Art and politics – the murkiness of humanity

The practice of politics is a source of constant fascination – and of utter frustration.
The state of politics both here in Australia and around the world is in flux and it often encourages (or perhaps forces) politicians to display elements of human nature that we all possess but that most of us try to keep hidden within ourselves. Those elements that society tries to teach us to control through social conditioning such as religious practice, social acceptance, legislation, and many other means.
I don’t follow any institutionalised religious practice, but I do agree with some of the common themes they ask us to aspire to, namely compassion and forgiveness. I hope that many of the people around the world currently holding the rest of us to ransom through the political systems they’ve gained entry to, would find it in themselves to turn down the cognitive biases they have, particularly the self-serving ones, and find a small nugget of compassion which may help them to forgive. And to forgive not only their opponents but also themselves.
As a writer and a performer, I try to understand human nature and what makes people tick. It helps to create more authentic characters, but it also involves going into the murky places of the human psyche. It’s wise to find a way to separate from these places once visited in the imagination and to return to those clear and bright places that make life worth living. But if I’m honest that’s not easy. The magnetic pull of interpersonal conflict and human emotions is strong.
We’re hard-wired in our brains to pay attention to them; our endocrine system produces adrenaline, which creates a buzz, a rush, increases our heart rate, brings on a light-headedness, dizziness, heightens our senses – in short, makes us feel alive!! The release of glucose that adrenaline produces fuels the primitive response of fight or flight. The body expects to expend energy though using muscles, one way or the other.
In politics today, literally running away from one’s political opponents is not an option, and the swinging of fists is out too. Well, mostly – punch ups in the parliaments of Ukraine, Taiwan, Georgia, Turkey, Italy and Japan over the past few years prove otherwise. Blame it on the adrenaline! So, what happens when all this glucose is released and not used? It circulates in the blood and creates irritability and restlessness, bad moods and perhaps a sense of ‘unfinished business’.
This ‘unfinished business’ is what continues to simmer in people’s minds, and sparks the same conflicts again and again, unless, somehow, there is a release of all that pent-up energy (although, let’s be clear, I’m not advocating punch-ups or mass fleeing). This pent-up energy is what also keeps the rest of us watching in the auditorium, or reading the novel, or at home on our laptops. We anticipate the flare-up, vicariously take part in the ‘shouting match’, and our own adrenaline levels rise. We become addicted to the ‘buzz’.
I’ve seen this addiction in the eyes of politicians and those they surround themselves with. Perhaps it should be a requirement of all politicians to take a break every hour or so and run around a circuit to use up all that glucose! But hey! The tax-payers would never stand for that – we like our political theatre, our spectator sport, our verbal WWE superstars! Calm, rational debate with respectful listening and consensus decision-making? Whatever next!?!
But going back to the fight or flight response. From my experience of human nature, the world is mostly divided into those that run away and those that stay and fight. There are very few people who can stay within the moment and act reasonably, without inflaming the situation or taking sides. These gems, these peace-makers, are very rare.

Unfortunately, in politics, too many people believe they are that one special peace-maker. They all believe they know what to do to relieve the tension, to bring the feuding parties together, to come out as the hero/heroine, and be applauded for their conciliatory efforts. The paradox is that when there are several peace-makers driven by the dream of basking in glory, of being at the centre of things without being sullied by the baseness of human conflicts, they are also prone to conflict when deluded by their own self-aggrandisement. This room full of so-called peace-makers are not immune to the flow of adrenaline and its demand for action.
The rare, true peace-maker has no vested interest in the outcome, only in the successful resolution of the conflict. This important subtlety can often be missed by the ‘fake’ peace-maker.
In my creative work, self-delusion is often what defines a character. We all tell ourselves stories about ourselves. We construct a narrative that defines our life as a grand gesture, a positive contribution to social good, performed in a state of generosity and calm. We cling to the cognitive biases that reinforce our own delusions and stop us looking closely at who we really are, or who we can ever really hope to become.
It is this vast disappointment in the futility of ourselves and our lives that is the hardest ‘cross to bear’ but the one that for millennia institutionalised religion has helped people to carry. It’s comforting to be held accountable in an unknown future beyond worldly existence; one we all believe we deserve our place in because we have achieved something worthwhile during our time on this earth. It helps us to continue our futile lives with hope for better things to come. But beware the politician with a strong religious fervour. The combination of self-delusion and self-importance is dangerous, particularly when the consequences are not to be felt here on earth.
Unfortunately, this ‘messianic’ complex is common amongst the so-called fake peace-maker. They are often blessed with a seductive personality and they attract vulnerable people to them. Their narcissistic tendencies create a charisma around them that they use to charm others, to come across as magnanimous, dispensing favours, and mentoring younger, more impressionable aspirants. But this generosity has a price tag on it. To stay in their favour, these acolytes are required to perform tasks for the narcissist, acting as their proxies to ensure their glory is achieved. The radicalisation of young people by extreme entities (not only terrorist groups but also political parties) around the world is often driven by one individual’s personal charisma.
Politics is riddled with narcissists. Even in political parties that attempt to take the person out of the centre of the system, and see elected representatives as being held accountable to their electorate (or membership) are prone to the artful and skilled enactment of the narcissist’s charms. When called upon, these players can expertly perform the role of the aggrieved party, the victim, with great relish, while at the same time working away behind the scenes in pursuit of their victory. They are masters of deception – the self-affirmed deal-maker, the person who can sell anything to anyone – so long as it keeps them in the spotlight and ensures their place at the table.
From my admittedly limited experience of the workings of politics, I’ve come across the various personality types of those who practice these arts. Sadly, I’ve concluded that the genuinely good people, the real peace-makers, those who are driven by honesty, compassion and forgiveness, and who try to bring about constructive outcomes without putting themselves in the centre, are often those that won’t survive. They are deceived, bullied, manipulated, and ultimately disposed of, in the service of these narcissistic fakes.

We see this today in politics in many countries, including our own. I don’t have any answer to this sad state of affairs, I can only hope that we take time to self-reflect, to acknowledge our own cognitive biases, and educate ourselves on what drives humans to behave the way they do.
Five years ago, I wrote a play called The Cat in the Box that examined how art, science, religion and commerce intersected in the arena of politics. It was an absurd comedy, because that was the solution I chose to theatrically deal with the murkiness of humanity within this story. It also contained a warning for the audience – PAY ATTENTION! If we don’t stay vigilant and protect our flawed democracy, it will fall prey to a virulent breed of politics, and will be consumed.
We must kick the habit of adrenaline, find the good, quiet people and support them, resist the charms of the narcissist – fake peace-maker, messiah, whatever label we give them – but remember to try to always act with compassion and be prepared to forgive.

Scapegoats – an ancient ritual for modern times

I’ve been thinking about scapegoats recently.
As you probably know, a scapegoat is a person or group that is made to carry the blame for others. It is referenced in historical texts, such as the Bible’s Old Testament and the Talmud, and its practice can be traced back to Ancient Syria and Greece. The act of a priest confessing all the sins of the people over the head of a goat, and then driving it into the wilderness, symbolised the bearing away of those sins. Once accomplished the community could feel better about the past and look forward to a guilt-free future.
If only it were that easy.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, 1854.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, 1854.


As 2016 comes to an end, we’ve had a year of scapegoats and witnessed the woes of Australia, USA, UK [or pick any random place] being heaped upon an unfortunate person or group. Recent scapegoats are the Muslims according to Hanson, the Mexicans according to Trump, the European Union and migrants according to Farage, etc. etc.
I’m sure many of you have wished that someone you know or work with would just leave and then everything would be better. This person becomes the scapegoat, the focus of everything that is wrong with the situation, even if they were not the real cause of the bad feeling. If they leave, it may seem better merely due to their absence, but if the underlying problems of the country, workplace, or of one’s own personality, are not also addressed then chances are not much will change.
Perhaps you’ve been the person who was driven away. You may have felt that was your only option as the bitterness of the workplace or relationship grew more unbearable. But a scapegoat leaving is only part of this long-standing human practice.
An important and often overlooked action within this ancient ritual is the priest’s confession of the sins of the people over the head of the goat. For this act to have any meaningful outcome the community had to first acknowledge its own short-comings, recognise the wrongs it had committed. For a scapegoat to be effective, it requires those driving it away to admit their part in the problem, in order to allow for forgiveness and a fresh start. The goat itself was innocent of any wrong-doing, so if the confession of so-called sins is not voiced, there will be no renewal for those left behind, only stasis and festering resentment.
Unfortunately, this self-reflection rarely occurs. The sins committed are often seen as belonging to the person or group who is made to be the scapegoat, not the people driving it into the wilderness. Very often people will search for reasons to confirm their view of any situation and conveniently overlook their own role in the mess they are in. This confirmation bias actively works against any self-reflection or personal growth – and we’re all guilty of it to some degree.
But the interesting question is what happens when a scapegoat is identified, but then not driven out into the wilderness?
Sometimes it’s impossible for someone to leave, or perhaps a person refuses to wear the mantle of scapegoat despite the group’s pressures. If that person stays around they risk reminding the group of their own sins. When there is a lack of acceptance of these sins by those who committed them, then people will search and latch onto any confirmation bias they can find to support their innocent view of themselves. It becomes a habit, second nature, and could potential become a real threat, as the scapegoat transforms into being the problem, rather than the carrier of sins it is supposed to bear away.
I think that’s where we are at this moment in many places in the world. Do we honestly expect all our problems would disappear if we deported every Muslim/Mexican [insert latest scapegoat here]? Even if we did something as shockingly degrading as that, do we really think much would change if we don’t also acknowledge our own part in creating whatever crisis we believe we are in?
But a scapegoat used to be a real goat. It was a creature that would have a chance at survival in the wilderness; find other goats, settle down and procreate. If it was taken by a predator, then that’s the natural order of things.
As humans, we live in communities. We’ve evolved to live in groups for food, reproduction, safety, companionship. Exile from the community used to mean death, or a miserable, lonely existence for a person, so exiling or making someone a scapegoat was a serious decision.
Today, scapegoats are easily named and often used as a convenience to avoid looking at the failures of society, the economy, politics, even ourselves. It will take pause and reflection, and an honest recognition of our own learned behaviours to overcome this easy, knee-jerk response to any difficulty we face.
If we truly want a fresh start, a better way forward, we must first name and acknowledge our own sins, before we heap them onto a poor, four-legged creature, and chase it out of the village. Only then will we begin to feel a little better, not only about the world, but also about ourselves.

Is a Playwright’s Utopia possible?

What does a Playwright’s Utopia look like?
That was the provocation for an industry forum held as part of Playwriting Australia’s (PWA) National Play Festival 2015. Taking place at the Adelaide Festival Centre last week (Weds 22-Sat 25 July), many of Australia’s leading playwrights, dramaturges and directors and many emerging writers gathered to ponder this – an idealism that perhaps did not stack up against the reality of looming funding cuts. The forum’s participants were selected from expressions of interest, so many already had something to say. Over the two morning sessions the usual gripes and concerns were aired, but there was also a collective sense of purpose. And the message seemed to be that it was up to artists and arts organisations to demonstrate first and foremost to the Australian public, their audiences, the relevance and importance of theatre to our social, cultural and imaginative lives.
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The Australian Writers Guild (AWG) was also there consulting with playwrights on guidelines for best practice for professional work. Given the number of writers in the room the development of this work-in-progress was rigorous and intense and we can only hope the final draft will be embraced by the theatre industry.
The Equity Diversity Committee (EDC), part of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, presented another shot at creating a utopia. Writers were encouraged to sign a Diversity Pledge. This could be inserted alongside character descriptions in the script and would encourage the diverse casting of roles.
In addition, various topics were raised that ranged from proper payment for playwrights, new models for engagement with communities, independent versus main stage writing, to the privileging of auteur or director-led productions over new writing. Many of these topics are a constant whenever playwrights congregate but it is important to keep these discussions alive. Nonetheless, as pointed out from time to time, it will be incumbent on playwrights to speak up for themselves if they want more opportunities for productions of their work.
As much as this point may be true, in the current climate where fear of exclusion is the main driver of behaviour, many will stay silent. This is reflected in the recent concerns that many of the major performing arts companies did not speak out in favour of smaller companies and independent artists when George Brandis, the Minister for the Arts pulled over one billion dollars from the Australia Council for the Arts and transferred it to the new National Program for Excellence in the Arts, the NPEA. The muted leadership from those in a position of strength, led some to ask how can less powerful voices be expected to take up the slack?
Many of these concerns and dilemmas were beautifully encapsulated in the keynote address for the Festival given by Joanna Murray-Smith, one of Australia’s most prolific and produced writers. Murray-Smith poignantly revealed her vulnerabilities in this precarious profession through the personal story of her struggle with the loss of her mother, a champion of her work and a woman of immense integrity. She described her love affair with the writing life and how at the centre of it she placed the audience. An essential player in this drama that writers rarely talk about, Murray-Smith described the audience as an ‘amorphous, sometimes frustrating, occasionally disappointing and often inspiring lover’. This brought her onto not the banalities of a writing life, a topic often discussed in the forum, but its philosophy, and it obligations. She asked ‘What is my greater responsibility to the world I write for?’
Murray-Smith asserts that her intention is a radical one, but at the same time she is bored by overt political plays that trumpet an ideology in crass unimaginative ways. For her, the best writing is that which ‘channels up from the dark, that defeats our less interesting strategies. Our hearts are more interesting than our heads.’
Many in the audience for her address, who had spent the day grappling with a Utopian vision for playwrights, may have agreed with her sentiments. But it would have been bitter sweet as many they do not have the opportunity to even show their work to an audience, and what little chance there is, is under attack. Perhaps sensitive to the trials of most writers for theatre, Murray-Smith did call on them to have courage, not only in their writing, but also in ‘writing in the face of all oppositions’. More importantly, as many in the arts are wondering when and where the axe will fall, she stated that pragmatism is not art and that ‘courage comes also in saying what is important out loud, at the cost of something. Because the cost of silence is a greater cost.’
At the Festival there were many thinkers, academics, and bureaucrats alongside arts workers. The collective experience and intellect in the room was immense.
Whether Playwriting Australia’s Industry Forum, the AWG’s Best Practice Guidelines, the Equity Diversity Pledge or even Murray-Smith telling us how it is, will be provocations to action for some or all of them still remains to be seen.
In her closing remarks Murray-Smith asked artists to be open about their love for their audience, society and the wider world. And perhaps more importantly she recognised that ‘When artists stand up to be counted, we do so not from negativity or dogmatism, but from a profound engagement with our world and how it works, a connection to justice, and an unshakeable interest in humanity.’
That sentiment sums up the relevance of arts to us right now, and should inform any Utopia playwrights hope or strive for in these confronting times.

Drafted!

After the final workshop on Tuesday 14th April for The Orchae I’ve completed the next draft. I’ve even begun sending it out into the world (see below for synopsis)!
I invited Ray Omodei to attend the reading, as he had been informally involved in the early stages of the play’s development, and was unable to attend the Stage 2 reading.
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During this workshop nothing really major was highlighted, which I took as validation of the whole process and they way we had collectively interrogated the script. This doesn’t mean further changes are unnecessary if it goes into production, but it seems that the script is in a pretty good shape.
One thing I didn’t achieve was a new title for the play. As much as I like The Orchae (a play on words with The Bacchae and Orchid) I don’t think is a very easy word to read/say. As Ray said, imagine a member of the public trying to book a ticket over the phone – how would they feel trying to say it? 🙂 If anyone has ideas please let me know!
I expect I’ll continue to do minor edits but I’m happy with this draft at the moment.
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A short synopsis is here, FYI:
“The future: in a conservation area in the West Australian bush, five years into the future, Jim launches the book on Orchids begun by his wife, Jasmine, before her tragic death. As he reads a poem dedicated to her, time and place slip into memory and imagination…
The present: Jasmine prepares to leave for a field survey. Jim comes home from work, bringing with him an unusual perfume…
Jasmine is looking for the elusive Western Underground Orchid. This plant grows and flowers hidden below the ground and is critically endangered. It is found in only two locations in the world, one of them on Shane Baxter’s farm near the Western Australian wheat belt town of Merredin.
Shane Baxter, a wheat farmer, tries to clear his debts by taking in farm stay guests. His son, Will, returns home from his fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) job at a mine site, hiding addictions, secrets and resentment. He is appalled by his father’s attempts to earn extra income in this way, and by his refusal to clear more land. Will objects to the idea of saving the Western Underground Orchid if it doesn’t help the farm to survive. Taking matters into his own hands, he tries to scare Jasmine away, but with tragic consequences.
The past: history slips from the present to George, a Nineteenth Century plantsman struggling to stay alive without food and water in the WA outback where he is collecting plants. He was a plant collector working for Charles Fraser, the Government’s Botanist. Fraser is writing his infamous report on the soil of Western Australia; a document that hides the real problems settlers will face when they settle the new Swan River Colony in WA. Back in Kew Gardens, London, Queen Charlotte is fascinated by Kangaroos and all things Australian. But the renowned scientists, Sir Joseph Banks and Sir James Smith, find science is contested territory, affected by finance, politics and fainting women.
The future: after five years Jim finally decides to publish his wife’s book of orchid illustrations and now the book is launched. Jim is now in a new relationship with Josie, a former colleague of Jasmine’s, who wears an unusual perfume.”

The anatomy of a play’s development

When I write a play I often live with it for many years. The idea, the writing, the development, more development, the sending it out into the world and – in the best of worlds – its production on stage.

I mentioned in an earlier post The Botany Play first drafted in 2013. This has changed its name to The Orchae but I’m still not completely happy with that. Like the play, the title is a work in progress.

Over the past 18 months I received funding for dramaturgy, a reading and three workshops from Stages WA Playwrights Consortium for this play. It meant I could work with director Emily McLean and a number of fine actors: Dushinka Andressen, Tiffany Barton, Ian Bolgia, Alinta Carroll, Austin Castiglione, Peter Clark, Benj D’Addario, Greg McNeill, Sarah McNeill, Leah Mercer, Ben Mortley, Alicia Osyka, Igor Sas, Ethan Tomas and Ali Van Reeken. Not all at the same time, though 🙂

I have also had some great input from John Aitken, Guy Boyce, Susannah Day, Deborah Grimberg, Brendan McCall, E. K. McFall, Ray Omodei and Marie Rodger – thank you all!

On Tuesday 24th March the first workshop for The Orchae took place. I’d been awarded 15 hours of development for this play by Stages, and decided to split this into 2 daytime workshops of 6 hours each, and an evening workshop of 3 hours. Everything taking place at the Blue Room Theatre, a wonderfully central and accessible venue.

Writing this post is  also an interesting exercise in defining the ‘anatomy’ of this play’s development: the way the whole is dissected into parts in order to understand how it all works together.

The Orchae had already had sustained support to bring it into being [I’ve written about this in previous posts, but here’s a quick summary].

The initial idea for the play had grown out of my fascination for science, in particular botany, and from research undertaken in London and Sydney. The London research took place during a Residency with The Arts Catalyst Science-Art Agency, supported by a WA Playwrights Development Initiative award in 2012. This allowed me to research at the Kew Gardens Library and the British Library. That year I also undertook self-funded research at the Sydney Botanic Gardens Library. During this research I came across some of the Australian stories featured in the play, as well as gained a greater understanding of how botany and colonialism were entwined.

Quite accidentally (in a news article) I read about a fascinating plant that is critically endangered and only found in two places in the world. Both of these are in Western Australia. The first location is outside Esperance, the second, outside Merredin. The plant is the Western Underground Orchid, Rhizanthella gardneri, that has a unique existence: it can only survive if it grows in close association with a fungus and a honey myrtle. That provided me with the foundation metaphor for the whole play – how the past, present and future are all linked, how we can only survive in partnership not in isolation. It also made me think about the way science names organisms – R. gardneri was named after Charles Gardner the WA Government Botanist in 1928 when it was first described scientifically. The way we name things as a form of recognition and ownership is a feature throughout the play.

Not long after I began my research the opportunity to apply to be a Writer-in-Residence at the Cummins Theatre in Merredin came up. I applied and thankfully I was awarded this – yey! During my time there, in Sept/Oct 2013, I wrote the first draft of The Orchae (then called The Botany Play) and had a great time talking to local people about the issues they face and getting a feel for the landscape in this area. I didn’t get to see the orchid in the bush as its location is a secret. But I saw places that were similar to where it might be found. On returning to Perth I was awarded dramaturgy through Stages in 2014 with Brendan McCall, the then artistic director of Cummins Theatre. He has been very interested in my play and had offered some comments and insights into the first and second drafts.

After the residency and the dramaturgy the script was taking shape and the characters were becoming more ‘stable’ (if you know what I mean). Sometimes characters are a means to an end for the narrative, but ultimately they will be very uninteresting people unless they have a full emotional life. The second draft built upon that. I also showed the script to a few trusted theatre friends and received some great feedback. A visit to the WA Herbarium in mid-2014 allowed me to see some specimens of the underground orchid for the first time. Although they were dried and taped onto paper, it was still amazing to see this incredible plant for real.

A Round Table Reading Stages Award in late 2014 was a great opportunity to work on structure and character. The play consists of two interweaved narratives, one contemporary and one historical. 

The contemporary story: Jasmine is an academic ecologist who partners with the Department of Parks and Wildlife on conserving orchids. She is also a botanical illustrator and is working on a ‘coffee table’ type book on the history of orchids. She is very committed to her work and does not notice her marriage to Jim is suffering. She heads off to Merredin to undertake a survey of an area of bush thought to contain the underground orchid. She has to deal with Will, the son of the wheat farmer, Shane, owns this land. Will objects to turning the land into a conservation park but Shane sees eco-tourism as a way to help clear his debts. This sets the conflict up and ultimately forces the tragedy.

The historical story: this shows how colonial botany was driven not only by an interest in the diversity of life on earth by eighteenth and nineteenth century scientists but also by an economic imperative. Renowned men such as Sir Joseph Banks and Sir James Smith were as much interested in the money they could make as in their contribution to knowledge. Social class also played a part and many of the people who made the botanical discoveries possible are largely forgotten by history, such as my character George. He tries to make his way in Australia but again this ends tragically.

Working on and building up these two main characters and narratives along with the many other characters in The Orchae was made much easier after hearing the play read, and the conversation and comments afterwards by cast and invited industry guests. It also confirmed the theatrical device I was using could potentially work well. I had invented a ‘chorus’ of sorts that I was calling the Bacchae. Their presence helped create a style for the work that made it easier for the past, present and future to blend together or transition from one time to another. When I was awarded workshop development this was one of the main questions I wanted to test ‘on the floor’ with actors and director, Emily McLean.

So that is where we are now. After the first workshop on Tuesday 24th March I realized one of the characters did not earn his place, and others need further emotional depth and ‘presence’. Also, the play’s balance of humour and drama seems to be working, but the presence of the Bacchae could be taken even further. The second 6-hour workshop on Wednesday 1st April confirmed the major changes I made after the pervious workshop were working. It also highlighted that George’s narrative through-line needed more clarity. So, I reordered and reworked some scenes to help achieve this.

The final reading on Tuesday 14th April will test this…

Reviewing Theatre

theatre masksOver the past 6 months or so, I’ve begun writing reviews of theatre here in Perth. I write for The Australia Times, an online magazine, that comes out bi-monthly.
As it is not a frequent publication, the reviews can be longer and more considered than the few hundred words allowed for more immediate reviews. The longer, later review may not be as attractive to theatre companies who see reviews as part of their PR strategy, and so want them to come out early on in the production’s run to generate bums on seats. It means that the production can be considered in a different way – not just as an expression of a particular reviewer’s taste or as an indicator of whether they recommend an audience attend it or not. The lofty aim I’m striving for is to build up a record of a production in some depth, place it in a wider context, and attempt to articulate a contemporary ‘canon’ for the theatre we see in Perth. I can’t see everything, or write about everything I see, but I hope I can make a small contribution to a bigger conversation.
I’m new at this, and maybe there are other ways of achieving it, but I’m having a go, at least. You can find my reviews posted here: Theatre Reviews

I also wrote an article about FringeWorld 2015 looking at the economic impact this has not only on businesses, but on artists, too: Forget Passion: unpaid work keeps fine festivals afloat.

Performing the Twitter Novella at #perthfest

I’ve just returned from Albany and Denmark in WA’s south west where myself and Peter Clark read the amazing Twitter Novella as part of the Great Southern Festival.
We had premiered this work on Sunday at the Perth Writers Festival and we will repeat this in Toodyay in April.
What an experience!! the twists and turns of the plot and the tugs and pulls of the narrative made this an interesting performance challenge! If you’d like to read the whole thing, it’s posted here. writingWA will be posting a YouTube of our performance soon, too. I’ll link that when it’s live.

DSC_0040I also chaired a couple of sessions at the Perth Writers Festival – The Best of Times with Peter Walker, Emily Bitto and Caitlin Maling, and Natural Observations with Annamaria Weldon, Deb Fitzpatrick and Inga Simpson. Both times it was great to hear these authors speak about their wonderful work. And the photo above was taken when I was having the best time doing a little observing of nature myself 🙂

Now I’m moving on to a workshop for my play about the Western Underground Orchid. I’ve titled it several times (The Botany Play, The Orchae, etc.) but now I’m calling it Hidden. I’ll be working with director, Emily McLean, and some great actors in March. Thanks to support from Stages WA Playwrights Consortium this workshop will help me develop the script and make it rehearsal-ready – hopefully before I leave for California in May. Maybe one day soon Hidden will be produced! Yay!

Underground Orchid 2And this is a photo of the orchid (Rhizanthella gardneri) – a very rare and exceptional plant only found in WA.