Overcoming adversity with Karla Hillam

Karla Hillam, star of the upcoming performance; Sex, Lies and Betrayal – Memoirs of a Hollywood Star is one of many artists who has found COVID-19 to be detrimental towards their careers. But Karla has embraced a brighter outlook for a post-COVID world. (Image Source: 3 Fates Media)

By Ashleigh Buck | @ashkbuck

Karla Hillam has been performing since she could practically walk and talk. Watching her dad on stage performing a community project of Wizard of Oz at the age of three sparked her ambition to follow in his footsteps.

Moving to Melbourne at 18, Karla studied the arts for a year at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) before studying music at Boxhill Music School, indulging her desire to develop the full range of aspects that make a triple threat performance.

“I go and see a lot of comedy; it makes me laugh and makes me think about things in a different way,” said Karla.

“I think what inspires me most is really good story telling, people that move me when I see them do good work.

“It’s sort of a crazy phenomenon when I see good theatre, it sparks creativity in my mind of what I want to do.”

Sex, Lies and Betrayal – Memoirs of a Hollywood Star, is a story of sex, scandals and forbidden love, with Karla playing the lead, Miss Nightingale. This “object of desire” who was once referred to as the most “beautiful woman in the world” was the sexual promise of the 1940s. Showing the sacrifices women made and the things they put up with to be in the movie business, this show promises to be compelling, provocative and true.

“What’s been special about this performance in particular is that we have gotten to try it and then make some tweaks,” said Karla.

“Each time we travel and perform we can go back to adjust and make the story clearer, more precise.

“The process when creating this story was a lot of trial and error, we weren’t breaking the fourth wall so allowing time to go back and adjust was key.

“The great thing in the end was that people really enjoyed the show, they got on board, they wanted to know about the character.”

The show’s Adelaide debut on Thursday, June 10, was cancelled due to COVID restrictions but after the previous year of lockdowns and restrictions performers like Karla had endured, making it through this next lockdown was not as difficult, she said.

“COVID cancelled a lot of my work in 2020, we were supposed to do a tour of Some Enchanted Evening but ended up only doing one show … financially it’s not been great, but it has been an interesting experience,” she said.

“Last year the lockdown allowed me to do a few things that were on my to do list that I never had time to do and allowed me to reflect on what I wanted to do: performing.

“This allowed me to produce a drag character called Duckie Swanzz which I shared on an Instagram platform.

“I was able to test out and try new skills whilst simultaneously giving a little bit of happiness and hope to others.

“The problem we face as performers during this time is that financially it is too risky, there is a lot of money that goes into to supporting a show and putting up tickets, if there is a lockdown all that money goes down the drain.

“One thing I have learnt is that I really love performing and I am going to do it regardless of if I am earning a million dollars or no dollars. This has made me think of ways to put work into the world that isn’t in the form of live performances.”

COVID has made performing unpredictable with certain things being harder to overcome than others, allowing yourself time to stand back and reflect has assisted Karla during these unfortunate times.

“It’s tricky, you hope for the best and plan for the worst, constantly repeating the little saying ‘it is what it is’ no matter how much it makes you want to smack your head against the wall,” said Karla.

She said thinking about a post-COVID world can be difficult, particularly in understanding the potential for the arts and entertainment industry, but Karla is determined the better months ahead will be positive.

“Aspirations wise, I would like to keep touring and creating new work. I am finally getting around to producing my web-series Nobody’s Business which focuses on women and their choice on whether to reproduce,” said Karla.

“Some more TV work would be nice and definitely building up an audience of people that like the stories that I tell and are engaged with the stories I tell.”

Karla is just one of many performers not only in Australia but globally who have felt the disappointment and pressure that COVID has brought to the arts and entertainment industry.

Not knowing when these restrictions, lockdowns and overall conditions regarding COVID will ease and normality will resume, keeping a positive mind in these dark times gives hope for current and future performers.

“Just because you are not in a show at the moment or you’re not getting work reminds you that it is so important to understand why you do this,” said Karla.

“I want to tell stories, I want audiences to feel something; laugh and cry, I want them to see the world differently.

“Once you understand why you are doing it, it’s easier to pivot and it’s easier to have the gusto and resilience to keep on going even with these challenges. If I did not know this before COVID I would have been lost.

“We aren’t at the end of the world with COVID, allow yourself time to understand what is going on and why you do what you do and use that to create, use your experience, it’s not just stage, there are so many more platforms.

“Try something new, step outside the box, keep fighting and don’t give up.”

Sex, Lies and Betrayal – a Memoir of a Hollywood Star has been rescheduled and will open at Holden Street Theatres on July 16.

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