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The History of the World according to Kate

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Kate Walder

Kate Walder. Image by Blueprint Studios

Bonjour mes amis!

Yes I’ve dabbled in French. I’ve dabbled in the French too but that’s another story. Welcome back! I should apologise for leaving you column-less the last couple of weeks. In all honesty, I’ve felt quite boring and without anything interesting to say. I know that doesn’t usually stop me, it’s not as though I regularly pen articles on global politics, but for some reason I just felt a bit dull. “But you just wrote and performed a show!” you may be thinking. “Surely that’s exciting!” And it was, it was wonderful! But after four weeks of rewriting a show about myself, promoting myself in the show about myself and having post-show conversations about myself in a personal, professional and existential capacity, I can confidently say that I am BORED with myself. I never want to hear about myself again. If I’m at a party at someone brings me up, I’m going to lose it.

But this got me thinking. You see, I used to be a very interesting person. When I was growing up, my Dad would give us a history lesson almost every night. You’d ask him what was for dinner and he’d reply, “funny you should ask,” and proceed to tell the entire story of the Russian Revolution. By age six I knew every significant date in military history and could probably have organised a complex logistical operation for the Australian Army. While all my friends were watching Neighbours, I was listening to the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe and being quizzed on his influence in Gothic literature.

I’m not suggesting I was some kind of child genius, or that my Dad locked me in a room and forced me to read War and Peace by candlelight. But it did mean that I was altogether quite interesting… until, that is, I developed an unhealthy fascination with tap dance and Andrew Lloyd Webber. When I started pursuing a career in the performing arts, much of that wonderful knowledge was pushed to the outer edges of my memory. Now when my Dad asks me who wrote “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” I reply, “Stephen Sondheim?”

So after the show, I decided it was time for a change. I wanted to recover my sense of academic curiosity and thought I’d do a little test to see how much knowledge I had retained. I summoned all my powers in literature, history, anthropology and the arts and penned an abridged history of the world. This is what I came up with.

A long, long time ago, before any of us were around and thinking about ourselves, there was a massive explosion. I didn’t include science in the list so I can’t tell you the exact specifics, but let’s just say it was pretty wild. As a result of this extraordinary eruption of matter, lots of planets and stars and velociraptors started popping up all over the place. Then for a long time nothing happened, until Jesus. We all know the extent of my religious education so let’s not go into that. Then the Dark Ages came about. Men went around clubbing each other to death, which led us to the Medieval period where they decided to burn independent and forward-thinking woman at the stake (unenlightened bastards). Finally more sophisticated individuals started painting and composing and the Renaissance was born. Cue Shakespeare. Shortly after, a few people got together and invented a factory and a train, someone shot an Austrian, the world went to war and here we are.

There are clearly a few gaps in my memory, but in 13.7 billion years of history that’s bound to happen. I’m sure my recent subscription to Quadrant magazine, a publication for “intellectuals” will help to fill some of those holes (although I have to admit it’s done more for my ego than it has for my brain).

I’m not suggesting that you have to make a choice as an actor – having a career or being an interesting person. The two can and should go hand in hand. Sometimes it’s just easy to let the balance slip. But don’t be alarmed; as I continue upon my quest to be a more learned person I don’t expect my columns to suffer. I’m too partial to a good bout of caffeine-induced self-reflecting to ever really change.

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Kate has written 21 articles on AussieTheatre
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