Flinders University AusStage Prize

Purpose of the award
This award is designed to recognise research excellence that utilises AusStage in articles, books, and non-traditional digital outputs. In recognition of the twenty-year history of AusStage, Flinders University has agreed to sponsor this annual award for a period of five years.

• The Award is open to all financial members of ADSA. In the case of collaborative research outputs articles, at least one author must be a member (in this case, the prize money is awarded to the member).
• The nominated work must have been published, or submitted in the case of postgraduate theses, in the year prior to the award (i.e. in 2022 for the 2023 award). 
• There cannot be more than one nomination for a scholar in a given year.
• The winner is announced at the ADSA conference.
• The value of the prize is $500; the winning submission will be displayed on the AusStage website
• Scholars who have previously won cannot win the prize again within the initial 5-year period of the prize.

Nominations are invited by authors, journal editors and interested scholars, specifying full reference for the work nominated and accompanied by a copy of the publication. In the case of non-traditional digital outputs, on-line access will be required. Each nomination must be accompanied by a short statement (no longer than 500 words) detailing how the author has utilised the AusStage database in their research. Please note: the use of AusStage must be explicit in the text with appropriate referencing and bibliographic information.

Deadline: 1 October 2023. Written applications addressing the above criteria, and including copies of the nominated material, should be sent to Liz Larkin (liz.larkin@flinders.edu.au). 

AusStage is one of the largest and most extensive national dataset on live performance in the world. Flinders University has been the lead institution in its development and it is universally accessible: http://www.ausstage.edu.au. On all measures of research productivity – data aggregation, network accessibility, scholarly and creative output, social engagement and impact – AusStage’s record of collaborative research is outstanding. Funded by the ARC and university partners since 2000, the database, now holds information on 112,600+ events, 158,000+ artists, 16,900+ companies, 10,800+ venues, 18,500+ works and 68,000+ resources. In its twenty years of development, AusStage has forged partnerships with all the Australian universities teaching theatre and performance, the Australia Council, the Performing Arts Heritage Network of Museums Australia, and major theatre companies. The AusStage dataset is discoverable through Trove in partnership with the National Library of Australia. International partnerships include UK Association of Performing Arts Collections, and the Centre for Ibsen Studies, University of Oslo. The commitment of partners and stakeholders ensures its ongoing viability.

2023 Winner

Dr James Wenley, for the Performing Data in Australasia project.

The judges are delighted to announce that Dr James Wenley is the winner of the 2023 ADSA Flinders University AusStage Prize with his submission relating to the Performing Data in Australasia project. This collaborative, international project incorporated extensive use of data from AusStage and New Zealand’s Theatre Aotearoa. This research makes a significant contribution to contemporary visualisations of live performance data and opens the door to future initiatives and ongoing trans-tasman collaborations.

James Wenley co-led the Performing Data in Australasia online seminar series and symposium with Dr Sarah Thomasson and Associate Professor Jonathan Bollen, a collaboration between the Theatre Aotearoa and AusStage live performing arts databases bringing together researchers and artists to develop skills in data analysis through visualisation. The online Performing Data in Australasia seminar series explored how to reframe what it means to work in data-oriented ways in performing arts research and creative practice. James developed and led the first two workshops on ‘Data as Performance’ and ‘Data as Dramaturgy’, exploring how we might use databases like AusStage and other digital tools to record, embody and represent data through the creative process and in performance. Culminating in the hybrid in-person/online symposium hosted at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, the Performing Data in Australasia series was a significant contribution towards creative and scholarly professional development, engaging over 60 participants across Australia, New Zealand and beyond.

2021 Winner

Jonathan Bollen, for the Performing Sydney project (journal article, exhibition, online lecture).

The judges identified the three submissions (article, exhibition and lecture) included for the Performing Sydney nomination as an outstanding, longitudinal study spanning the story of one hundred years (1920 – 2020) of theatre history in Sydney, Australia. The use of both AusStage, the Australian Live Performance database, and the Wolanski Collection were evident and verified throughout and the research makes a significant contribution to re-conceptualising existing approaches to and accounts of theatre production

Comment was made that Associate Professor Jonathan Bollen has an exemplary way with words, offering a systematically written and highly readable article combined with real archival material and AusStage based data and visualizations. The online exhibition provides open access to theatre programs from across the era, venue mapping and visualizations tracing genres and artistic programming at a number of venues in Sydney. This inclusive project presents significant findings through traditional and non-traditional outputs, challenging key aspects of Australian theatre history, including the notion that the introduction of government subsidy ‘Australianised’ repertoire. It is clearly the culmination of a lengthy period of research and visualisation learning work.

Judges commented that this work positions AusStage as key to addressing a range of assumptions concerning the history of theatre over the last century. It provides an insight into theatre activity in Sydney with a model that can be readily applied to other Australian cities and easily sets up digital dialogues across Australia. It clearly demonstrates how robust theatre culture is and is ‘framed’ in a timely manner by the pandemics, the Spanish Flu and COVID-19, and in doing so suggests theatre culture will recover and thrive. Bollen’s research recognises the contribution of women to the three-strand programming pattern later deployed by male directors at mainstage companies, and highlights a shift in the way in which Indigenous artists emerge on the stage, as well as discusses cultural diversity. Further, he clearly acknowledges other people’s contributions to both the Wolanski Collection and AusStage. Collaboration with well-respected leading researchers is apparent throughout, particularly in the exhibition and online lecture.

The ADSA Flinders University AusStage prize judges concluded that Performing Sydney constitutes leading research. It not only demonstrates the development of AusStage and new ways to visualize data, but what can be done with AusStage in an in-depth research context and in collaboration with others. This project opens the door to AusStage and creates vibrant and visual opportunities for future humanities researchers to explore AusStage digitally, with a sound and adaptable method and model.

It is without hesitation that the judges recommend Associate Professor Jonathan Bollen’s illuminating Performing Sydney project as the worthy recipient of the ADSA Flinders University AusStage prize for 2021.

2020 Winner
Joint Winners:
Jonathan O’Brien, for “The Arts as a Networked Ecosystem: Visualising Relationships in Brisbane’s Performing Arts Sector”
O’Brien’s work for his MA thesis explores ways in which network visualisations can be a tool for arts companies to communicate with stakeholders and provide the basis for academic analysis of the performing arts sector. The research draws on interviews with industry professionals and data in AusStage focused on three Brisbane based performing arts companies. These sources along with other archival material are used to develop network visualisations that were then interrogated to reveal their effectiveness for communicating data to stakeholders and extending our understanding of how the industry is operating. The work demonstrates the potential uses of distant reading of the AusStage database. O’Brien examines the potential of network visualisations revealing that there needs to be further development in network visualisations before this methodology can contribute new industry knowledge.

Julie Holledge, Sarah Thomasson and Joanne Tompkins, for “Rethinking Interculturalism Using Digital Tools”
In this article Holledge, Thomasson and Tompkins investigate the potential for distant reading of the AusStage database to reassess previous work by Holledge and Tompkins in order to reveal deeper understandings of interculturalism in practice. The previous work Women’s Intercultural Performance utilised close readings of performance works in that combined two or more cultural traditions in the moment of performance. Drawing on the AusStage database they investigate the quantitative data to reveal the wider effects of product, nations of origin, contributors and funding in order to examine how these factors effect cultural transmission. The previous work is analysed within the wider context of time, space and global markets producing a different narrative of practice. The AusStage subset on festivals was particularly useful in this re-examination facilitating a richer view of the cultural diversity of productions and changes across time. The resulting big picture of practices makes clear the limited concept of global cultures on Australian stages and the lack of change over a twenty year period.