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?”

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.