Where do the writers come from?
As promised in the last post, here are the first of some stats as they relate to the 2011 programmed seasons of both Brisbane’s subsidised, professional theatre companies. This post is the first in a series for Greenroom’s readers, and forms part of my ongoing research into professional theatre in Queensland. I have used data relating to both company’s programmed works as it appears in published brochures or online: mainstage, education, studio, and ‘indie’ presenting partnerships. This work picks up on some research I did last year which related to the first 10 and the last 10 years of the repertoire for Queensland Theatre Company. You can check that out here and here on my personal blog. From this year I’ve included La Boite’s programming under current AD David Berthold.
I have to say at the outset that there’s a minor complication which emerges when you begin asking where the writer of a play comes from. There are collaborative partnerships out of which texts emerge; take for example La Boite’s Boy Girl Wall and Statespeare (both of which originated from independent companies) or QTC’s I Feel Awful. Who wrote these? It would appear the ensemble: the Escapists, Shake and Stir and Black Lung respectively. Whilst, presumably, someone or other scribed the words at some time in the process, it it is the collective that gets the credit; these are local Australian works ‘wrought’ by a group which may or may not have included the performers and director, a not-untypical way of developing work right now. (Ed: Boy Girl Wall is co-written by Lucas Stibbard and Matthew Ryan; Statespeare is another co-written effort with credits to Nelle Lee and Shakespeare).
But who should be credited as the play-wright in the case of – again, for example – QTC’s Sacré Bleu or Faust or Treasure Island? All of these works have a local credit for translation and/or adaptation even though the original author is non-Australian. Are the newly minted versions of these works Australian, then? The productions are, and you can bet they will have an Australian flavour. Cavilling on the ninth part of a hair? Well maybe, but it’s important to get it clear up front. I have to say though that, in the collaborative enterprise of theatre production, the other authorial wrights in the process can be just as if not more important than the creator/author of the original text. Heresy, perhaps, and cause for many punch ups literal and verbal over the years – anyway …
For this project and to draw my conclusions, I’ve used the originating text as the criterion. In other words, Sacré Bleu is credited as European as is Faust. Treasure Island by R L Stevenson hails from the UK, which gets the originating credit. Boy Girl Wall, Statespeare and I Feel Awful are, naturally, Australian and two are Queensland in origin. I could have developed an entirely different category or sub-category of course, the way they do for some of those awards – best adapted script or some such. I’ll leave that for another time, perhaps.
Queensland Theatre Company
In 2011 Queensland Theatre Company’s season of works reveals a program fairly consistent with those of the past few years. This makes sense in terms of programs developed under the aesthetic guidance of the one Artistic Director – Michael Gow in this case – and at a particular time. To a certain extent – and this relates to both season programs by both companies – these snapshots reveal something of the wider priorities of then-current state and federal arts policies.
La Boite Theatre Company
Perhaps these figures are skewed a little by La Boite’s Indie season which is a presenting partnership with local independent groups. My assumption so far – and I don’t have all the information yet – is that these indie works will be new, and could therefore be following an emerging pattern of self-devised works by local ensembles. Under the former Artistic Directorship of Sean Mee, La Boite led the way in Queensland with its commitment to Australian – and often new Australian plays – so it’s not really surprising to find its artistic pedigree reflected so strongly in this year’s season.
2011 Season Comparison – Plays by Origin: Queensland Theatre Company and La Boite Theatre Company
The Season by Play Origin chart (right) shows that most plays being produced in the 2011 season by Queensland’s two subsidised theatre companies originate in the UK/Eire (8). Queensland’s next (7) followed by the rest of Australia (4) then Europe (3) and with the US at the bottom of the list (1) – QTC’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Queensland fans of US drama are going to have to go elsewhere to enjoy their American theatrical fixes in 2011.
Put Queensland and the rest of the country together, and you can see that works by Australian playwrights dominate the seasons of Queensland’s two subsidised companies in 2011. La Boite is way ahead of QTC with 70% of its total programming being Australian – QTC’s is 31%. This latter figure for QTC is down a bit from the 36% average Australian programming for the years 2000-2009 and back (almost) to the 30% which was the average for the Company’s first 10 years.
The next post will look at the historical origins of works in the 2011 season from both Queensland Theatre Company and La Boite Theatre.