The “Discussion” Continues…

Oh my! Katherine Lyall-Watson posted a review of Harvest Rain‘s The Secret Story of Cinderella and Her Fabulously Fashionable Footwear and the comments that have followed have dragged out of the ether, a little “discussion” that has been almost happening among theatre types for what seems like a very long time now, on various blogs and in the various foyers, green rooms and coffee shops of Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

As Dr Kate Foy pointed out to me, it is not actually a debate and “Anonymous posts short on fact will always be ignored.” There. She said it. Know the facts before you comment, particularly anonymously, which is almost always particularly annoying. Whilst this post and my comments are quite obviously and publicly me, take me or leave me and all that; there are some who prefer to comment anonymously and thereby avoid all, well, at least some of the responsibility that comes with making a claim about something one knows a lot or very little about. As I do not claim familiarity with all of the facts about the matter at hand, namely, how a particular theatre company got the guernsey here, I merely offer my opinion. And those of the friends who have posted their two cents worth on the Facebook link! Friends, I thank you! And I encourage others, particularly those working in the Independent Theatre Sector, to continue the discussion about how we each fit and what we can contribute to keep the scene changing and evolving to suit the artists and audiences. If we continue to keep our concerns to ourselves and sit by bitching while the questionable, mediocre, maddening things keep happening, we weaken any arguement we may have for an alternative!

Snarky, a bit of a regular to Katherine’s blogs, reminds us:

When it was announced all those months ago I didn’t notice the outcry: letters to the editor signed by theatre company ADs expressing their disdain, for example. Or meetings across the performing arts to draft position papers to the Premier and the Board of QPAT, it just snuck by quietly it seems to me and that seems a shame (I could be wrong, maybe I missed the meeting 🙂

This is precisely what interests me most about this thread. I too, wondered at the time, “How did THAT happen?” “When was THAT opportunity rolled out to independent theatre practitioners across Queensland?” and “What the hell is anybody able to DO about it?” N.B. I tend to react first and then give everybody the benefit of the doubt. If you’re good or right or the best at what you do or whatever SHOW ME. I am an extremely generous audience member that way. And by the same rationale, a harsh critic.

I posted Katherine’s link on Facebook and added this:

I had thought I was alone in assuming the next resident company at QPAC would be selected through some sort of widely advertised & fairly adjudicated tender process, as was the first…..well, wasn’t it??? And yes, I realise I have already assumed that there will be a “next” (and that 12 months in the space would be a fair stint). Surely God, a-hem,  QPAC, can present opportunities to other indie theatre practitioners who are able to prove themselves worthy of being saved from the arts hell in which they may consider themselves to be . And by hell I mean the sheer hard work & resilience it takes to continually seek funding, resources & space and to gradually build a professionally run theatre company in Queensland that is truly highly regarded among peers and the public. Sure, it takes all sorts and we certainly need somebody to stage the colourful crowd-pleasers & pantos (as long as they’re fabulous & the ticket prices reasonable) BUT must that continue to be all we see from the resident company of our state’s première performing arts venue?!

And the comments from my talented friends and hard-working indie arts practitioners thus far? Here:

Seamus Mee

I Love you Xanthe…’they’ murdered off that 3rd Company principle in a rush of cultural fervour when Labor came to power by the early 90s when they ‘defriended’ the TN! Theatre Company saying another 3rd professional company would magically spring up in it’s place…well here we all are 20 years later and actually the whole environment, the state of funding and the divide and conquer-ness of the arts – makes it pretty much impossible…the real pantomime starts and ends in at 100 and 111 George Street – there’s no votes in it, sweet pea…
I love ya guts Xanth. It takes big kahounas to call in to question the process which has had nearly everyone in the theatre community whispering, and i applaud your doing so. You are right on the money asking the questions you do, but for fear of backlash I shall refrain from adding my two cents. Needless to say these are questions that demand answers.
Eileen Walder

Thank God there are some young people who truly care about quality theatre.
I just find it all hilarious!
another questions re QPAC, why is there no youth arts program or producer like the Sydney opera house and Victoria arts centre? I agree, i think it’s important opportunities like company residencies and other assistance programs are openly advertised and open to all, otherwise why should we trust we’re all getting a fair go for the work we produce, not the people we know.
Wow Wow Wow. I didn’t know this was going on. Am I right in thinking an amateur company that doesn’t hire professional actors for at least award rate, is a resident company at QPAC? There are pro companies in Brisbane that NEED to be supported for the arts to grow. More actors leave the city every year as working in one show a year doesn’t pay the electricity bill.
What a huge debate!! It’s a sad state of affairs in Brisbane. Great community of artists, but not a great culture of the arts….I think that’s why so many artists head south – me included.
I read a debate earlier about artists leaving the city as though we were piking. I left the city as there was no way I could earn a living (not a fancy one, just a living). I equated it to wanting to be an astronaut and staying in Tamworth. Brisbane has changed over the years and that’s great. But it’s a slow slow burn. And none of us WANT to be living away from our families, old friends etc. I miss my family on a DAILY (I truly mean that) basis. But I felt like if I wanted to grow as an artist (and work) I had to move. And I continue to – to find work. To Sydney. Melbourne. London. And now back to Sydney. I would love Brisbane to thrive. But clever decisions need to be made!

I actually believe the Brisbane Performing Arts Industry to be ready to thrive! What’s holding you back, Brisbane? Is it the same gammut of complex issues, which we are struggling to recognise and overcome on the Sunshine Coast? Tall poppy syndrome, questionable management, negative attitudes, amateur hour, lack of funding, resources, venues, commitment levels, honest critical reviews, the fact that we all still have a day job (or two) in oder to practise our art…

It’s not really about one theatre company in one space, is it? Or is it? Is that it?



I think religion is part of this debate because (and I agree with Snarky on this one), politicians in QLD toe the religious line. And they would be more than happy to fund a professional Christian theatre company because it TICKS MORE THAN ONE BOX.

Snarky is right that the industry should be worried. That the industry has failed to act thus far. And that if it happens, if we lose that precious promise of a third company to a group of manipulative, back-stabbing egomaniacs hiding behind a thin veil of morality and church doctrine, we only have ourselves to blame.

But hey, we’re Queensland.

No worries, right?

Oh my, indeed. Now, I am not wasting the space here to include Gethsemane’s additional comments. Read them within the original thread. And here, let us end this post with the somehow not-so-annoyingly anonymous anon, who may, as Matt does, fear the backlash that seems to come from stating your position in opposition to the self-made or media-made-popular opinion:

I wrote my contribution before Gethsemane’s third post.

I have now read it and am scared.

I am scared because with Harvest Rain on the edges of being professional, these are the conversations that will start to occur within theatre conversations. These opinions will drift into the foyers and change rooms. And reviews. And forums.

And people like Gethsemane will think that’s fantastic. People like this will think that progress is being made.

And then they’ll start making decisions. On what they think should be included. On who should be hired. Whose lifestyle they look down on.

Whose sexual orientation is not suitable.

This is where it starts.

It ends somewhere else.


2 Responses to “The “Discussion” Continues…”

  1. January 31, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Hi Xanthe
    No matter how much of a lather we can get into with blog comments that are anonymous, long on conspiracy theories or personal opinion, and short on facts – one of the benefits of all web-enabled conversation is that it’s actually happening and, especially, that it’s happening widely and publicly.

    Blog commentary on any site and any subject can be a way of getting the fear and loathing and the loony stuff (sadly not the loonies, many of whom belong to the prolific Anon family) out into the open. It’s a bit like one of those Monty Python gatherings round the village stocks, complete with a bunch of rotten vegetables and someone or something to be pilloried. This is the downside of a lot of blog commentary.

    The upside is that when you get everyone together someone is bound eventually to come up with useful, factual information that can stop at least some of the veggies in mid-flight. I think most bloggers hope that the conversation on their site is of this kind – I bet Katherine Lyall-Watson and you do! And more power to you both for not being afraid to write publicly on your blogs, and to encourage discussion on matters of concern.

    I’ll freely admit that I was unaware of the nature and terms of a QPAC ‘Residency’ – a position that is ‘invited’ I see – until I read some of the comment on Katherine’s post. Had the matter been of as much interest to me as it obviously is to others, then surely it would have been a simple matter of an (anonymous) QPAC site search. Armed with the facts, and not rotten tomatoes, further questioning with relevant parties might well have taken the discussion into the arena of the much wider and far more important debate on the nature, quality, and the future of arts support in our state.

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