Posts Tagged ‘Debate


QTC Forum: What Does the State Theatre of the Future Look Like?

We’ll find out in just a few hours! Well, we’ll certainly have a clearer picture of what it MIGHT look like. We’ll be live-tweeting from the forum but I thought I’d give you some pre-forum reading matter, courtesy of QTC.


Luke Jaaniste:

Read his paper Liveliness: Conditions of a Lively Ecosystem (and state theatre) here

In a nutshell: We need to foster the five qualities required for liveliness: diversity, connectivity, flexibility, reflexivity and capacity.

How could a state theatre company be part of this?



Lucas Stibbard, of boy girl wall phenomenon, offered a vision yesterday via Facebook, which I think is worth noting here. It’s a longer note but then, if you’ve had time to watch and share and debate KONY 2012 you can read this and process what you will.
“Me, I’m very fond of that image of the vase that becomes two faces when you look at it long enough. To me it’s always symbolised that by looking at the negative space around something you may be able to infer its shape, or to put it another way – if you work out what you don’t want something to be then, by a process of elimination you can start to understand the shape you desire.

So let’s look at what the state theatre company of the future shouldn’t be and by that same process of elimination we may begin to infer a shape:

It’s 2020 and the season is entirely composed of 7 one-person, co-pros and buy-ins that allow for costs to be met. The upstairs of the company is staffed at 50 and the shows at 3. The works are, for the most part, traditional fare with any risks being minimised into smaller runs in smaller venues. There’s a Williamson or Murray-Smith always. The gap between locally produced works (which are shown separately to the main season and included with education and youth programs) has widened now to being undertaken by what amounts to a different company. The staff is, for the most part, uninvolved in the workings of the downstairs where the one show that the company of the future is producing themselves this year, rehearses. Marketing is done with little consultation as to the actual project and locked in for the whole season before casting has been resolved and the creatives have started discussions. The creatives continue to work in a standard Writer, Director, Designers paradigm and collaboratively devised work continues to be met with a combination of fascination and fear as it doesn’t fit neatly into the systems in place. “Season of the stars” casting to bolster audiences has meant that the 7 one-person shows from the season are performed predominantly by celebrities or musical theatre performers. The audience turn up see their show and go home having been told again that this is what theatre is. Ticket prices are extortionate to cover the fact that subscriptions are much lower due to the fact that the generations that do subscribe continue their decline.

So that’s the darkest of all possible futures – the faces from the face/vase picture, the negative. So let’s not do that.

Now let’s look at the vase.

It’s 2020. The season is broad and varied – there’s an amazing show from overseas that everyone should see once before they die. There’s an insane experiment by a local group that only has one audience member. They’re both programmed and marketed as part of the same season. There’s a golden oldie – there always will be. There’s a pair of shows running in rep that are companion pieces – they compliments and comment on each other via contrast. There’s a musical and a blistering physical theatre piece, there’s a geo-locative city game/promenade thing. The company’s annual must-sees are the Christmas show and the local spotlight that takes a small company and lets them do what they do with a real budget and infrastructure but without interference. The marketing and promotion of the season is artful and true to the productions – this is partly because the consultations between the workers in all areas of the office and the artistic teams are fluid and constant. The venues, which are of all sizes and shapes have well appointed bars and food and act as places to go and spend time as well as see shows: destinations rather than venues. The season’s performers are drawn from the best the country has to offer as well as the company’s ensemble program, and one or two personalities (that bit is inevitable).

Bi-monthly talks like Improbable Theatre’s D&D’s in England allow for lots of discussion with the community and the well-managed online presence of the company of the future allows for dialogue with anyone willing to get involved. The “education” shows, now referred to as part of the season, are made at the same budget and managed by the same workers. As such the demand for arts workers and producers has meant that the project teams in the office are full of passionate and committed artists whose skills in making work extend into management and production allowing a permeability between time spent managing projects and time spent in projects. The company’s first response is “let’s see how we can make this happen” with a default position of “Ok so we can’t do that, however here are 3 other options”. At the center of every consideration is the work.

Subscription has fallen away as a generation that doesn’t do that comes to its prime. However, it is a generation that values live-ness and experiences and as such will come to what it perceives as worth its time and as such the range and quality of the season appeals (as it has to). Ticket prices have come to represent value for money, not an investment in a night of entertainment.
There are a mixture of creative paradigms in play in the rehearsal rooms of the company – one project is made under the traditional auteur/director, designer, writer model, another involves a collaboratively devised work, another somewhere in between and the company is flexible enough to be able to accommodate and adapt to the rhythms and styles of process undertaken.

The company’s ensemble program allows for young and emerging artists to continue to develop their skills and get vital contacts and time onstage as they train and work on the season in capacities that include stage-hand and office work, ushering, time spent in classes and observation of the processes of shows that are in rehearsal and development and in roles in the season. This work is backed by the opportunities afforded young makers, directors and facilitators who are also part of this ensemble and whose late in the year group work is another vital piece of the company’s yearly programming.

The company’s programming is applauded for it’s breadth, it’s depth and most importantly, it’s daring. It has no time for “creative industry” as art making is not an industry and no time for “cultural capital” as culture is priceless – it believes risk is it’s own reward. It undertakes to showcase talent, grow and nurture local creation and innovation and create experiences that cannot be replicated in any other medium as well as continually expanding the notion of what performance can be for both itself and it’s audience.

Now this is without offering solutions or budgets and with full knowledge that the future will probably be as much the faces as it is the vase. But it’s what I dream of.”

What’s terrific about this post, in addition to Lucas’s passion about the future (thank you, Lucas) is that Wesley Enoch got onto it, after sitting with us at Poe’s table last night at opening night of The Raven and commented:

“How exciting to read these thoughts…..that’s what we should be doing. Imagining the State Theatre Company of the future…together. It fact the future doesn’t have to be that far away. Love W”

When the Artistic Director of the company invests so much into ongoing public discussion about what the state theatre company of the future looks like, I’m pretty confident that it won’t look too shabby at all. What do you think? What are you hoping to see?


World Theatre Day

Happy World Theatre Day!

How are you celebrating?

What does theatre mean to you?

Of course, you might know that it is also Earth Hour tonight! We are deferring our candlelit conversation until after the show, which is – very artfully – dimly lit anyway, so we are doing our bit to conserve energy even as we perform.

We previewed La Ronde on Wednesday and opened on Thursday. Today, on World Theatre Day, the Sunshine Coast Daily has given us not one, not two but three stories! (That’s right! That is unheard of! And on Mooloolaba Triathlon Weekend!) It also seems that word of mouth continues to spread like wildfire. Thanks to the awesome power of social media marketing, this thing went viral a few weeks ago. Bookings have been strong and if you don’t want to miss out, you’ll make sure you see La Ronde in Noosa before April 3rd or in Mooloolaba on the 9th, 10th, 16th or 17th of April.

Interestingly, there is a lot of talk amongst the local artists at the moment about reciprocal networking and about supporting each other in this crazy industry. If networking is NOT reciprocal, how is it WORKING? Ah ha! I hear you! I know! It’s really hard to get to everything. There is so much good stuff happening and we are all busy doing our own thing. It’s incredibly frustrating. I hate missing anything. I am guilt-ridden. However, I am frequently impressed by the Facebook messages, status updates, comments, links, blogs and tweets, referring to ticket sales and the friends who are able to move heaven and Earth to make it to a show before closing night in order to show their support for their peers (and enjoy a great show)! So much for the poor, sleepy little country cousin Brisvegas and it’s even poorer, sleepier, half-cousin-twice-removed Sunshine Coast. It seems everybody I know is getting busy making theatre! KEEP MAKING IT, KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT, KEEP SUPPORTING IT AND PROMOTING IT. We will all get to as much as we possibly can. Promise.

Dame Judi Dench says, in her message for World Theatre Day 2010, that “theatre comes about through team work.” And so does the continuation of the growth and support of the industry, at any level. Well, we knew that. It’s just hard (because we may be time poor, energy poor and quite simply POOR) to commit to booking tix and just doing it. I know that “Break a leg” posted on your Facebook wall sometimes means disappointment because you realise THAT friend/fan/influential industry type is unable to attend your show…but it IS a show of support and it’s the least we can do in lieu of attendance sometimes.

The response from La Ronde attendees has, thus far, been overwhelmingly positive (*collective sigh of relief is heard across South-East Queensland*) Already, audiences have told us that they didn’t really know what to expect so in a way there were no surprises. And yet they were surprised and challenged to not only feel comfortable joining us for the journey, no matter what we threw at them but to consider the context and the truth in which each story was told. Actually, most audience members, at least for the film makers, have been unsure about how they really feel at the end of the show. It seems that some can’t just sum it up. Although we can safely assume that not everybody is ready for their close up upon leaving the theatre, we have seen many audience members stumble out of the theatre, completely lost for words and not even sure whether or not they are ready for a drink! Now, there’s no interval, remember; how can they NOT be ready for a drink?! The most common comment, along with those below, has been, “Oh. Um. I have to think about it. I have to see it again…”

Audience comments for camera and from the conversations with the cast have included:

That was fantastic!

I loved it but I hated that scene (everybody describes a different scene)…

I shuddered and I loved it.

The girls gave me shivers. So beautiful. So sad. Something made me remember…

This is the best show I’ve seen on this stage.

This is the best show I’ve seen on the Sunshine Coast.

That is how they do theatre in Europe.

Very European.




Frightening, challenging, stunning theatre. I’ll be back to see it again.

I’ve booked again for next week. I want my friend to see this show.




So. I’m thrilled to be a part of this very clever production and I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing on World Theatre Day than performing and then live-tweeting the backstage antics and dressing room fun (last night it was stealing Easter eggs from under the stage manager’s nose).

What does theatre mean to me then? All of this and more! It may not be as eloquent as I intend it to be but you’re reading it in every post. That we can stage something that makes people uncertain about how they feel, especially about very specific controversial subjects, that we can explore the vastly different approaches to the way in which we present these taboo topics, that we can challenge our audiences to question and consider their own social mores and private habits and they enjoy it and that the process by which we have reached this point continues, allowing us to keep growing and nurturing each other as artists and showing other artists that anything is possible, is something to be realised every day. I’m proud to celebrate today (and tonight, in candlelight at a dear friend’s place, after the worker lights have come up, the white pancake has come off and the audience has left after the empties have been collected by our dedicated and beautifully presented Front of House staff) but I do believe we get more joy from a thing that is celebrated and shared every day. Luckily for me, just like these entertainment industry power couples who are leading the way, I get to share it all long after we leave the theatre…

Of course, there are different challenges associated with that but we’ll save it for another post, shall we?

Theatre means there are some challenges, some discoveries and some joy every day. How lucky are we?!

Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton

Lisa and David Campbell

Sam and Xanthe Coward


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.