Human beings (flaws and all) are an ongoing source of inspiration for Madhushani Ramaraju. The Vancouver-based spoken word artist delves deep into the complicated characters of all kinds of human beings in powerful original performances that often draw upon her Sri Lankan heritage. And even though spoken word art is not usually a collaborative pursuit, Madhushani couldn’t be happier to be diving into a cross-genre dialogue with contemporary dancer Ralph Escamillan via the Brief Encounters 21 process. Below, Madhushani introduces us to her craft and previews what to expect from her Brief Encounters collaboration.
Q: Tell me about your craft.
MADHUSHANI: I’m a spoken word artist, which means that I don’t do slams, although I would like to. I’m interested in the psychology of people. I do a lot of short story writing as well, so in all of my work I start with a character and delve into that character. I love that we’re all tragically flawed. It’s lovely to have the audience care about a character.
I like sensual writing, in other words evoking all five senses. I want to create my own work. I love to write and that, for me, is what a spoken word artist is. You can write your own work and you can perform your own work and you can showcase your best talents without waiting for someone to cast you in a role. It’s liberating. I graduated from theatre school and I use acting in my spoken word pieces, but it’s all my own creation, including the music I put in my shows. Everything is original.
Q: What did you say when you were first asked to participate in Brief Encounters?
MADHUSHANI: I’d never seen one before, but David Bloom sent me a pretty detailed description of what it was like, and I said, ‘yes, please!’ I was really happy.
Q: What are you hoping to get out of the Brief Encounters process?
MADHUSHANI: I love it. It’s crazy. Two weeks from start to finish? I want to have fun. That was a major factor, because when I’m anxious I can’t create. I also want to learn from an artist of a different genre.
I’m a very verbal person, and I was hoping to be paired up with a visual person, because I was thinking that would be the Holy Grail. I was lucky to be paired up with an incredible dancer.
Q: Speaking of Ralph, what were your first impressions of your Brief Encounters collaborator?
MADHUSHANI: I liked him right off the bat. He’s full of energy, and I’m really hyper, and when you put the two of us together, it’s a big hyper ball of energy. He’s fun, receptive to my ideas, and incredibly creative.
Q: Is there anything that you’re dreading about the process?
MADHUSHANI: It’s not so much dreading. It’s more nervousness related to the fact that this piece is set in a different time period. I don’t want to give too much away! It is set in a different time period, and I’m nervous about sourcing costumes. That’s all I can say at this point!
Q: What advice do you have for artists who participate in future Brief Encounters?
MADHUSHANI: Relax and have fun, because it’s easier to create that way. Share your talents with each other. You’re coming from different genres. You have a lot to learn from each other.