No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Tag: Australian Theatre Forum

Australian Theatre Forum: International Collaborations Skype Conversation

Getting My Haircut by Children at the Junction Regional Arts Conference

Our morning started with a Skype conversation between Lenine Bourke (Contact Inc) and Darren O’Donnell (Mammalian Diving Reflex ) on their international collaboration.

I first meet MDR at the Junction Regional Arts Conference in Launceston last year, where I attended haircuts by children.  It was an interesting experience.  I found the children who cut my hair rather timid, but they were probably feeding off my fear of hairdressers (it was the first time I’d been to a hairdresser since I was ten or so, and the first boy was so nervous he ended up asking someone else to do it).  The best part about the experience was the fantastic energy and crazy idea of being in a salon run by children: they took the bookings, they ran all the equipment, they wilfully whirred away at the electric razor – not on my head, but my friend Shaylee ended up with an undercut which, depending on who you asked, was a star, a map of Australia, or a road-killed cat.  One of the great things about the project, says Darren, is “adults and children who don’t know each other actually have a lot to say to each other,” and it was a really interesting experience getting to sit down and talk for forty minutes with children I didn’t know.

Mammalian Diving Reflex started as a theatre company, and then they moved into working with people, rather than performers.  Says Darren “We often work with non-artists as performers as participants.  We ask them to do what they do best.  We ask them to represent themselves and not be anything else, and we do that very theatrically.”

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Australian Theatre Forum: A terrifyingly amicable discussion between artists and critics

Open Spaces thoughts: two.

Terrifyingly frank discussion between arts and critics”, is what was proposed by Cameron Woodhead,  and “Given the ABC has just dropped its in house arts coverage, how do we nourish and sustain critical connections?”  was instigated by Alison Croggon.  I was very excited by the size of the group which choose to attend the discussions.  I was disappointed together, everyone was much more “terrifyingly amicable” than “terrifyingly frank.”

There are so many issues surrounding both prongs of this debate.  For me and my “career” as a critic it boils down to two key issues: how do I receive critical feedback of my work as an emerging writer, and how do I create a sustainable career in a field which is rapidly being removed from our traditional media sources?  I am paid for only two of the publications I write for – and this sum is minimal.  I figure in a good month I might be able to bring in as much as $220.

I have not yet had one of these months which I would describe as good.

(And then, of course, I buy tickets for a great chunk of the shows I review for this blog, so that’s where that money goes. I am often struck how often I am praised for my work on this blog, and how few media lists I am on.)

This career is currently completely unsustainable, this blog is completely unsustainable.  It’s not necessarily that not getting paid is the issue, it’s that I’m not paid and I work full time and then and then and then.  It can all get a bit much.

And on the other point, it is really really hard to get artists to talk to critics about criticism.  I’ve been having more luck in Adelaide in recent months, perhaps my “contribution” to the arts scene there more visibly seen or appreciated?  My annoying voice popping up in more forums, people figuring out I’m not going away?

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Australian Theatre Forum: Funding children’s theatre as opera

Open spaces thoughts: one.

In Open Spaces today I attended in earnest the sessions on funding theatre for young audiences with the money that is received from opera and the discussion on critics, I butterflied around one session moving from a group on musical theatre to a group on new work, and then ended up listening to people talking about New Australian Theatre – but by that time I was needing something to eat and was rather disengaged.

The talk on theatre for young audiences was just all rather lovely, as expected.  With the idea put forward: what if we could subsidise seats in those theatre to the level where they have the same per-seat income as a seat at an opera performance, what could that mean for the sector?

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Australian Theatre Forum: Interdependence, or, what’s love got to do with it?

In this afternoon’s panel, Interdependence: Love, Money & Artistic Exchange, we were asked to consider the fact that the ecology should be characterised as co-dependence.  I came in from an afternoon talk on the place of critics in theatrical culture, and how artists support these: both fiscally and through giving them the tools and vocabulary to write about the arts.  More “amicable” than “terribly frank” as promised, talking about co-dependence I am reminded by one of my favourite quotes on the art of criticism and the intersection this has with the artists they write about:

“Is criticism less important than the literature it criticises? Oh, dear! What I think we should do with this question is reject it.  Though conceding that criticism is, if you will, a parasite upon which it criticises, as the misletoe upon the oak, one needs not declare the result inferior. If it has less of quality A, it has more of quality B. The oak may be king of the forest, yet it is the misletoe that one kisses under at Christmas. (What would it mean to say: oak is better than misletoe?)”

– Eric Bently, Thinking About The Playwright (1987)

But more on critics later. In lovely and frank conversations about the nature of a collaborative process, they were as much (or more so) a conversation about failures and hardships in collaboration in partnerships as the success story.  What it boiled down to was collaboration, like theatre, is a dialogue, and if one partner isn’t listening, if one partner stops talking, if the partners are actually having slightly different conversations, it is probably going to fall down.

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Australian Theatre Forum: Open Spaces

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:

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Australian Theatre Forum: Women in Theatre

“Convictions and Connections” is the theme of this year’s Australian Theatre Forum at the divine Brisbane Powerhouse.  I’ve walked away from day one with a few more connections, and a few less convictions.

In the afternoon, I took myself to the Women in Theatre Research salon, and this is where I lost my convictions of the day.  Clearly, it is an issue I find very important, and one I have placed time and energy into trying to grapple.  So why is it that when I go to forums or panels about the subject I just walk away feeling destroyed and disillusioned and wondering if anything will happen at all?

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