It's tough to stay in business - especially in the theatre business.
My play SPIT HOOD would not progress in the Queensland Theatre Company Premier's Drama Award.
This came as no surprise to me. One of the judges on the QTC panel had assaulted me during a production of Louis Nowra's CROW in the 90s - when I found out she was on the judging panel, I immediately offered to pull my play from the award. I was asked not to. I left the play in. As one of the ten finalists I knew there was no chance of winning.
Unfortunately -The industry is mostly run by a small group of individuals who gather at festivals, conferences and other events to ensure their seasons are all in sync - making sure that the money, personnel and infrastructure are all used to tell stories that are palatable, lacking in strength and written by friends and adherents of the cause. That cause? To stay in business. To never challenge the status quo. To make spectacle...rather than testimony.
My testimony is this. That theatre should be a place where alternative and sometimes frightening ideas are presented...so as to awaken the sleeping giant in every audience member. Once awakened, that individual leaves the theatre with a new and invigorated outlook on their place in the world. I remember leaving the theatre at the end of Angels In America. Perturbed, grateful and with more compassion than I had walking in.
I once heard Stephen Sewell ( playwright of the New Internationalist fame ) remark on radio that theatre has become the plaything of the rich.
Of course it has - especially when our theatres are named after rich business families. Once Australia becomes a republic, I hope there are fewer theatres named "HER MAJESTY's".
Perhaps we could take a leaf out of Joe Papp's book and just have a PUBLIC THEATRE.
I still hope for the rise of a National Indigenous Theatre. But still... quite a few famous black faces blowing hot air and doing nothing. Lining their own pockets, pacifying white audiences and playing the "coon" will get us nowhere.
Fortunately there is a small set of writers and directors who aren't interested in staying in business - they are interested in the business of staying true to the defining trait of good theatre.
Good theatre is dangerous.
La Boite Theatre in Queensland is looking for a new artistic director... one of the questions they want applicants to answer is "What is the biggest opportunity in Australian theatre right now?"
For me...right now...The biggest opportunity in Australian theatre is to become an industry that the government no longer funds...but fears.
There are writers and artists in other places in the world who have been exiled, killed or 'disappeared' for their views against governments.
We don't have that in Australia. We haven't spoken truth to power..............IN YEARS.
Because instead of being dangerous, we want to stay in business.
I want to earn good money from what I do. But not at the expense of making my plays palatable.
Here's to the work!