Putting yourself out there as an actor is always a little daunting.
But when it's in a work you've written yourself, it's positively gruelling.
And when you're actively inviting feedback from the audience as well as professional collaborators, it borders on the masochistic.
Dylan Van Den Berg, 27, is returning to The Street Theatre with Milk. This work-in-progress will be showing online on Friday, August 7 at 5pm.
Director Gin Savage is working with Palawa actor-writer Van Den Berg, who has family connections to the Bass Strait Islands and the northeast of Tasmania.
They are developing the play's imagery and characters with the other cast members, Roxanne McDonald and Laila Thaker.
Also on board is Van Den Berg's cousin Gaye Doolan, who works at the ANU, as a cultural consultant.
They will work with sound designer Peter Bailey who will provide atmospheric sounds to help create the world of the play.
In Milk, three people of Tasmanian Indigenous heritage from different periods in history - spanning more than two centuries - come together on a metaphysical Flinders Island off the coast of Tasmania.
Each is on the verge of a life-changing moment.
The three, who will attempt to reconcile what came before the onslaught of colonisation with what is yet to come, are an old woman from the 1840s (Van Den Berg refers to her, for convenience, as (a) a middle-aged woman (b) from the 1960s, and a young writer (c) from the present wanting to know more about his heritage and what happened to his ancestors.
The writer is trying to piece together a complicated and fragmented history so he can try to make sense of it.
By the author's admission, the young writer is a semi-autobiographical character and Van Den Berg will be playing him in the online performance.
"Milk comes from him having a lighter skin than the other actors," Van Den Berg says of the title.
The young writer is grappling with many questions and issues and feelings. And so is his creator.
Milk began as an idea in about 2015 while Van Den Berg was living in Sydney, with the idea of a young man trying to find out about the past.
He worked on it and through feelings of guilt, wondering if he had the right to tell such stories when his life was so different to those of the women.
"I've come to discover I do have the right to tell these stories - they're part of history and it's important we stand up and tell them."
On the question of whether someone who does not have Indigenous heritage can tell such stories, he says he's not sure.
"It depends on the story," he says - if it's a personal, family story like the one in Milk, it might be better left to someone who's part of that story, but in other cases, he says, "I think I would say it depends on being respectful and sensitive."
Van Den Berg consulted historical documents and family stories. He also made use of dramatic licence to write the play.
One of the outside inspirations for Milk was Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Three Tall Women, which brings together three women - identified as A, B and C - who are the same character at different ages (90s, 50s, 20s), and "their" son.
In Milk, the older woman from the 1840s survived the massacres of Tasmanian Indigenous people by white settlers but was among the many women taken to Flinders Island to be exploited as workers and spouses by white men.
She is dying and clutching the stone that should have killed her sealer husband.
Van Den Berg says, "I think for a lot of Tasmanian Indigenous people like myself so much of that history has been eradicated - it was a pretty dark, violent time."
After World War I, he says, many of the Indigenous people from Flinders Island tried to integrate into mainland Tasmania but for generations were looked down on and dubbed "half-castes" or worse.
The 1960s woman, he says, who is seen curling her hair in preparation for a date, "has been trying to hide her heritage so she can have a normal life".
He says, "She lies about it - she found out about it and it is something she struggles with."
Van Den Berg says the First Seen process is "challenging at times" but the feedback has helped shape him as a writer and improve his work.
He says when ideas that can seem fantastic when writing alone at his desk get exposed to other collaborators or audience members, they can provide a fresh perspective and can often highlight areas of weakness that need improving.
Milk was initially developed at The Street Theatre in 2019. Van Den Berg is using the First Seen: new works-in-progress workshop program in 2020 for a mix of pre-production creative development and writing creative development, working in Zoom.
Van Den Berg, who studied drama at the ANU, played the lead role in The Street's production of Metamorphosis last year.
He's also been in the First Seen program before. In 2017, his play Blue: A Misery Play underwent the first stage of the development program.
Recently, another of his plays, Way Back When, won the Griffin Award (2020), was highly commended for the Max Afford Award, and was shortlisted for the Patrick White Playwrights Award and the Queensland Premier's Drama Award.
It is being developed through Darlinghurst Theatre Company's Next in Line program.
- The online showing of First Seen: Milk from The Street Theatre is on Friday, August 7 at 5pm. Limited places are available and audience members can give feedback. Bookings: thestreet.org.au/shows/first-seen-milk-dylan-van-den-berg-0.