Meet artist Diana Divine

Sat, Dec 3 2022
Meet artist Diana Divine. Diana Divine Speaks About Art, Life and Career. We sat down with Adelaide Fringe artist Diana Divine to discuss their experience as an artist at Adelaide Fringe. We asked Diana if they would be happy to participate in an interview that celebrates their experience as an artist, while shining some light on their experience as an artist living with a disability.
Diana Divine Speaks About Art, Life and Career. 

We sat down with Adelaide Fringe artist Diana Divine to discuss their experience as an artist at Adelaide Fringe. We asked Diana if they would be happy to participate in an interview that celebrates their experience as an artist, while shining some light on their experience as an artist living with a disability.
A group of artists stand on stage with their hands up about to take a bow.
Singin' In The Pain, Emma Clear 2022
Tell us about your style as an artist?

I am primarily a comedy & character burlesque performer. I emphasise the already prominent aspects of agency, exaggeration, and camp in most of my routines, usually aiming to tell a story or otherwise express a perspective.

What first drew you to performance? 

I've always been drawn to creative expression in any form, however growing into my queer, disabled identities, I saw even more value in having a creative outlet. Marginalised folks are so often denied agency and freedom of expression, so rarely given the space to tell our own stories, so the cabaret format allows me total control of what I want to say and how I want to be represented. Burlesque in particular allows me to subvert many expectations around what disabled bodies should look like and how we should act, while allowing myself space to express freely.

How long have you called yourself an artist? 

I decided I was a "real" artist when I received my first paid booking in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe. I think I waited too long, honestly, and these days consider anyone who enjoys making art an artist. I believe being an artist is about the process and the connection to the work, not perceived quality, quantity, nor even attention to artistic conventions. If you are creatively expressing yourself regularly, you're probably an artist whether you consider yourself one or not.

We’ve seen your involvement in Embrace Festival, can you share more about what that is? 

Embrace: Disability Arts Festival is a new biennial multi-platform festival, which I recently debuted in September. It aims to platform, promote, and celebrate the incredible disabled artists and disability-led arts organisations in our community. Embrace Fest will be returning in 2024 after testing the waters this year, and seeing massive success with our small program. We hosted individual shows like Endo Days, Benched, and the visual art exhibition Embodied Connection, with a fundraising gala featuring our key artists. All funds from the gala were split between our artist cohort for a nice little end-of-festival monetary bonus.

What does an open access festival like Adelaide Fringe mean to you as a performer? 
When I put a show into an open access festival, I'm able to follow my own artistic process rather than be dictated by the application process of a curated festival. This way, I'm able to develop at a pace and in an order that works for me, as often disabled artists work on what we call "disabled time" - things get delayed and reprioritised all the time when you spend so much of your day tending to your own body.

What do you do as a performer? And what themes do you enjoy performing? 

I perform burlesque, but I also host, sing, and generally "entertain". I really enjoy taking on a concept or basic premise and running with it, developing to absurd logical conclusions. On the flip side, I also highly value the impact of all art, and understand the position an artist is in when they express opinions and perspectives onstage. With this knowledge, I try to use my position of public representation to express my views and experiences as a disabled person, and elevate fellow marginalised artists, supporting them to do the same.

Why is an open access festival important? 

We all need a starting point, we need space to workshop and develop, and above all else we need community.

Did having a show at Adelaide Fringe help develop your idea of Embrace Festival at Carclew?

Absolutely - Adelaide Fringe was the first festival I had involvement with, and it definitely became my point of reference for all festivals going forward, so of course that was heavily reflected in the development of Embrace. I appreciated how much control Adelaide Fringe artists have over their productions, and wanted to create a similar freedom for our artists.

What has been the most rewarding part of Embrace Festival?

Artist satisfaction and the interaction/collaboration between disability arts organisations. We had Restless Dance offering their theatre for rehearsal & performance space, Tutti selling artworks and booking the Sisters of Invention to play at our picnic. Access 2 Arts gave ongoing support for the development and delivery of our events, with artists representing Pillow Fight Theatre & TrueAbility. On a selfish note, I was able to get into contact with two personal heroes of mine: Kelly Vincent and Mama Alto, and was honoured to hear their keynote speeches at the Embrace Gala.

What else are you developing as an artist? 

I'm currently developing the next season of my award-winning disability cabaret, "Singin in the Pain". After that, I hope to debut my solo show "Agent of Change", which was delayed due to my own burnout, in 2023. I'm also excited to rebalance my arts practice and take on more visual arts & design jobs next year.

Are you doing anything at Adelaide Fringe 2023? If so, what can we look forward to? 

I will absolutely be back at Fringe next year! You can catch me performing in variety nights across the festival, but I am most excited for the new season of Singin in the Pain. You'll find us in a fancy new venue supported by the Adelaide Fringe collaborations program. We have an interstate headliner, many familiar faces, and some lovely new ones too. I would love to tell you more about the content of the show, but that's really up to my performers, who develop their acts independently. I find this show to be the epitome of what I love about burlesque and the wider cabaret genre - agency, expression, choice, pride. Putting on a season of SITP feels like getting one big group hug, and I'm currently stretching my arms in preparation.

Talking disability theory, personal anecdotes, and pet peeves, Diana Divine presents a bevy of burlesque & cabaret stars ready to share in this soapbox-style performance. You can see Diana perform hit “disability cabaret”, Singing in the Pain at Adelaide Fringe in 2023.