11
Apr
12

keep the geek alive

Artistic Director of QTC, Wesley Enoch, discusses what it means to “keep the Geek alive” and dismantle the elitist walls surrounding theatre.

By Wesley Enoch. Re-blogged from queenslandtheatrecompany.com

Harold Mitchell, philanthropist and media mogul (in 2011 he was invited by Federal Arts Minister, Simon Crean, to oversee a review of philanthropy in the arts, which, among other things, recommended the new cool kid in town, crowd funding) says that acceptance and positive support has gone hand in hand with creative thinking. Creativity and social tolerance of difference, the tolerance of ideas that may not be your own, has been at the heart of the great societies in our history. He goes on to say that the 19th Century was a European Century that saw a move away from slavery, toward economic expansion, social vitality and a major growth in the arts. The mixture of imagination and courage saw the development of new structures of government and business that delivered greater rewards to its citizens. The 20th Century has been the American Century where the growth of the country has seen science fiction become reality; where the imagination of artists and scientists (Geeks) have created the economic powerhouse of a country of middle class. Mitchell says that within 10 years 50% of the worlds GDP will be created in Asia, bringing us into the Asian Century. His support for the arts is legendary – through his family foundation he gives almost seven million dollars a year to arts and health projects. That is almost three times more than the Australia Council’s project budget for theatre.

Diversity and tolerance, imagination and courage, extreme knowledge and dedicated “geekiness” are the future. For our economic, cultural and social development we must support the arts.

John Holden from Demos in London says the theatre company of the future is not about the walls that keep the company in but more about the networks that enable the work to exist. Theatre companies will become a jumble of informal and formal networks that become active around a live event. He quotes the influential thinker Charles Leadbeater and his work in Manchester where their programming  developed into three streams – Enjoy, Do, Talk. These three areas allow an individual multiple ways of engaging with a company as an audience member, a performer or a contributor to debate and discussion. This engagement can  occur onsite, offsite or online creating exciting multilayered outcomes.

Steven Wolfe from the United States says that the theatre company of the future will have to move from efficiency to effectiveness – look at not the most efficient ways of doing something but what will bring the desired outcomes….because human beings are not always wanting an efficient experience. From sustainability to vibrancy – we should not be happy to merely survive, but we should encourage change and excitement around our companies. Not fixate on maintaining the status quo and giving predictability, but build to be seen as a vibrant and vital place to be, connect with and contribute to.

He also says we must challenge the rhetoric of engagement and replace it with ideas of entanglement….not the ‘us’ bringing art to ‘you’ but about so entangling ourselves in your world that you feel part of an us rather than a ‘them’. This idea that in AFL clubs you have supporters rather than fans. The supporter will follow you regardless of the outcome of the game because the club is part of your identity…a fan comes and goes depending on the fortunes of the club. (Go the Lions!). I reckon we would measure this in how many mutual friends we have rather than how many people have friended us on Facebook.

Ok….what does this have to do with developing a life long love of the arts? For me it’s about seeing the dismantling of barriers…of the walls that Holden talks about….creating new participatory models and challenging the status quo and old world ideas of the unchallenged expert in the arts.

Drama/ theatre has maintained barriers to build a kind of edifice of high art. But this must change; we must dismantle the barriers and create new participatory models, acknowledge and value the ecology of theatrical practice. The idea of the Artistic Director of QTC being in conversation with drama teachers has been anathema in the past and I think we have to change that. It is outdated and wrong. We have to see ourselves as peers in the making and support the art both as practitioners and as people who are supporting artists to grow. If we are going to get 10,000 hours of experience in to young people to be the artists of the future we have to work in partnership. We must remove the barriers and allow people to transition from student to artist to audience member to critic to teacher to supporter. This must happen easily and without value judgement of where you sit in that ecology. The difference between an Artistic Director, the artist and the audience member is merely the position from which we see the art. The challenge for a company like QTC is to not play the status game but to play the ideas game.

I am advocating that we must keep the Geek alive in all of us. The fluid movement of talented and interested people through different forms of theatre based activities, removing barriers and redefining the entry points for people to the ways of making and appreciating the arts is key to building an integrated ecological approach to theatre and drama.

Love,

Wesley

“Being an Artistic Director means being a champion for the art form. For the period of your tenure you are the custodian and you have to grapple with changes in society, to help articulate debates, be the public voice of the form at the time.”

-Wesley Enoch, Artistic Director of QTC

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