More Questions

reflections

Heaps of times – like a broken record obsessed with a particular groove – I hear myself talk about more questions and less answers. Obviously when it comes to some things (Why don’t we trust climate scientists? Why can’t we do away with offshore processing?), answers would be great. But the most exciting art I see touches the sides of something I don’t understand, and prompts more questions.

So with the second Australian Theatre Forum landing upon Brisbane this week, I thought I’d try and list as many questions as I possibly could, as an exercise in clarity and curiosity.

  • Why is the theatrical Australia so white?
  • Why is the theatrical Australia so male?
  • Does cross-artform even make sense anymore?
  • Why are games, players and the street so interesting?
  • Why am I so prejudiced against the filmed screenings of The National Theatre and The Met?
  • Why am I asked so frequently whether technology will ‘change/’destroy’/’compete with’ the theatre/the film industry/the arts?
  • Why is it so hard to be spontaneous in public space?
  • What are the differences between ‘independent arts’ and amateur?
  • What is the usefulness of street marches and protests these days?
  • That young woman that Ontroerend Goed’s cast targeted and attacked that night in Edinburgh a few weeks ago, as part of their show Audience? … is she okay? What about the young women every other night of that season?
  • How did I manage the amazing fortune of meeting such extraordinary people at Sydney Uni, who are now truly taking over the world? How did it actually happen?
  • What is responsible, sustainable internationalism; and what does it mean for a small/big island like Australia?
  • When will Skype get better, and make video conferencing just as good as having someone sit next to you? Or is that like asking when toasters are going to get better at toast?
  • Why is live radio so damn exciting? Is it because you can hear them breathe?
  • Do we really need ‘more dialogue’?
  • What’s more fun: to take someone by the hand, give them a map, then let them be free to roam – or to serve up a buffet and let them pick the bits they really want?
  • Why do some funding bodies still balk at the idea of young artists being paid? Since when did ‘an opportunity’ equate to not being able to pay the rent?
  • Why do universities think they can get away with repeatedly asking myself and my colleagues to deliver hour-long lectures for free to their arts management students? How can you justify preparing your students for an industry that relies upon the assumption/exploitation that you’re lucky to be there at all? Yes, we are lucky, but also qualified.
  • Why has one-on-one performance developed certain tropes: an authoritative voice, a use of text messages, a reliance upon your personal information, a tour of small spaces…
  • Will ‘Bridesmaids’ really mark a new era of roles for women on screen where you aren’t defined by your role as wife/girlfriend/mother/best friend/sister… etc? Is theatre better at this?
  • What does generous art look like?
  • How do you give ideas time and space to develop yet still ensure they are urgent and needed?
  • What does ‘taking over this town’ mean and is it important? Is occupation and domination really what we’re interested in? What about disruption, play and new perspectives instead?
  • How big is too big for festivals – and how small is too small?
  • For devised and new work, it seems to me that dramaturgy (for want of a better term) is more important than ever; how can we create more opportunities for people to learn this vital craft?
  • What would an entire season of live works when the performer isn’t present be like?
  • What is spectacle and why are experiences that unite hundreds of thousands of people important? How can we get better at producing spectacle that is interesting and meaningful? (Cos blow me down, fancy light shows on buildings are pretty low-level artistic experiences)
  • How should a theatre company reflect its locality: the city it resides in, the people who work there, the culture that’s made between these two entities?
  • What would it take for Australia to grow a culture of philanthropy similar to the US?
  • If you are making a piece of theatre, how specific does the question need to be?
  • Could we experiment with one year in which not a single Shakespearean production was staged? Or a whole year – five years! – in which only texts/works conceived in the new millennium were put on stages? What would happen?
  • How can we ensure that audiences and participants discuss the issues and ideas at the heart of our work, as well as a discussion of the form?

… To be continued.

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