Around 80% of The Struggling Life of an Artist is based on the real-life experiences of its creators Xiomara Meyer and Tamalynne Grant.
The Fringe show presented by the two self-confessed “theatre geeks” really struck a chord with audiences.
In telling the story of an actress told to “sex up” to land her dream part, and a female horror writer told to adopt a male pseudonym to secure a publishing deal they have put a fresh slant on the long-standing issues of sexism and discrimination in the arts industry.
For writer Xiomara (who also takes the part of Olivia) and director Tamalynne (who plays Jessica) the process of creating and performing the show was a positive outcome following several years of personal struggles.
For as long as she can remember Xiomara wanted to be a vet. But, when depression affected her grades and she didn’t get in to vet school she found solace in drama and writing.
She said: “Writing became my therapy. It was interesting; it gave me something different to do. I enjoyed spending hours on end working on novels.”
While Xiomara was following her path towards veterinary college her high school friend Tamalynne was applying to study drama.
“I was jealous of her!” said Xiomara “But when I told my family, ‘hey, I don’t think I want to do that anymore, I want to write books’, I felt like a failure.
“Now I work long shifts as a waitress. I get frustrated with all the bills to pay so I do sometimes wonder if I made the right choice. But ultimately it turns out that small results are more satisfying to me.
“When I write, I can write whatever I want, put it all down on paper. Acting is a different process but it correlates. I find both therapeutic.”
From a long line of artists – her great uncle is Aonghas Grant, the famous left-handed fiddler of Lochhaber, and her cousin was Angus Grant (Son of Aonghus Grant) fiddler of the band Shooglenifty – all Tammalynne Grant ever wanted to do was act. But, at school and then at the Conservatoire in Vienna where she studied drama, she quickly became aware that she didn’t fit the mould.
“Even at school, girls were expected to be soft and vulnerable, like Ophelias! I like being physical, a bit goofy. From an early age I was told that as a woman I needed to be softer. This made me doubt my path.
“The first year after my graduation I couldn’t even go to auditions, I had panic attacks, depression. But then I realised that acting and performing help my mind. Making a connection with a character helps you find out stuff about yourself. Acting is therapeutic. You can connect with an audience and go on a journey together.
“I had met Xiomara at high school, we were two ‘theatre geeks!’ We hadn’t worked together for about five years but when we both found ourselves on downers, me in Austria, Xiomara in London, we reconnected and starting working on Struggling Artistover Skype.”
“The whole process of creating the show was therapeutic,” said Tamalynne. “Xio doesn’t judge me, she accepts me for who I am.”
“On stage we are Xiomara and Tamalynne. We can stand our ground because we believe 100% in what we are doing. It’s what happened and it’s the truth so we are confident in playing the roles. It’s personal, we cried when we first performed our monologues – but … It’s also a comedy!”
The Struggling Life of An Artist has been a return to the Fringe for Meyer, a Mexican born German actress and writer who was executive producer for the premiere of The Impi Theatre Company’s 2016 show The South Afreakins. Grant is an actress/director who was born, raised and is currently based in Vienna, Austria with Scottish/Uzbek roots.
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