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.

Creating a super-mobile conference blog

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You know the old saying, ‘It never rains, but it pours’? Well, I’ve had one of those weeks … nice and slow for ages and suddenly, a bloggy downpour. At times during the week I found myself flipping backwards and forwards from one blog to another whilst fielding emails, telephone, and Skype calls from clients and collaborators. Oh the idiocy of multitasking! Continue reading “Creating a super-mobile conference blog”

Twitter Lists 101

UPDATE: A year and a half later my follower list has grown enormously – more about Twitter than me I suspect – however I now have a real reason to organise my people into appropriate lists since they come from a range of ‘communities’ of contacts. This way I can be selective about who gets messages. I don’t even need to be following these folks in order to allocate them to appropriate lists.

I got an invitation during the week from the Twitter birds to try out their new Lists feature.  It’s still in testing stage obviously, so I was prepared for a few bugs.  Whilst there don’t appear to be any, apart from a really clunky interface and a slooow setting up process, it’s been relatively painless. Continue reading “Twitter Lists 101”

A few good tips for website owners

I posted a peeve tweet this morning, something I do from time to time when the ‘Grrs’ strike.  I’m finding that more and more websites are popping up with good, well-written content, but with no RSS feed, so there’s no way for a regular reader or a potential reader to learn when new posts are made.  It seems that some of these sites also choose to add new content to a page rather than to blog individual posts, so there are no permalinks back to an individual post, just a page URL.  You know what this means?  After new material is added to the page, really good stuff slips down and off the page, and out of access.  That’s not good.  Even worse, some sites have no search boxes, categories or nav bars that make any kind of sense.  Bad design means good content suffers.

So, my peeve tweet went something like this … well, exactly like this …

Screen shot 2009-10-29 at 7.47.50 AM

So, a couple of tips.

  • If you haven’t already, you should register and burn your site via the excellent Feedburner so your readers get the latest from you in their email or feed readers.
  • If you haven’t already, you might consider joining Twitter and announcing your latest post that way.  If you have a WordPress blog, you could set up a plug-in like Word Twit which generates an instant auto tweet whenever a new post is published.
  • If you have a Facebook account you can announce updates and refer readers with a link back to your website.  There are also any number of plugins and other auto connections available for this most ubiquitous of social networks.  Just remember though that Facebook is a closed shop, and your announcements will be confined to its walled-garden environment.

Whatever methods you choose please please, do something … tell us about it.  Don’t waste all that effort, or miss out on the opportunity to spread your words.

Deserting the ship

I’ve loved Tumblr for years. It’s been my online scrapbook for quotes and images. From today I’m tinkering in Posterous, especially since it’s design is now customisable. Oh yes, and this is a test post.

Posted via email from Kate Foy

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Unsociable playground spats

When I was a primary (elementary) school teacher, one of the jobs I hated most was playground duty.  It meant losing your precious lunch or break ‘downtime’ to wander an always hot and dusty playground, often trailed by kids who liked nothing more than to tell tales on one another.  You had to keep an eye out for a little knot of kids; it almost always signalled a gathering over a new toy being proudly shown off, or just a game being played or a meeting amongst a gang of friends. It could also – and on rare occasions I’m glad to say – be one of those horrible physical kid fights – punching, rolling on the ground, always followed by tears and recriminations. You had to intervene, sort it out, dust them down and send them on their way with stern admonitions. It was also a lesson for me in reading the body language of everyone involved, even the onlookers, who were mostly shocked, teary and very very partisan – everyone had an opinion to accompany the pointing finger,  “S/he started it, miss.” Ah, the days in the old schoolyard!

Sometimes things get a bit rough and tumble in social networks too, and emoticons notwithstanding – you know these 🙂 🙁  – you can’t read the body language of the respondents, so it can be difficult to know who are the trolls or trouble-makers, and who just don’t have the social or linguistic skills needed to put a case.  Last night on Friendfeed – normally a fairly safe haven for robust discussion – a brainstorm session which I’d responded to was ‘interrupted’ shall we say by someone who was trying to put a counter argument. The big kids in the playground didn’t care for his contribution, and so he was ‘blocked’ – bye bye troll.   At this point I left the group and wandered on, glad I wasn’t on playground duty any more, but disappointed at the outcome of the discussion.  Shame though that some big kids still haven’t learned how to play nicely.