I think everyone has some form of a deluded performer hiding in them, it just depends on how and if they come out. For me, performing has always been something that has been in my peripheral, growing up with strong Samoan cultural celebration through performance, combined with my obsession over Young Talent Time.

Growing up, did you ever feel you couldn’t become an entertainer?

[There were parental expectations and conditions for me regarding education and sport like many Australians. My dad wanted me to be a footy player and my mum wanted me to be a lawyer. I became a contemporary dancing, bearded drag queen and artistic director. My family soon realised that being lucky in this country means following your head, heart, and dreams.

Did being gay play a role in that? Did you ever feel you had to hide who you were?

I think being gay is definitely part of the potion of what makes me the functioning artist and human that I am! I’ve had a very lucky run with being comfortable in my skin – I figured out early on that hiding who you are is a weird thing to do.

How did the idea of Briefs first come about?

Briefs started in Brisbane in 2008 as a performative club night – a speakeasy, a warehouse party, a cabaret variety show, and blue light disco. It was a place that drag, circus, burlesque, performance art, theatre, film, and dance could combust on stage. It was about making a stunning, safe, idiotic, creative, and celebratory space.

You’ve toured Briefs: Close Encounters around Australia, and are headed to New York next. What does this represent for Briefs Factory?

Briefs: Close Encounters is our third major theatre production. We have a made a production that reflects and comments on the current unsteadiness of our planet.

It is still a glittery explosion of highly skilful and tongue in cheek entertainment. Each of our productions has showed an evolution and development. Briefs: Close Encounters has given us the chance to really amp up the production and has allowed us to play with more detailed set and costume design.

Why is it important to have queer, diverse artists performing on massive stages in Australia and around the world?

Visibility and normalised placement of diverse artists on any and every stage round the world is what we, Briefs Factory, aim for. It is what we are and it is where things should be going. It’s just a matter of time that programmers and presenters realise that diversity is not a favour to the less fortunate but an acknowledgement of a reality.

What would you want young LGBTIQ+ people who might be struggling with their identities to know?

Remember that your struggle is part of a greater battle that has happened for a long time. Do your research. Understand the fight that has happened so far and understand that you join a very strong community. You are definitely not alone. Don’t listen to anyone else about what is right or wrong about you. You are a sophisticated, complex, boundless, and ever changing human that can make and break your own rules as long as you are respectful of yourself and others.

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