At the end of last year I received some amazing news! I’ve been offered a place on the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in USA.
And it was in one of the most enthusiastic and welcoming invitation letters I’ve ever received 🙂 The opening paragraphs from Executive Director, Margot H. Knight read:
“YES. One of the pleasures of this job is saying YES to artists. You have been selected to be a resident artist at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program during the 2015 season. This is a remarkable achievement—867 artists applied for 66 residencies.
The quality, integrity and direction of your work clearly impressed our panelists.
Congratulations. Let me say it again—YES! Oh, and once more. YES!”
This will be such a wonderful opportunity to focus completely on a new play, tentatively titled ‘Subversive’ – but more of that another time. Needless to say, this play continues my fascination/obession with science in theatre and in society.
I only know that the last residency I held at the Cummins Theatre in Merredin was amazing! I truly appreciated the space and time to just write – it’s so wonderful to immerse oneself in the world of a play, and hopefully this immersion is realised through the play text as well.
Just a quick update to the ‘Botany’ play that I wrote during my Merredin residency, Stages WA Playwrights Consortium is supporting a workshop with the wonderful director, Emily McLean, and some very talented actors, to help move this text closer towards production. I changed the title to ‘The Orchae’ but I think I might change it again, as that one’s a bit obscure, perhaps. I’ll keep you posted…
Anyway – back to my research of ‘Subversive’!
And here’s to a productive and happy 2015 to you all ☺
Afeif and I are celebrating the Tenth Anniversary of our unique productive collaboration – transcreation this Saturday 4th October 2014.
Featuring Dennis Haskell, Roderic Pitty, and David Moody we will share what we’ve achieved and what it means not only to us, but further afield. Transcreation, as we see it, isn’t just a means to bring Afeif’s words from Arabic into English, but a process of cross-cultural engagement. I hope you’ll be able to join the celebration and taste the complimentary Sudanese finger food, tea, coffee and soft drinks, as well as listen to the wonderful music of Nazik Osman & Eltayeb Hamid.
DATE: 4th October 2014
TIME: 7pm to 9:30pm
VENUE: Ethnic Communities Council’s Hall, 20 View Street, North Perth WA 6006
Books available for sale on the night.
A life in the Arts is sustained by hope and resilience. Hope inspires me to keep putting my work out there, and resilience stops me giving up when my enthusiasm for what I do is not matched by funding and institutional willingness to support it 🙂 Audiences and readers are enthusiastic but I’m wondering if they realise what goes in to sustaining an artistic life/career. So, I thought I’d present an overview of what I have been doing since the beginning of the year to try to get my work out there, and why I think there should be a greater voice for Arts in the public conversation than there is now.
For those of you who are not involved in the Arts this is a snapshot of the time, energy effort and emotional investment many of us put into our work.
I started out with a concerted effort to apply for projects – currently totalling an estimated 40 or more discrete actions to realise my arts practices.
I decided this year I’d concentrate mainly on my theatre work: writing, acting, directing and occasionally producing. In summary:
Of these, 6 playwriting submissions had a positive outcome – dramaturgy, readings etc. and I’m working with a director on a potential productions in 2015.
I’ve presented 4 writing workshops and have 5 more lined up for the rest of the year.
I auditioned 5 times and was selected 3 times, plus I had on-going voiceover work. I performed in a remount of a play from last year, which was presented at a regional festival. I am currently in rehearsals for a show in November.
I was dramaturge/director on a play reading, and am currently in pre-production as a director for a play for next year.
I helped with publicity on ‘3 Seeds’, a play I transcreated with Afeif Ismail at the Blue Room Theatre, and I began producing a show that subsequently stalled.
However, I submitted some poems and of the 10 sent out, 2 were selected for publication and I am waiting to hear about 3 others. And I was a guest at a regional writing festival.
I also sat on panels, was involved in industry consultations, judged competitions, published reviews and articles, attended conferences, marked essays, gave talks and presentations, MC’d at events and gave informal dramaturgy to friends and colleagues when asked to.
Of the over 40 attempts to work, I’ve achieved 24 publications/activities so far this year, and I’ve been paid for 10 of them. So over half of the ‘work’ I’ve done has been unpaid. Around 20 applications were unsuccessful, so nearly half of my efforts to achieve work were also unpaid. This snapshot is not uncommon amongst artists. Often we are driven by passion as well as profit, plus there’s a belief that it’s important to remain visible and engaged in the Arts sector, otherwise you’re easily forgotten.
So why am I telling you this (and thanks for staying with me)? I said earlier that it’s time the Arts and Artists had a greater voice in the public policy conversation. Recently The Arts Party, a new party dedicated to arts and culture, has entered the political arena. But I feel arts should be a key part of every political party’s agenda of whatever stripe. If we want that to happen the question we should ask our politicians is ‘So, you want my vote, what’s your Arts Policy?’
Collectively, across all art forms, and arts and creative industries, we can have considerable impact. There are a lot of us!
If, like me, you are committed to working in the arts, or if you’re a passionate lover and supporter of the Arts (often we’re both) and you’re interested in being part of this, please make The Arts a political as well as a personal priority in your life.
Don’t delay – the 2016 election is not that far away…
Australian Plays has published 8 of my short plays, all available separately. Each one has either been performed, published or won a prize 🙂
The plays are:
The Comic’s Tale
Freedom of Birds
Pillar of Water
Scream from Tal Afar
Just had the OPENING NIGHT of 3 of Afeif Ismail’s short plays which he and I transcreated from Arabic to English! Congratulations to all the cast and crew and especially Jeremy Rice, the director and producer with Always Working Artists. These plays are being performed up until 5th July at The Blue Room Theatre, James Street in Northbridge.
We are SOLD OUT tonight Friday 20th June when we have ‘A Taste of Sudan’ after the show including Sudanese music and food. This event is sponsored by WINGS Organisation for Cross-cultural Development as part of Refugee Week 2014.
So ‘3 Seeds’ is having a 2nd ‘A Taste of Sudan’ on Saturday 21st June. I hope this one sells out too 🙂
More info at ‘3 Seeds’ at the Blue Room Theatre or phone: +61 8 9227 7005
2014 is off to a flying start!
After the heatwave and the Festive season malaise things are starting to happen.
I’ve completed the second draft of ‘The Orchantes’ (formerly known as ‘The Botany Play‘) and I’m looking to take the next step – development towards production.
This play has been a pleasure to write. I’ve travelled to Sydney, London and Merredin in WA’s wheat belt, to research and write it. Plus, it introduced me to Brendan McCall. Brendan is a performer, director and producer and is nearing the end of his tenure at the Cummins Theatre, Merredin, where I undertook a writing residency last year. Through support from Stages WA Playwrights Consortium he’s been working with me as dramaturge over the past few months and the play has come along amazingly well. Thank you Brendan, and good luck post-Merredin!
Other things shaping up in 2014:
I’ve had a play selected with the Belarusian Dream Theater Project
I’ve been invited back to teach workshops at Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre
and 3 plays by Afeif Ismail, that I co-transcreated with him are being produced at The Blue Room Theatre, Perth in June.
More projects are bubbling under the surface but are not confirmed and I’ll post these, as and when 🙂
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…