Fancy Session: 5 – Madame Fancy Pants

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Fancy Session: 5

Liz Butler & Abi Sucsy

Liz: Co-founder of Yellow Cat Collective & Improviser, Director & Teacher
Pronouns: She/Her, They/Them

Abi: Co-founder of Yellow Cat Collective and national engagement leader/project administrator for Te Kura o te Kauri.
Pronouns: She/Her, They/Them

Liz (Short blonde hair) wears: Ink Green Overalls by SÜK and the Snug Tee in White by Kindling. 

Abi (Long red hair) wears: Navy Overalls by SÜK, top is Abi's own.

Kia ora both! Thank you so much for speaking with me today! 

L: Woohoo! Yes!
A: Kia ora!

You both run the Yellow Cat Collective. Please tell us more about the collective, and how it came into being. 

L: Starting Yellow Cat was us proving to ourselves that we can get shit done. It’s a collective where we encourage each other to “do the thing”. I think we partially started it so we could take ourselves seriously as creators. Yellow Cat Co was always within us, clawing to get out - (pun intended!). As soon as I met Abi it was clear we were both hungry for projects. Our first project was a zine called “Hot Fat Water” that is part collage, part recipes, part time capsule for the beginning of our friendship. Yellow Cat was born because Abi had ideas and I had the know-how of how to devise a show and an unfailing “say yes” attitude. At the time, we were relatively new to the Wellington creative scene. I was brand-brand new, and Abi had 4 years under her belt. But we wanted to create a collective that allowed us to gain the skills to produce projects told from female and queer perspectives that excited us, and that allowed our friends gain skills as well. Yellow Cat Co is a learn-by-doing endeavor and it has been a vehicle for us believing in ourselves as artists!   

A: Ditto what Liz said. I started dancing and performing much older in life and felt a huge gap between taking classes and professionally performing, there didn't seem to be a lot of options in between those two. So Yellow Cat Collective is a chance for us to organise ourselves and our dream projects and say f**k it, let's make this happen! Looking and applying for funding was sort of the practical impetus for starting Yellow Cat, which was a really huge space for us to start to navigate. It's really magic to work and learn with Liz! She and everyone we work with keep me going. Big shout out to Jake, Ben, Ellen, Aaron, Karwin, Jo and Andrew!

Yellow Cat is going to be performing your show The Yellow Wallpaper in the historic Katherine Mansfield house and gardens in July. Can you tell me more about the show, and how the space will be utilised to tell the story?

L: Honestly I’m so grateful we get to perform at KMH&G. We’ve been so lucky to have these beautiful old homes to perform in, that completely enhance the experience of the work.  

When we did our full dance/movement adaptation of The Yellow Wallpaper for Fringe in March 2021; we dissected the text and took over one of the art rooms at Inverlochy Art School for an incredibly intimate production. Having the audience experience our show while also experiencing the historic home elevated the timelessness of this short story. 

Even though the work was written over 100 years ago the relevancy of themes are ever present today. Now for this piece at KMH&G we are pinching our fingers and zooming in on the text to dive even deeper into the nuance of these themes. We’re especially compelled by the push and pull of the work.

 A: While still being fully rooted and reacting to the text, this show is developed from the deeper themes in it. It is less based on story, and more digging into the emotional base of the characters and archetypes. It's been an interesting process! Everytime I try to talk about it I find it so difficult... that's why dance is so good! 

What do you find inspiring about living in Wellington? 

L: Wellington is the sourdough starter of cities. Everyone’s obsessed with it and it helps you start a crusty loaf of life bread. It’s remarkable just how supportive the opportunities are, I really felt that during my first week here when I saw people I knew on Cuba Street. Also, there's an ocean here. It makes my whole body blush getting to live this close to the sea! 

A: I like Wellington because it's windy and wind makes me feel excited. Also because the people here are so kind and the fashion is very open. 

What art is exciting you at the moment? 

L: The art of shining your shoes and taking care of your things! Also the artist Ciara Leroy of Pretty Strange Design.

A: The dancing and choreography of Juliano Nunes, Ruri Mitoh, Jacob Jonas the Company, our own NZ contemporary company Footnote! Also - María Medem.

What are your favourite spots on Cuba Street? 

L: Hot take: I think Zelati’s ice cream is the best in town. Fact. Hana Akari - Miki has the loveliest little shop filled with self care wonders and gives the best massage in Wellington. Wellington Apothecary, shout out to Alexa! Aunty Mena’s. And 1154 Pastaria - talk about dairy free options for the pasta lover - my god! 

A: Oh Liz hit some good ones! A new favourite of mine is Nolita's! Wellington Sourdough and Mother of Coffee on the Left Bank. Long will I mourn the loss of Viva Mexico Left Bank!

The combination of a short black, followed by a citrus twist from Midnight Espresso, then going to life drawing at Wellington School of Drawing on a Wednesday or Friday night is the best. If you can't handle coffee that late; just the juice and drawing!

L: Oh my, pizza! Yes Nolita. 200%.

How would you describe your personal style, and who are your influences? 

L: Zealous Chameleon™. I feel like my style allows me to become a new character everyday which is convenient because I have a lot of characters up my sleeve and a lot I have yet to meet! My style flirts with the 80s. It embraces androgyny. It’s playful, curious and full of colour. It’s also very comfortable, I’ve gotta digest somehow! I’m influenced by my sibling Moo, my sister Bea, Dronme (@dronme), Alok (@alokvmenon), I style like u videos, people on the street, skater bois and the way my body feels when I wake up.

I also really admire Abi’s style. She consistently looks breathtaking and timeless.  

A: My style has changed a lot recently - I wish I could be a Zealous Chameleon but I think I'm more like kelp green, over brewed tea brown and black with occasional splashes of color. I guess a shy octopus is my inspiration! Also Ellen Butler. She is so stylish!

And Liz! I love how you really put an outfit together and it's like ‘MMMM I'M HERE!’

What has been your biggest revelation/lesson of the last year? 

L: Ask for what you want. So much of this past year has been realizing that showing up for others also means showing up for yourself. 

A: Ask others what they need instead of guessing. Things are always better when they are talked about in the open. And that if you want something, make a plan and then go for it. Or go for it and then make a plan as you go! That you can achieve your goals if you break it down into smaller pieces.

And now that I have octopus on my brain I realised this year that they are just the coolest! I started diving again this year - it's amazing and octopus is the best. Oh gosh I'm rambling! Cut this out hahaha!

Hahahaha! I refuse to cut any talk of octopi. (Come at me octopus people!)

Do you have any daily rituals? 

L: Oh I'd love to tell you I have a daily ritual. I desperately want one.

BUT what I do have is a weekly ritual of going to the Freyberg sauna and then walking into the ocean, breathing through the cold, washing my feet at the outdoor shower, going back to the sauna then the ocean again! It’s a ritual that makes my brain and my body much happier! 

A: I actually do! Partly because I have animals, but mostly because I don't like doing dishes at night. Every morning I get up and boil the kettle, turn RNZ on, then feed the kittens and quail. I make tea and coffee and do the dishes. Then I kiss the kittens on the nose and go to work. At night I always take a little bird bath (if I'm not showering), put Wellington Apothecary lotion on my face, rub some tiger balm on and stretch. 

What music are you listening to currently? 

L: New Wave always. Japanese Breakfast’s new album, “Jubilee”. “Seabird” by Babeheaven. “Floating by” by Washed Out, and “I’ll Never Make it in the Music Industry” by Jungle Green. It’s got the humour and heart of being an artist and trying to “make it”.

A: Turntables by Janelle Monáe and Numb by Andy Stott on repeat. And Lil Nas X. 

What do you appreciate most about working with the other?

L: Abi is such a beautiful human in all the ways! I love her dreams, her vision, and her dedication to paying artists. Abi comes to projects with such verve, passion and thoughtfulness for everyone involved. There are so many times when we have been there for each other, talking through an issue or an idea. We’ve exercised those muscles consistently so now when we need to talk about something hard or uncomfortable, we tackle it with trust and knowing that we’ll be better for it. She’s well aware that you don’t get good enough by waiting to be good enough, you get good enough by putting yourself out there! Abi has taught me to put myself out there. So grateful for her.

A: Oh my gosh so much! I'll name a few things. So definitely Liz has an incredible work ethic - she just puts that time in!! And she knows so much more about performance inside and out, especially organizing all the things that have to happen around it like…advertising and rehearsal calendars and logistics. I honestly would not be here without her. At all. I couldn't even dream this was possible. Also she is really honest in communicating her feelings which I appreciate, and self aware. I love you Liz!

You can find out more about Yellow Cat Collective here.

Photography by Aimée Sullivan.

Photos taken in Liz's home in Mount Cook. 

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