Monday, 21 June 2021

Bright Sparks

On Friday June 4th 7-ON released a collection of works entitled Sharp Darts, published by Currency Press. It was subtitled “Chamber Plays by 7-ON” and contained 15 short works for theatre and/or audio. 


The blurb on the back of the book referred to the fact 7-ON had “collaborated over multiple projects” Reflecting on this event, a few days later, I realised that although as a group we had indeed collaborated (for example, early on, as a group we created a script using Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ that was developed further and produced at the University of Wollongong) in actual fact our most successful projects were those made up of separately written works, perhaps under an umbrella theme such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (conveniently 7, we wrote the names on bits of paper and drew them out of a hat) which was our first project. The seven plays were picked up by Sydney’s Griffin Theatre and were performed one at a time before a main play, and upon the set that had been created for that play. Mine (Vanessa's) was first, entitled Hunger and set in a garden, it was performed on the set of The Night Watchman by Daniel Keene. I remember looking at the set of Keene’s play, the design contained words stencilled onto the floor using ashes or sand.  The word “garden” could be seen clearly and I remember musing on the coincidence. 

The seven individual plays were also published, amongst other short plays commissioned by then Griffin Theatre’s Artistic Director Nick Marchand, by Currency Press under the title Short Circuit.


7-ON has been in existence for a mighty sixteen years. We began the year before my baby was born. As a group we have created many plays, mostly containing short works under an encompassing theme, but there have been many meetings, projects that went nowhere, scripts stashed in drawers, a week-long residency with Sydney Theatre Company’s young actor Residents using scripts inspired by Peter Doyle’s book of early 20th century Sydney police photographs: City of Shadows. Our project-in-response was called Long Shadows. It was never produced.

In reflecting on 7-ON, output, creativity and collaboration and sixteen years of feeling supported and encouraged by playwrights you respected,  I thought about the effect of being surrounded by such collaborators. It had to be positive, I thought. There was lots of encouragement and admiration, there was very little envy (although Noëlle winning that fabulous Windham-Campbell Prize from the USA might have niggled ahem). As a group we could try any writing style, we could float ideas, we could express disappointment to an empathetic crowd. We listened to readings of each other’s works, we signed petitions, we gave notes and we didn’t get offended if they were ignored. And, like a Catherine Wheel,  old fashioned firework causing widespread delight, spinning and shooting off coloured sparks in all directions, we could find inspiration and support in this environment, and then rocket out our own works and words, writing new works, new words.

Talking to Yet Another Playwright about not theatre or 7-ON but Billy Joel, piano-man musician and pop star, we discussed an interview Billy did in the 1980s about artistic success. Success of course is a much thought-about topic amongst scriptwriters and here was Billy Joel chatting about success and how he always knew he would achieve it. How? Joel explained that he knew he would be successful because he was competent. He could play piano, he could write songs, he could sing songs. He would achieve success. And the trick it appeared, was as long as you could work alongside competent people you would succeed. This made me think about the Catherine Wheel and 7-ON again. If you write and create in an environment of creative people, competent people, the energy that can be created, whether collaborative or individual leads to success. And indeed, there has been. Not just 7-ON branded works but individual projects, creative outcomes.  Exhibitions! Kids! School Triumphs! And on we go ...

Since 2005 I’ve had one large scale puppet piece produced, a full length puppet adaptation of a children’s book, several short plays produced, two 30-minute radio pieces, four full length plays produced, one full length play re-produced, an adaptation of a book for children that toured for several years, three full length plays published, academic article and a number of poems and stories published, an audio guide to an major art installation, and started and completed a PhD. I guess I've been busier than I’d thought. 
-Verity Laughton

Since 2005: Three AWGIE winning radio plays produced; one AWGIE award and Griffin Award winning play produced, read in Santiago and LA, and on HSC drama syllabus. A play in Melbourne and Brisbane Festivals and at Sydney Opera House. Doctorate got in 2017. Taught at Uni of Wollongong 2012-2019. Lots of dramaturgy. Lots of mentoring, teaching, workshops. Narrative writer at Royal Commission. Two plays published by Currency Press. Numerous plays in short works events. Still writing, still dreaming.
-Donna Abela

Plays long and short; audio works across drama and nonfiction; performance essays; poems, prose, books--one a mix of environmental history, poetry and memoir, the other my first poetry collection. Practising my toor dahl and ginger cake recipes until—well, pretty close to perfection.
-Noëlle Janaczewska

As life has gone on, I am overwhelmingly obsessed with the visual arts. (Sometimes I think I don't even like words anymore but one must communicate...!) I studied at the National Art School and since then I've been in both solo and group shows. I've also had paintings shortlisted/ finalist in a few art awards. In the world of words, I have had numerous radio and short plays commissioned and produced. Full length plays have had support and development, a film script optioned and another shortlisted for an IF Best Unproduced Award. Like many of us I have more than a couple of works that would love to see the light of day.
-Catherine Zimdahl

16 new plays produced (and some re-produced), and a few still waiting in the wings; 8 new musicals/song cycles;  a handful of screenplays, treatments, TV and digital eps; 2 radio plays and 3 museum audio guides; an exhibition, publications of 4 plays and 4 picture books, a fellowship and 4 awards. Sundry articles, introductions, teaching, mentoring, readings and workshops. And 2 beautiful kids launched into the world.
-Hilary Bell

school triumphs?
I survived! 
-Ned Manning

Oi - haven’t you published both books and articles about drama and education somewhere there since 2005? What about Alice Dreaming - publication and productions? What about that awesome blog that straddles art, education, theatre and poetical advocacy? What about all those kids shepherded through their Drama HSC? Credit where it’s due Ned! 
-Verity (to Ned)

In my own case there has been several produced and published plays written (full length and shorts), a web series, researching and screenwriting episodes on various television shows, produced audio scripts, a literary non-fiction book, forays into directing, the start of a PhD, the quite intense rearing of a child into a young man.

Like my collaborators I am still on the wheel, still writing, still working, still thinking, still sending off sparks into the night sky. 

Of course, the other meaning of the Catherine Wheel is a very nasty medieval torture device. 

Yup. Life of a writer, eh?
- by VB

Monday, 7 June 2021

Louise Gough's launch speech

 SHARP DARTS Launch

GleeBooks, 49 Glebe Point Road

Louise Gough

4 June, 2021


I would like to extend my acknowledgement that we are on unceded lands and that this area of Glebe, Gadigal Land, is an important and thriving community hub then and now for First Nations people. I’m grateful to be here and acknowledge the First Nations people who are present this evening.

It is an honour to be asked to launch a new publication, particularly when it’s a publication that assembles a tremendous body of work, by a tremendous group of people.

My name is Louise Gough. I am the recently appointed Executive Producer / CEO of Australian Plays Transform. APT was established in 2021 through the consolidation of two organisations, Playwriting Australia (working in play development) and Australian Plays (working in play publication, promotion and licensing). This new APT is Australia’s national play development, publication and licensing organisation.

APT has the deepest respect for Currency Press, the oldest active independent publisher and pre-eminent publisher of the performing arts. What and how they contribute to the theatre making community and to playwrights and our wider community is powerful, important and longitudinal. Thank you.

Moving through the Currency catalogue is to walk through the conversations our nation is having locally, domestically and internationally through the voices of our playwrights.

7-On is a group of playwrights who came together in 2005. They create work as a group and also support each other’s individual projects. They don’t all think alike, but they are simpatico in their belief of the transformative properties of the theatrical and performative artform and its place in Australian culture.   

The 7 writers of 7-ON, through the publication being launched RIGHT NOW, SHARP DARTS: Chamber Plays by 7-ON, contributes to the canon of Australian playwriting, national narratives, and future-making.

Playwrights are our truth-tellers, our heart-warmers, our challengers, our community builders and of course, our storytellers. They gather us, alone into togetherness.

Surely us all being here tonight is evidence of this. 

[ask the writers to come to the stage]

To you Donna,

to you Vanessa,

to you Hilary,

to you Noëlle,

to you Verity,

to you Ned, and,

to you Catherine:

thank you for your words, your heart, your spirit and the work you do in being lightning rods for us all. I want to acknowledge your vast bodies of work and as now expressed in SHARP DARTS your wonderful Chamber writings.

Congratulations to you all.

Keep with me. I have a little bit of audience interaction I would like to do. Don’t be frightened. I’m now going to say SHARP DARTS is launched, and the audience interaction bit will become clear, and I need you to be vocal. Ready?

I say:  SHARP DARTS is now launched. Now I say: Hip Hip. And you say: Hooray.

Ready?

Hip Hip

Hip Hip

Hip Hip

[Photo opportunity]

And finally, show your love, show your support, buy, experience and read.

Thank you. Now, enjoy.

 Reproduced with kind permission.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

WE ARE LAUNCHED.

 SHARP DARTS: CHAMBER PLAYS BY 7-ON was formally launched last night at Gleebooks.


Introduced by Verity...


first, a fine performance of 'Small Hard Truths', by Vanessa Bates,


a play about two world-weary garden gnomes, 


featuring Vanessa and Ned, in hats.


The champagne bottle was smashed against the side of the ship by Louise Gough. Hip hip hooray!


Mid-festivities, a 7-ON snap with that great stalwart of new Australian playwriting, May-Brit Akerholt.

A big shout-out to Louise for her beautiful speech, to Gleebooks for hosting us, to all at Currency for making it happen.  And thank you to all our friends and loved ones for being there to celebrate with us: it meant the world.

SHARP DARTS: CHAMBER PLAYS BY 7-ON is now officially out in the world. Order your copy through Currency Press, or Australian Plays Transform.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Culture Grief

I remember when the news reached me, as news does these days, in an email, an email-bomb shocked-absorbed by my unsuspecting body - pow. 

Lovely Noëlle recently emailed us about unlovely plans to restructure the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. In the slicing and dicing, some small departments are under threat - including Theatre & Performance Studies. 


I felt sick. Another full frontal kick in the cultural guts. This is not an isolated bit of butchery. This is a diabolical coincidence. In this last year: 

  • The theatre major at the University of Newcastle has been suspended. 
  • Monash University plans to close its Centre for Theatre and Performance and no longer offer theatre and performance majors.
  • Flinders Drama Centre, 50 years old this year, looks set to be restructured out of existence. 

Some nations, no matter how poor or divided, would never amputate art from life, or punish their universities. But across Australia, on the back of stagnant arts funding, and too little too late pandemic bail outs for most of the sector, universities bearing immense COVID-related budget pressures are now accomplices in the effort to demolish homegrown arts practice, decades of distinct and distinguished scholarship and training programs, and dismiss our collective critical and creative labour which strives to enrich our hearts, minds and repertoires with potent works steeped in the lived experiences and languages of this land.


In the weeks after Noelle’s email, I walk through Parramatta. Parramatta is a construction site. Parramatta is a metaphor. Demolition is everywhere. Crews in high viz vests take snaps of gaping shopfronts and upper rooms and inner fragilities - bricks, tiles, beams, lino - that don’t know what hit them. The cafe where my first serious boyfriend took me for coffee after work is gone. Not that I care particularly about that cafe - it was just a room above a shop - but I care about good process, and I don’t think that is what is going on right now. That day in Parramatta I feel naked. I feel the dust from the bulldozers on my skin. 


I am experiencing - on top of climate grief - culture grief ... for ... the loss of cultural infrastructure, wisdom and community ... the loss of skills and practices attuned to reconciliation and truth-telling, hearing and sensing, sharing and expressing, and entering into experiences beyond our own ... the squandering of generations of insight, labour and love ... all that heritage and living legacy, lost or under immediate threat.


Please support the effort to save the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sydney if you can, and rally on Wednesday the 2nd of June. You can follow the crisis at Save USyd Arts


Donna

Friday, 14 May 2021

SHARP DARTS flies through the air and lands on the doorstep!


 
Fresh from the printers' and ready to go out into the world.

Our first reader is very impressed.


SHARP DARTS: CHAMBER PLAYS BY 7-ON (Currency Press).

To be launched by Louise Gough,
June 4, 6 pm, Gleebooks.
Includes a special appearance by two garden gnomes...
Come and help us celebrate: RSVP here, or if you just can't wait that long, order your copy in advance.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

From the ashes...



Heartbroken though we were to see the defunding and consequent end of Australia’s two playwriting organisations, PLAYWRITING AUSTRALIA and AUSTRALIAN PLAYS, we welcome the arrival of brand spanking new AUSTRALIAN PLAYS TRANSFORM (APT).

Headed by Louise Gough, chaired by Rob Brookman, and with an experienced board and excellent group of practitioners as its national advisory committee, we are hopeful of good things. 

 APT has set itself an ambitious and exciting agenda. May it succeed and serve all Australian playwrights for many years to come.

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

SHARP DARTS BOOK LAUNCH FRIDAY 4TH JUNE!






7-ON is so excited to issue an invitation to all and sundry to bring their sharpest self along and dart – for a while! – into Gleebooks – 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, NSW 2037 on 


Friday 4th June at 6. 00! 

 

We have a book launch going on! 


And we have the sharpest of all theatre darts, Louise Gough, dramaturg extraordinaire and newly appointed inaugural CEO/Executive Director of Australian Plays Transform to do the honours (plus a little business of our own...).


Here's our Press Release:


SHARP DARTS: CHAMBER PLAYS BY 7-ON


Published by Currency Press, 19 May 2021


To be launched by Louise Gough at Gleebooks, 49, Glebe Point Road, Glebe on June 4, 6:00 pm.

 

"Collaborating with 7-ON is like mixing a cake full of all sorts of exotic ingredients that somehow make wonderful eating when baked." Ned Manning

 

Sharp Darts: Chamber Plays by 7-ON (Currency Press) is the latest collaboration of 7-ON playwrights. 7-ON has been together for 16 years as a small group of seven (very different!) established playwrights, no formal leader, no core intention beyond supporting each other in the making of new theatre in twenty-first century Australia. 7-ON’s third book collaboration is a collection of 15 short plays with an Introduction by QTC Artistic Director, Lee Lewis. The scripts reflect our very different voices, but all of them are love-notes to the theatre. They exploit the limitations of the short play form to its best advantage, honing language, action and visual imagery to their sharpest point. Written for professional production, they also hold plenty of appeal for drama students, amateur companies, reading groups, auditioning actors – anyone who wants to experience myriad worlds between two covers. Sharp Darts is a snapshot of new writing for theatre right now.


7-ON is: Donna Abela, Vanessa Bates, Hilary Bell, Noëlle Janaczewska, Verity Laughton, Ned Manning, and Catherine Zimdahl.

 

Please contact 7on.playwrights@gmail.com or Currency Press https://www.currency.com.au for more information.


RSVP to Gleebooks: https://www.gleebooks.com.au/events/