Sunday, 29 May 2016

Critically endangered theatre companies and arts organisations

Still reeling from the news that 62 companies and arts organisations have lost their Australia Council funding, 7-ON looked back over our collective history to see how many plays, performance texts (and other writing-related employment) we had between us that had been commissioned, developed and/or produced by those companies once funded by the OzCo, now critically endangered and teetering on the brink of extinction.

Checklist for an Armed Robber was first produced by Vitalstatistix in 2005. The play was nominated for a Victorian Premiers Award and won an AWGIE. It went on to be published by Currency Press and produced by theatre@risk, Belvoir B-Sharp, Deckchair Theatre, Stooged Theatre, ABC Radio Airplay and has had countless schools productions.

Long Tan, Brink Productions. Long Tan received the largest grant possible from the SA Ministry for the Arts. It also received a large grant via Catalyst funding. But the company itself has been de-funded via the Australia Council. Go figure.

Carrying Light, co-production between Vitalstatistix and the State Theatre Company of SA. The chopping of Brink and Vitals could mean—though of course everyone hopes that other funding may be found—that potentially the ONLY professional theatre company producing work for adults in the entire state of South Australia—which includes Adelaide, a city of one million people!—would be the State Theatre Company of SA. Another go figure. How many theatre companies, opera companies, orchestras and so on in a German city of 1 million people? Hmmm.

The Red Cross Letters. I’m working with Andy Packer of Slingsby on another show scheduled for production this year, The Red Cross Letters. This is in fact an add-on to the program of the STCSA, but Andy’s directing the new version. Slingsby survives on 1.4 people, makes new work, has an ongoing international touring circuit of several repertoire plays, launched the career of Finnegan Kruckemayer, I could go on. What more does a small company have to do to get a nod, we wonder?

Madagascar Lily was commissioned and first produced by PACT. It was also produced by St Martins Youth Theatre, and I adapted it for ABC Radio National’s Summer Drama program. The radio adaptation was nominated for a 2008 AWGIE Award, and the stage play is published in a US anthology of plays for young people. Madagascar Lily has also had in-school productions.

Jennifer in Security was commissioned, workshopped and produced by Vitalstatistix.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Ruysch was commissioned, workshopped and produced by Vitalstatistix, winning the AWGIE for Music Theatre, published by the Australian Script Centre and produced in the USA.

Memmie Le Blanc was co-produced by Vitalstatistix and Deckchair (defunded out of existence a couple of years ago), giving it a life in both WA and SA. It won the Inscription Award and was also produced in Melbourne.

Take Up Thy Bed And Walk, a work I devised with Gaelle Mellis and the performers, was supported and produced by Vitalstatistix.

Cutaway—A Ceremony, a theatrical event on which I worked, was created and produced by Vitalstatistix.

The Bloody Bride was commissioned, workshopped and produced by NORPA.

Milk Crate Theatre Company employed me as a dramaturg on Fearless.

Quest. I lament the loss of operational funding to PACT Centre for Emerging Artists where, as a young playwright, I held a funded year long residency, wrote three shows, and had my first hit, Quest, which brought the likes of Baz Luhrmann and David Williamson to the transformed warehouse in Erskineville, and led to commissions with ATYP and Jigsaw Theatre Company.

I also am really saddened that Milk Crate is in the same boat. As an artistic associate with Milk Crate I have recently worked with refugees and people recovering from mental illness, as well as Milk Crate’s dedicated ensemble, to create space for their stories. It has been a pleasure to accompany Milk Crate as they evolve their inclusive theatre methodology, and it is a social sin that a company this unique and affective, and their vulnerable constituents, have been passed over. 

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