Zsuzsanna Soboslay

I’ve always thought language pushes, sculpts and shapes us. I knew that as a child. I was the obedient daughter of post-WWII refugees with a subversive sense of humor, which I think came from another country. The elderly nuns laughed while the other school kids didn’t know what was going on.

The day I realised that performing arts and literary theory are symptomatic of a whole social and political climate, the light bulb went on for the young adults I was teaching. I gave these students permission to bite, tear, punch, contest and roll in it, via the pleasures and resistances of their bodies.

After a few years writing for RealTime, Keith and Virginia invited me to be part of the team writing in London for LIFT (1997). I was astonished and overwhelmed. I loved London—its ready valuing of thoughtfulness. I met some extraordinary simpatico practitioners. I vowed to return and work with them. That took another 18 years.


In 2002, I suffered such traumatic injury I couldn’t move for several years. I really had to rethink who I was—both in the world, and out of it—while caring for a young family.

I have since worked in the disabilities and community services sectors. I understand what it takes to focus on strengths and agencies, rather than weaknesses. Art can be made with those strengths, with respectfulness. I burn with anger when theatre, for example, just doesn’t listen.

I’ve coined the term “vulnerable authority,” which holds the key concepts of respect, responsiveness and reciprocation. I’ve recently understood that these are cornerstones of Care Ethics. I am completing a PhD (via Monash University) on this subject in relation to performance practices.

My current projects, Anthems and Angels and The Compassion Plays, are part of a trilogy on themes of displacement and exile. They seek to create empathic understanding of the situation of past and more recent refugees. I always, always work with visual artists and musicians. The body of an exile hides experiences that I think can only be revealed in the crucible of performance—and often, via means other than text.

For me, thinking/writing/being/doing require a disarming of what keeps us distant from others. This is the cornerstone to the ethics of my practice.

Recent articles for realtime

Other writing