1975: On tour with QTC’s “The Rainmaker”

It’s been quite a while since I wrote this little piece for the QTC’s 1975 newsletter No 2. I found it today as I was researching materials for the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Company. Touring around the vast distances of this country is still a way of life for actors – some things never change like the hospitality of the people in those far-off towns; the challenge of long days and nights, and being away from home and not able to sleep in your own bed. But some things sure have changed – we were always so keen to get letters on mail day and I recall searching for a phone box beside the side of a road on more than one occasion – that and having enough coins to make the call last. It seems like and is another age. Hope you enjoy it. It brought back a rush of memories for me. Ah, yesterday!

It’s 7.25pm. Paul Jones, the ASM pokes his head around the dressing-room door and gives the half-hour call at probably the exact moment it’s being given backstage at the SGIO Theatre. Here, light years from Brisbane outside the Shire Hall, the goods train clanks on, and the sprinkler on the oh-so-green lawn goes on as the cicadas stop abruptly. Noise, or the lack of it, is a tangible thing out here.

We’ve done a radio interview today, given away a couple of complimentary tickets in a phone-in competition, slept and sat around on the hotel verandah watching the sky go crazy at sunset. There seems to be a whole 360º of red and pink-apricot clouds.

Someone took several of the company today to a property 20 miles out of town for horse riding and a swim. A few others went out to the local high school and talked with some of the kids. They all want to know our names, how or why you become an actor, and what the play’s about. We tell them. They’re particularly impressed with one actor’s football record (that would be Bryan Brown’s). They promise to come tonight. I meet one of the girls later in the one and only milkbar in town. She wants to know if I am married to any of the actors in the cast – which ones are single, and who’s the blonde one that’s so good looking? That would be Bill Rough. I tell her.

The quarter-hour call and someone’s complaining about the bore-water. Someone else’s sinuses are threatening to explode from the dust, early wattle, and buffalo grass that are in full bloom at this time of year.

Paul Jones again: “We may be going up a bit late tonight; they’re still arriving.” Most of the audience begin to arrive at one minute to 8 and get to their seats sometime within the first 15 minutes. A few resisters stand around the doors at the back, catching up on local news, probably. We finally go at 8.10.

The kids have come in force. We get whistles, claps, foot stamps – the lot – at the end of the act. Everyone’s enjoying themselves but it’s hot, and back here there’s nothing to drink. Out front the beer is flowing in the makeshift bar.

Everyone is frantic about the stage floor. It’s like glass. Some over-enthusiastic cleaner has gone berserk with the polish. No one can move above snail’s pace without slipping; running is impossible. Everyone scrapes the soles of their western boots and someone suggests we warn the ballet company that’s due here next week.

Act 2 comes and goes with the inevitable slipping and sliding. Someone out there must like us, and sends back iced water. Finally, Act 3 and the audience goes wild. We even get cheered.

Pack out time and the costumes are hung in their plastic bags and everything goes into the skip. Someone writes “The Rainmakers came. QTC 1975” on the wall. I find “QTC 1973 – Gamma Rays” beside “Johnny Farnham.”

These people have got to be among the most hospitable in the state. They laid on a full buffet before the show tonight. Some have driven 80 miles from their properties especially to see us. We’re amazed and not a little bit humbled.

Now, after the show, they’ve brought out more curries and sweet and sour dishes. I asked how they got mushrooms out there – they’re dried. There’s cheesecake 6 inches thick and wine and beer, and chocolate cake and coffee for those who don’t drink. The crew are busy striking and packing the set up and out into the bus for the haul tomorrow. Someone makes up a tray and it’s sent back to them.

The kids are in the midst of it. They want autographs and to talk, and they tell us that tonight has been better than Old Jack’s picture house.

The next morning’s call is for 8.30am. Most of us sleep the distance to Longreach. It’s also mail day. Everyone’s a bit excited at the prospect of news from the outside world. Amongst the piles of letters and bills that have followed us around the state, there’s a telegram from the last town: “Cumulus gathering. Can’t afford $100. Please advise.” We’ve even brought rain.

Brisbane: Wanted – a cultural reality check

I heard a great interview this morning on ABC612 Brisbane with Sam Strong, the ‘newish’ (since last November) Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre Company. Among other things, Sam sketched out some of his ideas to make QTC a national theatre leader. Anyway, it was exciting and refreshing to hear Sam hint at his plans and talk up his ambition for Queensland theatre.

The perception that Queensland theatre is ‘less good’ than that produced elsewhere raised its head again in the interview … the damned cultural cringe beast never goes away, does it? Nothing riles me up faster than the appearance of this nonsense whether at state or national level. I hunted down an angry post I dashed off nearly 6 years ago.

Here it is – from March 20, 2010.

#killthecringe Continue reading “Brisbane: Wanted – a cultural reality check”

Quote of the day: on honesty and quality

As always, read the whole post Why They Don’t Come Back (yes, on audiences and theatre) from a newly-discovered US-based blogger.  This is a snippet that resonates with me right now.

I think it’s in our interest to be a lot harder on theatre-making. How many of your friends are working on a bad show right now?  Why are we surprised when the audience is made up of mostly actors’ friends? Why do we profusely thank the audience for coming?  Why does everyone compliment each other on a lackluster show?

Enough with the pity party/circle jerk.  Either try to blow the audience away, or don’t bother.  Be harder on your friends.  Save your glowing praise for work that deserves it. It’ll bolster quality overall, and theatre will gain credibility amongst the unwashed mashes, whose dollars we desperately need.

‘unwashed mashes’ …. the mind boggles!

Quote of the day: on reality and possibly, endurance

Read the whole post by Travis Bedard from Cambiare Productions in Austin in the US.  It was focussed on writers, but holds equally for all artists and creatives in the theatre … or elsewhere.

Everyone wants a comfortable job at a comfortable salary at a nurturing artistic home.  And a unicorn.  Too bad.

Quick Thoughts on Outrageous Fortune

Quote of the Day: on social media and your arts company

Worth a complete read but here is the nub of the matter :

No matter your geographic focus, social networks are fundamentally about forming a community and having conversations. Therefore, having a clear purpose in mind when you choose your networks is essential.

We’ve all heard the adage “the medium is the message.” It means that the method by which your audience receives your message becomes an inextricable part of the message itself. The phrase was coined in the 1960’s before the advent of the social media frenzy. But think about what it says to us today. Your show is its logo. Your season is the email blast that announces it. Your theatre is your Facebook fan page. But there’s more to it than that.

With social media, the audience becomes both medium and message. Your audience is your identity. Who your fans are says something about who your organization is. If someone chooses to invest themselves in your product or purpose by becoming a fan or making a comment, then they become part of your organization in a way that’s visible. They become a message that your organization is worth following.

via Building Audience Diversity Through Social Media.

Arts Education – what should we teach and how?

There’s a Twitter discussion happening right now hashtagged #artsed .  The hashtag acts as a search key for tweets that have anything to do with arts education, but this particular thread of the discussion is focussing on the issue of professional training for artists – more particularly theatre artists, and especially actors.  The originating posts are from the US but, such is the nature of Twitter, anyone from anywhere can jump in and contribute – it’s a democratic open house in the Twitter stream.  The current thread is tackling a matter dear to my heart and to those others who are participating.

However, there’s only so much you can say in Twitter’s 140 character delimited conversation bites and, inevitably, you long for another venue to continue the conversation at more length. I’ve turned here to my own scratch pad/blog, and perhaps others will join in the conversation. Continue reading “Arts Education – what should we teach and how?”