We’ll miss you Mr Newman

He had to wait a long time to win an Academy Award (The Color of Money 1986) a source apparently of much good-humoured banter over the years between Paul Newman and his Oscar-winner wife Joanne Woodward. But oh how he deserved one for sheer masculine presence on the screen. Not only was he ridiculously good-looking … and didn’t he age well by the way … but he was also a screen natural, charismatic before we used the word to describe the special attraction some gifted individuals have for both men and women. I had a black and white poster of ‘Paul’ on my bedroom wall … just like every other young woman of a certain age back then. It had only one patch of colour – those blue, blue eyes. Remember that one?

Cursed early on in his career by comparison with James Dean, Newman unlike the tragic Dean went on to carve his own inimitable style up there. There seemed to be nothing ever remotely tragic about the Newman public persona, despite his losing of a child. That was private, and off limits like the rest of his exemplary family life. Regular guy … good bloke.

He had a good-humoured way about him that showed on and off screen; it undoubtedly belied his utter professionalism, like his strength in the face of disappointment and sorrow. No precious artiste was Newman, just a brilliant actor who seemed always on top of his game no matter the decade of his long life. And of course he paved the way for the celebrity as humanitarian and activist that we’ve come to take for granted from so many who’ve followed.

He died this morning aged 83 after what we might call a good innings, though I guess for Newman it would be more accurate to call it a great race. Bye Paul. I hope heaven has all the fast cars and beers you deserve. We’ll miss that championship breed that you represented so well.

Time Entertainment does a nice obituary here.

Young artists at work and play

And so to Brisbane again the other night for a playreading of the three writers in this year’s YPP (Young Playwrights’ Program) run by Queensland Theatre Company. The Bille Brown studio on the edges of Brisbane’s South Bank Cultural Precinct was heaving with young’uns plus a few oldies who’d come to cheer on the writers and the actors who’d rehearsed for a day or so. The place was also full of teens currently attending the annual TRW (Theatre Residency Week) … all these acronyms are apparently very cool. This year’s lot had devised and performed the entire novel of Candide the night before! Now there’s cheek (and stamina) for you. It was a night of energy, high spirits, and no small amount of talent on display.

Queensland Theatre Company’s quiet claim to fame is its youth and education programs that run year-long and which cater for young artists, creatives and theatre-lovers. From their artist in schools programs and workshops to state and national tours, work experience opportunities, a season of plays specially devised to appeal to the almighty schools’ curriculum, plus the aforesaid TRW and YPP, there is now and always has been a determination by the state theatre company to work for and with Queensland’s young artists and creatives and their teachers. Well done, say I.

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Words, words, words …

Spent an afternoon on Brisbane’s delightful South Bank cultural precinct yesterday. It’s site until today of the annual Brisbane Writers’ Festival. The joint was jumping. Author talks, panels, coffee drinking, book browsing (and buying) and readings have been the stuff of the past 4 days. And if you think that’s boring, think again. And it was all very Brisbane … shorts and t-shirts, sandals and the kind of laid back atmosphere that is Queensland.

I was there principally to see Queensland Theatre Company second reading of Richard Jordan’s 25 Down due for production next June as winner of the 2008-09 Premier’s Drama Award. It was designed to give the writer an opportunity to hear and see a different cast of actors read his work, now in a 9 month development stage. A 15 minute Q&A afterwards gave the writer, and the Director Jon Halpin and his actors a chance to talk about the process of taking a work from page to stage.

How exciting to have so many people who still care about words.

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