Artist Interview: Medina Dizdarevic

Medina Dizdarevic is an emerging playwright based in Boorloo (Perth).

Born to refugee parents, her work examines displacement, the Muslim experience, and intergenerational trauma. Medina graduated from Curtin University in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing, and endeavours to use theatrical storytelling as a means of community healing, joy, and connection. 

The Strangers is Medina’s newest work, and is currently in development with Performing Lines WA and Black Swan State Theatre Company through the Department of Local Government, Sports, and Cultural Industries’ Playwright Partnership Program.

The play celebrates Muslim stories and explores the Muslim identity through magical realism. The development of this work fills a dire need to bring Muslim voices to the theatre and arts sector at large, something which Dizdarevic specifically wanted to address with this work. 

We sat down with Medina to gain more insight into The Strangers, the rationale behind the work, how being part of the 2021 Kolyang Artist Lab influenced her as an up and coming Playwright, and how her own experiences as a young Muslim woman have shaped the creation of the work. 

Medina Dizdarevic Medina Dizdarevic is an emerging Plawywright based in Boorloo (Perth).

Medina Dizdarevic at the Kolyang Artist's Hub

Tell us about The Strangers, what it is and how you conceptualized the idea

The Strangers is a new play that follows four vibrant and unruly Muslim women as they reckon with change and loss, navigating relationships with each other, their families and themselves. Set in present day Australia in a nature-laden cafe humming and shifting with a life of its own, this work employs magical realism as a tool to explore the ways in which pain and (intergenerational) trauma manifest in a person’s body and their reality. 

 A lot of this play is simply a continuation of themes I have been exploring in my work for years, now being adapted for one of my favourite art forms; the theatre. 

You were part of the 2021 Kolyang Artist Lab, a lab for culturally diverse artists in WA. How did the lab support you in developing your ideas?

 I credit the Kolyang Artist Lab as a turning point in my life. This residency granted me a culturally safe space to explore my creativity, validated me as an artist and introduced me to a community in the other participants who I now lean on for support in art and in life.  

This Lab also introduced me to my mentor for this project, Clare Watson, whose support has been invaluable from the original group sessions we undertook during the residency to date. Clare has been incredibly generous and openhearted in supporting emerging artists like myself; having her to touch base with about my work has been integral in pushing me forward. The Lab also reinforced that there is a need for the stories I want to tell. 

 My work draws heavily on my lived experience as someone existing at the intersection of multiple cultural identities and I don’t know that I would have felt as confident as I do now to invite an audience in to see something I have always held so close to my heart. The support, warmth and strength I felt surrounded by during the Lab from both the mentors and my cohort gave me the courage to keep moving forward in pursuing the projects I want to create.  

What would you like audiences to understand about the themes and messages presented in The Strangers?

 I would like audiences to understand that The Strangers is just another voice adding to the growing canon of culturally diverse work, informed in massive part by my very specific lived experience. That CaLD communities are not a monolith and, particularly when considering the Muslim community, there is no way of encapsulating the entirety of the Muslim experience in one work. Some concepts I explore in The Strangers such as families that have migrated as refugees instead of for economic opportunity, sibling dynamics and diaspora resonate deeply with me in my context but understand that many Muslims who see this work may have had wildly different encounters with all of these themes. 

I would also love for audiences to pick up on the nuance and complexity that I am examining in this work, to grasp how a life can be complicated by the cards you have been dealt all while navigating multiple identities, often existing neither here nor there. 

How have your own experiences of being culturally diverse influenced and inspired the creation of this work, and do you hope that others of a similar background might relate to these experiences as they are portrayed in the work?

It wasn’t until the Lab in which we actively explored what it meant to be a culturally diverse artist did I realise how important it was to me that I expressed every facet of my identity in my work. Despite having pursued an undergrad in the arts, this experience made me reflect on how much of myself, my family’s history and my faith I had been pushing aside when writing or creating. Going through the residency felt like a process of cleansing and healing. I have felt seen and inspired by other culturally diverse artists and their work over the past few years through shows such as Black Brass, Sharbat, Black Ties and Fully Sikh, to name a few, that I almost feel a sense of responsibility in paying that experience forward.

I would hope that The Strangers and whatever I go on to make in the future witnesses and resonates with other culturally diverse kids that have grown up existing at the intersection of multiple complex identities that inform every part of them. I hope that things like ethnic parents, taking your shoes off at the front door, immigrant family struggles, plates of fruit, fighting over who is going to pay the bill (out of hospitality!) and mother tongues all find a way into the work I go on to create. I hope that someone out there resonates as I try to portray the beautiful and impossibly ordinary experiences that have made our upbringings so special and worth sharing. 

What do you anticipate will be the most challenging aspects of developing and staging The Strangers?

While I am still writing the story and developing the work, I am working through the challenge of narrowing down the themes I want to explore. It’s difficult to focus on what will serve the story when disparaging narratives about Muslim women are pervasive in society and any opportunity to debunk myths is enticing. However, my intention for this piece is for the work to be authentic and strong in its simplicity and focus; I want to tell a good story. When The Strangers is staged, I anticipate it will be challenging to honour my intention of finding an all Muslim cast simply due to the still developing relationship between the arts and Muslim community. Muslim artists often exist scattered and find each other at random, if at all, so I anticipate it may prove tricky to assemble what I envision as quickly as desired, but this is a challenge I am optimistic can be overcome! 

Medina Dizdarevicis an emerging Bosnian Muslim writer from Perth. Born to refugee parents, her work explores displacement, the Muslim experience and intergenerational trauma.

She graduated from Curtin University in 2015 with a Bachelors degree in Creative Writing and endeavours to use theatrical storytelling as a means of community healing, joy and connection.

She is currently a participant in Playwrights To the Front with Static Drive Co and a dedicated member of Garrick Theatre’s production committee.

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