Posts filed under ‘Sydney THEATRE’
Challenge as set on twitter during random discussion around “classic” plays – a two day turnaround to create an essential must-read catalogue for a theatre canon. A concept at odds with itself given the archaic notion of “canonical” in 21C and my own fractious relationship with the idea of “theatre text” in general – the tension between subjective and objective is palpable even before we have begun. My own list will be different to yours (ooh, subjectivity) whereas the very concept of “classic” implies an objective, historical consensus. An absurdity given the highly localised nature of theatre and sense of community resonance certain plays will have in certain regions but not in others.
Moreover, concepts of authorship and “text” have their own contentious place in the modern classic ouvre. it’s a topsy-turvy argument, with the popular citation that the “Author is Dead” (blithely followed with a pretentious reference to the author of that phrase). But let’s not go there right now. This exercise is more about must-reads for appropriate knowledge of theatre convention and history. Classics are defined by their influence.
And so, we begin at the beginning:
Constant re-interpretation of a tale that was a classic before it was ever writ down and thus taking the estimation of “Literature” before Literature existed as a concept. The complex dramatic ironies set around the epic Trojan War foreshadowed all Athenian dramatic convention and Achilles’s ‘lost-boy’ rage became the template for tragic heroism. It also opens up notions of authorship story would evolve and adapt for different audiences over generations in spoken word form regaled in tavernas before it existed as Homer’s ‘text’.
A rare Satyr play with a direct link to Homer’s Odyssey. Hardly ever done but vastly influential on the likes of Aristophanes.
The mother of all romantic comedies. Ted Hughes’ translation is to die for. So to speak.
Our personal favourite of the Greeks and something less of a tragedy than ancestor to the horror genre. Euripides’ vicious breakdown of the God vs State power struggle is currently undergoing the Sancez treatment for modernisation; with a tale involving a *religious foreigner*, some *psychic powers* and an outbreak of *hypersexual women* in the context of a *strictly conservative and repressed leader* [GASP].
As epic trilogies go this one spawned more imitators than Star Wars and Lord of The Rings combined. Everyone from Seneca to Sartre has had a crack at translating/retelling/adapting/updating this post-war tale of the fall of the house of Atreus. It’s like a thing.
If ever a play demonstrated the function of art as social critique and conscience this is it.
But which version?
Love it or hate it this is a very clever play subverting (or reinforcing?) the traditional role of women in Athenian politics. The quintessential farce.
“Shall I begin with the usual jokes at which the audience never fail to laugh?” Aristophanes demonstrating a capacity for meta-theatre and post-modernity before even hipsters thought it was cool.
Again Aristophanes with an expressionistic vision of conceptual metaphor as social critique. Way ahead of it’s time. Or maybe Everyone Else is just way behind.
Not every Shakespeare is a classic. Some are a kind of terrible crowd-pleasing fap [Romeo & Juliet, anyone?] But Lear is in my top ten plays of all-time.
In conversation at the Opera House a couple of years back Tom Stoppard was asked to reduce this play to a single word. He chose the word “if”. Well it would save a lot of time, anyway…
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
This simultaneously bold, visceral, absurd and hilarious literary lark is everything a play should be, and nothing a play can ever really capture since.
Probably one of the Bard’s more visionary and exciting plays with resonances well into today’s politic. In a word? Boats.
THE SCOTTISH PLAY
A play so dark we dare not speak its name. For the uninitiated:
Breaking Bad with witches and iambic pentameter. Say No More.
Anything that can be turned into a Rolling Stones song has my vote. Again, a defining characteristic of the classic is the universality of its retelling.
THE RECRUITING OFFICER
The first play ever to be put on in New York and the first play ever to be put on in Sydney (and subsequently spawning OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD).
Irrespective of quality, a classic.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
“Oh! it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.” And there you have it.
Points purely for getting banned by the wealthy French factions but Moliere’s devastating critique of hypocrisy and religion demonstrates just how dangerous comedy can be.
A pleasure to read – and to watch – was privileged enough to see Bille Brown in the title role at Belvoir St in Kantor’s prodction. Alfred Jarry opened the door towards dada, surrealism and the most influential 20th Century movement: Absurdism. Fearless and joyful.
Hedda might be better but A Doll’s House broke the necessary ground by becoming the most influential text of the modern era. It speaks volumes that writers still ape his technique, and the Realist form is now the most conservative type of theatre writing you will find – practically the rule for ‘safe’ dramatic form. But only exceptional writers have been able to match Ibsen for his ‘drama of ideas’ fusing socio-political critique into painstakingly constructed dialogue and radical representation of action. A better model for circumspect use of stage direction is lacking… “That slammed door reverberated across the roof of the world.”
A DREAM PLAY
Strindberg was at his best when he wasn’t jealously trying to mimic Ibsen and this (pretty much indecipherable text)
THE PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD
If I haven’t had at least one riot following my play I will consider my career a failure.
A play that must be performed perpetually. Not by the same actors or directors, a revolving troupe. Right? This is the kind reform our industry needs. Am I getting through?
THE GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR
More proof that farce and comedy rule the pre-modernist epoch. It feels dated no but the critiques remain relevant, even if the form is not.
Nothing against Shaw but he’s largely derivative of better writers. However this play has so many imitators and revisions it’s made the list.
CHICAGO/ PLAY BALL
The play, the film, the musical, the dance moves, the iconic jazz-handed red-and-black spectacular- the original was writ as a class assignment for Yale Drama School by journalist Maureen Dallas Watkins based on the true story of two allegedly murderous ‘jazz-babies’. Goes to show: take that drama school shit seriously.
MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL
TS Eliot’s gorgeous modernist poetic script on Becket and his struggles against authoritarian rule is too rarely done and I cannot imagine why.
THE THREEPENNY OPERA
Probably the first great European modernist work, subverting form, genre and content in a radical way that quickly took hold. Read all of Brecht but read this one more.
THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE
Powerful, inspirational stuff.
Another ‘based on a true story’ this play is a master class in playwrighting as the execution of conceptual metaphor. This is not nor ever was the story of the murderous French maids that scandalised the Paris aristocracy but a ritual dance teased out from the very idea that the working class might dare such a thing. Genet knew any attempt to act on class rage with violence or murder can only end terribly, and so depicted a cycle within a ritual within a wheel, wrapped in fur and flowers.
One’s ability to say a single word to convey reams of meaning defines the classic. In this instance, a masterpiece of American postwar ennui.
Ditto. Yeah but still kind of depressing.
One of the first plays I ever read, and re-read, and read again. Probably why I’m a writer.
WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF
I want to arrange a production of this in real time. Over six hours before dawn, with monstrous pauses and real booze. Should be good.
“Your monocle is in the wrong eye”
ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD
Take note. This is how you write an adaptation. Sideways. Anything less is derivative claptrap.
CAN’T PAY WON’T PAY
A delightfully cheeky comedy about price gouging. On an unrelated matter it is never put on at major theatre companies in Oz.
ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST
More wilful political farce from the Italian Nobel Prize-Winner. It’s scandalous his work is not done more often in Sydney.
THE CHAPEL PERILOUS
The only Australian writer to be included on the list but this rare, adventurous play says much about our development as a nation, culture, our insecurity about finding our voice and our struggle with reconciling the past.
I’m biased. Because I’m currently touring this and our next performance is in just a month at 505. But it really is a brilliant modern classic and Berkoff is unmatched by any writer of the day. Come and see for yourself. The text is like climbing a small mountain – but the view is exhilarating.
See my response the recent production at the New Theatre
WAITING FOR GODOT
You thought I’d forgot about it? Never. If imitators and adaptations by numbers define a classic, this one defines itself. You cannot mess with the best. And Beckett is a once in ten generational genius. Untouchable.
These are not my *favourite plays* (some are) but the ones you have to have read a few times to stnd a chance at writing anything vaguely original. Hopefully that helps. Read them all immediately.
Honourable mentions go to a bunch of writers for whom I had not the time to narrow down and exhume the quality of their work; Jack Davis, Sarah Kane Harold Pinter, Buchner, Eugene Ionesco, Yasmina Reza, Corneille, Lope de Vega, Calderón, not to mention some fabulous modern writers of the last twenty years. But the exercise was to turn it around in just two days. Also it would be disingenuous to claim a play less than twenty years old as a “classic” when by definition I am looking beyond populism and especially for revolutionary or stylistically ground-breaking works. There is also a lack of women and a deliberate overlooking of classic Eastern texts, Kabuki and traditional Hindu theatre are two areas I have only passing knowledge so would baffle to guess which are the most radical or influential texts from those regions.
As I stated at the outset: notions of canonical lists are abstract and weighted towards systemic power structures. Men have the lion’s share because for thousands of years men were given positions of influence within the theatrical community. So they were influential. You will notice a similar trend upon viewing the upcoming work by POST interrogating canonical works (Oedipus Schmoedipus; playing at Belvoir in January) I had almost this exact discussion with the two women devising that piece when I interned with them last year…
So we (those of us with appreciation of post-modern etiquette) abandon adherence to the canon as less than useful as a guide but more as an historical facet of the craft. For if we cling too tightly to the past we will never find the future. Imitation is flattery – but innovation is battery. That is all.
Damn. Missed it again.
August marks four years of writing about theatre on this site, an unremarkable fact besides it also being something like twenty-one years of watching theatre as an audience and making theatre as an artist. As critic I’m a total noob, but I understand the language of theatre as well as anyone. It’s translating back into Anglais that’s the tricky part…
Via the throes of rehearsal and recovery for a little Fringe Show last month I have neglected the discipline of writing. But, having seen a few shows on Sydney stages since July, and weighed in on the tempest surrounding the no-adaptation-is-an-island debate, mouthed off at Arts Ministers and Editors alike, done the usual unpaid work at the usual festivals and entered/been rejected from the usual collaborative theatre callouts. Business as usual but Oh and I started my own business… but I digress. Perhaps that is a subject for another day.
(or WHAT THE F%*# DOES A PLAYWRIGHT EVEN DO ANYHOW)
Most recently it was the wild, raw, disparate and sexy Crack Festival and (the conservative and sterile) Miss Julie but before that were The Maids, Persona, Moving Parts and Friday - each a new work or new translation for the stage, each rife with sharp and thought provoking dialogue, and each portraying a precise grand narrative much broader than the sum of its parts. In terms of style, the ‘professional’ companies brought minimalist productions of a two-or-three hander dealing in themes of self-discovery, betrayal, child-abuse, death, and had barely a single moment worth mentioning. Only an attempted suicide by a child-beating salesman with cancer (I kid you not) brought an actual chuckle from this audience member in this highly professional, detailed, finely-tuned production. Ditto Persona, although without the laugh. That’s not to say they weren’t well-done. Just fucking morbid and introspective. Not my cuppa.
I tweeted my review of Miss Julie (harking back to my days as digital copywriter “if you can’t say it in eight words or less, don’t bother”) as thus: “Men! Dogs! Women! Cray! Cock! Tits! Bang! Blood!” I have not read the Capital C Crrrrtiiiics on this play but can’t help wonder if anyone noticed it has an almost identical plot to the universally hated “Every Breath”? Only without any sense of expressionism or intrigue. Just dour hyper-realist representation of a Mack-Truck Cliché. Fine work from the cast but playing for laughs when the character is a pig is probably a sign of an actor looking to score points amid a dearth of substance. If this is the world we live in it does not ring true.
On the other hand the premiere of Friday at The Old Fitzroy Theatre was loose, flawed, with a cast of about sixty, plenty of wit and more than a few belly laughs and snap. It could have used a bit of dramaturgy to curtail its sprawling Shakespearean ambition (think lots of gratuitous sub-plots, comedic interludes and bawdy one-liners). What it lacks in craft it makes up for in gusto and good-old-fashioned CRAIC, in the fine Australian tradition of taking the piss. Nuggets of pure gold amidst an uneven satire make it worthwhile… but more about this in a moment.
What strikes us vividly is the contrasting ambitions of the productions. One is trying to make something big and new, the others trying to be like something old. Note: who gets the funding, who gets the support, who gets all the added publicity and hype? What does a playwright do, anyway? As the key question coming out of the Crack Theatre Festival, as stated in the excellent slice of meta-criticism Kids Killing Kids “Why here? Why Now? Why You?” With the ramshackle SITCO production of Daniela Giorgi’s play this question was a pleasure to explore. With the fine-tuned professionalism of the others, we are left in the wind. NFI*, as the saying goes.
Persona attempting to emulate what is cited as “one of the greatest films of all time” (an entirely pointless observation) – putting what was in all likelihood a fascinating filmic concept in 1966 onto the stage in 2013 is bold enough, but this audience found nothing much to be added. Technically brilliant is the show, but I wanted a lie down. The transliteration into theatre from cinema meant we lose so much of the idiomatic Bergman filmic technique that it is reduced to story. Persona only hesitatingly broke new ground. On top of this, the use of a child in the opening sequence was hugely problematic in a show which (when it finally got going) dealt with full-on sexual content, including graphic descriptions of sexual assault on two small boys by the central character. Sorry. Spoilers. The boy does not return until the curtain call and while he opens the show (reading a book through binoculars while a clock tick-tocks for nearly five whole minutes) – one has to ask: What is he doing there? What possible greater artistic function can he serve, and how can that justify what amounts to a breach in duty of care, touring this show over and over with such explicit sexual content. I was not intrigued, not even impressed.
What does a playwright do, exactly? If it’s just coming up with intriguing is she/isn’t she/will he/won’t he plot lines then what progress have we made since a certain Scandinavian genius rattled all the critics cages and set a new precedent for drama circa 1898? Moving Parts - a fine example of a clockwork universe on stage – deftly represented by Friels and McGonville on stage in a tight sequence of dialogues which ratchet the tension and stakes until there’s nowhere to go but into the realm of the absurd. And so the aforementioned suicide attempt becomes fodder for a rather macabre diversion into comedy. But the clockwork universe (in which years, decades of events past conspire to influence the micro-decisions of the now) collapses when Roy declares an intention to take his own life. The stakes – his shop, his life, his pride all fall to oblivion in that moment, and while the choice was palpable in Friels’ portrayal of a man with nothing to lose – the writing suffers and the metaphor muddied in the process.
I submit the idea that a playwright brings a world into existence, and the *writing* element is merely a frame through which one can peer into that world. Thus these adaptations are new windows into the same world, which can only be viewed *between* the dialogue. The director’s role is to fill the frame with a tinted glass or crystalline lens with which to view the frame anew. Think of Chekhov or Pinter or Beckett- with multitudes of ideas contained in silences. There is no *rewriting* silence. The authorship of those moments is absolute and all a director or adaptor can do is provide the echo of the walls which surround. So the question for any playwright, adaptor or collaborative team is this: is the work telling us about the world of the play, or telling us more about you?
Do playwrights tell us about themselves? Or about the world they live in? A little bit of both, one hopes. But it’s the audience that fills in the gaps. And it’s the value of an idea that we take home, irrespective of the quality of its expression. Never forget it.
PS my eight word review of The Maids as follows:
“Once in a lifetime performances. Saw it Twice”
More about this later.
*No Fucking Idea
Presented by the New Theatre, July 2013
There remains no greater case to validate the work of the playwright than the presentation of their text as writ, no greater challenge to the actor or director to take on a cohesive writer’s vision and remain true to their intent. Such is the way at the New Theatre, no mincing about with rewrites or such periphery – their latest production in a series of good plays done well, opened to a well-earned third ovation and an opening night crowd (of the usual suspects) in a genuine conversational post-show buzz of ideas, politics, history and broad appreciation of the craft.
Still scalding some thirty years after its first showing, Caryl Churchill’s script treads between expressionism and vignette-realism. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, go and see this play immediately, for it remains one of the finest examples in the modern canon of bold social realist writing, with a representational aesthetic that forces audiences to examine what they see beyond the literal. The opening moments tell us thus, entering to a luxurious table setting in a dark parody of the famous game where one invites a group of historical figures for dinner. A shrewd device in this instance to create a socio-political context to shed light on the modern idiosyncrasies we will bear witness to in Acts II & III. Churchill extending the metaphor in a truly fantastic (as in portraying the literal outcome of a fantasy) game of ‘what-if?’
In this case the women all represent different phases and elements of an historic and systemic patriarchal society. Each reaching various dizzying heights of achievement within the worlds they inhabited, and yet always somehow defined by the male-dominated systems which surround them. Much comedy can be found in the absurd expression of this familiar setting, the bristling and posturing of a dinner party made up of (shall we say) larger-than-life personalities. We’ve all sat at this table at some point or another, although it’s arguable how many of these parties are held in the company of the famously dead.
The mercurial setting of the first scene thus offers a fascinating glimpse at history which allows the audience member to do their own excavation in light of the more immediately accessible second half. Paradoxically this modern account of the foibles of women’s liberation in the face of Thatcher’s Britain is a tougher theatrical journey to explore. Perhaps it’s the closeness to our own social experience which sits uncomfortably as social commentary? Either way the expressionist grandeur of the opening salvo suggests the quiet familiarity of the domestic and workplace settings is not to be taken at face value. Churchill wants us to look at our own choices in the face of the impossible (as men or women) – whether it’s 13th Century Rome or Britain 1982, this sadly remains a markedly relevant question for Australia circa 2013. Especially 2013.
A simple, effective design scheme and some excellent dedication to the text from the cast make what seems short work of a very challenging and complex play. The careful dedication to the dialogue and timing and above all the engaging naturalism and warmth of the characters from the ensemble are, simply put: a joy to behold. We’ll be seeing it again.
Top Girls, by Caryl Churchill, directed by Alice Livingstone, featuring Sarah Aubrey, Claudia Barrie, Julia Billington, Maeve MacGregor, Ainslie McGlynn, Bishanyia Vincent and Cheryl Ward.
Playing at the New Theatre until August 3rd.
…Paul Gilchrist’s latest work Rocket Man - a play which bows to the conventions of domestic naturalism – as a ‘story’ it follows the Chekhovian example of the everyday imbued with the monumental. These are working people from your life or mine. An aspiring actor, an exhausted nurse, a loyal friend, a troubled young man. You immediately know them. But the play actively resists classification as a simple piece of domestic realism, with reflexive aphorisms sparring around the function and value of theatre (some sharp jabs at the world of public funding – worth noting subtlenuance are self-sufficient), it spins a web of in-jokes and intrigue that’s something of a hallmark for the writer. Rocket Man seems to writhe inside its skin, like the eponymous astronaut (now there’s a pointless occupation if there ever was one) who’s self-aware but chained to discontent and thus paradoxically oblivious to his potential. The human story. Unsettling, wry, dark, rich in humour and tension. Everything a play should be.
SAY HELLO FIRST
We caught the first preview of this autobiographical verbatim work from Danielle Maas and the team at Cupboard Love (pro-tip: always favour the preview over the bustle of opening night if you fancy sheer wattage in your theatrics – especially with new work), a first tentative venture back to the Old Fitzroy Hotel since the baton was passed to SITCO for running the space. Happy to report there’s a piping hot show in the offing this month. Danielle Maas is a force to be reckoned with onstage and off – having researched and dramaturged and ultimately performing this tale of love, lust and lunacy with Joe Kernahan in multiple supporting roles. At once frenzied, funny, familiar and frightening – it has a visceral boldness that comforts the soul, in the way you might seek refuge from the freezing night by wrapping yourself in the still-warm bodily organs of a recently slain wildebeest on the plains of outer Mongolia.
As a series of vignettes gleaned from interviews with twenty men from the author’s life, the play creates an hilarious mosaic of the absurdity of romance in the digital era – sometimes edging cariacture, but more often treading the path of honest reflection and investigation. In terms of catharsis, Ms Maas has the courage to turn some of the pathos in her love-life into comedy gold – always on that flickering knife’s edge of tragedy. No mean feat, and another terrific example of the trend in local theatre toward staging the deeply personal in terms of the epic, to reflect and capture a uniquely modern Australian experience. You should go and see it.
Say Hello First, presented by Cupboard Love & SITCO, playing at the Old Fitzroy Hotel until 27th July. Written by Danielle Maas, directed by Jason Langley, featuring Danielle Maas and Joe Kernahan.
Presented by The New Theatre, June, 2013
Time being the blogger’s worst enemy we have had not a moment to properly think this play through. Although this is a poor excuse at best, having read the script some months in advance of an audition for a role, having sat in the small audience at a preview – it were sidelined somewhat by virtue of its ambition and enormity.
In English, please?
There’s a kind of epic doublethink one associates with the grand economic movements of our time. As a student of global economics in the late 90′s we witnessed the Enron collapse with a certain Neo-Marxist disdain.
Right. English. Sorry.
Anyone with half a brain could see the disproportionate wealth and greed was a ticking timer on a soufflé ready to collapse, so when it did, many of just shook our heads in a cynical half-obvious knowing way and continued to agitate futilely for awareness on the capitalist con.
Still with me?
But in our arrogance we saw just another bunch of wealthy banking pricks. In truth it’s possible this episode of history marks the beginning the most significant economic shift in recent memory. Only in hindsight can this be clarified, and the story, well dramatised by Lucy Prebble gives one of the more salient descriptions of how and why this will continue to impact us well into the future. Importantly it cracks open the core of what went wrong, not just on a dry economic and financial level but on the human scale as well. The ambition – well realised in the production rife with highly theatrical metaphor and vaudevillean showcase – reaching for something far bigger than the sum of it’s parts, perhaps it gets there, perhaps it doesn’t (we did only catch a preview). But even the sickle moon implies a whole.
And there is a LOT implied by even the slimmest glimpses of this story – too much to analyse in a mere weblog as this.
It’s a huge risk attempting to portray Jeffrey Skilling as some kind of hero – but in the true sense of the word – that’s what he was, a fatally hubristic idealist who fucked it up for everyone. In the vein of Agamemnon (without the craven bloodletting) – so certain of his vision, the heroism is a modern tragedy that must be told.
Kudos for the New Theatre team for taking it on and for anyone with a remote interest in modern history & the economics of what exactly has been happening over the past few years (for that matter, do you have an interest in keeping your job, or the cost of living?) – you will leave this play entertained, amazed and informed.
And that, my friends, is power.
ENRON by Lucy Prebble, directed by Louise Fischer, playing at the New Theatre until June 29th, 2013
featuring Alexander Butt, Gareth Cruikshank, Nick Curnow, Donald Ferguson, Lisa Fletcher, Peter Flett, Lisa Franey, Cheyne Fynn, Jorjia Gillis, Paige Leacey, Cassandra Lee, Tristan McKinnon, Alexander Saloyedoff, David Todd, Matt Young.
There’s been a noticeable increase in festival activity in recent years, from the grass-roots to the random to the epic to the sudden hipsterfication of old favourites (look it up it’s a thing). As an arts festival veteran of some repute we thought it timely to present a handy guide to festival curation or “BYO Biennale”. You too, can be a curator, just follow these steps and you’ll be on the Al-Capone to Damien Hirst in no time at all!
Your staff are the key to getting this thing off the ground. So rather than do-it-all-yourself, it’s best to get an internship first so you can bludge lots of favours and get famous artists to be associated with your event without having to do much work. There are dozens of these available, assuming you’re under 25 with no real work-life experience, and you went to art college somewhere. Dozens. Try Major Theatre Companies, Literary Journals, Community Radio Stations or Other Festivals for the best shot at networking-with-the-stars as these are generally run by people who have never really had a real job anyway and thus won’t recognise your complete lack of real-world-skills.
Conversely, if by chance you didn’t go to art college or have already turned 25, your best bet is to set up a website and describe yourself as a “freelance publicist or social media consultant”. This may sound like an impressively scary skill set but it’s an industry secret that all they teach you in a Communications Degree is how to set up a VHS timer record. That, and Dioramas. The only thing you really need to be a publicist is a twitter account, a website, and the ability to shamelessly brown-nose magazine editors. Even with two-out-of-three here, you’re ahead of the game. You’ll be surrounded by your own pack of interns within six months, or your money back.
Once you’ve got your HR sorted, you’ll need to allocate roles. These are best handed over to close friends, because it’s never awkward trying to keep them accountable. HOT TIP: For important positions such as Marketing or Budget: your current boyfriend/ girlfriend/ significant other is ideal, because you can always keep tabs on them doing their job. This invariably works out just fine. As for those friends who miss out, don’t worry, they won’t feel jealous or bitter and you can always ask them to donate money or volunteer further down the track.
Think ahead. There are literally millions of funding dollars available, and there is nothing these government bodies like more than giving people money who have almost no significant production experience, but a shitload of industry connections to write them a letter of recommendation (this is why step one is so vital). It’s worth reading up on past festivals so you can drop words like “interactive polemical-substrata” into your application. If you don’t know what these mean, it’s OK. Nobody knows what these mean. It’s just a bloody big party!
This is by far the least important element of your event. You’ve got your venue, you’ve set the date – so artists will literally beg for the chance to be associated with you. And that’s great news, because you will probably want to have a few around to keep the audience from a full-scale riot. But all in all it doesn’t really matter. Put the word out and watch them line up.
Unlike those in the professional world (that’s you, remember) Artists have loads of time to put together these applications. So take as long as you like in assessing them and getting back to them with feedback. Also, unlike those in the professional world, they generally have nothing else going on for the next six months or so. They don’t need to plan eighteen months in advance (like you) because, well, they’re artists! They couldn’t organise lunch at Bunnings on a Saturday. So really, it’s fine. Let them know if they get the gig, naturally, but if they don’t, well… just get back to them whenever. Honestly they won’t mind.
If they happen to ask for feedback on their application, just tell them any old thing. Mention how there were a lot more applications than anticipated, usually something along the lines of “we can’t program everything we’d like” should suffice (because that isn’t completely fucking obvious anyway). Be sure and use the word “unfortunately”, as if you pretty much just tossed all the applications up in the air and theirs “unfortunately” landed face down. As we have said, despite having loads of time to put these applications together, they usually just whip them up at the last minute, so they don’t really deserve any further comment or objective analysis.
As for the ones who are programmed, it’s best to include a) your friends and b) anyone with a serious connection to an arts company or other major festival. Everyone else can get stuffed and start their own festival, really. The main thing is that important people know about it, and how else will they know about it unless one of their staff or interns is in the programme?
So it’s vital to put a few panels in the program to get some important people on board. It doesn’t matter what they’re about, so just pick some interesting subjects from other festival panels. Use the networks you made in Step 1; as if anybody wants to know what some unheard of independent nobody has to say? If there’s a shortfall on panel numbers, get your friends to do it, as often simply speaking on panels can be a valued addition to one’s CV, even leading to running the festival in years to come.
4) Event Management
There are only three things you will need to worry about once everything is set is place.
*Don’t set anything on fire
*Free entry and drink tickets for your mates and especially people who have full-time-industry jobs.
After that you’re apples.
so what are you waiting for? LET’S GET CURATIONAL!
There’s an inside joke amongst booksellers – especially those in the second hand trade, when someone comes in with a stack of those Reader’s Digest “Condensed” versions of Charles Dickens or Bram Stoker or Jane Austen. They have lovely binding, gold print spines, embossed hardback covers – the works in packaging. Only one problem. They are utterly worthless. I remember seeing one “condensed” edition of a Tale of Two Cities which had judiciously omitted the famous opening line ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ and cut straight to the action. It was almost worth a purchase purely for laugh value (but the manager would have had my head).
The editors’ names have all been forgotten, and these obscure “rewrites” of classic texts lie unwanted on the shelves of the bourgeois aspirational households of whom the books were subscribed. Because let’s be clear, the only people who would buy them are mail-order subscribers, locked into pre-commitment for a book by some fancy marketing footwork and sales copy. The have no idea what they’re ordering in advance and probably don’t care, but it’s important to have some culture in one’s life. And everybody loves Dickens, right?
You get what you pay for.
Not I, said the Wolf.
It sounds already like the attending ATF delegates have dispensed with the small-talk and cut straight to the chase with a frank, open chat about Aboriginal works and the representational politics of Australian theatre in an industry framed by institutionalised racism. “We have to get away from white middle-class theatre” was the catch-cry on twitter. Complicit or not, this is a factor in the performing arts, so we’d better get working on it or forever be remembered as a part of the problem. Whacko!
At least, not being present at the ATF – that’s the impression one gets. One must rely on second-hand tweets and blogs on the event, or as some might say “rewrites” of the real deal. And so, a question from the audience for those privileged enough to attend such an important discussion:
Who isn’t in the room? For every one who is there listening, there are maybe ten or twenty more who aren’t. Some of us can’t afford it. Some of us don’t have time. Some of us probably even think we don’t need to be there (although one might argue these are the people who absolutely need to be there the most)…
At the end of this forum there will be a resolution for theatre organisations to become NBN-ready, and it will be nodded upon and placed on the website (there was a similar resolution to embrace technology in 2011). But it’s twenty-thirteen already. We have the technology today. With the click of a laptop this vitally important discussion can be shared first-hand so students, independents, marketers, journalists and corporate sponsors alike can get a handle on what’s being questioned here.
At the moment we rely on volunteer bloggers and tweeters to share the discussion. And we value this immensely.
But ask yourself. Is that good enough?
Enjoy the forum, folks. We’ll be following from afar.
LENNY BRUCE: 13 DAZE UNDUG IN SYDNEY
presented by the Tamarama Rock Surfers, April 2013
Newcastle, 1999. We were partying just as the Prince song had instructed us to. Benito “The Fooz” Foozolini was out on the street corner sharing a rolly with some laser beaked debonair dressed as a Pterodactyl while I took Polaroids of passing trade and swapped the results for beer. It was the Young Writers’ Festival and about twelve hundred people had crammed into a dance studio to sneer at Margo Scotch Finger for being too mainstream. Margo wrote the first political blog on the Sydney Harbinger and as such she was appropriately crucified by super fucking hip fucking radicals for being a part of the establishment. Then she lit up a ciggie and we all looked like fools for being abashed. Nobody was allowed to smoke indoors those daze. Not even radicals. At one point a naked man ran through the crowd carrying a flat cardboard box that smelt like smoky barbeque shouting “all pizza is theft” but that was fine. We just kept at our self-assigned task of mocking squares. Fucking Squares, Man.
“Over the last eighty years the campaign against government censorship has been almost completely a success story… in the case of blasphemous literature they have had only trivial setbacks”
Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition – John Coleman, 1962
Some cat was passing ’round spliffs and space cake in the name of research and I said to Van Bingham – “hey- that’s John Brown, he wrote some childrens’ book I used to love. That guy basically taught me to read!” Van said no, that’s the Midnight Cat, his cousin. They look exactly the same. I’d already spent half the night sponging cash off him for ginger ale so it’s just as well. Man if he ever finds out I’ll have to pay him back that tenner. Booze was cheap in those days so you could live cold on the dole and still sleep in a park for five days, and still have some extra dough for a night at the Crowne Plaza, where you could swap post-midnight semillon for LSD and MDMA… I spent the following day in a kimono heckling sound artists and holding court outside the festival club. I think that’s where The Fooz first noticed my talent for spectacle but I can’t be sure
“in the 1930′s and 40′s writer’s organisations such as The Australian Fellowship of Writers and The Australian Journalists Association would one minute defend our right to read banned novels because they were expressions of the True and the Beautiful and the next would denounce American Comics as Jewish-Negroid-Southern-European inspirations unfit for White Australians”
Obscenity, Blasphemy, Sedition – John Coleman, 1962
Around that time I ran into the Ghost of Bob Ellis. He told me to change my name back to Sanchez. So I did. I asked him to come up for a reading of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties in an abandoned shop window on Hunter St but there was no-one to read Gwendolen or Cecily, not even for ready money. It was already 9am but we found Maryam Lion out and about and she stepped up to the crease like Allan Border in the mid-eighties. Sans moustache of course. Later she became the only Australian guest on lateline or Q and A to ever walk away with dignity. Dig? They never had her back. The reading went well. I played Tristan Tzara but the only thing I’d had for breakfast was the space cake I’d got from John Brown’s cousin’s friend the night before. In the play he’s hanging out with James Joyce and by the time he takes on Ulysses my vision was doubled and I had the appearance of the Rumanian Undead.They started calling me ‘Vlad The Inhaler’ but Any attempt at Eastern European accent was fine but for some reason all I could speak was fluent Oscar Wilde.
Meanwhile Van Bingham had red and blue ribbons in her hair and was quietly becoming a destroyer-of-worlds. Some ten years later I bribed her friend Lucy Grayskull ten thousand cubits to cast me as Sergei Petrov in a ten minute reconstruction of the life of “The Glimmerman” or Blind Boy Ziesel, as he preferred. The Fooz had wrote it on the back of a red-wine hangover coaster and it seemed to make sense. it was the begining of the end. Soon we would all become legitimate artists in our own right. Humiliating.
Having declared the battle against government censorship a varied success in 1962, John Coleman went on to briefly become Chief Censor in NSW. In twenty-thirteen, a movie depicting gay sex is banned. You still can’t say “cocksucker” on free-to air TV but you can replay video of the deaths of thousands of people again, and again, and again, all through the day and night. You can promote gambling and booze to children in prime-time because ‘free markets’ and these are acceptable forms of self-abuse. But a woman breastfeeding her child in public? There’s no political will to defend that. We’ve always been uptight about banning books in this country (famously including Nabakov, D H Lawrence and of course, Ulysses). But in the context of Mr Coleman’s comments, one cannot help but wonder – was it Mr Bruce’s obscenities which caused him to be banned? Or might the journalists of the time been more forgiving if he happened to be white?
This play is probably the most important new work I have seen all year (and I’ve seen a few). It’s a vital piece of Sydney history, painstakingly researched and developed for the stage, with tight, powerhouse performances, laughter and music to boot. We can’t add anything to it because there’s simply so much there to enjoy, and learn, and laugh with, and cry for. With one week left, you would be mad to miss out.
Lenny Bruce, 13 Daze Undug in Sydney, by Benito Di Fonzo, directed by Lucinda Gleeson. Featuring Sam Haft, Lenore Munro, Damien Strouthos & Dorje Swallow.
Playing at the Bondi Pavilion until May 4th, 2013.