Fractal Theatre is Back! Brenna-Lee Cooney (Interview 9)

Brenna-Lee Cooney is telling me about the plans she has for the revivified Fractal Theatre, now based in Ipswich.  After some years of child-raising, teaching, a self-imposed break from theatre-creation and urged, she tells me with a snort, by her now grown-up children to ‘do something with your life,’ she’s energised and ready to tackle afresh one of the most challenging tasks any theatre maker has – that of producing and directing (and choreographing) a show from the ground up. I sense Brenna-Lee is not one to do things at half-pace and, as she speaks, my pen rushes to keep up.

Like most who’ve not done a day’s study of physics in their lives I’m interested to hear why ‘Fractal’ for a theatre company? I do know a bit about the relationship between physics and fractals, having read Gary Zukav’s wonderful ‘The Dancing Wu Li Masters‘ many years ago; it’s still one of my favourite science books. But why ‘fractal’ for theatre, I ask? It turns out that it’s all about patterns. ‘I’m interested in the ever-repeating patterns of nature and history and pattern repetition in movement and music and, of course, in the poetry of text,’ Brenna-Lee explains.

She and Fractal have always been interested in creating theatre that blurs the boundaries between the forms, and Steven Berkoff‘s The Secret Love Life of Ophelia, which opens next month in its Australian premiere, continues the tradition begun when Fractal started in 1989.  At the time Brenna-Lee was studying at UQ; ‘Richard Fotheringham, then my lecturer, threw me the keys to the Avalon (theatre) and told me to do something over the Christmas break,’ she recalls.  She did, and a production of Lysistrata emerged.  A series of productions – some epic, some small, and all innovative followed over the years. There were classical Greek works, including a Butoh-inspired Oresteia led by Lynn Bradley, Ibsen’s Peer Gynt supported by the Norwegian Community, Wedekind’s Lulu, all with enormous casts. Continue reading Fractal Theatre is Back! Brenna-Lee Cooney (Interview 9)

What theatre means to Greenroom: World Theatre Day 2010

In case you don’t know, World Theatre Day (that’s #wtd10 if you want to follow all the conversation on Twitter) is tomorrow, March 27.

You can read all about what’s happening on the blog here and, better still, add to it what you and your group are doing.  You can also catch all the action via Twitter tomorrow through Sunday, as the rest of the world catches up with NZ and Australia who kick it all off at midnight tonight.  Follow @wtd10 on Twitter and keep the theatre convo going from front of house, backstage, the foyer, after-parties … wherever.

By the way, you don’t have to do anything special, but be sure to share what you’re doing via a video, stills, audio or a tweet or two from the coalface.  Here’s where they will end up … on the WTD Tumblr ‘scrapbook’ … and here’s how to add your stuff.

Meanwhile, the image above is what theatre means to this blog … at least this is the Wordle that shows the most-used words on the blog since we started last year.

Happy World Theatre Day wherever you are!

Image: http://www.wordle.net/

Conversation with the audience: Sven Swenson (Interview 4)

Photo: Leesa Connelly

I’ve known Sven Swenson and admired his work since 1996, the year his first play Vertigo and the Virginia workshopped for Queensland Theatre Company.  Since then Sven’s completed 15 plays, but he notes there are 33 others “in various stages of disrepair.”  His latest work, The Bitterling premieres next week as the opening production of the inaugural La Boite Indie program; ‘opening’ and ‘inaugural’ – a lot of firsts, and a lot of expectations.  He’s writer and director.

He tells me, “We know we are the indie guinea-pigs, we’re all keenly aware of this.  There is constant dialogue between the participants and La Boite, who are extremely supportive and available.  They have a genuine and profound desire to see good indie theatre develop.”  He goes on, “There’s a real air of excitement right now, and it’s helping us to create at our best.”

I’m glad to catch up with Sven, one of Brisbane’s most prolific and also proudly parochial writers.  I want to know more about the inaugural winner (2002) for Road to the She Devil’s Salon and then finalist (2008) of the prestigious Queensland Premier’s Drama Award.  His play Beautiful Souls was produced Off-Broadway (2007) and also in Los Angeles.  Among other things we talk about beginnings, influences, how he works, and the local theatre scene. He has a few surprises for me along the way. Continue reading Conversation with the audience: Sven Swenson (Interview 4)

Michael Gow to leave Queensland Theatre Company

After more than 10 years at the helm, Michael Gow, the Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre Company has declined a further contract with the Company, and is leaving to pursue freelance writing and directing.  The announcement was made jointly today in a media release by Mr Gow and Dr Kate Foy, Chairman of the Board.

Michael Gow has noted how much he enjoys running the Company, and that he was honoured and excited by the offer of a further contract.  However, he added ‘after an intense period of reflection,’ and ‘a growing need to get back to myself as a writer,’ he had ‘sadly declined’ to continue in the state theatre company’s top job.

Kate Foy noted the Board’s natural disappointment at Michael’s decision, but that it understood and supported his decision completely.  ‘The Board has been delighted with Michael’s performance during the past ten years; he’s been a fine leader, and a hard-working and visionary Artistic Director.’  She noted Mr Gow’s programming boldness and the many initiatives he has brought to the Company during his period as AD.  She went on

The Company’s writing development and education programs are not always as visible to the general public as is its mainstage work, but the success of these significant developmental initiatives under Michael Gow, as well as his other achievements, has meant that his tenure as Artistic Director will undoubtedly be seen as one of enduring importance in the development and maturation of Queensland’s theatre.

Mr Gow will program the major part of the 2011 season, and continue his relationship with the company as a freelance artist.

Dr Foy noted that the Company will be looking to appoint a new Artistic Director by the middle of the year.  It will be an open recruitment process, and is anticipated to take up to five months.

Indie Launch Day … Indie Pride!

La Boite Theatre
Image by Bandido of Oz via Flickr

Today is not only St Valentine’s Day, but also, and perhaps even more importantly for Brisbane’s theatre-lovers, the launch of the La Boite Theatre Indie season, which we’re hoping will be enormously successful for everyone concerned.

A perhaps overused word right now when talking about the wider artistic environment is its ‘ecology’ …

ecology
noun
1 the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.
• (also human ecology) the study of the interaction of people with their environment.
2 (also Ecology) the political movement that seeks to protect the environment, esp. from pollution.

and the theatre ecology of Brisbane and beyond requires a robust independent sector to keep it fit and healthy.

We thought we’d post up this little video taken last year by one of Brisbane’s leading independent companies, 23rd Productions.  It was shot to celebrate World Theatre Day 2009, and has gone beyond Brisbane around the world as their contribution.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you should; there’s much in here that celebrates what independent means in a theatre eco-system.

And congratulations 23rd Productions and Artistic Director Kathryn Fray and Associate AD Christopher Sommers on your inclusion in the La Boite Independents season with Blackbird by David Harrower.

40 Years On: Queensland Theatre Company’s Repertoire

This week Groundling blog produced two posts which compared the annual repertoire of the state theatre company’s inaugural decade and the one just past. This fairly simple bit of quantitative research was inspired/prompted by similar research and a current debate in the US following the publication of a new book Outrageous Fortune.   The book claims the US institutional theatre is, by and large, not producing new works by American playwrights. 

Queensland Theatre Company celebrates its 40th birthday in 2010, so a stocktake seemed appropriate.  Rather than look over the Company’s 40 seasons Groundling took the bookend repertoires and did a breakdown of the historical and geographical origin of the plays selected for the decade of the 1970s and that of the 2000s.

You can read both posts here:

And the outcome in chart form shows how this company has always had the production of contemporary and brand new plays top of its repertoire.

Chart of Comparative Repertoire QTC 1970s & 2000s

Groundling has suggested that other Queensland companies might care to do the same stocktake of their work to provide a fuller picture of the kinds of theatre we think we are producing in the state.