I’ve been playing the role of Gertrude Stein in Her Infinite Variety Ensemble’s production of Gertrude Stein and a Companion by Win Wells. It’s been a fascinating and inspiring journey finding out about this incredible woman and her partner, Alice B. Toklas. As both a writer and performer I’ve enjoyed playing the role, which incorporates Stein’s writing, too. This was a rare chance for my love of both language and performing to come together.
Plus there were some great reviews! See:
The West Australian
Independent Theatre Australia
The first draft of ‘The Botany Play’ is finished!
I now need to review/edit and shape it into a play for production. This is a delicate time as a play can be helped or ruined by development, it depends on so many things. But I have learnt that too many ‘cooks’ is definitely not a good idea. Also, a director or producer may want to invest their own ideas and impressions into the play they want to produce, and if that dialogue is to take place, it needs to happen early in the process.
So, if anyone knows a theatre producer or director interested in plays that explore science (in particular, botany), the history of plant hunting, and the conflicts around environmental conservation, please let me know. 🙂
Oh, and I need to find a better title!! ‘The Botany Play’ is okay as a working title, but I can’t see it on a poster…
Wish me luck!
For anyone interested in the plant at the centre of this play – here’s the link to its Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhizanthella_gardneri
It’s a fascinating and very unique orchid – and critically endangered.
A view from Merredin Peak.
I’ve been looking for a way to bring botany into a play for a while now. I researched the early plant collectors in Botany Bay when I visited the Sydney Botanic Gardens Library last year. Then, during my Arts Catalyst residency in London, also last year, I went to both Kew Gardens Library and the British Library to work on the impact botany had on Australia during early settlement. I’ve come up with some great stories and I needed a way to pull this all together.
When I was offered the residency with the Cummins Theatre in Merredin I found the key to it all. This wheat belt town is located near one of only two sites in the world that contain the unique Western Underground Orchid (Rhizanhtella gardneri). Orchids themselves are connected to so much mythology, and social and cultural references that this sparked the idea for ‘The Botany Play’ (apt working title :-)). I’ve been developing this idea for the past 2 1/2 weeks and have come up with some scenes, which will be read this Saturday as a work-in-progress at the Cummins Theatre at 2pm.
There’s been a write up in the local paper about it too:
There’re so many ideas to draw from already, and having studied botany at University I feel like I’m returning to my roots – excuse the pun! But I’m drawing on much more than just the science. The Colonial botanist Charles Fraser wrote a report on the soils of Western Australia, saying they were suitable to agriculture. Unfortunately he got it wrong and the Swan River Colony suffered greatly, with some settlers dying of starvation. There are rogue plant collectors trying to make their fortune by sending unusual plants back to England and France. Sir Joseph Banks, who was on the ship The Endeavour with Captain Cook, was a preeminent botanist. The genus Banksia is named after him. He was a firm supporter of convict transport to New South Wales but corresponded with Empress Josephine, Napoleon’s wife, even when England was at war with France, believing that science was above such things. So there’s a lot to work with as an historical backdrop. However, the tension between conservation and using land productively for farming lies at the heart of the contemporary story in this play. Fingers-crossed I can pull it off.
Then begins the much harder work of getting it produced somewhere – wish me luck!
It’s National Science week next week and, as I am fascinated by everything to do with science and art, I agreed to be part of the Science Poetry Prize – see:
Entries open on August 10th and close on on August 23rd – so not long to be inspired / fascinated / perplexed / challenged by science through poetry.
I’m looking forward to reading some amazing poems!
And to whet your (literal and metaphorical) appetites – here’s a bowl of cherries…
I’ve just returned from Words in the Valley, the fourth annual readers and writers festival in Bridgetown and Greenbushes in the South-West. The festival aims to provide inspiration to those seeking to use the written word to express thoughts and connections to make personal stories come to life. I really enjoyed meeting everyone and talking about writing plays and poems in the workshops and on the panel. Great food and wine, and fabulous company in a beautiful part of WA! Thanks for inviting me to be part of this.
I’m looking forward to the 3 weeks writing residency with the Cummins Theatre in Merredin in Western Australia from mid-September. Supported by Stages WA Playwrights Consortium and the Cummins Theatre Artistic Director, Brendan McCall, I will be researching some of the unique flora found in this area and weaving this into a new play. More about this later…
The songs from The Cat in the Box have now been published! Composer, Jangoo Chapkhana wrote the music to Two Absurdist Songs that feature in the play. I think Jangoo’s music interprets my lyrics wonderfully and as he says, “They are ideal for an intelligent and musical singer looking to perform some contemporary Australian repertoire requiring some special effects. They would make an ideal choice for the stage and recital platform. For tertiary singing students planning an end-of-year recital, they would be an inclusion worth considering, given the relatively rare performances of contemporary Australian vocal music.”
You may preview the first page of the TWO ABSURDIST SONGS by visiting the Kookaburra Music website. The music may also be ordered from this site.
As you may know, March 8th is International Women’s Day.
This week at Teatro Espace in Turin, Italy, Ulla Alasjarvi is holding a 5-day celebration, titled “Parla la donna”, presenting performance writing by women from around the world. These works will be “about the life of women in different countries, in different cultural, ethnic and religious circumstances … questions, thoughts, opinions, experiences… concerning the female reality in different aspects and in different situations.”
My short play, Modern Gods is part of this event – and translated into Italian!!
There’s something about having an International Women’s Day that is starting a ripple in people’s consciousness. It’s a day where women’s ideas, life challenges, joy and love are celebrated. I’ve been asked to read some relevant poems on RTR FM, a local radio station this morning, and later today there is a talk (one of many I’m sure) about women – this particular one is about the changing role of women in universities. As I have just attended my PhD graduation ceremony at UWA I’m curious about that one!
So, to all the women out there, and all the men and boys who love and cherish them, Happy International Women’s Day!
[photo: Chennai, India, 2010 by Vivienne Glance]
I’m so looking forward to the premiere of Banuru Songs on March 23rd, as part of the Joondalup Festival. I was commissioned to write 4 poems in response to the area around Lake Joondalup, then the wonderful composer, Alberto Caruso, set them to music for a mass choir and orchestra. Rehearsals have just started…
Many thanks to Thomas de Mallet Burgess and Nicole Warren for this amazing opportunity and for the pleasure of working with Alberto Caruso and Indigenous consultant, Ingrid Cumming at Kart Koort Wiern.
Here’s a short documentary about the event: Joondalup Festival 2013 Choral Project
The Cat in the Box, a new, absurd comedy with a dash of quantum mechanics, is now available for production through Australian Plays. Or pop down to Crow Books on Albany Hwy in East Victoria Park to buy your copy ($15)
I’d love to see this play produced again, I think it’s very open to interpretation of character, design, music – everything 🙂
REVIEWS of the production:
Sarah McNeil in Time Out, Subiaco Post
Theatre Australia Website
Carol Flavell Neist in Arts Hub
David Zampatti in The West Australian