On putting the community into theatre

Image: That Production Company (RUINED)

It’s so easy to get caught up in attempting to define and partition off the kinds of theatre we produce. We tend to box, define, create matrices of the way stuff works, test things against check lists of expectations: professional, amateur, pro-am, community, independent …

Western theatre is no stranger to evolutionary processes; it’s one of its great strengths. Right here, right now, it’s clear that, as part of the wider arts-industrial landscape and the generational change in arts leadership, theatre makers are experimenting with the how and where of creating theatre. New alliances that enable greater participation are being thought about and enabled – look at the way the main-house companies like QTC and La Boite are opening the portals – something which, even a few years ago, was unthinkable. Many of the boundaries that used to exist are porous if they haven’t already been dismantled.

The notion of a ‘full ecology’ of theatre existing out there was put by Wesley Enoch (AD of Queensland Theatre Company) recently in a Facebook discussion. But it’s not so much out there as in the things we talk about in foyers, in the rehearsal rooms we occupy, the chat about shows we see. Wesley goes on to compare this ecology with the kind of easy acceptance of the range of activities in sport in this country and wonders why art-making hasn’t been as accommodating. It’s a good question and one that’s part of the thinking I refer to above.

Why no easy access as Wesley asks? It has, I think, as much to do with the ongoing struggle that art and artists in this country have had to ‘prove’ their worth. But it’s a big question that goes to the heart of Australian culture and will continue serving as food for ongoing discussion, but not here right now. I’m interested in the ways and means and the impact this movement is having in and on the wider theatre community here in southern Queensland. Continue reading On putting the community into theatre

Timothy Wynn (Interview 35)

Guess what frustrates many arts-workers living and working in regional Queensland, especially if their base of operations lies within a 2 hour driving radius of the capital where (arguably) the ‘important audiences’ lie?  You know where I’m going with this, right? I meet it all the time living as I do in Toowoomba where we tend to shrug off the apparent lack of interest from elsewhere i.e., the audiences from Brisbane, with the ‘water doesn’t flow uphill’ epithet. For those of you who don’t know the geography of SE Queensland, Toowoomba sits on the top of the Great Dividing Range less than a couple of hours from the state capital.

If you are a professional theatre maker, you do know when the work deserves a wider audience. However, unless a concerted effort is made to ‘tour’ it, then the work stays at home. Whilst sharing excellent work is undeniably valuable in profiling the group and the individual artists and creatives, I think it’s a false premise to assume audiences and colleagues in a capital city are needed to validate the work being made in the regions. As the region to the capital city so the capital city to a bigger capital city to the world etc. You know … the cringe thing again?

Last week I spoke about these things and a lot more with Timothy Wynn the Artistic Director of That Production Company which, after a couple of years in Brisbane, is now based in Ipswich – about 40 mins from the capital. Tim, along with professional partner Cassandra Ramsay is committed to working in his own back yard. Tim is currently directing a production of Lynn Nottage‘s Pulitzer Prize winning play RUINED(2007) with a cast of Africans now living in and around this regional city. It’s going to be an Australian premiere and it’s certainly note-worthy for Tim’s commitment to building work in and for his own community. Continue reading Timothy Wynn (Interview 35)