Stellar Quine of the Month: Maria Oller

Maria Oller

What do you do in theatre?
I am a director and an actor and the Artistic Director of Lung Ha’s Theatre Company which provides opportunities for people with learning disabilities to be actively involved in the performing arts. I also work for a charity called Hearts & Minds as an Elderflower which is clowning for elderly people with dementia.

How long have you been doing it?
My first part as an actor in a professional production was when I was 16. I played the princess in Bernard Shaw’s play The Applecart. That is now 34 years ago! (I can’t believe it).  I have been working with Lung Ha’s since 2009.

What was your first ever job?
Collecting pine cones for our sauna. They are good to light the fire with. I got paid 1p per cone.

What was the contact or opportunity that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
I had the great opportunity as a young acting student to work with the Swiss-French director Benno Besson. He said to me that I need two teachers, Philippe Gaulier in France and Pierre Byland in Switzerland. I have studied with both and I think my work would be very different without their influence.

What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t?
I don’t know because I have missed it.

What’s your most memorable moment in theatre?
It is hard to say what my most memorable moment is as there are so many. However, one of the strongest moments was when I got my first professional part and I felt so at home and knew that theatre is definitely my life.

What’s your favourite play?
Again there are so many to choose from, but I would love to play Lady MacBeth before I die.

What advice would you give to new and emerging women in Scottish theatre?
Be brave and get out in the world to meet other women in other cultures. I’m just back from an International Women Playwrights Conference and it was so inspiring to attend readings and meet playwrights from elsewhere, especially from outside the English speaking world and from cultures where women have bigger challenges than here to be heard and respected.

What do you like the best about working in theatre?
Imagination. To create an imaginary world that reflects on our reality and can have a big influence and impact on our lives.

For Rehearsal Room 19 you and Lung Ha’s Theatre Company are working in partnership with Stellar Quines to focuses on Finnish women playwrights. What do you think is distinctive about the voice of female playwrights in Finland?
Female playwrights have always had a big influence on theatre in Finland.  Finnish women are strong and also politically active. The tradition of having female playwrights for generations is influencing the playwrights of today. They are brave, funny and can take their space.

Who would your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?
Joyce MacMillan. She is a theatre critic with a big love for theatre. Her understanding of theatre and political support for theatre in Scotland is unique and admirable. Thank you.

SQ of the Month