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.