INTERVIEW: Zachary Sheridan

Zachary Sheridan is a force to be reckoned with. An emerging playwright from Adelaide who now calls Perth home, Zachary talks to Yoshika about his latest project I Feel Fine, being an eco-anxious youth and what we can do to help the climate crisis and addresses the negative online stereotypes that surround vegans and veganism.

Photo credit: Duncan Wright ( I Feel Fine).

Photo credit: Duncan Wright (I Feel Fine).

Please tell us who you are, what you do, how you got into it and what you love about it.

My name is Zachary Sheridan and I'm a performance maker. I'm from Radelaide. I graduated from the Bachelor of Performing Arts course with a major in Performance Making from WAAPA last year. I come from a very artistic family and so that probably played a large role in me pursuing the thespo world. It can be a lot of fun. However, I think the main thing driving me right now is the belief that the arts have a crucial role in finding solutions to some large, terrifying and complex global problems. 

Photo credit: Nicolee Fox and Tim Meakins

Photo credit: Nicolee Fox and Tim Meakins

Your current project I Feel Fine is currently showing at The Blue Room Theatre, could you tell us more about it?

I Feel Fine began with questioning the hypocrisy in my own life re: caring for the environment. For example, knowing the downfalls of driving or using the dryer or flying to Sydney, etc. and still carrying out those actions. Eventually, this led to an idea of a fictitious church for the eco-anxious. This project is created by and for young people. For those who are genuinely fearful. The project comprises a play/service (I Feel Fine), as well as dank zines for eco-anxious teens; emblems to cope with climate shame; etc. and more. The task is not necessarily to change people's minds about anything (the science is very real), but to create a space for grieving, reflection, (abject) laughter, and so forth. These issues are too hard to face alone. I Feel Fine encourages communion. 

How did you first get involved with Propel?

Zal Kanga-Parabia first introduced me to Propel when he invited The Cockburn Incident - a play I wrote that was performed at Fringe World 2018 - to be a part of Youth Week WA KickstART Youth Festival. It was a great experience. Since then, Propel have been a very supportive organisation towards myself and peers. They've helped extensively with the process and making of I Feel Fine (shout out to Cecile). Having such a passionate youth arts organisation in WA run by really kind people is invaluable. 

I’ve heard you’re a bit of an eco-warrior, could you tell me a bit about that? 

Well, I try to be. I don't do as much as I could in terms of activism. At the moment, theatre is my activism. However, I've been really excited by the inclusivity of movements like Extinction Rebellion, and gone to a few of their rallies in support. The recent school strike for climate which saw 10,000 people get to Forrest Chase was astounding. There's hope there. 

I'm also very passionate about the rights of nonhuman animals. I've been vegan for five years, and won't ever go back to eating animal products or using them (to the best of my ability)... I won't go into it now but I'm always willing to talk (at length) about the benefits of treating other species with care & love. 

Photo credit: Stephen Heath  (Solo Stage: Moments of Being)

Photo credit: Stephen Heath (Solo Stage: Moments of Being)

In your opinion, how can the arts industry or individuals wanting to change, do to help the climate crisis we’re having?
One great thing about the arts industry is its generally low carbon. So that's a nice start. When it comes to making work we should challenge ourselves to make it as environmentally sustainable as possible. Are we using recycled materials? What will happen to our sets after we're done with the work? Where can we reduce our power usage? In one's personal world, there are many changes an individual can make. These have been documented at length. Flying/driving less, reducing meat & dairy consumption, divesting from fossil fuels, etc. and encouraging businesses and governments to do the same. It's about doing what we can... There are a myriad of great resources and role models out there. Look to Greta.

Something I think about a lot is that a work doesn't specifically have to be about the climate crisis to be about the climate crisis. This issue is a symptom of many damaging, oppressive power structures. You can talk about capitalism, the patriarchy, colonisation, etc. and you'd still be in relationship with the climate crisis.

I’ve seen online that there are a few myths and stereotypes surrounding vegans and veganism. For example I’ve seen that ridiculous meme of a bowl filled with ice and a caption saying “vegan, gluten free, low carb dinner” or negative stereotypes about vegans being too “hardcore”. What are you thoughts on this?
"You can't tell me what to do," is often something I hear from humans in relation to not consuming other animals. Fair enough. But where is the nonhuman's choice? How could a nonhuman animal ever consent to their exploitation?

This movement isn't hard-core. It comes from a place of deep, deep love and respect for the other species that share this planet. Of course, there are contradictions here and there... We can't be perfect. But we can try our best to stand up to advocate for and protect other animals at this crucial moment in time. We've already done enough harm.

You can check out Zachary’s latest project I Feel Fine playing at The Blue Room Theatre until 19 October. Feel Fine (Church of the Anthropocene) development and process is proudly sponsored by Healthway, promoting the Drug Aware message and Propel Youth Arts WA.

INTERVIEW BY: YOSHIKA KON