Emma Willis – Politics and performances of kindness in the time of coronavirus

Emma Willis

University of Auckland

Politics and performances of kindness in the time of coronavirus

Since late 2018, I have led an interdisclinary research hub at the University of Auckland looking at the politics of kindness in New Zealand. The project developed in response to Jacinda Ardern’s repeated invocation of kindness as a guiding political value. In this paper I consider the performative dimensions to a politics of kindness more generally, as well as reflecting particularly on elements of the response from both government and civil society to coronavirus in New Zealand. My interest is not so much in kindness as a kind of consolatory practice, but in kindness as a practice that has radical potential. I will discuss the role that kindness plays when normative systems of governance and care are disrupted, and draw from a range of artistic, community and institutional examples.

Emma Willis is a Senior Lecturer in Drama at the University of Auckland whose primary research is in the area of theatre and ethics, spectatorship, and theatre and violence. Emma is principal investigator for the University of Auckland research hub, “Agencies of Kindness.”

Kathryn Kelly and David Burton – ‘This house is full of ghosts!’… Understanding how the quiet and unexamined rituals of hospitality and accommodation foster collaboration in transcultural and regional performance-making


Kathryn Kelly and David Burton


‘This house is full of ghosts!’… Understanding how the quiet and unexamined rituals of hospitality and accommodation foster collaboration in transcultural and regional performance-making

Organising hospitality for visiting artists is an intuitively understood but rarely interrogated aspect of any collaboration between artists from different geographic or cultural regions. There is a temptation to frame this ‘pre-work’ of performance as logistical, lacking impact and influence on the relational or aesthetic robustness of the collaboration to come. In both of these case studies of collaboration, the rituals of hospitality and accommodation were defining and liminal pre-cursors, demonstrating the quiet binding and unbinding that occurs as artists of different cultures and geographies encounter one another. Both projects are anchored in regional Australia – the SAND project, hosted by NORPA in Lismore, involved artists and companies from First Nations Australian, non-First Nations Australia, Japan and Pakeha New Zealand; the second is the Queensland Music Festival, where regional communities ‘host’ metro based artists for extended periods to build a shared collaborative community production outcome. Drawing on Bourdieu’s notions of habitus, and his privileging of the small moments of everyday life and consumption, both case studies seek to demonstrate the impact of seemingly minor choices of accommodation, the sharing of food and the organisation of shared ‘social time’ at the beginning of each collaboration to explore deeper notions of authentic and effective transcultural process and community cultural development. The case studies illuminate moments and processes of genuine cultural encounter, but also the ways in which the performed ‘rituals of hospitality’ were ‘misfires’ detrimental to the establishment of mutual trust and effective collaboration.

Dr Kathryn Kelly is a dramaturg and theatre historian and is currently a Lecturer at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Drama in the Faculty of Creative Industries. She completed her PhD on the Pedagogy of Dramaturgy in 2017 at the University of Queensland. Her publications include a history of Australian dramaturgy 2000-2010 in Catching Australian Theatre in the 2000s (Australian Theatre Series, Bril) as well as with the Australasian Drama Studies journal, Social Alternatives, Fusion and various industry journals. She is currently company dramaturg with award-winning, all-female theatre company, Belloo Creative, who are the Company in Residence at Queensland Theatre. 

David Burton is a playwright and author and a candidate soon to submit his Doctorate of Creative Industries at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). He is the writer of over thirty professionally produced plays, including popular youth-in-education work such as April’s Fool. His celebrated books for young adults include The Man In The Water and the award-winning How to Be Happy. His large-scale community-based work with Queensland Music Festival is the focus of his doctoral research. 

Kathryn Roberts Parker – Music for Sheep Shearing and Rituals of Hospitality in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale


Kathryn Roberts Parker

University of Sydney

Music for Sheep Shearing and Rituals of Hospitality in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale marks a change in style for Shakespeare’s playing company, in what are commonly known as the ‘late’ plays. It is structured as a tragicomedy between Acts I-III and V, with a highly contrasting Act IV that appears to be on the margins or even separate to the main plot. This characteristic has hindered the amount of analytical work conducted to-date on the music within the play. Despite there being upward of six songs contained in the 1623 Folio, they continually defy classification, or sit noticeably aside from the plotline of the major characters. I suggest that we can determine the dramaturgical purpose of this music if we pay more careful attention to the rural festival that sits very clearly in the middle of the play: a festival of sheep shearing in Act IV which is usually classified as an interlude or relief from the traumatic main plot. My analysis of The Winter’s Tale aims to highlight the significance of the sheep shearing as a ritual of hospitality celebrated at the onset of summer in early modern England. I will demonstrate how music for sheep shearing generates a sense of communitas between audience and performers that provides a means for Shakespeare and the King’s Men to push the play toward a restorative ending.

Kathryn Roberts Parker is a musician and performance researcher, currently in the final completion stage of her PhD at The University of Sydney. Kathryn is a scholar with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, exploring music and festival culture in Shakespeare’s comedies. In 2014, Kathryn studied a Masters in Shakespeare Studies at King’s College London and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the John Monash Scholarship, now recognised as Australia’s most prestigious award for international postgraduate study. Kathryn has worked as a dramaturg for ABC Radio National and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and is a co-founder of Matriark Theatre. Kathryn was the winner of the 2019 Veronica Kelly prize at the ADSA conference. In 2021 Kathryn will be moving to Newcastle University in the UK to take up a Marie-Skodowska Curie Fellowship, researching ‘A Performance History of Morris Dancing: Music and Musicians 1550-1700’.