First published December 2007

When Dorothy returned from the bizarre coloured world of the munchkins to her black and white world on the farm, she burst into tears. She was grateful to be home, and in her own room, in her own bed, with Aunty Em calming her down. She learnt when looking for adventure, she need look no further than her own back yard.

No on can deny the value of appreciating where you are: as the adage goes: “where ever you are, be there”. But there is something amazing about being elsewhere. It makes you appreciate what you have at home, it forces you to reckon with your definition and connection to “home.” And upon my return, I appreciate all I had there… And at the heart of all great experiences and places are the people that you meet, you know, you rely on and you help.

Before I headed to Canada, I saw an exhibition at an Art Gallery that quite affected me. It was an installation/sculptural piece: a bridge made of a thousand little jelly baby type coloured people with their arms up above their heads as if they were supporting a crowd surfer. A thousand little people… multicoloured, palms to the sky, anonymous, faceless and yet important in the structure of the bridge. The message of the piece was that to get anywhere: perhaps even over troubled waters, that there is a thousand people who will support your journey.

Sometimes, this is the most inspiring thing to me as I walk down the street. Notice the buildings, notice some Christmas decorations, notice a tree, a scabby poster peeling off a wall. All of them put there by someone. Someone put something there. Old buildings were once new, and put there by someone: someone who was at a point in their career that they were working on this building. Even right now: banners lining the city streets of Sydney with festive messages were put there by someone, someone was hired to design them, someone facilitated, some one else approved the design and the specs and someone printed/ made them.

This is the reason I always stay to the very end of film credits. Watching the reams of names skip past reminds me a film was made because all of these people, and the people behind these people said “yes”.

For anything to exist, someone must say “yes, this is worth investing in, participating in, working on.” Sometimes this “yes, this is important” comes from the partner or family behind the person who dares to contribute, dares to offer something, create something that may suffer the slings and arrows of a thousand “NO’s.” A “yes” from someone close is the medicine for the onslaught of “no’s” that are so easily dispensed.

It’s a comforting thought: that it takes a lot of people to make things happen. It implies responsibility: we share the success of creating the world around us. We also share the struggle and the disillusionment and the heartache. One thing made… many people contributed. It’s a nice reminder that nothing can be created in isolation.

Every play I have written is because of someone else: a conversation. A problem, a miscommunication, a joke. Every column I have written this year has been in response to someone else’s email or conversation. Every play I have worked on is because someone said “yes”, at some stage: to me, to my writing or to my direction or my enthusiasm or something.

And since returning to Oz, there are a whole lot of things that have been really difficult…. For every “yes” there are 20 “no’s” and I sometime feel like my career is not being steered by my successes nor my triumphs, but by my failures, or as options and opportunities are shut off from me. Is that such a bad thing? What happens then? How do you know when to capitulate and when to retaliate? Which battle should be fought? And which victory would be worth the battle? And really, should I just go back to where I feel I can make the biggest impression? There is a different arts community here than in Canada. (by “here” I mean Sydney: I am told its different in Melbourne but who knows if that’s the “grass is greener” syndrome?).

Friends returning from visits to New York and Canada remark on the same things… “everyone is so keen to get on board with your project” and it does seem to be true. In my experience in the great white north there is a big push for new ideas, for new writing, new projects… there is a hunger for and an enthusiasm for the next new big thing… and I must say that isn’t the same vibe here. There seems to be a theatre community run on competition and exclusivity: there seems very little room to let anyone else in. And in such a limited and un-diverse eco-system as the current Sydney theatre foyers, I wonder about the sustainability of the theatre scene which seems a little bit “samey”: dare I mention the “Nidafication” of the Sydney theatre scene? Where training institutions are producing templates of “how to”… and I wonder how it informs creativity, or does it stunt it? Perhaps is it as David Mamet mentions in his book “True and False”, that ours is a generation obsessed with training instead of doing? There is less of a tendency to branch out, to take a risk or a leap or to make a huge disastrous public failure, nor to experience making theatre/art outside in the safety of an institution.

And colleagues returning from brief visits elsewhere say “I have to live there” and talk of being inspired, valued and challenged. We all feel it. And I look around and notice that there is a thousand people who are wishing for change: all feeling the same way. The main thing I have learnt from being back, is that we are all in the same boat, fighting the same fight…and the biggest problem is that we are all rowing in opposite directions, and occasionally slapping each other in the head with our oars. But hey, there is enough room in this ocean. I’m a part of it… and I hope anyone who reads this feels the same way too.

I am determined to encourage those around me, but I can’t do this by myself, and I haven’t done this by myself… there are many out there helping me along. And rest assured, that when things are particularly crap, and rejection letters are papering your letterbox with impersonal form letters, there is a whole bunch of people around you whether you know it or not who are wishing the same things. It is up to us to change the culture here. It is up to us to support each other… its our industry and we’ve got to take care of it: and by taking care of it, I mean taking care of each other.

Thanks to all those who have written, who have sent scripts, who have shared with me. Thanks to my partner and my friends and my colleagues and to Venessa Paech and the ArtsHub gang. Thank you to my supporters in Canada and here in Sydney. Just remember, whether you are contributing, capitulating, being rejected, being accepted, loving it, or hating it… there is no place like home.