Sustainability is something I have been thinking about alot lately: in relation to the environment, to culture, to practitioner development, to the philosophies behind the explosion of festival culture, my own practice in the theatre. Triggered by a conversation I had with Ash Dyer- a performance maker who I have known for years who has been developing and producing performance works for sometime, he mentioned that he sometimes wonders how much longer he can sustain creating work in Australia. I think about that for myself too- and I think about that question for all the practitioners out there who are squeezing projects in around their day (or night) jobs- who forego the luxuries of a bourgeois life that are so readilly advertised- who are delaying marriage or having babies or having a holiday until they are more financially stable- artists who are all deserving chasing the same limited available residencies or grants…

Some actors I know have had enough of Australia- and are pursuing their dreams in LA… in fact many of them are. And directors head overseas to make films. Recently I read that one of my favourite Australian playwrights is moving to the UK- because her career as a playwright is taking off there- and hasn’t here. And it IS Australia’s loss… it is our industry’s loss and anyone who doesn’t care or who doesn’t feel that loss is a part of the problem.

We are now living in a global villiage- whereby we eat fresh food that travels from halfway across the world, we listen to music and see films that are made in other countries, we consume more Internationally product because it is readilly available to us. However, the food that travels from far away places is heavilly modified to with stand the travel, the music and films talk to us in a voice which is not our own about things that are not necessarilly relevent to our lives but present to us a fantasy of a world outside our own. This fantasy creates an impossible competition wherein the colours of our day to day life appear lackluster and inferior. Our TV stations are not overflowing with Australian content. Our cinemas are not full of Australian film product. And out theatres look to the stories of other countries.

As in Alison Croggan’s recent post www.theatrenotes.blogspot.com/2010/01/le-mort-de-theatre-again theatre is not dead. Live performance (music/ live art/ performance art/theatre) is not dead- in fact it is pretty well attended. So I am not worried about the sustainability of the artform- for as long as there are people, there will be a need for entertainment. I worry about the sustainability of the Australian voice, Australian literature of the Australian theatre industry in the context of the global villiage.

In 2006, my mother (an avid newspaper reader) cut out an article and sent it to me… it was talking about the lack of Australian plays represented on Australia’s mainstage theatres. It gave a statistic that “of the five state theatre companies that between them produce 43 plays a year- 6 were new Australian plays.” And not much has changed. I carry this statistic in my heart and it is something that I can’t shake. It is the reason why I started to review- I wanted to be able to provide New Australian work with reviews (whenever possible). It is the heart of what I am trying to encourage in emerging practitioners… and it is why I hold our established playwrights in such high regard- because there aren’t many mainstage commissions going around- and yet they continue to write and continue to contribute to the Australian canon.

I firmly believe that if you want to be in theatre- go see plays. Know your industry. If you want there to be an industry for you to work in- participate in it. Every dollar we spend sends a message to the wider community of what we value- because money talks- and just as when you chose to buy groceries locally- you support the local community, when you chose to take a punt on an Australian writer- you support the Australian industry.

I am by no means saying that we should only see one type of theatre (diversity of style, genre and artform is essential in a heathly intellectual/spiritual diet) but I am asking that we be more conscious of where the money is going. If our money goes to other countries- our talent will head there too… because that is what we are saying about what we value. I value the playwrights, the directors, the actors and all the theatre makers that work tirelessly to bring us the best stories possible. I believe strongly in investing in the here and now.

My personal wish is that Cate Blanchette finds a play by a local writer- a play that speaks to her… and programmes it, and performs in the prodcution. That would instantly skyrocket that writer to recognition. Let’s not forget she performed in a Timothy Daly play when she was starting out… so she is not adverse to new work by local writers, surely. But imagine- if Geoffrey Rush rang Simon Phillips and asked for him to programme a new Australian play as a part of the MTC season… imagine if all the celebrities became leaders and advocates for new local plays… imagine!

And this year- I am doing my small part. I have committed to creating even more platforms for writers to have their voices heard- to have their work produced and developed… starting with “Stories from the 428.” I’m committed to asking writers to dream big- dream globally, and write locally. (not the other way around)

I pledge to think globally and act locally. I’m committed to seeing all the new Australian work I can, and I’d absolutely love it, if you will join me.