The Mermaid Chronicles: Interviews

For my exhibition The Mermaid Chronicles at the Adam Art Gallery, we ran a series of film screenings: Splash (1984), Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987). Before each screening, I interviewed a relevant speaker about mermaids in culture. Below are my edited Zoom interviews with Robert Short (Splash tail designer), Dr. Jennifer Kokai, author of Swim Pretty, (ahead of Million Dollar Mermaid) and Patricia Rozema, director of I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing.

I also have an extended interview with medievalist, historian and English Professor, Sarah Peverley. Sarah is writing two books on the history of mermaids and we discuss the meaning and hybridity of the mermaid throughout time. Scroll to the bottom for our conversation...

Interview One, Robert Short on Splash: Robert Short, is the SFX artist who created Madison’s koi carp inspired tail for Splash (1984). I have interviewed Robert several times now on the Splash tail. I have grilled him on how they did the bath scene too. Love the bath scene! This short interview touches on the Madison tail design and the realism of Daryl Hannah’s performance as Madison. And ultimately on why Splash remains a wonderful film and influence on the current mermaid community.

Fluke mould, courtesy Robert Short.
Robert Short and Karen Kubeck, sculpting tail. Courtesy Robert Short.

Interview Two, Jennifer Kokai, on Weeki Wachee Springs, Annette Kellerman and old school mermaid performances: Jennifer Kokai is a scholar and playwright and the author of Swim Pretty: Aquatic Spectacles and the Performance of Race, Gender, and Nature (Theater in the Americas). In 2017 I met Jenny at a mermaid conference in Copenhagen where she gave the keynote speech. Here we talk about Annette Kellerman, Weeki Wachee Mermaids (Jenny grew up near Tampa visiting the attraction) and the historical links between mermaids and aquariums.

Annette Kellerman, vaudeville & silent screen star, one of the first modern professional mermaids.
The infamous Weeki Wachee mermaids.

Interview Three, Patricia Rozema, Director of I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing: Rozema is one of Canada’s most accomplished film artists. Her award-winning, diverse body of work spans film and television, fiction and documentary, original screenplays and literary adaptations. Her work, spanning themes of love and power, identity and sexuality, the complexity of gender politics, and the nature of human desire, includes: directing the British romantic comedy-drama ‘Mansfield Park’ (1999); co-writing the American biopic television film ‘Grey Gardens’ (2009) ; and, adapting and directing the apocalyptic thriller ‘Into The Forest’ (2015) with Elliot Page and Evan Rachel Wood.

Polly dreams of flying!

Are mermaids real? What do mermaids mean?

Interview Four, on the history of mermaids with author Sarah Peverley: Sarah Peverley is a medievalist, cultural historian, and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. She is also the Professor of English at the University of Liverpool, where she teaches and researches medieval literature and history. Her current research focuses on mermaids in global cultures. As an expert on the Middle Ages and mythical creatures, Sarah regularly contributes to television and radio broadcasts, writes for the press, and gives public talks at festivals and heritage events. Sarah is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, member of the Liverpool University Press Editorial Advisory Board, Advisory Editor to The Literary Encyclopedia, and Vice-President of The Medieval Chronicle Society

Sirens; Unknown; England; about 1250 – 1260; Pen-and-ink drawings tinted with translucent washes on parchment.
Sarah’s first mermaid, See Wees doll, Shelley.
Megan’s first mermaid, See Wees doll, Coral.