First published July 2007

For an art form full of sparklingly charismatic, articulate and fascinating people, theatre also has the capability to make one feel self conscious. The curse of comparison rears its ugly head again as you start to line up your career highlights with a peer, wonder why they got that opportunity, why hadn’t someone told you about that audition, and you start to wish yourself to be better connected/ better trained/ well known/ more liked/ taller/ older/ younger/ funnier/ more organised/ more commercially attractive more something… and you start questioning “why WHY won’t anyone give me a chance?”

The interesting thing is the constant correlation between success overseas and anonymity in your homeland. Is it merely a case of “you can’t be a prophet in your hometown?” Or is there something that instinctively forces you to fight or flight instinct? You make risks artistically or creatively or financially overseas, which you wouldn’t do at home in fear of fouling your reputation? Is it not that there is a more accepting theatre/arts culture elsewhere else, but the willingness to put yourself and your art and your identity within that art form on the line is more acute, more pronounced? Is it the freedom from your own social, creative personal baggage/context that which allows you to create more overseas: be brave enough to put yourself out there and create more opportunities for yourself? Or is it just the case of being too comfortable at home that stops people putting themselves forward?

With these questions resounding through my head I decided to take a bit of a leap of faith, and I decided to independently produce and completely self fund a week of new Australian works which have been previously unperformed or are in development. After all I could spend a couple of thousand dollars to head overseas and expand my artistic horizons, or I could hire a theatre for a week and see what could/would happen.

I sent out an email through friends and colleagues calling for a script or a synopsis and I set a plan to open up opportunities to people who wanted to have a go at something new, meet some new people, talk about playwriting, develop new work, try their hand at dramaturgy or acting or writing or directing. I received 40 scripts and proposals all in various stages of development. Some embryonic ideas, some very envisaged scripts. I was overjpyed that sucha response had come… So I enlisted the help of a friend who is an actor and one Sunday in April we sat on my lounge room floor with a pot of tea and read all of them out loud. We short listed. We met with the people who wrote the proposals and scripts and came up with a season of 10 new projects. All different. All from different starting points. All about 15 – 20 minutes long.

Of course its not as easy as that. Some artists (writers/directors/actors) I approached were busy with other things or not able to commit to the project in the time frame we had, some though enthusiastic weren’t able to show they could work to deadline or finish a first draft in time for the script sessions… some never replied to my emails. Some were interstate or overseas.

So I stitched together some meetings with directors and actors, so they could meet each other, talk about the projects… and the directors argued and wrestled the ideas of the plays whilst sitting on the grass under the frangipani tree in my back yard. People talked with mouths full of portuguese custard tart and sipped coffee and made suggestions. Made plans, offered resources or actors names and recommedned reheasal spaces. And slowly over the course of a few months a little community started.. a community which wasn’t “every director/writer/actor for themselves”.. but something else. Suddenly theatre became a community not an industry. And I was fortunate enough to see it happen. Fortunate enough to see what can happen when you make the effort to get to know each other. When you leave your cv and your industry status or your training at the door and start engaging with ideas, the possibilities. When you start realising that we are not fighting for a single spot on this artistic food chain: but creating space for something to emerge, something that is unique and worth of an audience: it is truly inspiring.

There is a mis conception about artists and theatre people. The miscionception is that artists are ethereal other worldly types who waft around in cheeselcoth quoting Kahil Gibran whilst smoking and “creating” where ever they go. Not true. Artists are hard working, industrious, financially wary if not frugal people who know how to make a $300 budget deceptively appear to be more than it is. Theatre people are skilled negotiators who posess a wonderful sense of the altruism and philosophy behind an artform which has been proclaimed as “dead” for centuries. Theatre is hard work: and so it should be, that is what makes it rewarding.

I have expereinced the huge support of so many: the venue, PACT Theatre; one of the most amazingly generous, courteous lighting designers ever; the writers; directors and actors who are involved or have been involved in some way. And I have been overwhelmed by the passion, energy, focus, dedication of so many who have stepped up to the challenge and have kept going even in the most difficult of circumstances. Theatre dead? Not here!

In the last few months working on this project I have been a producer, writer, dramaturge, director, caterer, leader, negotiator, best friend, follower and cheerleader to many on this project (about 40 people) who are at all various stages of their career, all in various stages of developing a section of the art form.

I have pitched, purchased, arranged, rejected, accepted, adapted, adopted, released, advertised, wrangled, pleaded, bargained, created, encouraged, cheered, cried, questioned, sung, whispered, consoled, re-evaluated, listened, improvised, reasoned, celebrated, emailed, text messaged, telephoned, argued, laughed, applauded, praised, co-erced, documented, rehearsed, requested, organised, hugged, understood, photocopied, posted, interviewed, introduced and above all I have thanked.

By the time you read this, the shows will be in the theatre. It will be happening the show will be on. Actors will be on stage, writers chewing their nails, directors feeling a little lost and useless… Stage managers buzzing around getting things ready, making things “go”… audience clapping, foyer chattering, lights dimming…

Its only for a week… but it resonnates for a life time. If your not able to come along, I’ll let you know how it goes…