Abbie Victoria Trott – What are the Ties That Hold us Together? The Smartphone Network in As If No One is Watching and Body of Knowledge

Presentation

Abbie Victoria Trott

University of Melbourne

What are the Ties That Hold us Together? The Smartphone Network in As If No One is Watching and Body of Knowledge

In this time of ubiquitous digitality, the smartphone has become a central interface of connection. It gathers us together, tying us to people that we know – and people that we don’t – as we participate in what Shuhei Hosokawa described in 1984 as acts of ‘secret theatre.’ Considering two networked performances – Vulcana Women’s Circus and WaW Dance’s As If No-One is Watching (2018, 2019), and Body of Knowledge (2019) by Samara Hersch – I use network theory to examine the ties that assembled the audience members together. Watching a physical abstraction of the private, while listening to personal stories in public, the audience – through their smartphone – interfaced with the performance of As If No One is Watching, enabling them to engage with acts of theatre in secret. In contrast – working together to establish a ‘body’ of ‘knowledge’ – the audience of Body of Knowledge used smartphones to interface with each other and the performers. Situated firmly in the ‘physical,’ as opposed to the ‘virtual,’ these immersive performances were reliant on smartphone facilitated postdigital networks. In this paper I explore how the smartphone in performance gathers audience members together over a network.

Abbie Victoria Trott is a Theatre Studies PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, where she is undertaking research into young audiences and postdigital theatre as part of the ARC Linkage project “Creative Convergence: Enhancing Impact in Regional Theatre for Young People.” Abbie is an experienced stage and production manager across community theatre, circus, and multimedia performance. In 2016 she competed her Masters, “‘Being With:’ Establishing Co-presence Between Multimedia Images and Performers in Multimedia Performance” at the University of Queensland.

Adam Moulds – The Rogue Less Travelled: Finding and Following Your “Rogue Voice” When Writing for Performance

Presentation

Adam Moulds

University of Sydney

The Rogue Less Travelled: Finding and Following Your “Rogue Voice” When Writing for Performance

The process of writing for performance can be a fraught and fragile endeavour, occasionally tapping into a darkness that may be both entirely unexpected and deeply unsettling for a writer. Indeed, a particular process of creative writing may be that which evokes such darkness, subsequently taking a piece of writing for performance in a completely different direction to that which the writer had assumed at the outset. Amidst this dark and disturbing deviation, however, may reside seedlings of hope and the promise of progress and sociopolitical change – that is, perhaps we need to say hello to the darkness before we can say goodbye to it. Accordingly, this paper explores one such particular process of writing for performance, namely that which was developed and is taught by Dr. Sue Woolfe and Dr. Stephen Sewell within the Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Performance at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and that utilises a dualistic creative writing methodology comprised of “loose construing” (Kelly, 1955; Stevens, 1999; Woolfe, 2007) and “the Lull” (Martindale, 1995; Woolfe, 2007; Sewell, 2017). Moreover, as a result of undertaking said course in 2018 myself and henceforth stumbling upon a domineering and deeply disturbing curiosity in my own creative writing – a phenomenon that Woolfe (2013, pp. 286-294) refers to as “the rogue” – this paper is also an attempt to further the academic discussion she initiated in her essay entitled ‘Rogues: A Speculation.’ For without Woolfe’s speculative discourse on “the rogue” – a liminal force that having now experienced its power I believe should be equally feared and revered – I would have been veritably stranded in the toxic purgatorial abyss of my own writing for performance practice rather than being encouraged and emboldened as I was, once I had found my “rogue voice,” to follow it through the darkness and back into the light. 

Adam Moulds began his career in the performing arts as a stand-up comedian, regularly appearing at the Comedy Store in Sydney, Australia, and also performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He then went on to train as a professional actor at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) from 2001-2003. Upon graduation Adam was cast in the Channel 9 program ‘Comedy Inc.,’ appearing in the sketch comedy show from 2004-2006. He then moved into performing arts education completing a Grad Dip Ed at the University of Notre Dame Australia and subsequently working as a drama teacher at The King’s School from 2007-2017. In 2018 Adam returned to NIDA to undertake the MFA in Writing for Performance. Currently a D.Arts candidate at the University of Sydney, Adam is aiming to build upon the research and the correlative creative project he developed during the MFA at NIDA – that is, a one-man-show entitled ‘Spoken in Jest’ in which a stand-up comedian goes “rogue” before his audience.

Ajeet Singh – Performing Social Surface Through Discursive Space: Re-viewing the Theatrical Poetics of David Williamson

Presentation

Ajeet Singh

English, BPSMV, Khanpur Kalan, Sonipat, India

Performing Social Surface Through Discursive Space: Re-viewing the Theatrical Poetics of David Williamson

Performance helps us to perceive ‘action’ as experience. It transforms ‘act’ into experience. The entire oeuvre of David Williamson, one of the most successful contemporary Australian playwrights, and its tremendous impact on contemporary Australian culture is the result of a dramaturgy which cannot be defined through any established paradigms of theatrical performance of present or past times. It has been structured on a unique philosophy of theatre which David Williamson conceptualized. Though, he didn’t put forth any formal theoretical statement on his craft in the form of a critical treatise, yet one may discern an aesthetic pattern of performance from his works and the conversations/interviews he has given on various occasions. Critics and scholars around the world try to explore the reasons of his extremely successful work as a theatre person by going through both the content and form of his entire oeuvre critically. The present paper is an attempt to explore the poetics of the body of a theatrical work which is quantitatively and qualitatively so vast that has created a lasting impact on the consciousness of an entire generation. The paper discusses David Williamson’s theory of theatre where it has been taken as a ‘discursive space’ to perform the patterns of social interaction. 

Dr. Ajeet Singh earned his Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and wrote his doctoral thesis on European Experimental Theatre and Ancient Indian Theatre. He has been teaching as Assistant Professor since August 2008 in the Dept. of English, BPSMV, Khanpur Kalan, Sonipat, India. His teaching experience ranges from undergraduate to postgraduate levels covering varied fields of literary studies like Contemporary Literary Theory, Indian Poetics, Cultural Studies and Western Literary Theory and Criticism. He has been actively involved in guiding research and other academic activities. As an academic, along with intensive teaching work, he has been doing research work in terms of publishing research articles in different research journals and presenting research papers in different national and international conferences. He has presented his research paper based on a comparative study of Indian theatreand Brazilian theatre in IFTR-2017 Conference, Sao Paulo, Brazil.  As an invited speaker, he has also participated and presented his papers in another two important Conferences i.e. IFTR-2018 Conference in Belgrade, Serbia and LMU, Munich, Germany. Recently, participated in IFTR-2019, Shanghai, China and presented his research and chaired one of the technical sessions in the conference. 

Alison Currie and David Cross – De-Limit

Presentation

Alison Currie and David Cross

De-Limit by Alison Currie and David Cross 

Delimit is a dance/visual art work that examines the relationship between menial, process-driven labour and performance. Playing with ideas of staging and set making, the work seeks to interrogate how the making of an art installation offers a frame in which to understand dance and its assorted modalities in different ways. The collaboration between visual artist David Cross and choreographer Alison Currie has been developed through a long-term appreciation of each other’s practice and a realisation that despite their work appearing very different, their conceptual interests are closely linked. Delimit slips between functional and abstract, exploring live action as an unstable liminal space between labour and performance. This paper will reflect on the making of De-Limit with a specific focus on its reception in the 2020 Keir Choreographic Awards where the work was selected for inclusion in the finals at Carriageworks. In particular it will examine thinking around labour and boredom and how this latter category serves as a productive modality/affective state in which to investigate the relationship between dance and everyday life. It will argue following Walter Benjamin that boredom or, the prefacing of menial action played out over time,’ is the threshold to great deeds’. 

David Cross is a Melbourne-based artist, curator and writer. His practice extends across performance, installation, sculpture, public art and video. Known for his examination of risk, pleasure and participation, Cross often utilises inflatable structures to negotiate interpersonal exchange. He has performed in international live art festivals in Poland and Croatia and was selected as a representative at the 2011 and 2015 Prague Quadrennials. His work Hold was selected for inclusion in Liveworks at Performance Space, Sydney in 2010 and at Arts House for the Melbourne International Festival in October 2012. More recently he has examined the connection between sport, performance and community in public art projects for Scape 7 in Christchurch (2013), L’Entorse, France (2016) and Temporary Democracies: A Project for Campbelltown Arts Centre (2014). He is Professor of Visual Arts at Deakin University. 

Alison Currie holds a Masters in Choreography and Performance (2015) and a Bachelor of Dance Performance (2003). The primary focus of Currie’s practice is the connection between inanimate forms and performers. Her works engage audiences, performers and objects or sculptural forms in various ways in theatres, galleries and site-specific live performance and video. Her first major work 42a premiered in Adelaide (2008) and toured to three states of Australia (2010). Recently Currie premiered three new works Creatures with The Human Arts Movement at the Samstag Museum of Art, Close Company at Goodman Arts Centre in Singapore and OzAsia Festival Adelaide, and Concrete Impermanence at Adelaide Festival Centre. Concrete Impermanence went on the be performed at The Substation (2018) and Dancehouse (2019) for Dance Massive. De-Limit co-directed by Alison and David Cross was a finalist at the Keir Choreographic Award (2020). 

Alyson Campbell – The Butch Monologues: performance as a bridge from ‘border wars’ to ‘playground’

The Butch Monologues, by Laura Bridgeman, directed by JulieMc McNamara. Theatre Works, Melbourne, 2019. L-R Fiona Jones, Anne Harris, Quinn Eades, Jax Jacki Brown, Jacques de Vere. Photo by Margherita Coppolino.

Presentation

Alyson Campbell

University of Melbourne

The Butch Monologues: performance as a bridge from ‘border wars’ to ‘playground’

In this paper I look at The Butch Monologues (TBM) by Laura (Doc) Bridgeman, directed by JulieMc McNamara (Mack) (2013 – present). Based mainly on interview with the writer and director, and my own multiple viewings of the work, I examine how the collection and, more precisely, the productions of it, make an intervention into the very painful contemporary context, and history, of “‘border wars’ between butch lesbian and trans men” (Mackay, 2019b, p.399; and see Halberstam, 1998). I suggest that TBM manage to blur these borders, or at least niggle this negative framing, and I argue that the stories it tells, and the invitation to assemble and produce a form of kinship –  however temporary or tentative – are more vital than ever, given this current tension.

Keywords: The Butch Monologues (TBM), butch identities, trans masculinity, temporality, queer dramaturgy, assembly.

Alyson Campbell is a freelance director and dramaturg whose work spans a broad range of companies and venues in Australia and the UK over the last 30 years. She has collaborated most closely with Sydney playwright Lachlan Philpott since their production of his play Bison in 2000, creating queer assemblage wreckedAllprods with him in 2001. She  is an Associate Professor in Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, and her research, artistic practice as a director, teaching and activism converge around gender and sexuality, particularly queer performance and dramaturgies and contemporary representations of HIV and AIDS. She has written widely on these areas, most notably co-editing the collection Queer Dramaturgies: International Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer (Palgrave, 2015) with Stephen Farrier, RCSSD. She now likes to write about feral pedagogies and is passionate about Feral Queer Camping.

Anita Hallewas – Is something better than nothing?: The dilemma of applied theatre practice in refugee camps on the Greek islands

Presentation

Anita Hallewas

UNSW, Sydney, Australia

Is something better than nothing?: The dilemma of applied theatre practice in refugee camps on the Greek islands

The current refugee crisis has seen tens of thousands of refugees incarcerated on Greek islands in the Mediterranean. Most of these residents live in tents with no electricity or running water for protracted periods of time. It is believed the lack of essential services and government support, publicized heavily in the media, triggered the start-up of hundreds of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) so everyday citizens could gather and more actively support refugees arriving in Europe. NGOs offer support from port-a-loos to food, laundry and clothing services to educational support. These acts of gathering and welcoming have been seen across Europe, with immense popularity in Greece, and are mostly funded through small civilian donations. NGO groups also offer psychosocial support and intervention, including theatre and performance based programming. The author visited several Greek islands in 2019 and as a participant observer through a grounded theory approach observed various theatre projects intended to support refugee children, youth and adults. This paper explores the dilemmas associated in how these many theatre practitioners say hello to refugees living on Greek islands, only to very quickly say goodbye to return to their own homes. When the development of authentic relationships is a large and crucial aspect of community applied theatre practice, can short term programming still be of benefit to these communities? Is this is another case of something is better than nothing, or is nothing better than something to best support vulnerable communities such as these? With NGOs bringing in new facilitators seasonally, as well as touring groups arriving ad hoc as funds allow, how do all these welcomes and farewells impact vulnerable refugee communities? 

Anita Hallewas (BA, BTeach Deakin University, Australia, MA University of Victoria, Canada) Anita is currently undertaking her PhD at UNSW, Sydney, Australia, with a research focus in refugee theatre, specifically how theatre might improve the quality of life for those living in refugee camps and the ethical implications related to that practice.  She is an active applied theatre practitioner and is the founding managing artistic director of Flying Arrow Productions a theatre company that specializes in applied theatre programming with a special interest in encouraging intergenerational collaboration.

Anne Pender – Taking it to China: Recent Australian Productions on Tour

Presentation

Anne Pender

University of Adelaide

Taking it to China: Recent Australian Productions on Tour

Writing in their Platform Paper in 2012, Alison Carroll and Carrillo Gantner, put forward a strong case for Australian engagement with audiences in a range of Asian countries, complete with information about current developments and funding realities. Their argument was predicated on the facts that our economy was ‘robust’ and we had a ‘vibrant arts sector strongly supported by government’ (3). It’s difficult to make the same case now after the decimation of our economy brought about by the global pandemic. But the reasons for engaging with our Asian neighbours face to face, performer to audience member, culture to culture, are unchanged and arguably even stronger than they were in 2012. 

In the intervening years at least a dozen Australian theatre companies have taken their work to China. Companies offering opera, ballet, spoken word drama, physical theatre, puppetry and children’s theatre have all toured or appeared at festivals, some of them offering productions over multiple years. This paper explores the recent experiences of three travelling productions and their reception by Chinese audiences, against a backdrop of expanding access to, and increasing interest in Australian performance in the People’s Republic: Saltbush, an immersive children’s theatre production from Insite Arts, Baba Yaga, a children’s play and co-production between Adelaide’s Windmill Theatre and Scotland’s Imaginate, and desert , 6.29pm, a play produced by the Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre.

The paper considers the spaces of transformation afforded by the three touring productions, contemplates what we can hold onto after the interruptions of the pandemic, and speculates about performance futures, exchanges and connections between China and Australia, as we emerge from the restrictions of the past year to re-build. The paper also considers the new developments in touring opportunities in the context of the history of Australian theatre on the stages of China, and its evolution from the first performance of Jack Hibberd’s A Stretch of the Imagination in 1987, to the present.

Alison Carroll and Carrillo Gantner, Finding a Place on the Asian Stage, Platform Papers No 31, Sydney: Currency Press, 2012.

…..

Professor Anne Pender holds the Kidman Chair in Australian Studies at the University of Adelaide. Anne has taught in literary and theatre studies at King’s College, London, the ANU and the University of New England. Anne’s books include Seven Big Australians: Adventures with Comic Actors (2019), Players: Australian Actors on Stage, Television and Film (2016), From a Distant Shore: Australian Writers in Britain 1820-2012 (2013), co-authored with the late Bruce Bennett,  One Man Show: The Stages of Barry Humphries (2010), Nick Enright: An Actor’s Playwright (2008) co-edited with Susan Lever,  and Christina Stead: Satirist (2002).

Asher Warren – Living Rooms and Populist Listening

Presentation

Asher Warren

University of Tasmania

Living Rooms and Populist Listening

In 2018, struggling with a sense of dislocation and strangeness after moving to a new city, I began a project to try and bridge a gap with between myself and what seemed to be the dominant force in the local theatrical ecology: the musical theatre crowd. Since then the project (Living Room Musicals) has moved through a series of stages, to approach a public launch in 2020. It was planned to be launched at the Australian Musical Theatre Festival in Launceston, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The project itself, which consists of a ‘do-it-yourself’ musical theatre toolkit to empower people to express their own place-based stories, rather than reciting Broadway narratives, and perform them in their homes for family and friends, has taken on some unexpected urgency in a time of quarantine by social isolation. However, this presentation seeks to examine the process that had led to this stage; reflecting on the workshops across the state of Tasmania with musical theatre enthusiasts from across the community. On the one hand, it is to unpack a model of engagement with theatrical production and reception I wish to term ‘populist listening’, expanding on the paradoxes that Philip Auslander (2008) teases from the Milli Vanilli lip-sync scandal regarding the live performance of music, and turning these toward the production and reception of musical theatre, with a focus on the overwhelming familiarity of the musical theatre ‘canon’. On the other, it is to track my own adventures into territory I would not otherwise venture; and coming to re-evaluate my own assumptions, prejudices and values. Through examining a range of acts that in the first instance were intended to gather data; I explore how they have accumulated a longer tail of unexpected associations.

Dr Asher Warren is a Lecturer in Theatre at the University of Tasmania. His research interests include intermedial and networked performance, participatory and collaborative practices, and the sites of contemporary artistic practice. He is a member of ADSA, PSi, and the IFTR intermediality working group, and currently sits on the PSi Future Advisory Board. His writing has been published in Performance Paradigm, Performance Research, Australasian Drama Studies, Refractory: Journal of Entertainment Media, and in the edited collection Performance in a Militarized Culture (2017). Asher.Warren@utas.edu.au

Bagryana Popov – Gathering in place: Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in the Australian landscape

Presentation

Bagryana Popov

La Trobe University

Gathering in place: Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in the Australian landscape

What do we leave behind, what do we hold onto and how do we imagine a future? These questions are at the heart of Chekhov’s plays. In Uncle Vanya, they turn toward people’s relationship with land, trees and deforestation. Chekhov was passionate about forests and aware of their ecological importance. In this paper, I will discuss the Uncle Vanya project; a site-specific, time-specific theatre project, which transplants Chekhov’s early environmentalist play into the Australian landscape, adapting it to place and local issues. This contemporary version of the play has been performed in five regional locations in Australia: in Victoria, NSW and SA, adapted anew in response to each place through an intricate process. Each performance of the play takes two days, as each act is performed at the time of day indicated in Chekhov’s stage directions. Audiences are invited into the play and place in an intimate, immersive way. Between acts, they interact with performers, are invited on walks in the surrounding landscape and to talks about ecological and farming issues of the region. Over six years, this project has been a series of deep encounters with places, landscapes and people, as the ensemble gathers each time to live, work and play in response to each house and landscape, welcomed by the host of each property. The project dissolves boundaries between performance and reality, between audience and performers. The register is one of intimacy and porousness, in an embodied experience of the landscape over time. This durational element has ethical implications, as it brings participants together in the present moment and invokes questions of the fragile present moment, hope and responsibility to the future. In my discussion, I will refer to the ideas of Mike Pearson on site in the creation meaning, and Gernot Bohme on ethics and embodiment. 

Dr Bagryana Popov is an award-winning theatre artist. She has collaborated with professional artists, students and communities, working as director, actor and performance maker. Her research interests include performance practice, embodiment, place and the experience of political repression. She is deeply interested in Chekhov’s plays and has directed Three Sisters, The Seagull and a reimagined dance-theatre version of The Cherry Orchard, titled Progress and Melancholy. Her site-specific, durational project Uncle Vanya transposed to the Australian landscape, co-produced with La Mama, was presented at the Adelaide Festival 2019. Dr Popov is a theatre lecturer and researcher at La Trobe University.

Bernadette Cochrane and Heidi Lucja Liedke – The digital and the live: Three in one? On NT Live audiences and communality

Presentation

Bernadette Cochrane and Heidi Lucja Liedke

University of Queensland and University of Koblenz-Landau

The digital and the live: Three in one? On NT Live audiences and communality

The cinematic screening of live theatrical performances is a signal indicator of intensifying demand for cultural exchange and access. The paper considers how the international, intermedial phenomenon that is National Theatre Live creates three different classes of audience whose experience of the performance is shaped by different degrees of invested cognitive work. These audiences are the theatre audience, the simultaneous cinematic audience, and the delayed cinematic audience. To explain: the theatre audience shares time and space with the production. The simultaneous cinematic audience shares time but is geographically remote from the production. The delayed audience, often the international audience, is both temporally and geographically distant. If theatre is innately communal, then this configuration of audience implies a relational series of degradation or diminution of experience. Key to this implied diminution is the insinuation of the loss of community. We argue that, first, the audiences differ from one another on the basis of the cognitive work they need to invest into the experience of the performance. The cinema and the delayed audience make up for the diminished experience (through spatial/geographical and temporal exclusion) by re-imagining themselves back into the space and time of the theatre audience. Second, we argue that the three audiences while existing separately, overlap and intersect to create a fourth category of audience: the meta-audience. This meta-audience, those who occupy the position of two or more of the originating audience types, both extend and amplify the notion of theatre as a communal act. Rather than audience categories existing on a degrading plane, the meta-audience reconfigures these audiences as co-existing, mutually enriching communities. The meta-audience offers replenishment rather than reduction. The concept of the meta-audience also links up to and problematizes the discourse on the “ideal reader” or rather “ideal spectator”: What would an ideal audience be, for National Theatre Live? And is the ideal audience an abstract concept or a hybrid of all three classes of audience?

Bernadette Cochrane is a Lecturer in Drama at the University of Queensland. She works in the field of new dramaturgies. Publications include: “Screening from the Met, the NT, or the House: what changes with the live relay”. Theatre to Screen. Spec. issue of Adaptation (2014 with Frances Bonner), “Blurring the Lines: adaptation, transmediality, intermediality, and screened performance” for the Routledge Companion to Adaptation (2018), and “Screened Live: Technologically Reconfiguring Notions of the Author” Body, Space Technology (2020). Bernadette is a contributor to the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Stage Directors and Directing (2020). She is a board member for the Migrant Dramaturgies Network, https://migrantdramaturgies.tumblr.com.

Heidi Lucja Liedke is Assistant Professor of English Literature at the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany. In her postdoctoral project, she examines the aesthetics of live theatre broadcasting and how it oscillates between the poles of spectacle, materiality, and engagement. Heidi was a Postdoctoral Humboldt Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London from 2018-2020. Recent articles include: “‘These Seats Are So Comfy’: Livecasting and the Notion of Comfortable Theatre” in Comfort in Contemporary Culture: The Challenges of a Concept, edited by Dorothee Birke and Stella Butter, Bielefeld: transcript, 2020, 209-230; “Emancipating the Spectator? Livecasting, Liveness, and the Feeling I” in Performance Matters 5.2 (2019): 6-23; “In Appreciation of ‘Mis-’ and ‘Quasi-’: Quasi-Experts in the Context of Live Theatre Broadcasting in Platform 13.1 On Criticism (2019): 86-102.