Cabaret artist, writer, composer, clown and poet, Sarah Ward has travelled under many names. Right now, she’ll answer to Yana Alana as she tours the country with her award-winning cabaret show Bite Me! with Tha Paranas. Next stop: Sydney.
Sarah is also Sheila MC EILA, one half of Australia’s only queer feminist hip hop cabaret act, Sista She, who roamed the nation from 2003 until 2008. She has just joined Circus Oz, which, as you’ll discover, has affected her choice of working footwear. This week, she’s drawn on her multiple marvellous skills to tackle the 20 Questions Challenge.
1. What’s the headline you’d most like to see on the front page of a daily newspaper?
New Pope Is A Gay Black Woman!
2. If you could oblige everyone in Australia to click through to one webpage, which one would it be?
I think everybody should visit www.ingalagringa.com to find out more about Inga Muscio, the author of a wonderful and necessary book called C*nt — A Declaration of Independence. I think every woman and man should read it.
3. What is one thing you’ve always wondered about economics but were too afraid to ask?
How do you make money doing what you love?
4. When did you last eat a meat pie?
I’ve never eaten a meat pie. My mum brought me up a vegetarian. I’ve just started eating meat but only for medicinal purposes so I don’t think I’ll ever eat a meat pie. But god, they always smelt so good at the school canteen.
5. What’s the oldest thing in your fridge?
An unopened jar of lime and date relish. I’m so glad you asked that question because the use by date is last June. It’s kind of sad because it was made locally and given as a Christmas present the year before last, but it just seemed so unappealing to me. What would I put with it? I’m not a crackers and cheese person and I wouldn’t have it on toast. I’ve always thought of relish as something for people who own pools, have ducted heating and collect wine.
6. Has anyone got a climate change policy you agree with? Who?
To be honest, I try not to read about politics, I either get anxious or depressed. Having said that, I’ve read enough to know that voting for Tony Abbott’s climate change policy won’t just heat up the iron.
7. When was the first time you changed your mind on something important?
When I was eight I decided that being an Olympic gymnast wasn’t for me. I was competing at a state level and one day I got the fear in me. I realised that I actually wanted to be in front of a crowd, that I liked entertaining people, not being an athlete. I stopped training and started performing.
8. What’s the household chore you relish the most?
Clearly not cleaning out the fridge (where I found relish but no pleasure). I have a bad habit of letting the house get really dirty and then gain great satisfaction from making it really clean again. That’s how my mind works: all or nothing.
9. What sort of shoes do you wear to work?
At the moment I’m wearing black sandals but that’s because when I’m not performing, I work in a relaxed gift store called Village Idiom in Yarraville, Melbourne, with a super cool boss. I’m about to stop wearing shoes though, because I’m joining Circus Oz, and heels won’t fly there.
10. What campaigning tactic do you most want to see in this year’s federal election?
I think Kevin Rudd is onto a pretty great tactic at the moment, which is to let Tony Abbott flood the media with his personal opinions.
11. Nominate a new public holiday.
Minority Day. A day for all Australians who are not white, heterosexual and male to actually experience privilege.
12. If you could go tomorrow anywhere in Australia for a holiday, where would you go?
The Great Barrier Reef. I want to see it before it dies.
13. What’s your favourite YouTube video?
Taylor Mac sings The Palace Of The End. What an incredible artist! The clip goes for seven minutes, but you must watch it all the way through — it’s just so fun, clever and moving.
14. If you were given $5 million, what would you spend it on?
Well, I’d buy myself a house on the beach and a shit hot warehouse in Melbourne city. I’d buy a nice Jag — and get my licence so I could drive it. I’d put a whole lot of money in the bank for retirement and then another whole bunch in another account so that I could produce my own work and tour the world with Yana Alana and Tha Paranas. I would then give money to family and friends. And finally I would find a wonderful Indigenous organisation and donate money to them, as my way of saying sorry for the shit my ancestors did to their culture and people.
15. Who would you most like to sit next to on a long haul flight?
I want to say Patti Smith, but the truth is that I have a massive flying phobia and the only person who makes me feel better is my gorgeous partner Bec.
16. What trivia question/topic will you beat everyone else in the pub to the buzzer on?
The films of Charlie Chaplin and the Marx Brothers. Anything about Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi as well as the 1965 film The Great Race.
I know that’s a really random mix of films, but I had a massive crush on Charlie Chaplin when I was a teenager and then I moved on to the Marx Brothers. I was convinced that I would marry a Jewish comedian.
Why Star Wars? Well, my brother and I were obsessed by the trilogy. I think it’s because it’s a myth. We weren’t brought up religious so it was kind of our Bible story. And The Great Race was my first ever favourite film. It’s the slapstick comedy, I would request it before I even understood what they were saying.
17. Complete this sentence. I’d like to hear Kevin Rudd say …
"The time has come to allow gay marriage."
18. Name someone in Australian public life who deserves a promotion.
Bob Brown. Politics must be hard when you’re not an arsehole, the rest of them are pretty used to talking shit.
19. In 10 words or less, summarise your food philosophy.
More, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more, more!
20. What question should we ask our next interviewee?
Complete this sentence "Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. And vote like … "
BONUS QUESTION from our last interviewee:
What would you say if I told you the 2009 questions were more interesting than the 2010 ones?
That’s like a chef saying to a diner after they’ve eaten, "What if I told you that last year’s menu was a lot tastier than this year’s menu?’ Or a man saying to his second wife, "What if I told you I was a lot better in bed with my ex wife?" Or a boss saying, "What if I told you last year’s employees earnt more money than you for doing the same thing?" I mean, you just wouldn’t say those things. Ignorance is bliss, First Dog.
Yana Alana and Tha Paranas will perform Bite Me for the first time in Sydney this week. For details go to www.yanaalana.com.
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.