Posts Tagged ‘community

10
Nov
14

Blak Electric

 

Blak Electric

QPAC & ACPA

QPAC Cremorne

6 – 8 November 2014

 

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

 

blakelectric

 

A great show can leave a lasting impression on me for weeks after its curtain falls. Sometimes it’s the right words at the right time, a display of brilliant skill, a moment of complete sincerity, and sometimes it’s something I can’t quite put my finger on, an energy that stays and burns particular moments and images into my heart and mind.

 

On Thursday night, I experienced this and more as students from the Aboriginal Centre of Performing Arts performed their new work Blak Electric. Playing to a full and vocal audience at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Director Stephen Lloyd Helper and these young artists propel this work forward with an enthusiasm and force that is undeniably likeable and equally as thought provoking.

 

The work explores the personal journeys of young Indigenous Australians leaving their homes and their loved ones to chase their dreams in the urban chaos of the city. Through each of the character’s journeys, we see these young people discover their identity and strength through a connection to culture, the land and ultimately each other.

 

Featuring song, dance and drama, Blak Electric showcases the skill of these young developing artists who perform with heart and vivacity, displaying versatile skill across the art forms. The personal connections between the artists and story are tangibly felt through sincere and thoughtful performances that contest the idea of stereotypes and lead to a more positive message. Poetic compositions written and performed by the students express this personal relationship to the work.

 

While a deeper conversation runs through the production, a sense of fun and cheekiness throughout makes for a joyful and highly engaging piece of theatre.

 

Leonard Donahue in his cheeky role as The Sweeper adds a dash of contemporary Shakespeare to his portrayal of his adorable Puck-like character, charming the audience in the delivery of physical comedy and drawing our attention to the messages embedded in each scene.

 

His continued clean-up throughout the production leads to a particularly poignant moment towards the end of the work where the entire cast is needed to move the weight of his broom. This reference to the power and strength in community once again drives this message of connectedness home.

 

blakelectric2

 

With a live band providing dynamic musical accompaniment, the ensemble is strong, and enhanced by some standout vocals delivered with control and heartfelt musicality. Original composition Blue in my Heart (written by music student Manduway Dutton) is a standout moment, beautifully delivered by vocalist Naomi Summers whose performance shows maturity beyond her years.

 

Energetic choreography by Niki-J Price, Bradley Chatfield, Nik Hills and Andrew Toby weaves indigenous culture with contemporary forms and pulses with life, the final ensemble song Blak Electric infectiously joyful and a rousing end to the production.

 

Blak Electric is a fantastic and refreshing voice for young Australian theatre that engages, provokes and inspires with its joyful message of connectedness and strength. The students of Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts are fearlessly talented and filled with a passion and enthusiasm for their art that I know will see them continue to grow as young artists and inspire all who have the opportunity to be a part of that journey.

 

 

 

29
Jul
13

Limited Tickets RACQ Action Rescue Helicopter Gala Ball

BE QUICK! THERE ARE JUST TWELVE TABLES REMAINING!

 

Gala Ball Date Claimer Front Cover

RACQ Careflight Rescue Gala Ball

(previously named the AGL Action Rescue Helicopter Gala Ball)

It is absolutely baffling to me that essential services, such as the Action Rescue Helicopters, are not fully supported by government, and are instead left in dire straits each year unless a naming sponsor and major fundraising is secured! Thank goodness there are ordinary people – business owners and householders – who care enough to contribute to the cause. Will you? While you can still make donations via your AGL bill, it will be SO MUCH MORE FUN to be at October’s Gala Ball!!!

Year after year the Action Rescue Helicopter Gala Ball has adopted a variety of themes and entertainment that has created Sunshine Coast’s night of nights. Renowned for its outstanding entertainment, this true black tie experience brings together a unique audience of some of the Sunshine Coast’s most highly respected and influential members.

In 2013 the event will be elevated to new heights as a dazzling celebration of the sensational work that the team at the Action Rescue Helicopter undertake. With the involvement of a professional event management team, it is White House Celebrations’ intent to delight your senses with an evening fit for a King and Queen.

Date: Friday 4 October 2013

 

Location: Wandiny Room, Novotel Twin Waters Resort

 

Theme: A Night of Royal Indulgence

 

Cost: $199 for an individual ticket or $1990 for a table of ten

 

As the community rescue chopper, the RACQ Action Rescue helicopter team work across south east Queensland supporting employers, schools and voluntary organisations in safety best practice.  And sometimes even further afield….   And beyond the urgent rescue and aeromedical missions we undertake we also take part in regular training exercises both “in house” and in coordination with other emergency services.

careflight

Your attendance at the RACQ Action Rescue Helicopter Gala Ball supports the work carried out by the rescue teams, and helps this invaluable service to continue.

 

President of White House CelebrationsMin Swan, says her favourite part of becoming involved with Charity Galas is learning more about the community services that exist, which she once took for granted.  “Every night I see the RACQ Helicopter on the news rescuing somebody from the Bruce Highway, from Fraser Island, taking a newborn to Brisbane hospitals etc.  Now I get to see what it takes behind the scenes for this service to save lives.”

With the birth of Min’s son, Smith, and his stint in hospital at 3 weeks old, potentially requiring the services of the Helicopter to transport the family to Brisbane, this service is dear to Min’s heart.  We hope you’ll join the Sunshine Coast’s most generous souls on the 4th October to enjoy a truly beautiful evening of celebration, as well as raise funds to close the $2million shortfall this service experiences each year.

Get your tickets online

Or contact Min at White House Celebrations to take advantage of these amazing sponsorship opportunities:

 
Becoming a Sponsor Partner – only 2 partnership opportunities left!

 

    Make a Donation

 

Donate an Auction / Raffle Item

 

w:  www.whitehousecelebrations.com.au

e:   min.swan@whitehousecelebrations.com.au

28
Jan
13

Strange Attractor

Strange Attractor

Noosa Arts Theatre & SRT

Noosa Arts Theatre

24th January – 2nd February 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Unmoving figures – six silhouettes in hard hats – beautifully backlit in red, eliciting thoughts of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, appear behind a white backdrop out of the darkness of an almost bare stage. It’s already a tragic picture and I’ve come into this production cold. I’ve stayed away from rehearsals and other than the synopsis; I’ve not read a thing about Sue Smith’s Strange Attractor. You would think I might have heard updates or insights from Sam from time to time. You would be wrong. We are ships in the night when working on different productions.

 

A basic bar, a fridge, a punching bag and a few tables and chairs set the scene for what must be one of the most important newer Australian plays, about an unexpected death that rocks an outback rail construction camp.

 

It’s a pity that Strange Attractor runs for such a short season (and that the Sunday matinee was cancelled due to the storm), because so many will miss out on this moving drama. It’s not often Sunshine Coast audiences get the opportunity to experience something that falls outside of the farce or musical theatre genres and this is probably the best of its ilk you’ll see this year. (I guess we’ll see what else is in store at the Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance Soiree in Mudjimba on February 9thhave you booked yet?). It’s a strong ensemble with powerful performances from some of the Sunshine Coast’s best actors; its strength is as much in its silence as in any of its conversation.

 

Moments of unease are relished; the characters wait between lines, without slowing the pace of the play, masterfully stretching the uncomfortable silence into the undeniable reality of the nightmare that follows a tragedy, breathing, waiting, considering, and content to disperse further unease with a look, before moving on. This takes a certain degree of discipline and experience and while the impressive results don’t surprise me, I’m once again bemused to see that the SRT Way just works. I’ll leave that for Sam and Simon to explain in another post. Suffice to say, the casting, by Simon Denver, is superb.

 

A beautiful, sophisticated soundscape by Howard Tampling layers haunting arrangements for piano (Darren Heskes) and guitar (James Allen) of classic Australian songs, the sounds of the storm, and weather updates during the Category 4 cyclone, which wreaks havoc on the camp and contributes to the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of popular safety officer, Gus (Sam Coward). It’s nice to see Brad Thomson back treading the boards after a too-long hiatus, and reunited with Job’s Right boys, Sam Coward and Brett Klease. Joined by Clayton Storey as Rube, David Breen as Chilli, and Jodi Bushby, the token female in camp, known semi-affectionately as Truckie, this lot come with language that may offend (though not as much as I’d expected!), and a moving story that they tell with care and a sense of responsibility.

 

Unexpectedly funny, you’ll find it’s extremely real – the people represented are tragedy-raw and hurting, and yet their Australian larrikinism comes through in crass jokes and deft humour for which your grandma would rap you over the knuckles but which you know is your only coping mechanism – and you’ll recognise that and enjoy the challenging repartee more than you think you could. But it’s a cautionary tale, almost a warning… I wonder if Sue Smith intended it that way. It seems this director did. But while there’s treasure to be found under their feet, no disruption is reason enough for the likes of these characters to call it quits, give up the gold and go home.

 
STRA poster-1

Whether our sensibilities want to accept it or not – we are officially into the Chinese Century! This country once rode on the back of the sheep – we are now the quarry of the world. The reality of this is quite simple…the vast oblivious suburban mass of Australia live on the fiscal crumbs from the mining table!

 

Hard truth – sad fact.

– Director, Simon Denver

 

06
Apr
12

april’s fool: return season


This April, the powerful production April’s Fool, based on the 2009 death of Toowoomba teenager Kristjan Terauds, embarks on a national tour.

A startling work of sadness, loss and love, while laced with humour and ultimately optimism, April’s Fool has been based on interviews about Kristjan by local playwright David Burton, with friends and family of the popular youth, who died from complications from illicit drug use just two weeks shy of his 19th birthday.

After its debut season in 2010, young people, parents, teachers, youth workers and theatre critics alike, for its honesty and ability to engage its audience without preaching or lecturing, universally praised April’s Fool.

We asked Writer, David Burton, and Director, Lewis Jones, to tell us about what it means to re-visit this moving play and offer it up to a whole new audience. Rehearsals started last week. Jones said, “It is a little surreal coming back to something, where it is almost entirely the same cast – four out of the five cast members are the same.” The only change of cast we’ll see for this tour is Belinda Raisin replacing Kathryn Marquet.

Jones explains, “The initial creative development process came directly out of the events on which the play is based, in that David Burton began conducting interviews on which to base his verbatim work within four or five months of Kristjan’s death. There were then three intense creative developments between then and the final rehearsal period. The show premiered in July 2010, some fifteen months after Kristjan died. It was a very raw and immediate process for all involved, which I think made its impact very raw and immediate as well.”

Writer, David Burton

Burton notes, “It was originally commissioned by the Empire Theatre Project’s Company. So Lewis Jones, the director, is the brains behind this whole project. I quickly caught Lewis’ passion for the piece and ran with it. When you sit down and hear the story for the first time it’s pretty astonishing, and we had Kristjan’s father’s journal as source material too. Lewis’ passion, along with the family’s desire for positive change in the community, really fueled the project and turned it into what it was.”

Director, Lewis Jones

As Director and the person who had to instigate the production – it was a high-risk undertaking – Jones was not sure how the local community would react. “I knew that it was a story that was both innately theatrical but more importantly, it was a story that needed to be shared. And I feel that this is why it has been received so positively by audiences. It is a story that we share with the audience very gently and with a great deal of love. It is not sensational. It is not ‘dramatic’ in the usual sense of the word.

We have found that audiences appreciate the gentleness and the directness of the storytelling and young people respond very positively to the work, because it respects their ability to make up their own mind. At no point does the play tell them whether to take drugs or not to take drugs; it just tells the story of one boy who took drugs.

At a Conference I was talking to Nicole Lauder who is a close family friend of the Terauds family. At the time, Nicole was General Manager of La Boite Theatre and in asking her how she was, she shared that she had just been up in Toowoomba watching the son of a friend die. She asked if it was time to revisit Margery Forde’s X-Stacy and I suggested that it was probably time for a new work within this genre.

She put me in touch with David, Kristjan’s father who had written a journal entitled ‘April’s Fool’ chronicling the last days of his son’s life. It was a devastating read and I asked if it could form the basis of a new theatre work and very generously the Terauds family gave permission for the development of the work.”

Burton interviewed family members and friends to get the full story. I asked if this was a “difficult” process.

“Difficult is too simple a word. It was one of the most beautiful and awful experiences of my life. It’s still haunting. Obviously you’re sitting with people who are going through massive grief, so it’s very sad. But you really become aware of how much love is in a community, and how much a death can affect so many people. It was never difficult finding people. Overall, people were very willing to come forward and talk quite openly. The community was extremely gracious and generous with their stories.”

The result of such generous, courageous community sharing is a new breed of verbatim theatre. Burton notes, “If I can make up an entirely new label, I’d say April’s Fool is a ‘narrative verbatim’. We were always very focussed on the narrative. We don’t stop too often to really stop and smell the roses and reflect in this play. I always wanted to keep the story moving. So in that sense I think audiences shouldn’t expect a ‘discussion’ about the event that you can see in some verbatim plays. April’s Fool tells you a story. That was always it’s main goal.”

Not an easy story to share.

Even so, neither Jones nor Burton had any misgivings and they remained consultative throughout the process, allowing those interviewed to have a seven-day cooling off period. He says that the immediacy of the interviews was of utmost importance to allow it to be part of the grieving and healing process. Jones observes, “I guess that is how the rehearsal process is different this time. There is a distance from Kristjan’s death. The mood in the rehearsal room is somewhat more reflective. The premiere season had an urgency to it, this remount is perhaps a little gentler, though nonetheless powerful, and it is underpinned with the knowledge that this is a show that has proven its artistic merit and its ability to have a positive impact on the communities where it is performed.”

During the original rehearsal process, Burton says he was involved as much as any writer. “I would pop in every week or so to check in, tweak things and make changes. Lewis Jones and I work extremely well together, so there was the occasional phone call where we’d bounce around ideas. I was there when we showed the parents for the very first time. That was one of the most memorable days of my life. But overall, it was such a pleasure to work with the team.  It’s a superb cast and crew.”

“There were a few key people with this script that really bounced it along,” says Burton. “The most influential was Lewis Jones, along with Christie Tickell and Michael Futcher. There was other advice from the cast along the way too. Theatre’s a collaborative art form, and especially with a piece like this it’s important to remember that you (the writer) actually has very little spiritual ownership of it. So if someone suggests an idea that’s brilliant, who am I to complain? Once again, the team behind this was brilliant, so I always felt the script was in good hands.”

As well as holding an open call for actors who would complete his cast, Jones handpicked Barbara Lowing and Allen Laverty, whose work he had known for many years. “I knew I could trust them with the material,” he said. “There is an added dimension to working on material you know to be real and immediate and all the cast met what I will call the main players over the creative development process, with David Burton perhaps operating as a conduit; he had, after all, conducted the interviews and built close relationships with the family and close friends. The most important thing for the family is summed up by Kristjan’s mother, Helena who said, when asked why she was prepared to let this tragic story be shared, said, ‘If I can stop another mother going through what I have been through, then it is worth it.’”

Interestingly, Kristjan does not appear in the play, nor do we hear his voice. Burton says, “It was an instinct. The very first thing I knew about the play was that it wouldn’t feature Kristjan in any real physical sense. The fact he’s not there is what the play is really about. And an attempt to reenact his life or have someone play him flirts dangerously with bad taste. I kind of really like that by the end of the play you feel like you know Kristjan, but you still feel like he’s incredibly mysterious. I think that’s really important to the piece.”

I wondered what that original opening night would have been like, as a member of that community, as a member of that family…

Burton remembers, “The opening night was huge. It was terrifying. But then the lights went down and it all played out and it was one of the best experiences of my life. We all hung around with the family and the cast and it was a really beautiful symbol of a community coming together. Kristjan’s whole community seemed to be really pleased with it. From there, the play’s had pretty amazing affects. We get feedback from every show that blows us away. It’s changing lives, which is what Kristjan’s parents originally wanted.”

I asked Burton if he thought April’s Fool should be mandatory reading/viewing for high school students. He said, “I’m biased, so of course I think yes. But I certainly don’t think it would hurt! We’ve had people come to this show and say things like ‘I never knew theatre could do that.’ We’ve had teenagers come and then go home to their parents and confess their drug problems that same afternoon. We’ve had several local politicians see the show and say that every teenager and parent should be exposed to it. I think it’s a vital issue, and I do think that there’s very little out there that talks about these issues in quite the way that April’s Fool does. I think it’s rare you get a play like this.”

Original audiences might want to see this production again. “They might want to bring a friend or a young person who is now in the age group who are most deeply affected by these issues, but who was not the last time it can around,” says Jones.

The response from school groups has already been phenomenal. When the government doesn’t show their support for the arts, it’s vital that schools and parents do and it’s pleasing to see so many families, teachers and principals prioritising a student trip to this show.

“They witnessed real characters, real feelings and real reactions. It shocked them, it challenged them, it angered them, it saddened them, it made them laugh and it made them cry. This was the first performance my students have been really passionate about.”

Michelle Radunz, Drama Teacher at Chinchilla State High School

“I was amazed by the rapt attention of the large audience of school students. They appeared to hang on every word. For me, this is clear evidence of the play’s success in reaching its target audience who will hopefully consider and discuss the issues long after the season has finished.”

Katherine Lyall-Watson, ourbrisbane.com

April’s Fool is a real, raw, affecting story but Jones would not describe it as “hard-hitting.” Rather, he explains, it is “remarkably gentle – profound, moving, beautiful, sad. From my perspective it is an act of love. The work opens up discussion on a difficult topic. This work will save lives.”

April's Fool is available at australianplays.org

Kate Foy reviewed the world premiere in Oakey, near Toowoomba, in 2010 and likened the play to – “a piece of art and in form and intention” – a quilt, with its fragments of deep feelings and shared history. I was curious about what made the final cut.

“There were long and very confidential conversations between Lewis Jones and I about certain pieces of information. You’re going to encounter that with any verbatim play. There are some moments in the play that we took a small (and very calculated) risk by including, because we felt they were important. There are other moments that we sacrificed along the way. Sometimes this was because it was information that was too sensitive. But almost all of the time it was simply because a moment didn’t work because of fairly mundane theatrical reasons.

We have to wonder if the experience of telling a difficult story is a cathartic experience for those involved in its telling. Burton notes, “The six or so months that I worked with the family was fantastic. I can’t speak on their behalf of what their emotional experience was like, but I know a lot of them felt positively about it. I think it’s dangerous to assume these things can always be cathartic. Grief is a funny and mysterious beast. For one person it may be ‘cathartic’, for another it can be extremely dangerous. The only reason we ever went ahead with the project was that the family (who have been involved in theatre before and understood what would happen) were so enthusiastic for it. They really wanted it to happen. I feel humbled and honored to be a part of it. It remains one of the things I’m most proud of (creative work or otherwise) in my life.”

Burton is currently writing a couple of plays for school audiences with Grin and Tonic Theatre Company. He’s also writing a new work, which will premiere at the Empire Theatre in Toowoomba in September. “I have a weekly podcast that I do with a mate about arts in Queensland (stuffandthings.com.au) and I’m polishing off a couple of novels that will hopefully see the light of day quite soon.”

As Director of Brisbane’s Judith Wright Centre, Jones continues to seek out work that “transcends the ordinary by putting us in touch with the intangible.” He points out, “Yes, that last sentence is not logical. Perhaps it sums up my artistic heart.”

Jones’ support for new work, new talent and the growth of the industry in general does not go unnoticed. He says, “I carry with me a belief in the ability of EVERY one – artist or not – to have their life enriched by the arts. There is a lot of shit that goes on around the arts, and so I like to focus on ‘the work’. In the end it is about connecting artists to audiences and audiences are our masters.

There are audiences out there with a hunger for productions that feed them – perhaps – spiritually and it is our task to make work that transcends the ordinary.

My hope for Queensland is that we continue to acknowledge that we have some brilliant theatre makers and that we have the capacity to take that to audiences near and far – and that we do not need to validate what we do by seeking approval from afar.

It’s about the work and supporting artists to develop business models that allow them to build genuinely sustainable practice.”

Book online to see April’s Fool at the Judith Wright Centre or Nambour Civic Centre

 

 

 

04
Apr
12

travelling north for andrew

The death of a dear man, Andrew Thomson, has rocked the Sunshine Coast Theatre community. Volunteer of the Year in 2010 at Noosa Arts Theatre and stage manager extraordinaire, Andrew lapsed into unconsciousness very early yesterday (Tuesday) morning in Buderim, after his brief battle with that cruel monster, Cancer. It was his birthday. He was 57 years old. His specialists are baffled. Diana and the family are left heartbroken. Andrew’s health deteriorated so very quickly. The following message is from Di…

 

We read him lots of messages from you all and held the phone to his ear so he could hear the messages of love from family who couldn’t make it in time.
 
How could it all happen so quickly?  Even his 3 specialists are baffled and upset.  It was only a week ago that we were given the bad news.  There was still so much that I needed to talk to him about, to ask his advice on, to share with him.  But even so, I am grateful beyond words that his suffering was as short lived as possible.
 
There will be a ceremony to celebrate his life at Drysdale Funerals in Tewantin at 2pm on Wednesday 11 April. 
 
Andrew – we all loved you so much.  You will be in our hearts forever.

Recipients of the inaugural Rod Taylor Memorial Flower Pot Award (Volunteers of the Year) 2010, Diana and Andrew with Stephen Moore at Noosa Arts Theatre

Andrew was so loved by so many. He had an incredible effect on everybody with whom he came into contact. My Facebook feed has been flooded with outpourings of grief and gratitude for a sweet soul, a beautiful man, a wonderful friend and a good mate. He will be fondly remembered and dreadfully missed. Tonight will certainly be a different sort of Opening Night. The hardest yet. And Noosa Arts Theatre will, indeed, seem emptier without Andrew in the wings.

 

A very sad day indeed, the whole theatre community has lost a true gentleman and a wonderful friend. Our love and wishes go to Di and family.

– Sam Coward, President, Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance

 

We dedicated the preview performance of Travelling North to Andrew on Monday night. I’m dedicating the entire season to Andrew, at least my part in it, which is only small. This one was somehow never for me anyway.

 

Susan Dearnley, Andrew, Diana and Yvie Somerville at Noosa Arts Theatre

 

“In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry I cry and when you hurt I hurt. And together we will try to hold back the floods to tears and despair and make it through the potholed street of life” 
― Nicholas SparksThe Notebook

 

 

10
Mar
12

so what will the state theatre company of the future look like?

Well now, let’s see. It’s Friday and the Forum (and the opening of The Greenhouse) was Thursday. It seems like an eternity ago! I’ve been busy, yes (I’m always busy) but I’ve been thinking. I’ve been listening to a lot of John Bucchino again lately and this is the core of what I came away thinking (and singing) during the drive back to the coast and upon getting home and going to bed instead of blogging until 2am…

RHYME IS WHAT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO DO UNLESS WE WANT IT TO

When we look at the state theatre companies across the country, do we not think they all look a bit like this?

Yes. It’s a neat street.

Of course the vision for the QTC of the future varies enormously, depending on who you ask to paint the picture. The many, many, MANY pictures are wonderful! And at least we all seem to agree that we would prefer to see something more like this:

And because we know we can, we want to feel that we are creating work that helps us to look like this:

Imagine what the street would look like if our state theatre companies all followed their dreams and each became a true home to their artists, producing sustainably, a vast array of work in traditional and non-traditional spaces, which truly reflected their communities; their people, their stories, their hopes, their dreams and their realities.

WOW!

So my point is this: it’s time to drop a great big bloody bucket of orange paint over each of our state theatre companies!

If there’s an Artistic Director game to do it, it’s Wesley Enoch. He has, better than any other as far as I’m concerned, established a firm platform of community engagement and open public forum. Wait. To trump Cate, he may have to appear on a community group’s stage himself somewhere, say in Ipswich…

Some stakeholders prefer to take a similar approach to that of Lucas Stibbard’s, by taking a look at what we don’t want. This is a fine approach to begin with; ruling out what’s not desired and leaving us with the perfect picture! Easy! But there’s no perfect picture, as we know. And that’s why it’s so hard to make the changes. What if we start small? What if we don’t even call our subscribers “subscribers”? Are they not now “season ticket holders”? Language and perception are two of the big orange splots within the bigger picture.

A number of artists mentioned that we might do better to look at the sporting model in Queensland. This is something that Sam (my husband) has been saying for years. A rare breed, he loves his sport AND the arts. Depending on the season and whether or not the art is paying, one will always win out.

Anyway, Paul Bishop, our extraordinary facilitator for the afternoon’s forum (really, he should have his own morning show), introduced by Associate Director of QTC, Todd MacDonald, gave us a brief history of the world’s culture and asked us to fill in the blanks for the last 50 – 60 years, specifically for Brisbane theatre. What? Oh, right. To appreciate where we are now and where we’re headed, we need to understand what’s gone before us. Fair enough.

So we had our afternoon’s schedule on a whiteboard and, armed with coloured felt pens, A4 paper, post-its (and iPhones), although we were already running 15 minutes late, we were ready to change the world!

We realised, after just a few minutes, that there has been far richer theatrical culture in Brisbane than many realise, for much longer than some care to remember. Kaye Stevenson commented that resilient artists have continued to work for a long time in this town. What a timely reminder (mentioned again later, during the Welcome to Country from Uncle Des and the opening address from Wesley Enoch) that we must keep asking our elders what has happened before us. We must be willing to listen and take down their stories. We must re-tell them. We must continue to value that which has gone before. I don’t doubt that we do, just as I don’t doubt that there is anyone who doesn’t want to do things better than they’ve been done before.

The question of sustainability was a major one – it kept coming up in conversation – and it took David Walters, the master of green lighting design (and by green I mean sustainable and not for Wicked), to point out that we had full lights on in the room for the day, for a discussion, rather than all of us looking like death-warmed-up under the ugly lights (he didn’t say anything about looking like death-warmed-up but we all know that’s the issue here).

The theatre is an aesthetic thing! Nobody wants to be photographed under the fluoros!

Luke Jaaniste spoke of the theatre company being more a part of our entire ecosystem, a living, breathing, feeding, inter-dependent organism, though his paper reads more clearly about this than his brief address to us on the day and I urge you to go back and read it. Lisa Erhart gave us the Galaxy Analogy and poignantly noted that she is one of the cool, older, red stars within our galaxy, while there are others involved who are the hot, new, young blue stars. She wants us to smash the elite theatre culture that appears to be – still – associated with the company and for it to become far greater reaching and responsive to community. Anna Molnar used the term “theatre without borders” and also noted, later, that to trademark it or copyright it would defeat its purpose. It was noted that the only “colour” in the room was in the paper and pens. Todd MacDonald summarised that the state theatre company has a responsibility to raise standards and tell the stories that truly reflect our community. This came up repeatedly. In Farmer Rob’s words, we must start to “sell to the farmers.”

Rob spoke about farmers who sing – they’re happier – and have “thrown out the farm”. (I’m waiting to see the link for this organisation and when I do, I’ll add it here.) This became more relevant as we began discussing the traditional space, the buildings and that “elite” culture of pre-booking, dressing “appropriately” and going to dinner and a show. Todd asked, “Should we lose the mothership?” There was deathly silence. As Wesley honed in on later, the place is significant. It’s important to have a home for artists and a place where people can gather together. As a little, tiny, independent company who floats from theatre to theatre, to Boreen Point, to Community Hall, to park, to beach, to living room, to vacant shop, I know this to be true. We feel it. All the time.

IMHO a company needs a place to call home.

The need to re-structure the company came up several times, with artists wanting artists paid first. Fair enough. On the other hand, it was acknowledged that admin need to be able to sell a show in order for the artists to have an audience! Andrea Moor said the company should be one that, “serves the fans and the artists first.” She also wants to see, as we all do, the companies working together. I don’t doubt this is happening more than ever before, with the dialogue now wide open between QTC and La Boite.

Emma Bennison spoke on behalf of Access Arts and expressed her frustration (echoed by many others in the room and on Twitter) at the funding bodies favouring young and emerging artists for far too long. She reminded us that it’s distressing for her sector of the community to see able-bodied actors playing characters with disabilities. There are actors with disabilities who are not even being considered for these roles. I was waiting for Suer Manger to pipe up. Emma also stated, quite rightly, that we can’t possibly become a more inclusive and accessible company while we continue to make assumptions about people (artists) with disabilities.

Angharad Wynne-Jones joined us via Skype (Sigh. There are always technical difficulties, aren’t there?) and shared with us these words:

We need to balance fear and hope. We need to do things better and differently. We need to hold hands before the paradigm shift.

And a wonderful, quirky, living room work, choreographed by Lucy Guerin for the homeartproject.com

Matt Delbridge spoke about London’s Green Theatre Project, citing excellent examples to balance the horrific stats of energy use (read waste) by theatres everywhere. You only have to Google “green theatre” to find enough material to occupy your reading time until Arcola Theatre becomes the first carbon neutral theatre in the world. And they will. Check out what they’re doing – for their theatre family and for their wider community – here. Our own Umber Productions achieved a small miracle with David Walters lighting their production of Elaine Acworth’s Water Wars. Their Education Pack provides nice, simple detail about how this was done. I wish the writers and implementers of the new you-beaut rigid bloody curriculum would see more theatre. Just saying.

“I limited the amount of power used. I know it was a kind of arbitrary thing, but I set myself the task – and the show was a touring piece – to run from a 10 AMP (domestic) socket. It simplified things.”

Walters told Kate Foy that the biggest challenge in Water Wars was, ‘getting my head around this approach to lighting. I don’t know of anyone else who’s taken it on. It’s challenging – bloody and dangerous at times but, at other times, very rewarding.’ He continues, ‘… and just because we have the tools doesn’t mean it’s good design. I’m conscious of LEDs being fitted in to what we’ve always known. We’re in transition. We’re in a catchup game now and, for the first time, we have tools we don’t quite know what to do with. We’ve now got computers which have given us extraordinary and sophisticated ways of controlling that light, once we’ve generated it.

Where I am learning is in the area of control. There are old ways of doing things but now there is so much flexibility. For example, there are 60, 80, 100s of channels of control. I’m having to learn to re-think in design terms.’

Right. What have I missed? What we believe is essential to the state theatre company of the future. And the observations from Steven Mitchell Wright. Hmmm. Could have heard a pin drop. Steven said aloud a lot of what has been unspoken. In order to move forward, QTC need to address a lot of problems.  He is an advocate for adapting our language and our labels to better represent the stakeholders. He sees a need for greater depth and transparency in the engagement with community and while he acknowledges that the discussions, debates and forums are happening already, QTC now need to genuinely respond and make the tough calls to bring about real change for artists.
Since I’m still up and here, here is a little something from Travis Bedard, in the middle of the current #2amt discussion (if you’re in theatre and not on Twitter yet, IT’S TIME), re the problem with theatre in America. I include it because we all have to remember that we all have something to do with making changes for a better future. That sounds awfully trite but, especially in our theatrical circles, I get sick to death of hearing the sneering and judgement before support and admiration for our fellow artists. Be a part of the change. Be the change you want to see. Stop wasting paper. Turn off the lights. Get to a show via public transport. Make braver, better, smarter choices. Keep creating new work. Keep sharing the work. Share the love MORE.
QTC is not UNloved. Far from it! We just don’t know how to show our love sometimes.
“You understand of course, given the size of this niche, there’s an almost 50% chance that YOU are a problem with theatre in America?”
-Travis Bedard
No problem here! No problems that are not being addressed, anyway. Keep supporting, sharing and inspiring change. The changes will come about because we continue to challenge, adapt and evolve. Meanwhile, The Greenhouse, the youth ensemble, Wesley’s regular newsletters and the engagement with community give me confidence that QTC are serious about change. For the first time, they are questioning – from the inside – the necessity of rhyme. The state theatre company of the future looks like it’s genuinely open to suggestions and will look very different if we just give them a chance and a bit of encouragement along the way. We need to keep reminding them:
RHYME IS WHAT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO DO UNLESS WE WANT IT TO
And we need to remember that sometimes, half of the audience – even the invited guests amongst them – are not going to find your art interesting, regardless of the changes you make. This actually happened last night, to my, er, horror. They will continue talking and drinking, regardless of what or who you have put on the stage in front of them. But no problem. Not everybody watches the grand final, either. Let’s not be so precious, let’s not waste time and resources dwelling on it (let’s not decide to leave them off the guest list for the next opening, which was one suggestion I overheard in the more attentive section of The Greenhouse crowd); let’s just get on with the show and bring on the theatre companies of the future.
Check out the forum gallery here and on Facebook.
09
Mar
12

Ireland-Ghana Children’s Project: get ready

Nuala Quinn is one amazing woman.

Her friend and mine (stylist extraordinaire), Maria Faulder, has been keeping me up to speed on the progress of an incredible little project of Nuala’s, in Ghana, which is totally Nuala’s initiative and one that we’ve jumped on board to support.

The Ireland-Ghana Children’s Project is a non-profit, volunteer organisation between Ireland and Ashaiman, a township outside Tema, Ghana. It aims to build a new school, church and children’s clinic (the building has begun!)

You can help!

On the Sunshine Coast, Maria is organising a Mt Coolum Climb for July 1st. She wants to raise $3000. How can you help? You can climb with us or sponsor the climb. You can tell all your friends and use social media to share the Facebook page and the details of the event to help us build momentum.

If you’re anywhere else, you can jump on the website and donate a brick or volunteer to work ON SITE in Ghana!

It’s often a person or a personal reason that motivates us to help somebody outside of our own community. If this sounds like a cause that touches your heart, please join Nuala, Maria and a host of cross-continental friends to help raise funds that will go directly to supporting the development of infrastructure in Tema, for the benefit of the children and their community there.

For more info check out the Facebook page and Nuala’s blog

What we do.