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.

Facebook connections as eye candy

The inner geek in me rose this morning as I found these great animations, graphs in a post from Mashable – visual representations of the links between friends on Facebook. Eye candy indeed – or of a galaxy really, really close to me.

The picture accompanying the post is a screen shot of my Facebook friend connections created by the app Nexus; you can see a dynamic, zoomable, terrific representation of my network here. Why not make your own?

Disclaimer: This is not procrastination; every good girl deserves fun from time to time!

Social media: covering an event

Yesterday or today (depending on your time-zone) is the second World Wide Photo Walk Day, the brainchild of photographer Scott Kelby. You can read all about it at the homesite for the event. Some of us signed up for a walk through our city Toowoomba in south-east Queensland, Australia. What really appealed to me was the idea of a whole lot of people taking photographs of a chosen location on the one day – the coverage, the coverage! Of course, there’s the social aspect of such an event, and the chance to get out into the crisp, winter air and hunt out locations that you rarely see as you whizz around in your busy life. We chose to shoot the back lanes and rarely seen corners of the city. What also appealed to me was the opportunity to cover the event using social media. Here’s how I tackled it. Continue reading “Social media: covering an event”

How to survive online possum-stirring*

A guest in the garden shedI wonder at the naiveté of people who publish material to the web, and then spit and scratch if it appears somewhere else ‘out there.’ I also think people who cut and paste clearly private or sensitive material from sites to other more public forums deserve all the un-friending they get – a sort of cyber standing-in-the-corner-till-you-learn-to-play-nicely approach.

By all means stir the possum, but know what you’re doing before you pick up the stick. Possums really bite and scratch when cornered.

I write having read some reasonably combative commentary by people passionate about a particular subject, and triggered by a blog post (not on this site) which referenced an earlier event.  Back and forth it went … angry at times, reasonable at others; mean and generous spirited in fairly even measures.  Sane and forward-looking, nutty and self-centred – typical you might say of the kinds of debates that flare up from time to time on the web.

What I found interesting was that the two things which really irked those who bothered to comment were firstly this issue of what’s appropriate to post and what’s not and in particular to share others’ so-called private (although named) off-guarded comments from one forum out into another. The second touched upon choosing whether or not to publish under one’s own name. Seems most of the participants appreciate a name to go with a blow, whether fair or underhand. Can’t say I disagree about that.

Cowards, bullies and cry-babies are just as distasteful in cyberspace as they are in real life. Kiss-and-tellers aren’t much fun either.

* ‘Stirring the possum’ is an old Aussie saying which refers to livening up debate, or creating a disturbance.

How Twitter is invigorating my blogging

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As I’ve written elsewhere here, I’ve spent a good bit of time microblogging – diversifying the way I engage in online conversation. Whereas once I would have written a blog message or two a day, I now find I am more likely to twitter and then take far more ideas from the Twitter stream into face to face video, audio chat or a lengthier blogpost here or on my other blog Groundling. In a way, Twitter has invigorated my thinking, and opened up the potential for a more diversified conversation to a much greater audience than before. If blogging is about the conversation, then the conversation is getting richer, and so too are the contacts.

I’ve been on board the Twitter bandwagon since May 2007, but the flood into the stream in the past 3-6 months has been huge. The screen grab (above) shows in cloud form the most common words and the names of some of my contacts or ‘tweeps’ … I know, I know … but somehow this silly neologistic game of appending ‘tw-‘ is all part of the fun. Am I chatting more and enjoying it less? Heck, no! I get a dozen new followers a day, although I have no intention of following them all back … I look for interesting posts, stimulating debate, and if we had something in common, well that would be nice too. In this way, I’ve met a slew of new adventurers, exchanged some good ideas on the fly in 140 characters or less … yes it can be done … and gone on to expand those ideas in concert at Utterli where a new contact @andreweglinton has set up a group called Talking Theatre. What emerges from these threads of thoughts expressed in voice or moving image invariably finds its way to further reading and/or blog posts and more considered comment. And what fun it is to hear a variety of voices in all their dialectical richness.

It’s worth mentioning FriendFeed, another app that’s proving useful. As an aggregator of social networking applications and services, it’s a one-stop contact point where I can see my contacts’ photographs, quick comments, link to their blog posts, and even what they are reading. More importantly perhaps is that FriendFeed provides a more detailed profile of a person; you can feel you know them much better than should be possible in what is a virtual creation of ‘self.’

Invariably, you will find your way to a contact’s blog … or not as the case may be. You could stay on FriendFeed or Twitter and chat there.  But if you fancy a more considered exchange of ideas, inevitably you will hit their blog URL hotlink. Once you’re there you get to be a bit more thoughtful. The tweet is to the blog as a quick phone call is to a long, kick-your-shoes-off, sit down and talk session.

So whilst the shiny-bright, new, often frantic kid on the block is inevitably soaking up more of our online time, I can’t help but feel that, at least for me, it’s provided a pick me up, a whole new lease of life to my online communication.

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I’ve been tagged …

Image via Wikipedia

Now I’ve heard about these ‘meme’ things but for the first time last week I was tagged by Sue Hickton to release 7 or maybe 8 things you don’t need to know about me. Actually there are lots of things you don’t need to know about me, but you don’t need to know those now, do you. I originally tried to wriggle out of a response, but that would really lower my blog cred amongst my small but exclusive circle of blogmates. Besides others have done it, so here goes with the ‘things’:

  1. On gran, and my snake and lightning phobias. I had a couple of bad experiences in the backyard as a kid with the joe blakes. Then there was a close call with a lightning strike in my highchair as a wee kiddie. These phobias were not assuaged by the Irish Catholic superstitions of my grandmother, who would dash from room to room sprinkling holy-water whenever a storm loomed. Gran also had a marvellous collection of holy pictures in her missal.  You know, the ones with snakes and angels and bleeding hearts. Ugh! She was also a water-colorist enthusiast of no note whatsoever, but she taught me how to clean my painbrushes. It was a valuable, early lesson in the value of craft skills.
  2. I once had the same sandwich filling on my school lunches for an entire year, so my mother told me: cheese and tomato sauce. It’s an acquired taste but probably more a nod to my obsessiveness about … stuff.
  3. I could read when I was quite young apparently, and well before I got to school. I used to read bilboards, ads and everything that had words on it.  I’ve never stopped.
  4. I have a very high typing speed and can still take shorthand. My mother thought I should learn practical skills to ensure I always had a job. It was the 1960s you see. You should see me whirl around on this keyboard!
  5. I’ve been told that I speak French with an Irish accent. My French teachers were Irish nuns.
  6. I trained to be an actor in swinging London during the late 1960s. It really was a groovy place, baby!
  7. I learned to love cricket aged 3 or 4 at the knee of my great aunt and in front of an old upright radio.
  8. Our family history claims an ancient ancestor of mine was a knight of England’s Black Prince. His name was Sir John Hall and he lived in the 14th century. Wish you could time travel.

And somehow all of this is connected, somehow.

And now I get to tag 7 other amazingly diverse and fascinating individuals … and we’re all connected, somehow

Laura Whitehead

Julie Roads

Colin Warren

Kabren Levinson

Katherine Lyall-Watson

Elizabeth Lloyd

Anika Malone

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