Footnotes to my year in theatre – 2009

The theatre and I have had a love affair for many years now; my Actors Equity membership card notes 13 March 1973 as my joining date, but that is just the marker of when it became a day job for real; the affair began long before then.  During this – my first, official year of retirement from full-time work – I’ve gone to plays, written about the theatre, helped organise it, advised on it, started a blog to help others find their ways around and through it, and generally pretty much been absorbed in my art form of choice.  Apart from the screen before me, my theatre-engagement has spanned four countries, many companies and organisations, several Australian cities, and all 12 months of the year.  But right here and now, and since it is the time of lists of the best, worst, wish I’d done more of during the year, here goes me …

Face to face …. as an audience member, I went to the theatre quite a bit in 2009; a quick look through the calendar says I attended 36 plays all up.  Some were superb, some were bloody awful, most were fair to middling.  Sift through any one of them though, and you’d find specks amongst the tailings if not tiny nuggets of theatre gold … a performance here, a gorgeously played scene there, another element of an otherwise-ordinary production that sparkles. 

The lovely thing about the theatre is that it is multifaceted, real, live,  and as capable of great big belly flops as soaring arcs.

It’s rare to find a flawless gem; and you’re doomed to failure if you go to the theatre expecting this.  When it does happen along, the experience is something never forgotten; that’s what keeps me going back, that and doing my small supportive bit for the enterprise.

As a theatre-lover, an advocate and a member of a couple of theatre boards … Chair to one of them … I spent far more hours this year engaging (aka talking, consulting and advising) with colleagues on the business of the business of making theatre than I actually did in dark rooms with strangers.  The diary says 75 individual meetings or presentations – good grief!  And yet, and yet … it has to be done.  This year I want to hear more voices – diverse, informed, loud – raised in support of the theatre.  Too many in my own particular neck of the woods are anonymous, whingeing, and ultimately destructive; too few are positive and enthusiastic.  When these latter voices are heard they should be listened to and encouraged, as perhaps should be the whiners and the trolls, but oh my, battling ignorance is an unlovely sport. 

Social networking has enabled a far wider conversation; the challenge is to get more to engage.

Virtually … my Facebook and Twitter streams are alive daily with the sound and sometimes the fury of theatre makers.  What I love is the way Facebook especially keeps me in touch with former students and colleagues; sharing reports from the field, who’s doing what and where, plus the increasingly-frequent pictures of their newborns and growing children are just plain … delightful.  My Google Feedreader overflows with articles and reviews on theatre from around the world – this has been the fun part.  This year I’ve loved discovering new and brilliantly funny and often argumentative, sometimes wrongheaded it seems to me, but always passionate voices through theatre-related blogsites.  Hours spent doing this?  Countless, but also priceless!

I’m tempted to note the bald figures of times and hours and the listing as a kind of reductio ad absurdum … the hours were richer, the events rewarding and so, so fleeting – except for some of the meetings.  I look forward to more of the same in the new year to be, and wish you a wonder-filled year wherever you are and whatever your passion, theatrical or otherwise.

It’s a first … code is music

Well for me, anyhow. As I write this, I am listening to a live performance of music being coded and played on two laptops by two artists on stage (AA Cell aka Andrew Sorensen and Andrew R. Brown and yes, like all musicians, they have their own My Space site).

What they are doing is a complete mystery to me but it’s mesmerising. I get that they are ‘playing an instrument’ but they are writing the music (instrumental and ‘vocal’) as they go. It’s live coding I declare. The code on the screen (in several colours) is a moving pattern in itself … an artwork which responds along with sound and rhythm to their keyboards. They are gently moving in rhythm … extraordinary stuff. Live composition. Code is poetry? Now it’s music.

And of course I should be recording it for a suggestion of what I am hearing. I am in fact, typing to the rhythm … . Closest I’ve experienced to a jazz jamming session.

Later over coffee: there was more … much more … graphics, movies (from files and live), layers, filters. And a perfectly lucid ‘explanation’ of how it all works (thanks core audio, video, graphics in Mac OSX).

OK this is new, live performance art and the future for VJ and DJs can only be hinted at. I’ve already started thinking about how some of this astonishing stuff can be incorporated into live performance with actors … I’m thinking speech rhythms and their affect on the work of Topology (last night’s performance), and now this … live input, digital sampling and media output. Like wow.