Meet OPIA Collective – a platform for female queer artists whose stories need and deserve to be told

BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS

Masha Kevinovna set up OPIA Collective in 2017 and since then it has developed into a wide network of artists and friends who collaborate on projects in London.

They are a company of female/LGBTQI artists whose strengths lie in various art forms. Their talent ranges from film, writing, performing, poetry, music, to dancing. OPIA strives to create multidisciplinary theatre that reflects the female and LGBTQI experience as truthfully and authentically as possible.

We caught up with OPIA’s Artistic Director, Masha, to find out more about the collective and their upcoming show, The Girl With Glitter In Her Eye.

DIVA: What’s the story behind the name OPIA? 

MASHA KEVINOVNA: Opia is a noun, meaning “the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable”. This is something that we always integrate into the work we create, directly examining important subjects yet in a playful way that reflects the humorous absurdities and vulnerability of day to day life. 

How important is it that we get the opportunity to see marginalised voices involved in theatre? 

It is not just important, but imperative. While female representation is slowly beginning to increase on stage, it is still extremely rare to see queer, transgender and non-binary characters in mainstream media, let alone other art forms. At OPIA, we strive to give a platform to female queer artists whose stories need and deserve to be told. Allowing marginalised communities a voice is essential for living in a truly equal and diverse society.

What’s the vision for OPIA?

As well as continuing to make female and queer led theatre, we are hoping to continue with our OPIA Lates programme, which we set up in 2019, to give a platform to emerging artists of varying disciplines. OPIA Lates is an intimate and immersive night of storytelling through music, poetry, visual art, comedy and theatre. The aim is to create a sense of community, blur the line between stage and audience to create an inclusive experience and get to know the OPIA team!

We also have some ideas in the pipeline for producing small independent films and launching an online magazine in 2020/2021.

My vision is to continue enabling women and queer artists to validate their voice and share stories far and wide. I might not be able to change the world, but hopefully we can make small acts of change and carve out a space in our society for those less privileged. 

What can we expect from The Girl With Glitter In Her Eye?

Audiences can expect an hour of storytelling that explodes with energy… beautiful original composition, exceptional performances, delicate shadow puppetry and wonderfully poetic language. It’s an innovative production that pushes boundaries in terms of theme, form and challenges audiences on current socio-political issues. We want audiences to leave the auditorium feeling uplifted, educated and motivated.

What are the main challenges that you face as the artistic director? 

Financial challenges are always the biggest and most mentally consuming! As everyone knows, the fringe sector of this industry is not the most lucrative. Constantly having to raise money in order to be sustainable theatre-makers can be tough, especially when you are always the last person to get paid! Luckily we have been generously supported by Arts Council England for our last few projects, which has made life a lot easier.

How do you combine all of the multidisciplinary elements? 

Spoken word, poetry, movement, music, visual art are all different ways to tell a story. Usually I start with the script, which is the structure… everything hangs from structure – it’s the foundation of the piece. I then go through the structure and see what sections would be best told through music, movement, visual art or poetry or whether adding music to the text will elevate and support what’s happening in that moment. 

A lot of these discoveries are made naturally in the rehearsal room, playing around with different mediums and finding which one resonates or expresses the vibe of the moment best. And it’s imperative to have a range of artists from different backgrounds and disciplines in the room!

Do you try to ensure that your work is performed in inclusive and safe spaces for the LGBTQI community? 

Always. We will only work with partners and venues who strive to make theatre spaces as safe and inclusive as possible and Bunker Theatre is a prime example of this. They share our vision of showcasing the work of marginalised communities. 

There are also measures that we put in place to create as safe and welcoming an environment as possible for both artists and audiences. At our “Lates” events for example, we have a designated Chill-Out Zone for anyone who wants to take a break or chat to us. I like to think of it as hosting a house party. As the host you have to ensure that everyone is having a good time and that’s what me and the OPIA team do!

What would you like the future of arts and theatre to look like for the LGBTQI community? 

I’d like to see a future in theatre where female and queer artists have ownership of their voice and opportunities as opposed to being controlled by gate keepers. 

I’d also like to see queer stories that aren’t stereotyped and focused on coming out – I want queer narratives to be the norm rather than the USP! While things are improving, there’s still a long way to go with regards to queer and trans protagonists.

Is there a way that people can get involved in the collective?

Yes absolutely! We are always looking to collaborate with new artists not just to be involved with us theatrically but also with our OPIA Lates programme. 

Feel free to invite us to your work! Drop us a line to info.opiacollective@gmail.com or follow us on social media @OpiaCollective to stay up to date with any opportunities to collaborate with us!

Tickets for The Girl With Glitter In Her Eye, OPIA’s latest show, can be bought here. Who would you want to miss out on this explosive collaboration of female and LGBTQI artists?

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