Ellen Dunn’s Journey with WOW

WOW: “A Sense of Play and Adventure is all you need”. A favourite saying and two things that often don’t get priority in modern life, especially for “adults”. This attracted me to WOW when I moved to the Wollongong, along with the opportunity for creativity, connection and community. These same ideas kept me committed to WOW for many years.

I wasn’t quite a founding member; I joined what was called “New Tricks” with our 3 hour sessions on a Sunday morning in second term approximately six months later. I had moved to the Northern Beaches area in 2000, after completing an academic Performance Studies Degree from Sydney Uni and some studies in Playback Theatre and Improv. I liked the idea of physical theatre, though often “co-ordination challenged”. Starting something creative physically in my forties was wonderful; as was the chance to perform with ongoing ensembles of people, which can be rare in Oz. I loved the variety, always something new to try. In the end, I mainly focused on character clowning and acro-balance for performing and the odd “easy” bit of object manipulation.

For 10 years plus I was on the management committee doing a lot of behind the scenes work with WOW. I refer to it as the “iceberg” theory: 90% of what keeps it all going is below the surface (or behind the curtain!). Over various years, I would have tried my hand at most of the management committee roles. The longest was as three years as Training Coordinator; this was at a tricky time when WOW was between solid training home bases after Bellambi closure and before the days of Switchfit.

Volunteering with WOW had to fit around other jobs/ study, and in my case, this inevitably meant less time and energy devoted to developing circus skills and performing. However, this journey was rich in other ways and on a personal level I felt I experienced so much, developed many lifelong skills and meet so many wonderful people. WOW, of course, is a great way to meet people in arts and broader community as the membership and activities are so diverse.

I have many found memories of performing in the group acts including: Illawarra Folk Festival and Viva roving, the Nancies at the Vault, Bonded at the Art Gallery, Out of Sync Funk at the swimming pool and Older Women’s Festival, Hoop Festivals, Bubbles Balls, fire shows, Phoenix Theatre Cabarets, WOW shows at Fairy Meadow, IPAC and community halls, markets and many more. Not to forget: the joy and the satisfaction of challenges in participating in dozens, if not hundreds of workshops, classes and activities! And the fun of wearing all the fabulous WOW costumes.

I always knew WOW was unique—and since moving away from Wollongong at the end of 2017, it has become even clearer. The creativity, connection and community of all who have participated with, sustained and supported WOW is amazing and I will treasure it forever. Thank you all and so glad to see WOW still creating magic after 20 years.

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