Table of Contents1. Issue 083 (Full Issue PDF)
The following reflects a conversation between Dr Susanne Thurow (Deputy Director, iCinema Centre, University of New South Wales – scholar in Performance and Digital Media), Prof. Helena Grehan (Murdoch University – scholar in Performance and Theatre Studies), and Prof. Jane Davidson (The University of Melbourne – artist and scholar in Social Psychology of Music) that took place on 6 July 2023 via Microsoft Teams. Brought together by an interest in exploring the ways in which the Performing Arts may help foster understanding and preparedness for the vast impacts of climate change, we canvassed developments that have been standing out to each of us, seen from our distinct disciplinary vantage points. While such discussion can by definition never be exhaustive, we are hoping that our conversation may inspire a strength-based reflection of the as yet untapped potential and opportunities that lie ahead in our challenging planetary future.
Climate Change; Creative Intervention; Disaster Preparedness; Performing Arts; Resilience
Jonathan Joseph argues ‘that the recent enthusiasm for the concept of resilience … is the consequence of its fit with neoliberal discourse’ (1). The rapid migration of the concept across a multitude of policy domains has delivered a unique set of challenges for Australia’s small to medium and independent theatre sector. This article considers the way in which performing arts is impacted by the discourses of community resilience, focusing on the way in which unpaid labour by freelance artists is implicated in the idealised resilience of the sector. By analysing interview transcripts of performing artists in Melbourne Australia, we shed light on the difficulties artists encounter in achieving financial stability and proper recognition for the personal and individual cost they endure to create their works. Moreover, we critique the sector's tendency to overlook the labour of these artists and the consequential perpetuation of the economic burden.
Independent artist, in-kind contribution, small to medium arts sector, Melbourne performing arts sector, arts funding.
In this essay we discuss the lived experience of the COVID-19 pandemic for 10 Australian women playwrights, in light of the pandemic’s gendered impacts and the calls for resilience that it prompted. We offer insights from our interviews with Vanessa Bates, Janet Brown, Mary Anne Butler, Emilie Collyer, Noëlle Janaczewska, Verity Laughton, Michele Lee, Alana Valentine and two anonymous writers. These conversations highlight how the emphasis
placed on resilience, especially by funding bodies, registered for artists in the context of an already depleted and under-resourced industry. We argue that the challenges of COVID were not mitigated but rather compounded by calls for resilience in various guises, most notably in appeals for writers to ‘pivot’ their creative practice, and to compete with colleagues for funding. Our study supports the notion of a reimagining of 'resilience,' from a fraught neoliberal concept to a more productive communal strategy for use in challenging times.
7. Performing Precarity and Transilience Rand Hazou
Australian women playwrights, resilience, COVID-19, pandemic, arts funding, community
Rand Hazou also proposes a reframing of the concept of resilience in a case study of the work of the Auckland-based Hobson Street Theatre Company. This study offers an example of a strength-based approach to the creation of safe and inclusive spaces in which people experiencing homelessness can share their stories with each other and with the public. In this examination of a work (Let me tell you about Auckland ) which exposes narratives of precarity, Hazou unpacks “uncritical notions of resilience “that assume a ‘bouncing back’ from entrenched insecurity, describing how indigenous Māori principles of care, kinship and collectivity can be mobilised not merely to promote the well-being of participants by ameliorating their current circumstances. In adopting the term ‘transilience’, Hazou points to the project’s capacity to engender movement beyond precarity towards an authentic participation in the broader community and civil society.
Homeless, Site-Specific Performance, Promenade Performance, Applied Theatre
At the end of 2021’s Alexander Ball, Mother Ella Ganza called all the Transwomen of Colour onstage and demanded the audience “protect” them. This moment highlighted what I understand to be the purpose of any ball: to enact a Queer performative utopia that facilitates the ritualised disappearance of the incongruent archival selves that otherwise haunt its occupants. Vogue Ballroom understands the idea of community as protest intimately. As such, its resistant practices seek to aid its participants in the transcension of their political realities rather than answer resilience culture’s call for the ‘redistribution of responsibility’ (Ames & Greer 1) for progress onto said participants.
I assert the Ballroom category of Vogue Femme is where the most potent forms of this resistance occur. Due to its origin being rooted in the safety, expression, and worship of the Femme Queen, this category facilitates the embodiment and dissemination of transfeminine resistance modes in the contemporary homonormative and resilience-oriented public sphere.
The field of mobility studies has advanced to include artistic artefacts (cultural mobilities) and digital technologies and capital (new mobilities). New mobilities, in turn, initiated a focus on sustainability, e.g. green mobilities. In this article, I present three cases from digital dance practices as models for new cultural mobility, highlighting key green mobilities strategies of touring artistic concepts rather than physical human travel and more meaningful exchanges with local communities, e.g. deep mobility. The case studies include: 1. Project Trans(m)it’s distance dance creation Phase 2, which offers examples of deep mobility through international remote collaboration in making and rehearsal periods. 2. Concept touring as tracked through Project Trans(m)it’s many iterations of Phase 3. And 3. Reflection on the work Vector presenting virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (XR) as formats for deep mobility and concept touring in dance. These cases are presented alongside other research from mobility and performance studies to reflect on considerations for resilient future practice.
This article explores a dance artist-researcher's journey amid global crises, focusing on re:orienting desires in artistic practice. It introduces four foundational philosophies: Tender(e) Practices, Emergent re:Orientations, Emotional Aesthetics, and Multimodal Co-labor(ation). These philosophies serve as the conceptual framework for the author's Fragments of Silent Skin project. This article unfolds the significance of each philosophy, revealing its role in shaping the project's transition from a domestic to a digital space. By embracing Intimate Practices of (altered) Liveness, the digital realm becomes a bridge fostering a sense of closeness over distance. These threads offer reparative resilience as we re:imagine the future of artistic practice, process, and performance, seeking sustain-able and response-able avenues for continuation.
able of Contents1. Issue 082 (Full Issue PDF)
Theatre continues to thrive because at its essence, with its focus on presence and the ephemeral nature live performance, there is a malleability and fluidity that is conditioned to adapt to its present circumstances. In many cases, theatre has moved out of purpose-built venues and into the everyday environment to the extent that it often that blurs the boundaries between the fictive and the real. The work of local contemporary practitioners, Ros Oades, Ranters and Back to Back, as well as overseas artists such as Mariano Pensotti, Christiane Jitahy and Philippe Quesne, is analysed in relation to the various ways they construct new relationships with audience to optimise the liveness of the performance exchange.The audience is placed at the heart of narrative and story construction in a way that cannot be replicated by other digitalised mediums.
Theatre of the Everyday, Everydayness, Dramaturgy, Liveness, Wandering, Contemporary theatre companies and artists, Ranters, Philippe Quesne, Mariano Pensotti, Christiane Jitahy, PME-Art, Back to Back, Ros Oades, Creative VaQi.
No Former Performer Has Performed This Performance Before (NFP) is a unique improvisational form that emerges at the intersection of the practices of Melbourne based artists Penny Baron, Carolyn Hanna and Michael Havir. Penny and Carolyn have a long history of co-performance through their body of work as Born in a Taxi. This article unfolds their work through a process of reflective practice and in conversation with performance scholar, Dr Rea Dennis. It discusses the long-term nature of the NFP project and the process of improvisation they execute over a 50-minute live performance. It considers the role of studio practice in establishing their approach to improvisation and documents their shared performance language. The article introduces the seven key principles that inform their ensemble practice and discusses how these afford a framework to sustain durational performance improvisation in the live theatre.
Born in a Taxi, Performance Improvisation, Contemporary Performance, Australian Theatre, Live Performance, Performance Practice
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Table of Contents1. Issue 080 (Full Issue PDF)
13.Driving “Transformational change”: using ecodramaturgy to develop a more sustainable theatre ecosystem Dr Saffron Benner
Ecodramaturgy expands dramaturgical practice to include all aspects of ecology – biological and ideological. Ecodramaturgy believes that theatre has the unique capacity to rethink and reframe our understanding of and approaches to climate change and climate action. However, ecodramaturgy has been largely applied to issues of performance practice and theory and is underutilised in examining the theatre as a production ecosystem. Conversely, theatre companies have been slow to adopt comprehensive policies, strategies and actions to address climate change, despite having been directly impacted. This essay uses ecodramaturgy as a critical lens to investigate how theatre can become a more sustainable ecosystem, using examples from Queensland theatre, as well as wider Australian, contexts.
KEY WORDS: Ecodramaturgy, sustainability, ecosystems, Queensland theatre
14.Oppression and allyship in Australia’s Deaf Arts. Racheal Missingham and Bree Hadley
In this article, we investigate the history of Deaf theatre in Australia, through the lens of oppression and allyship. Through a review of the to date limited academic, industry, and media literature, in conjunction with survey and interview research with Deaf theatre practitioners, this research sheds light on Deaf theatre makers’ perceptions of the ways in which ally support can operate to create both social benefits and barriers, and how this has impacted on the non-linear development and recent decline in Deaf theatre companies in Australia. It finds that, in developing a framework to scaffold stronger allyship relationships with d/Deaf and hard of hearing artists, it is critical to consider the accessibility and cultural requirements not just in relation to theatre methodologies, but in relation to arts management practices, which support continuing company production, too. Challenges in creating strong, successful, respectful, and sustainable relationships between Deaf and non-Deaf artists are arising, this research finds, from lack of understanding of the dynamics of audism in play in theatre training, theatre making, theatre management, and the industry at large for d/Deaf artists.
KEY WORDS: D/deaf arts, d/Deaf theatre, d/Deaf theatre in Australia, oppression, allyship, audism
Table of Contents1. Issue 079 (Full Issue PDF)
Photography and theatre have strong connections. The two artforms speak to authenticity, fiction, and craft, and in coming together create an engaging dialogue of visual references. The premise of this conversation was to question and explore the dynamic role performance photography has within the world of theatre and live performance. This conversation between professional practitioners aims to open further inquiry into the field and speak to the intersection of performance photography and theatre within Australia’s contemporary performance landscape from the photographers’ point of view.
The recent rise in sonic-led dramaturgical analysis has contested previously perceived hierarchies of sound and vision in the theatre. This paper seeks to move away from a binary approach and offers a heterarchical approach to directing the relationship between sound and vision. Carole Crumley defines heterarchy as “the relation of elements to one another when they are unranked,” so that the power is “counterpoised” (1995, p.3), and this paper applies this concept to the process of creating a multi-sensory, site-specific interdisciplinary work, Plunge (2017).
Drawing on the spectacle of elite sport, Plungeexperimented modes of viewing: up close, through glass, up a 10m dive-tower, through illuminated water and at vast distances from an open-air stadium, as audiences promenaded across the aquatic centre viewing small and large-scale videos projected onto the body, buildings and pools. heterarchical approach to composition facilitated the ambiguity of ownership between verbatim techniques and fiction to deliberately blur the ‘truth’ claims of the form and broaden public perceptions of elite athletes. Through a de-hierarchical approach to artforms and interplay between sound and vision, Plungesought to create a highly sensate, large-scale spectacle that still felt deeply intimate, personal and political.
In this article, I discuss Mapping the Sound/Soundscape Portrait (206, 2018), an audience-participatory, synaesthetic sound/drawing live performance. I perform my synaesthesia: sitting on a large piece of paper, I draw the sounds that I hear as I “see” them with the eyes of my mind, and I move accordingly— if sound is a place (soundscape), what does it look like? Conceiving sound as a performative element with agency, Mapping invites those involved to pay attention to the liveness of the soundscape in which they are immersed and their relationship with it. This work questions the sight-hegemonic and purpose-oriented human experience of place by centralising the presence and presentness of sound as the key-element of narrative-making and knowledge production. The agency of the audience and of sound in the performance de-centralises the artist, who ceases to be the protagonist of the work and becomes a vehicle for its process to unfold. The performance offers a new sensorial perspective on the surrounding environment to those involved, contributing to the scholarship studying the role of live art and embodied practices as tools in investigating the world.
Three prominent Australian artists who work with projection discuss the ways in which they collaborate within creative processes and creative teams, forging new visual dramaturgies of performance-making in a rapidly expanding practice.
This practice-led research opens the heart of collaboration in Composed Theatre, capturing the dynamics of the earliest stages of creative development from the inside, through the eyes of artists who specialise in music, theatre and the territory in between.
This paper uses text, image and sound to tune in to productive tensions in creative development of SOX , a work of non-verbal Composed Theatre led by live looped music within which artists may locate and concentrate the inventiveness necessitated by an intermedial approach to making performance. This note from the field examines themes of experimentation and collaboration, and identifies oscillations between form and indeterminacy, spontaneity and plasticity in creative development where music is allowed to lead.
Siren Song premiered at the 2017 Dark Mofo Festival, in Hobart, Australia. Twice daily for the duration of the festival, at dawn and dusk, 450 speakers, mounted on the roofs of 6 buildings across the Hobart waterfront as well as the speaker set from a tsunami warning system mounted onto a retired defence helicopter, blasted choral soundscape of female voices through the streets of Hobart and out across the Derwent River. I argue that Siren Song forms part of a wider sound-led shift in contemporary Australian festival programming which rejects English theatre hierarchies of text and vocal clarity, instead drawing on sounds ability to engulf, to rupture and to claim air space in contemporary performance. In this paper, I analyse the ways that Siren Song deployed politics of sound, how it claimed volume, took up vibrational space and asserted echo and how these vibrations and volumes possessed landscape and airspace. Drawing together theorists from sound studies, performance studies and gothic studies, I argue that the sonic innovations driving Siren Song are substantial and offer new approaches for the confrontation of cultural anxieties through a decentralising of text and an immersion in states of sonic extremity.
The radical disruption of live performance that began in 2020 and continues in 2021 raises a fundamental question regarding the presence of the present in the time of performance.
In this essay, I examine my own sound design and the evolution of a pandemic-restricted solo practice as a site in which a ‘post-pandemics’ of performance might become possible. If 2020 in its upheaval and chaos showed the all-too-narrow limits of our care for others, what is the role of performance design in the recovery of that care? I engage a poetics of care and consent in performance design through notions of Pirate Care, xenofeminist action, and the relation to Other proposed by Jean-Luc Nancy. I reflect on and dissect my own response to pandemic time and space, and the shapes that vulnerability, fear, and uncertainty build in our performed worlds. Deploying this knowledge I look to a way forward for performance design and live performance, real-time and asynchronous, physically distant and present, that can engender this ‘post-pandemics’.
If theatre reflects contemporary society, a director ignores screen cultures at their own peril. Audiences increasingly view and communicate via screens. Television in all its forms (live to air, subscription and on demand services) provide readily accessible content to the public in the comfort of their homes – a viewing pattern exacerbated by the Covid pandemic. Screen cultures that overtook live performance in the 20th Century as the preferred entertainment medium continue their dominance. However, when theatre did resurface from Australia’s first pandemic lockdown in late 2020, audiences returned in large numbers, suggesting a significant appetite for live performance still exists. At the same time, screen aesthetics, because of its cultural ubiquity, shape how theatrical mis-en-scène is created. Theatre has been challenged for some time in the way(s) the presence of the live actor is staged in reference to screen technologies. Directors, Russell Fewster and Geordie Brookman, reflect on creating text-based work for the stage in a mediatized age. They refer to examples of their work to illustrate and examine how they create mis-en-scène with a keen awareness of the dominance of media technologies. As a composer and musician, Richard Chew reflects on how the physical presence of playing live music in a theatre context differs from its pre-recorded counterpart.
12. Authenticity within Digital Performance: A New Framework to Understand the Relationship between Audience, Vision Technology and Scenography Tessa Rixon, Gene Moyle, Steph Hutchison and Joslin
The notion of authenticity is experiencing a resurgence within the theatre and performance field. With its myriad of meanings and associations – from ‘the original’, ‘the real’, ‘truthful’, ‘genuine’, ‘believable’, ‘emotionally resonant’, and more – authenticity is a key component in engaging audiences with live performance. Despite an increasing body of research considering the authenticity of performance, performer and audience experience, little conversation has taken place in the field of digital performance and scenography. This article examines the field of authenticity to arrive at a definition within the context of digital performance. Through the identification of the core constructs of truthfulness, believability and emotional engagement, we introduce a new Authenticity Framework to inform future studies on the authenticity of digital performance. Focusing specifically on vision technologies, we demonstrate the application of the framework through first-person reflection on two Australian digital performances - Laser Beak Man by Dead Puppet Society (2019) and Wireless by Lisa Wilson and Paul Charlier (2017) – and argue this Framework can offer new approaches to the creation of authentic digital performances for the benefit of practitioners and audiences alike.
Focusing on Fraught Outfit’s On the Bodily Education of Young Girls (2013), photographer Pia Johnson and director Adena Jacobs, reflect upon the unique collaborative relationship that was created for the production. Exploring how having a photographer as a visual dramaturg provided a different perspective on notions of the feminist gaze, the body, young women and the making process.
This essay seeks to think through some of the features and meanings of blackouts in contemporary Australian theatre. A blackout is normally understood as a visual and temporal absence, an agreed break, a functional, conventional hiatus, having developed from the use, and subsequent abandonment, of the house curtain. However, a range of contemporary Australian theatre works conceive of the blackout as more: a palpable presence, an affective void, tangible rather than conventional, informing narrative structures, and fundamental to the work’s understanding of image creation and meaning. These visual voids reflect different dramatic and philosophical traditions, drawing on and contributing to genealogies of darkness.
Four artists working across performance, music and sound consider the ways in which technological advances and embodied and material approaches to sound practice have shifted their work over time.
Table of Contents1. Issue 078 (Full Issue PDF)
Theatre is sometimes imagined as an art form at risk – from talking pictures in the 1920s and television in the 1950s to the Covid-19 pandemic in the 2020s. But the Wolanski Collection and data from AusStage tell a different story. Theatre companies and venue buildings come and go. Yet, over the last hundred years, theatre in Sydney is a story of growth: more venues, with more seats, presenting more performances in a wider range of genres to more spectators. This essay uses maps of venues in Sydney and visualisations of repertoire patterns to reveal insights into the city’s history of theatre production and cultural change between 1920 and 2020. It demonstrates an approach to research that integrates digital records of theatre production with theatre programs from an archival collection. Maps are arranged in a time-series to reveal what venues to audiences in Sydney. Genre terms drawn from theatre programs trace the evolution of performance, while information on the national origin of artists frame the efforts to produce Australian works. In visualising data on theatre production, the essay reveals longitudinal patterns in repertoire that challenge assumptions about theatre in Sydney and extend the story in new directions.
Keywords: theatre, history, visualisation, database, archive7. The Guthrie Report and Its Discontents Chris Hay
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