Do you ask
the question? When you face your students or try to design a sales
point for your next show? When you invest so much of your ego, vanity
and sense of what you are supposed to be doing with your life? Do you
ask the question? ie:
someone spend a sizable amount of money and/or time to support your
offering? Your work? Your indulgence? Your contribution? Your
whatever it is you are asking people to support; to witness; to
discuss and take seriously ...
When you know
you are not Mozart or Brecht or Shakespeare or Picasso or Spielberg?
When you know people can probably get a ticket to see a movie by
Ridley Scott or David Mamet for half the price of even a modest
theatre offering? Why should someone spend to be a part of your
I posed this
question to my cast of Our Lady By The Beach Over The Sea earlier
this week. It was motivated by the fact of no bookings registered on
the Canberra Theatre's emailed booking data info. With less than six
weeks to opening, I needed colleagues' advice on what might attract
people to see the work; and also to hear from them what was important
about the project and why they felt it should be supported.
I had been
through terrors in simply asking these extremely talented individuals
to come into a project that was clearly going to extract an emotional
investment that went far beyond that required by involvement in some
amateur or community project or even professional theatre where
actors can still conceal so much of themselves behind technique! The
discussion that ensured threw up some surprising thoughts which I
wish to share here.
discussion centred on the content. Why the content might be relevant
for audiences. I found it exciting that the cast members clearly
believed in the work. The notion of "memory and the idealization
of past love" and how this might entice an audience. But I was
left uncomfortable by simply discussing our work. The real question
was WHY theatre? Why THIS particular theatre? WHY, when there are so
many cheaper avenues that might satisfy one's curiosity within the
areas defined by our show.
haven't done this with your colleagues recently, then I suggest you
do. The voices of people close to you in a work are most significant
signifiers of what the work can mean and its real potential. But our
discussion took on different and more fundamental turns when Andrew
opened up the necessity for theatre and culture. For many people in
the world, cultural awareness defines who they are. In western post
modern cultures, the ennui of cultural awareness leads to cynicism
and skeptical acceptance of cultural activity including theatre. Yet
there is still a perception of cultural need. It is still in the
He said that
people want to be part of their culture; their cultural events; the
external presentations that define them. Does our play contribute to
suggested that our play does contribute to the sense of mystery that
exists when people, like voyeurs, gaze on to events which they all
recognize but which are normally left unspoken. Seeing this done with
real people on stage has an almost magical or mystical effect. Oliver
picked up on this and spoke of those things which are experienced by
everyone over a lifetime at some time ... but NEVER discussed. Lucy
then aptly stated:
gives voice to thoughts not heard and never stated".
The fact of
such voices being live and spoken by real actors provides an even
more powerful connection.
An eighty two
year old actor playing a seventy one year old character and
discussing sexual activity in detail within a context of a
re-discovery of youth within age ... it has a ramification that
cannot be discovered or experienced on a page or on a screen. Only on
the stage can the dimensions of extreme elements of the human psyche
be fully utilized and evoked. It isn't the content as much as the
dynamics of theatre and its complex matrix of relationships that
provoke the potential power of such aspects of human kind. Sex is not
only for youth! Sex, dream and art are interwoven. But some mediums
for expression of this are better than others. Our discussion
suggested we were clearly on to a unique interplay with this work.
discussion, we came to the conclusion that no where else but in
theatre can this dynamic be realized. And so this is where the power
of our play lies:
CULTURAL EVENT THAT CAN FOCUS AFTER-THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION OF REAL
LIFE AND REAL EXPERIENCE IN WAYS THAT NO OTHER MEDIUM CAN.
So what if
that moment in your life that you'd rather have kept hidden was
revealed to others or to the specific OTHER you thought would never
appear on your horizon again?
Yes ... our
show is confronting. The deconstruction of human relationship is
challenging preconceived notions. Our own especially!
But while we
asked the question and had a great discussion, have we answered the
question? Have we found reasons why people should spend $35 to attend
our production and find it a satisfying and worthwhile experience?
cannot know until the event; until after the event. How much of my
recounting this is simply a marketing or promotional strategy and how
much is sincere investigation into the evasive and elusive elements
that go into theatre making. I want people to see this work. Not only
out of vanity and ego!
that having been involved with theatre since the age of twelve, and
he is now eighty two years of age, he has never seen anything like
this. Our Lady has certainly developed a life of her own. I know of
people travelling from interstate and even from over-seas to glimpse
her ephemeral apparition on a Canberra stage. What I started with a
simple text has taken on a life well beyond anything I could have
conceived. And this is a result of an organic and mysterious series
of relationships that is the result of working in this medium of
theatre! While I can see it sometimes happening in film; only in the
theatre can it have its full manisfestation.
conclusions will be tested at the box office as I wonder if the wider
community will also accept them.
18th. January 2013