Australian Theatre Forum: Open Spaces

by Jane

Open Space Creation

The ever wonderful Wesley Enoch immediately created a welcoming space in the room this morning by publicly humiliating anyone who showed up late.

He introduces us to day two and Open Spaces, asking us think about the thing that only you can say.  Think about the unique thing that you can say, that you can give.  Today we will be looking at:

Australian theatre 2021: courageous, relevant, dynamic.  Audience demand is at an all time high.  What will we do to get there?

Open Spaces is a self-directionised process, using the following seven principles:

1. Whoever comes are always the right people
2. Whatever happens is for the good
3. Conditions should be taken for what they are
4. The composition of the groups is determined by chance
5. Everyone may start whenever they feel like it
6. Everyone may stop whenever they feel like it
7. Everyone is free to move around as they like

Eighty discussion opportunities to fill, with an hour to talk about them.  Opening up the floor, the ideas launched were:

Digital theatre on NBN – recording it and distributing. 

Embedding and giving a value to art and creativity in a wider public so it becomes accessible to them. 

The relevance of theatre.

Spontaneity: get the time to have creative thought.

Disability access in theatre.

Encouraging young people to watch other young artists.

Backstage come centre stage: production side have a more important voice in companies and moving forward.

New ways of sharing work: touring and beyond.

New ways of commissioning new work: regional and interstate collaborations.

A play written in Warangal for the people of Tennant Creak. (“It can have English subtitles, too.” Wesley: “Nah, fuck em, they’ll cope.”)

Let’s not silo: mixing up cultures, places, people.

What do we pragmatically have to do to remove the barriers?

Are there more interesting and innovative ways to manage our organisations than the old board method?

Moving for theatre for young audiences and families out of the education paradime.

The National Cultural Policy: the language and the scope we would like to see in the policy.

Terrifyingly frank discussion between artists and critics.

Track the scope and impact of free performances in public spaces.

Strategies for increasing female perspectives: playwrights, directors…

Truly talk about cross cultural casting.

The creation of a national independent touring theatre network.

A ten-year ban on dead writers in Australia.

Creating the conditions for imagination: anywhere imagination needs time to thrive, and how we can create that.

Create an envirsomental sustainability plan for you and your organisation this year.

How can we reform and change our existing resources to more directly fund artists and the making of art?

The creative ecconomy: how can we harness power to create a collective voice that sustain us all?

How we are going to make sure we are sustainible: where do we get the money from, outside of traditional funding sources?

Creation of an online hub which reflects all of the voices in this room.

Alternate buisness models without government funding.

An independent theatre hub: a transfer space and a warehouse for sets, costumes, etc for sharing in a more permanent way.

Talk to people that don’t come to the theatre.

A national (regional) artistic directorate matching artists to regional areas.

Administrative space: how to get it, how to share it, how to establish centralised admin points for several artists/producers.

Effective cross-company collaborations: what understanding and discussion do you need to bring to those associations? 

Australian writing: how we get companies to read work, and how we get more Australian work on stage.

The restraints of risk management: how to make a safe theatre, but take away the obstacles that make that a problem?  A theatre specific rules and regulations workcover.

The idea of working with people who are fluent with Australian sign-language.

Do we need a national cultural ministry rather than it being tacked on to someone with a bigger portfolio.

What is a theatre company: can it be primarily a group of artists with a continuos relationship rather than hiring people a new for each show.

Remote Australia as creators and receivers for good work.

How could we completely re-invent the funding system to remove redundant grant writing time, and rather on creating the work.

Why are theatre companies administrative husks?

Responsible internationalism and new kinds of festivals: supermarket models of festivals are no longer the global relationships we are looking for. 

Given the ABC has just dropped its in house arts coverage, how do we nourish and sustain critical connections?

Can the performing arts be the leading industry of climate change?

The role opera plays in Australia: why does it require so much money?

If we accept that new audiences are the most important thing, could we fund work for young audiences in the same way we fund opera?

Creative micro-touring.

Sharing basic business tools so we don’t continually invent the wheel.

Education: the national curriculum and how that relates with what it takes to get artists into schools.

Is there a will to push for a national stipend for artists in Australia? 

A bad theatre experience can burn an audience: how can we reduce the number of times an audience member walks out thinking “I never want to go to the theatre again.”

Devised theatre an its inclusion in the larger companies.

What digital support do people need to improve their work?

Creative community models in regional cities.

Reinventing the role of the artistic director: remaining the role of administration within the artistic system. 

What theatre is good at.

Theatre and performance that’s less about going to an event, but part of every day life.

New models of copyright or intellectual property for artists. 

Cultural exchange: how do we encourage young people and emerging artists to learn and collaborate internationally to improve the quality and influence of our work in Australia.

A political party (to support the appointment of Wesley Enoch as the minister for arts, culture, tourism and spoty.)

History, archiving, and record keeping.  Is it useful, is it relevant, how do we do it?

New ways audiences can use the NBN to interact with audiences, work created and presented in a digital space.

How theatre can fight racism.

Mid-career artists, mid-career companies, and how we raise the ceiling on where we can go.

How do we encourage more culturally diverse places in the arts.

Beautiful inclusive theatre: bigotry in the theatre.

Involving young people as decision makers. 

New ways of working in community.  Ideas about how this happens that just aren’t “community arts.”

The submerging artists.

The role theatre can play in helping communities adapt after disasters: helping communities adapt to their new normal, when their normal doesn’t exist any more.

Ensure the inclusion of the word theatre in the National Culture policy. 

What might a professional development program for Artistic Directors look like?

New models and forms of non-Jazz Hand musical theatre.

The dialogue of artists as parents: artist lifestyle to include families in touring.

These were just the ideas thrown out into the room: many have been combined changed, or thrown out all together.

Talking to Kevin from Shopfront next to me, we agreed the best strategy was to go to topics which were SPECIFIC: otherwise conversation gets lost, is directionless.

For all the problems Adelaide theatre has and my issues with it, there are some problems we seem to be doing okay: young people DO see work by young people (“Encouraging young people to watch other young artists”) because otherwise it’s hard to be seeing a lot of work at all; with the likes of the Come Out Festival, Windmill, Patch, and Slingsby do mean theatre for young audiences isn’t trapped in an “education” bracket, but are a necessary and important part of South Australian theatrical culture (“Moving for theatre for young audiences and families out of the education paradigm“).  But I am excited by an idea put forth by Andy Packer from Slingsby: If we accept that new audiences are the most important thing, could we fund work for young audiences in the same way we fund opera?  I constantly find work for young people the most exciting, most polished, most inspiring work, which often makes me cry from emotion, from beauty, from ideas. Sitting in an audience with children is such an amazing barometer of the quality of work.  It is a sector which means so much to so many, and I would love to see it more supported.

Because I’m horribly predictable, my number one pick is “Terrifyingly frank discussion between arts and critics“, as it something that I try to have in Adelaide but, understandably, artists can be worried about having that talk.  I’ve had some great conversations in recent times, but it’s not as frank or as frequent as I would like – and that’s hard on both sides of the table.  It was pitched and combined with “Given the ABC has just dropped its in house arts coverage, how do we nourish and sustain critical connections?”, and I don’t necessarily think these are the same issues.  A conversation between artists and a critical discussion on critics is different than how we report about the arts and what that means for a nation.  Since these were pitched by Cameron Woodhead and Alison Croggon, respectively, I wonder what these discussions will be: will it just be us writers?

I am also interested in “New models and forms of non-Jazz Hand musical theatre”: wasn’t Once We Lived Here supposed to have a national tour?  Hmm?  Hmm?!

Now for half an hour morning tea.  The amazing volunteers will pick everything up, place it on boards outside and then we will choose what we want to go to.  I hope I can go to my top three picks.  Currently feeling a lot more excited and inspired from sitting in a room of crazy ideas and energy, looking forward to the sessions.

For more on the Australian Theatre Forum, follow #ATF_2011 and my excessive micro-blogging on twitter, and read the blogs of Augusta Supple and Cameron Woodhead.


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