Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wanting to Write, right?

I want to write, but I'm not ready to.

How does that work?

I'm afraid that it might be more tedious high strung-ed-ness from me as a writer - I don't want to start writing until I'm exactly ready. What was that you asked? How long is a piece of string? Yes, I see that you grasp this already. If you happen to read this blog regularly you already know that I have an intricate Method for making myself write whatever is due - it's a layered and complicated process involving baths and chocolate - but lets not dwell on what can't be changed. 
Pretty Much.
This is somewhat different, this pause that I'm experiencing. This is a pause created by some MITIGATING factors.

What I would like right here is that "Dom Dom" noise that happens in Law and Order SVU - you know the one - a sort of staccato full top to whatever action is currently happening and also a dramatic aural cue that things are Serious.

I wrote the first draft of Fury - sorry that I can't offer it to people to read, I don't mean to be in-fury-ating about my mention of manuscripts that I won't publish for general perusal (I only make my short plays available to all - here) but my full length babies are private and I want people to pay me to use them. That's the goal at any rate. Seems distant, but I am ever hopeful on that front.

So I should really be writing the second draft, but I want money - filthy lucre - to do that. So that requires the, oh God no, process of applying for money from the Government. This process is like this:

Tell us everything little theatrical person!
Me: Hello Faceless Government Body please can I have $15000 so that I can write the rest of my play.
FGB: Please outline for us the ways in which the creative impact of your piece will positively enhance the audiences experience.
Me: Um... it will be a good piece of theatre. Well written and pertinent, with excellent performers and a wonderful director.
FGB: And how does that enhance the audiences experience?
Me: By seeing something good?
FGB: It sounds to us like you don't really understand your piece or its place in the theatrical diaspora of Melbourne.
Me: But I do! I do understand. It has a place.
FGB: Why don't you go away and modify your application and add in a list of things that we'd like to see and then we will still not give you the money?
Me: Alrighty then!

So I can't start writing the second draft - I have myself in a bind. But I feel other ideas percolating away and I think that very soon there will be a sort of Bridgette brain coup and the procrastination regarding Fury will be overthrown by the need to write something, anything. And thus will Fury be well and truly pushed to the  side. My play babies are all greedy and they all want my time.

Also Alice is directing Vieux Carre and is completely caught up with that, so I don't have Alice and frankly I'm not doing nuthin' without her.

I might do whatever this kid is doing though.. 
The upshot is, the serious upshot, is that it's hard to try and maintain the focus on one piece of writing, you get redirected all the time. I'll be back with Fury after January and in the meantime I'll be starting something else. A girls gotta write, right?

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Trippin' overseas, I mean. Not the other trippin'. But I can understand how you might have thought I was making a shady illusion to drug taking - I wasn't though. I have very little forbearance when it comes to drug taking.

But lets not linger on the hang-overs from my childhood.

I'm sitting on my brothers enormous couch - it is so big that sitting with my back up against the actual back of the couch means that just my feet peek over the end of the seat. I am like a little kid again. I'm glad it's so large as I'm sleeping on it tonight.

I got in this morning after a fairly lengthy 26 hours getting here. WHY is Australia so far away and full of minerals. I DON'T understand. Anyway it's best not to dwell on what can't be changed. Here are my musings from the last day or so.

There are so many flights that leave from Bangkok airport that you aren’t allowed into the gate lounge until an appointed time. There are simply too many flights and too many people. I am sitting on a very comfortable metal chair in a vast corridor. I don’t think that I can exaggerate enough to convey how large this corridor is, or how big the airport is. I am leaving from Gate D6 and even finding it was arduous. 

the view from D6
It was lucky that it took a while though as I have a while. I have already flown 9 hours and watched 4 films and now I am waiting three hours in Bangkok to catch a flight at 11.15pm. Which is 2.15am for me. I haven’t yet begun to feel worse for wear, but I expect that to kick in about an hour into the Zurich leg of the trip. Eight hours to Zurich and then an hour there and then an hour to Berlin and then.. who knows. Collapse?

I am going to Berlin though and I don’t have a five year old with me. Frankly this would be nightmarish with a child in tow. Gabe is not the voice of reason and generally doesn’t react well to being trapped in a small space for longer than three hours. That’s the most I’ve done with him on the plane. So whenever I wish that I was down in the gate lounge on one of those soft looking white seats and not up here looking at the lounge I enjoy a few moments of silence – a chance to suffer on my own and not with a child too. It makes things feel nicer.

Rhonda finished. Did I mention that? Did I mention that I wrote a play and it is called Rhonda is in Therapy and that it had a season and now it’s over? To quote my publicist but one week later “It feels like a lifetime ago”. And it was very good folks, we had very good reviews, great houses and wonderful audience feedback. Ben Grant who played Lief said that it was a “crowd pleaser” which seems odd given the subject matter and that people came out occasionally sobbing. But it did resonate, this I was glad of. After the years, months, weeks and then days of hard work it was strange to be on the other side, It’s a lot like making an enormous jump over a canyon and then looking back and not quite believing that you made it. But feeling grateful that you did. It’s a good play, I’m proud of it and also the actors and director and crew that worked on it. They deserved a standing ovation – oh wait they got one.... on the last night.

And then it was done and then we put the finishing touches on the Mad Women Monologues: to whit – we selected the shortlist, had the director’s night and then had the auditions. Now we are just waiting on the last confirmation of actors and then it’s set. And then the next part comes.. the marketing. And I’m going on holiday. More precisely I am going to Berlin to see my brother, who came up with this madcap idea and then to San Diego to see the people that I work with and also like a decent amount. I’ll see a few other sundry lovely folk whilst in LA too. That is all very exciting.

But not this bit. Not the actual flying. When did I stop loving flying? Probably round 20. Then I tolerated it for another 10 years and then I actively disliked it for about 4, and then I was scared of it for about 5 and now I am aggressively diffident. I don’t like being stuck next to people, and I don’t enjoy takeoff. I don’t like my backside being sore and I hate not being able to sleep. I am hoping that only wacky rich people go to Zurich at 11pm on a Weds night and that I will have a row to myself. To lie down. And sleep. Also I have melatonin with me. A hormone. For sleeping. It regulates something, or deregulates it... God, I don’t know, look it up!

So far it’s me and about 50 of the wacky rich folk I was mentioning. I don’t want there to be too many more or we aren’t all going to have our own rows.  As it turns out if my thoughtful travel agent had booked me at the back of the plane I would have had a row to myself, as it was I was in a two seat next to a nice but flatulent Thai lady. So that was that. It could have been better.

Zurich airport is a model of efficiency – I knew exactly where I was going as the information on my little telly had told me which flights were leaving next and which gate and how I could get there. Trust the Swiss, always so thoughtfully prescient. And tall.

The exceptionally lovely view from the window of the aeroplane - over Switzerland,
My only real beef with Zurich is that they charged me 4.20 twice for one bottle of water. And it was average water. I spent a fairly standard night trying to sleep in an airplane chair, toss,  turn, wriggle. Move from one buttock to the other, prop head on blow up neck cushion, jam a second cushion under that. Lean slightly on it. Fall asleep. Rinse and repeat about 40 times. Then watch “What to Expect When you are Expecting”. I was expecting a laugh, not to be. 
Jade's apartment building

But Jadey picked me up at the airport and now I’m on his enormous couch. We walked across a bit of Berlin and will do it again tomorrow!

I know this isn’t strictly about writing. I will post soon about more specific writing goings on. The further travails of projection mapping and what to expect when you aren’t expecting. :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tempests - shaken not stirred

It is very quiet at the moment. As in the time after the tempest, before the next tempest. I’m enjoying the strange calm that has descended on my writing world, I am appreciating it as a small child appreciates a dead jellyfish on the ocean’s edge: by poking at it relentlessly until your mother yells at you to leave the damn thing alone.  

Stop poking it!!!
I have been writing so intensively, in such a dedicated and heartfelt manner that when I finally turned my engine off and listened to the dying sound of the carburettor, I was suddenly engulfed by a weird feeling of stasis. Like a bubble of water dropped onto me at the precise point and I am now like a flea or gnat floating aimlessly in it. I can see that there are things to be done outside the bubble, but it’s quiet in here and pleasantly weightless and strangely warm. 

Me, in bug format.
It is always a weird moment, characterised by all manner of variations on the above, when you have been working in a focussed manner on a script and that time comes to an end. For me it was two scripts – one going to stage in September and the other reaching a first draft via the Fastest Gestation in the West.  

I don’t write plays fast, I write them slow. I am like mother nature, I like to have a good hard think about the finer details before I evolve. I discard words, put them back, discard them and then put them back and then highlight them. I go back and read them after a month and wonder why I highlighted them and then un-highlight them. SLOW. So slow – painstaking even. 

Me and mother nature have so much in common - I love green twig bra's too!
Therefore the writing of a first draft in 6 weeks was like upgrading me from a coal fired engine to the TGV and cracking a whip. I just raced along the tracks screaming “Woahhhhh WOAAAAHHHHH, Oh God please slow down, I might need that word back there...”.

This just looks FAST, doesn't it!
Me: stately, classic, smokey.

I wrote whole scenes and deleted them a week later, I wrote monologues for characters and then doubled them in size and then split them into duologues, triologues and quadrologues. Don’t know if they are words, but that’s me, I’m a risk taker on the vocabulary front.  No, actually I’m not normally, but I am NOW. The thing was, the baby was growing fast and I was getting metaphorical stretch marks all over the place and I had to simply adapt or DIE. Or not adapt. It’s a bit less dramatic. 

In July I gave birth to a moderately sized baby called “Fury”. The best thing about that birth was that as soon as it was out, I was actually getting more sleep. Not less. So that was a turn up for the books. In September I will have to go back to the baby and give it a poke in the arm, and we all know how much they like being prodded. 

Until then: floating. 

See here: I am hanging with the writers at Yeah Write.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vigorously Rogered

After last night, that's how I feel. Nothing wrong with that though right? Eh? Eh? It's good stress relief. I have been extremely stressed during the writing of Fury - so much so that I took to nocturnally clenching my jaw. My massage therapist friend told her naturopath friend and she prescribed lots of magnesium. Tantamount to how bad I was feeling I simply said yes and began to take it three times a day. Has it made a difference? I think so. My jaw still feels tight, but that crushing sensation, as if Andre the Giant had my head between his slab like hands and was pressing, is all but gone.

Big lovable lug.
Last night was the reading for the first draft of Fury - I had chilled out a bit before this night as I had already handed the scripts to the actors and was enjoying what I call the "public transport sensation" - that's when you have mounted your transport of choice and now it's out of your hands. You have done everything you can to get there - now its up to the tram/train/bus driver. Nice feeling that.

As I am a single Mum there is always a bit of organising to do before any of these events, I have baby sitters to brief and dinner and baths to get going and also an increasingly impatient child to manage. As soon as Gabe hears that Heidi is coming over he nags me relentlessly as to when she'll get there. As soon as she arrives he says to me "Can you GO now!".  Darling little tyke, what a rascal eh?

I often wonder what it's like for writers that aren't managing kids or running households or doing the supermarket shopping - I think about the time that they can dedicate to their writing without a 20kg weight jogging their elbow whilst they write. Then I look at my annoying little creep and remember the things that I love about him, which are taking a while to come to the surface at the moment, but will be along presently. Anyway, I would probably take over the world if I had more time and none of us wants that.

Me with too much time on my hands, and wearing my glasses.
I had added another three or so scenes since the actors had last seen the script and so there was a bit of chit chat when we all arrived - mainly to the tune of "Do you want me to stand or sit for that?". We had about 70 people booked, I think that about 60 came which was pretty good numbers, really. After all it's cold and windy and this is theatre - not sport.

I was nervous and hadn't eaten since lunchtime - so the glass of wine that I had was possibly not advisable. Also given that I was filming the event and needed a steady hand I probably could have waited. But I didn't.

No, nowhere near that bad.
Alice introduced the piece with lovely words and all in the right order and then my actors acted. One of the biggest battles with any piece of work is getting the right people. When I say that I had the right people, I am not joking. I had 6 of Melbourne's best working Independent theatre performers and frankly that's the way to roll. It was an oddly removed experience watching the play - possibly because of a glass of wine, or because I was observing the whole thing through a view finder or because I wrote it in 6 weeks. Or a bit of each.

I was moved. There were moments where I could feel that more was needed, or I got that there was a logic jump, but there were moments where I felt all of those characters in a very sweet and acute way. And when we got to the end, I knew that the play could be beautiful and powerful. It has flashes of this, but it can be so much more. It will be.

Alice introduced everyone at the end and in an unusual turn of events I was too shy to get up and wave when she introduced me. Plus, the glass of wine...

One of the ways that this play will come alive is with the use of projection mapping - if you don't know what it is look HERE. Did I blow your mind? Well it can join mine, it was officially blown weeks ago and now all I can think about is making these things happen on a stage with THIS play. You can see the way that projection mapping creates a world - and entire world - I want actors to inhabit that place - I think that it could be extraordinary, in a way that we haven't seen before. But, you know, it costs money - etc etc.

Thanks to all those that came last night and to those that were so positive afterwards, there was a lot of goodwill in the room. I have to get on with re-drafting Rhonda, but I'll be back to Fury - we all will. You wait. Or don't. Your call.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I wish that I could accurately write an evil laugh.

If I could, then this post would have been called "More Developments- Wha ha ha ha, WHA Ha HA Ha Ha". It's not very good. The laugh, I want something like that laugh at the end of Michael Jackson's "Thriller". I'm not even sure why I want it, I just do.

Fury is building. The other night at one of our red wine and giggle director/writer sessions I said to Alice "This would have been a whole different play if it had been called 'Furry'". We giggled a bit, at that point we were pretty "relaxed". I then related a story about a person in an animal costume that made Alice laugh so much she cried. Gosh that was enjoyable.(I just googled "Furry Suit" and the results were so disturbing that I had to modify the search straight away).

Hi Di Ho Children, don't let my black soulless eyes freak you out!
That koala there is slightly better, but I still got a two faced kitten picture. No, not a duplicitous feline, a kitten with TWO FACES.

We are not up to our fourth session and the showing date draws ever closer - I am trying to not let that alarm me as there is nothing to gain from being alarmed by it. We will have what we have on the day. That's a type of mantra for me at the moment. The real truth is that there is so much potential stuff that we could show that it's overwhelming and I am DEEPLY thankful for Alice who is like a majestic freighter cutting her way through the ice to the Antarctic. In this case freighter could also be "tiny little blonde lady", cutting could be "decisively choosing", ice could be "all my goddamn words" and Antarctic could be a cold, cold place. It actually is cold there, so I'm told.

Improvisation is addictive to watch. To watch really good performers apply their creative brains to some clear and simple direction is simply mesmerising. These actors are working for up to 30 mins at a time. This is long form impro or scene creation and it is intense.The number of ideas they present to me is both wonderful and terrible, not just the things that they come up with but also all the associated ideas that spring into my mind. And then there is Alice's vast cranium to deal with as well.

Better a forest then a desert, she says as she gets figurative on your ass. (She is me).

Barren, empty, hot.
Fecund, fertile, wet. That's me in the middle all upset about how great this is.

I have been writing a great deal and discarding. Sometimes I write up a scene and know that it's just for me, or for Alice and I or for the actors, but not for general consumption on the stage. Writing is funny like that - I often write scenes and know that it is something I just needed to see, it has no further application then to simply show me something. If only to show me that this idea is not possible, or that it's for another piece of writing. My scenes are so sweet sometimes:

Bridgette: Writey write writey write writerson...
Scene: Ahem..
Bridgette: Typity type, character says this thing and then.. hmm?
Scene: (polite cough) We didn't want to interrupt you, because we know that you are busy.
Bridgette: (glancing at fob watch) Yes, yes, quite alright.
Scene: Well, we think that perhaps, you might be finished with us.
Bridgette: Finished?
Scene: Yes, you see, although we are really rather lovely, we're a bit off topic. Do you see?
Bridgette: Well, I was working my way back to the main...
Scene: Oh yes, quite, but it's like this, there are other scenes that are probably much better suited to this moment. Whereas we are funny and a bit irreverent, but also out of place.
Bridgette: Oh I see. It's just that you are so...
Scene: Oh yes, we know.. yes, we are. But.. another play, as it were.
Bridgette: Do you think?
Scene: Yes, we think so.
Bridgette: Well then.
Scene: Don't get disgruntled and have a bath, just keep going. Start on the monologues.
Bridgette: Alright then. Thank-you for that.
Scene: Don't mention it.

My scenes are like this dog. Stoic, long suffering, occasionally  ridiculous, with tentacles.
They're polite aren't they? I know. So, yes they tell me and then I have to listen. That's the writers job, after all, to listen and distil and interpret and document. And eat chocolate.

We are the point now where we need to have some actual stuff on paper so that the actors can relax and just laze around reading lines. So that, of course, means that I have to do some real work. It has not been hard at any point to write, the only real difficulty has been in finding time. But the words have come easily and strongly - the characters have something to say and I hope that I am letting them say it the right way.

That is a poster folks. For the showing. Christina Costigan designed that - she's a pretty awesome chick.

In news just to hand Gabriel is getting an Optimus Prime transformer for his birthday. I expect his head to explode with delight and I will be sorely disappointed if it doesn't. It has 42 bazillion moving parts and takes 15 hours and an astrophysicist to make that transformation happen. Consequently the toy will live at Daddy's house. 

It's big. How big? Ok, let me get a comparison for you.

Bigger than an orange! Well, how big is that orange? It could be a small orange.

Bigger than an orange and a banana! Well that's not a helpful comparison, those fruit are subjective in mass and proportion...

Bigger than a small parrot ok? Happy now? Suffice to say that Skywalker was surprised to find himself on top of the box. But no more surprised than usual.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Development on "Fury" begins - (alternate title - Letting the drama flow)

It has been such a build up for me to this point. Gathering the actors, applying for funding, finding the right director, replacing actors as they became unavailable, finding rehearsal spaces, finding more rehearsal spaces because the first place are idiots, and then... of course - starting.

We began the development of Fury last Thursday (31 May, 2012). I am going to do my best to give you an idea of what developing a work in this manner is like. It is new to me. For those of you who don't know my writing style, I tend to get an idea and then quietly work away at it in my attic (kitchen table) with my half burned candle (15w enviro globe). This is how I wrote "Killing Jeremy" and it took three years people. Yes, three years. I also wrote a couple of one act plays, about 30 short plays and sundry monologues with this method. It worked for me.

I then got the idea for "Rhonda is in Therapy" and I wrote about half of it and thought "Perhaps I could develop it"! It was like a light appeared through a window, shone on my head and angels sang. It really felt like a revelation!

Me, and the light - what a great moment that was..
I applied for the RE Ross Trust Award and on getting it, realised that I would actually have to write the rest of the play in DEVELOPMENT. I had to admit then, that I didn't really know what that was - as a playwright. I forged on.

I got four excellent actors and a wonderful director into a room and went about writing it. The only thing was, that I basically did exactly the same thing that I always do, except now I had walking dolls to do my bidding! Hurrah! I wrote and they performed, it was much more like a rehearsal then a development. I wrote the play, and I was happy with it, but I didn't develop the play with the group - I hadn't really learned how to do that. It's a skill, actually, and you need to be taught. That said, the play was made - and that is the outcome you want, no doubt. All up Rhonda took me 2 years to write. And I'm still drafting. Plus, and let's be clear about this, those actors and director are so good that they shaped the way that I thought about the characters and allowed them to live and breath in a way that simply would not have been possibly with me in my attic alone with candle etc. So it was a step in the development direction.

And now Fury. When I applied for funding for Fury I had written 9 pages and a synopsis. I had a strong idea about what I wanted the play to be about - and the material was compelling - but I felt, or rather sensed that I was going to need help. The idea for Fury came in 2010 (I blogged about that on July 8th, 2010), and I wrote a bit and talked a bit and then tried to get funding. I didn't get any funding - I went to my room, slammed the door and refused to come out.

I iz angry. I iz not coming out!
In the meanwhilst I produced a short play season a season of monologues, wrote some short screenplays and a bunch of other stuff. Then suddenly funding came. I am very lucky that there are people that believe in my writing and what I do and they support me and tell others about me. The money meant that I could start the process for Fury. But WHAT did I even mean by that? I really did think about this long and hard. I knew that I needed to enter into the next play with a different process and a different energy.

Last year I saw a production called "A Stranger in Town" - this was the result of a development between writer Christine Croyden and director Alice Bishop. I vaguely knew her - she's mates with my good mate Wayne. A Stranger in Town had a lot of visual elements that I loved, transformation of space and time and objects - elegantly and economically done. I also heard a lot of great stuff about Alice - people said she was very NICE!

I am shy though and don't like approaching people I don't know. Then providence struck. Or, rather, Wayne. Alice designed the set for "The Fallen Tree", a play that I acted in (and Wayne directed), earlier this year and we met and I tentatively asked her if she was interested and she was. And she is REALLY NICE. And she was pleased to be asked. It was awesome.

Almost as awesome as this. 

Once Alice was on board the process became clearer straight away, she works in this style a lot and has a fast, creative and clever brain - she and I think very similarly - it really was a pleasure discovering this. Once Alice and I met a few times and talked about what the development could and would be like I felt myself relax into a very pleasant state. I just knew that this working relationship would be good and I knew that she cared about the drama as much as I did and that she would work as hard I did. These are all unusual things. Because folks, I care a lot and work very, fucking hard.

Me. Caring and Working.
We have talked a lot, Alice and I, we have discussed the concept, structure and theatre of the concept. We have laughed and thought and gathered ourselves. And now the development process has begun. We are working with:
  • Christina Costigan
  • Tiffany Davis
  • Verity Charlton
  • David Kambouris
  • Daniela Farinacci
  • Rama Nicholas. 
These are very good actors. When you get these people in a room together along with Alice Bishop then what happens is very impressive. When we met on Thursday we all talked about bullying, about what it meant to us and what we had known and seen. The conversation was wide ranging and interesting. Then the gang improvised - it was incredibly funny, sad, exciting and engrossing watching them transform into a group of teenage girls. Amazing how quickly those habits can return and with them, all the behaviours. For me, it was an exercise in observing - I watched and listened (and filmed). My brain was already distilling conversations into dialogue and moments into scenes, it's hard for me not to run ahead.

At the end of the night I could see how this process was going to show me the play, how the play would be revealed to me. I was quietly and smugly excited... Alice and I met on Tuesday night. In the meantime I had written three scenes and deleted others. I was sewing it up, NO DOUBT. High five for me! YEAH.

Alice politely popped my balloon with her observations of the text and the process and I realised that I was in the grip of learning another lesson. Bah! another lesson!? 

OMG! Like, What?
Here is the next lesson. I don't have to decide right away. That's it. I can shape things and then re-shape them. Yes. I know it SOUNDS simple! Don't mock me. I like to finish things, I don't like loose ends, I want to hit goals! There is another slightly more in-depth lesson, and that is that I am working with Alice and she is my partner in this process. So I should wait for her loch-like depth of experience to influence me. I can't stop writing scenes, but I can stop wanting them to be perfect. Alice is very patient with me.

We have our next session tomorrow night, and I am, frankly, suffused with warmth and excitement at the possibilities that we can explore.
If you google "Suffused with excitement" you get this groundhog.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Analysing playwrighting - thirsty work

Get yourself some wine and prop yourself up in bed. Or beer and an armchair. Or Gatorade and a rocky outcrop. Whatever makes you feel nice. I have been transmogrified from the latent, non analytical theatre goer that you used to know into a THEATRE ANALYSING MACHINE. All caps.

I used to be full.
How did this happen you ask? Possibly you might ask that, or possibly you were wondering if "latent" was quite the right word to use up there in association with me, either way I'll forge on - time's a wasting and these chocolates aren't going to eat themselves.

What? No, I mean this post isn't going to eat itself.  write itself. Lord, you'd think that I had a Tupperware container of chocolate to my immediate right, distracting me.

Ignore that Tupperware container (that was for me, not you). So theatre and theatre-going, indeed. Let it not be said that I have failed to think about what I am watching in the past, or that I haven't given due diligence to structure and content etc. It's just that, generally speaking, if I liked it I said "That was very good" and if I didn't like it I said "that was shit". Whether those phrases were true or not for anyone else matters not, they were true for me in that moment. So, now, I am learning to be a bit more considerate and attuned in my criticism. I am learning to look at the theatre piece as an exercise in how I can be a better playwright.

Julian Meyrick is mentoring me, he is a very smart, nice man who knows a lot about plays and has read a vast, towering pile of them and has also written them. He is quite well known around these parts. The other night we journeyed off to see Australia Day a piece by Jonathan Biggins who writes a lot of review style comedy in Sydney. It was showing (and still is, if you'd like to go after the following thoughtful and analytical remarks) at The Playhouse - one of the bigger stages in Melbourne. We were seated about four rows from the front in the stalls, there was a very mixed crowd attending. It was opening night and every single person there knew every other single person. It was like a very happy, warm party in which we all faced forward.

Australia Day is a comedy, it is billed as a comedy and by the title alone we can gather that it might be some sort of commentary on the concept of Australia Day or what it means to be Australian. It opens with a short film designed to set the scene in a smallish country town. We meet the local committee for organising Australia Day - The Chair and also the Mayor of the town, a well meaning Liberal voting late 50's male, then his right hand man, Liberal 50's, then a local farmer, National voter 50's and a CWA member - female, National voter 50''s. Into this throw a mid 20's Vietnamese man and a early 40's Green party member woman "from the city" and perhaps you have a rough idea already as to the timbre of joke. Julian urged me time and time again to look past what seems obvious, and most easily laudable, and instead try and look at what the playwright was actually working with. The idea of Australia Day - clearly, politics - certainly, a sort of country vs city energy (and extending from that the haves and the have-nots) and among that tackling morality and the notion of morality. I'm not saying that any if it was handled deftly, just that it was handled.

It was interesting to break the play down like this and in fact made the night more bearable for me. We moved to the back row of the dress circle after the first act and watched it from a new perspective. It was interesting to note that the play immediately feels too small for the space (something that was only hinted at when sitting closer). It would have been better set on a smaller stage - it's naturalism and one setting staging meant that the focus was keenly on the performers. Who, I have to say, for the most part did a good job.

So why is this not a good play? It did not handle it's political humour or agenda gracefully or with subtlety. It did not particularly cast light on Australia Day, beyond the suggestion that we don't really know what it's for (perhaps that's the most interesting the thing the play has to offer). The interpersonal relationships and tensions were resolved too easily and in a pat manner. Any chances for actual interesting conflict to be teased out were continually nipped in the bud. What was left was bland, trying too hard to make pointed statements about Australia, except that we've heard them before and much better expressed elsewhere. At best it could be described as well meaning, at worst buffoon like.

The best part about it was a sign that was filmed at the beginning which read "'Bloody' Good Firework. The placement of the quotations marks was truly delightful.

So am I rapier like? Am I swift like justice, sharp like Parker and sparkling like Tattinger? At the very least  it was a new and interesting way for me to look at theatre. And I can immediately see how it will benefit me as a writer. If only in the sheer mechanics.

For those of you already sick of theatre talk, I will be posting about "Surprise Raspberry and Chocolate cake" on the other blog. So hold onto your socks for that one. The surprise is really *astounding.

*You know it isn't astounding I am just creating suspense.  

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Conversation Continues

I am flying to NZ to see my friend who is turning 40. This year marks the beginning of the 40th birthday parties.  As I am boarding the flight I hear a conversation between an elderly woman and the overly chipper male flight attendant.  The lady in question is quite bent over and slow moving. 

Chipper: Are you ok?
Elderly: Oh yes, it’s osteoporosis, nothing to be done.  

Chipper makes a sympathetic noise like “ohhh, ummm” *sigh* - sad face.

Elderly: It’s fine, I get around. It can just make life a bit more difficult.
Chipper: I can see that. 

I should pause here and say that we were stuck for quite a while standing and waiting as someone in Business class was flossing their teeth in the aisle or something.

Chipper: Moving now.
Elderly: Yes, thank-you.
Chipper: Take care and have fun!

This is the reason I related this little conversation for you. Chipper’s chosen sign off to a woman in her 70’s who has just told him about her affliction with osteoporosis. “Have fun”. How much fun is she going to have trapped in a tiny airline seat with a back problem? What this conversation really highlighted to me is the way that we conduct small talk, how much we listen and genuinely apply thought to our reply.

I dislike small talk intensely; I think that it is one of the reasons that I don’t really like parties. I don’t like getting to know people by asking about the minutiae of their lives. Equally I don’t like it if they reveal, in the first 10 minutes of knowing them, that they have been seeing a therapist for depression because of issues with their parents. What I want is some sort of interesting, yet well balanced conversation which does not make me uncomfortable with over-intimacy or want to kill myself with its banality. 

Airplanes are the worst for small talk. THE WORST.  You are trapped next to someone and they might want to talk to you, for the duration of the flight. The best people to sit next to are elderly men, the worst are, conversely, elderly women. Elderly men usually fall asleep the minute you take off, or they read, or they work. What they don’t do, is talk to you. Elderly women... sigh.... they talk. I was once sitting next to a woman who told me about her bowel resection from Christchurch to Melbourne. That’s 3 hours of side splitting narrative about bowels. When I finally thought that she was done and I had made all the signs that she was to leave me alone now, she said “And then my son got bowel cancer...” *quiet sobbing*. 

The above makes me sound like a curmudgeon, I guess that I am. What I actually like is to have a brief establishing conversation to ascertain if we have anything in common and then I like to politely withdraw if it’s not going well. 

The other thing about an airplane is that you might be sitting next to that person for 14 to 18 hours, depending on where you are going. So sometimes there is the opportunity to genuinely makes friends with someone. I know someone who met her current boyfriend on the plane. 

I travelled to America a few years ago and I met a woman standing in the aisle, who told me she was travelling to the funeral of her granddaughter.  She had died at only 2 days old. The woman had dropped everything to be with her son and his wife. She was tired, sad and resolute. I knew that she would take charge when she got there and that they would be happy to see her. The story took about 30 minutes, she needed to tell someone - I could see that. It spilled out of her as if she couldn't believe that it was happening to her family. She had jumped on a plane, pleaded with airlines to get her there. She has a terrible itinerary, it was going to take her 40 hours to get to Canada. I hope I helped by listening.

Melbourne airport has become a dizzying duty free extravaganza now. You squeeze out of customs, the line for which was so unimaginably long, my brain shut down upon seeing it. After emerging from the most cursory check of your passport you are delivered into a wonderland of consumer excitement. It is very hard not to buy something. I did. There is an excellent lolly shop in there with the lollies in test tubes and beakers. I immediately loved it and wanted everything in there. I settled for some jelly beans in the test tubes. 

The Aviation Authority has a sign on the back of the toilet door in the waiting lounge that indicates “Some things are not meant to travel”. They have chosen a shark as the semiotic reference point for this. A shark. Well, yes, best not to take sharks on board – they are very bitey and big and probably after a while, fishy smelling. You’d think someone would notice that. 

Staff member: Sir, is that a shark?
Shark Guy: No.
Staff member: I think it is, it’s very large and has fins and lots of teeth. I’m pretty sure it’s a shark.
Shark Guy: Of course it isn’t! I’ve seen the signs in the toilets. No sharks! Why would I do that?
Staff member: Oh yes, good point! Well, if you’re sure that it’s not a shark..
Shark Guy: Nope.
Staff member: Ok.
Shark Guy: Do you have a large tank of seawater here? 

So, no sharks. Take it as read.  

I landed safely.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Justification for my existence

Those moments are few and far between - refer blog title.

Most of the time I can't justify it at all, but occasionally something or someone comes along and validates me in a way that means I can comfortably reassert my self esteem, hold my head medium high and look life squarely in the eye (as long as it it is 167cm's tall).

Firstly let me say that Gabriel gives me a pretty good argument for my own existence, if only because I made him (inside my body, that's right, I made a whole human!) and he's pretty cute. By having him I fulfilled my biological imperative and made my life more meaningful *wipes away tear*. But I'm not talking about that. I am talking about having someone BELIEVE in you. In the shit that you do. And someone does.

Dear friends, I know that you believe in me, that's great, I really appreciate it, however the kind of belief I am discussing here is backed up with cold hard cash. The Malcolm Robertson Foundation have invested in me so that I can write another play. In fact they are helping me to write Fury with their lovely lucre. Also Mary Lou Jelbart at Forty Five Downstairs is also...

...wait a minute, someone is cooking bacon! Where is it.. sniff sniff. Mmmmm bacon. Hang on, I have to wait till that smell goes away and I can concentrate again.

Back again. Phew that was close. Bacon. Mary Lou at 45 is an advocate for my work and a production of Rhonda is in Therapy will go on at 45 in September this year. It's very exciting and is literally the culmination of four years work.

So, money, justification, writing.. where was I? Ah yes, I am going to write Fury. I was very excited to have the money! Yay! And then frightened, sad, hopeful, worried, tired and cautiously optimistic - one after the other. Now I am wildly enthusiastic! Another stage.

I will be developing/writing the work in and around June this year with the help of the lovely and lovely, pragmatic and talented Alice Bishop. She's cool. So, so cool. Anyway. And the following actors: Christina Costigan (brilliant actress and friend), Tiffany Davis (another wonderful actress and delightful friend), Sarah Ogden (overflowing with the talent of her generation), Daniela Farinacci (has totally won awards for film and TV and EVERYTHING and is neato old friend), Ngaire Dawn Fair (The NEXT big thing) and Ben Grant (such a heartbreakingly lovely actor that he is always top of my list). And me. And Alice. It's exciting. So, So, So Exciting. 

I am also going to start working with Julian Meyrick on Rhonda ahead of the production this year. We are meeting this month and then we'll see what happens. That's also exciting - nerve wracking and JUSTIFYING.

Every step that I take forward as a writer means that I feel more legitimised and more worried. But what else do you do? Just keep stepping I guess. I've always got Gabe... 

In news just to hand we have Skywalker staying with us, he is a tiny bird with am enormous TWEET that he blasts off all morning. He's a friendly little chap though and fluffs his feather adorably.

...and Gabe loves him.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

I am a writer (and maybe an actor too)

I am a writer. Yes. I am. I am. I AM! Dammit. I still am. Despite the fact that I look a lot like an actor at the moment. I am actoring in a short play at a small theatre in Melbourne called La Mama. It's a lovely theatre and quite famous. Anyway. I'm doing five shows a week for three weeks. Let me say a few things about acting.

It's fucking easy.

What are actors going on about all the time? Whenever I'm a director all I hear is whinge whinge moan. "Can't find my motivation" "Need to feel centred" "Do it again?" "I'm tired, this has really worn me out" "These lines are just SO hard to learn" "This is so emotional". No. It. Isn't. It's easy.

Frankly if you are just acting and you AREN'T worried about the publicity, getting full houses, finding money to pay people, updating websites, hounding all involved for biographies, directing, producing and/or writing then you have the EASIEST job of all. Independent theatre is a hard slog - I have been in it since 1993 and running a company since 1999. It is such unbelievably draining and difficult work. It requires a will of iron, a heart of steel and lots and lots of time.

It has been years since I just acted in something and I wasn't actually invested in it in some other way. It is amazing how lovely it is to walk into a rehearsal room and know that all I have to do is read my lines and think about what I might like to portray. Afterwards I don't have a production meeting in which I'm told that the venue we chose has no changing rooms and that the sound desk will cost another $150 and that one of my actors won't be around for the dress rehearsal ("I told you weeks ago!") and that the venue doesn't answer the phone calls from punters trying to book. These are all real things that have happened to me when producing/directing.

For the current production that I am in, I got to consider character and costume and I learned my lines and showed up to rehearsal. And I didn't do anything else. I sent out a call for people to see the show, but lets face it folks, all I have to do is facebook it now and then and email the rest. Takes 10 mins.

I have not compulsively checked the booking site 88 times today. Why? Because I don't have to. Yeah WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

And yet.

I still want to produce, direct and write. Why? Well I've had a think about that and it's not just because it's a challenge or it fulfills me - though they are both true. It's because it's mine. It's my company's creation. Because Chris, Tiff and I have worked long and hard to be able to make theatre in Melbourne and have people watch it and enjoy it. Because even though it's hard work, it's work that we know, understand and love and this is our sandpit. And we like to play here.

And frankly despite how annoying actors and venues and writers and directors and producers and stage managers and lighting technicians and designers actually are, they make up the bulk of my friends. And they are a manic, strange, creative and beautiful community.

Further Disclaimer
And publicists. I like my publicist friends too, Ben. Yes. Ben. You. And any other arts related roles. Administration, dramaturgs, editors etc. All of you. I like you all.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Dialogue is stranger than fiction

Dialogue my friends. Dialogue. Ir's the holy grail of playwrighting and other wrighting, too. Why are some people so good at dialogue and others so appalling. For example why did the person who wrote the dialogue in the Spiderman animated series ever get a job? Why? It is the WORST! It is abominable.

Apart from being filled with cliches and awful repetition - it is intoned deathlessly by actors who sound as though they everything is a complete fucking shock to them. Probably the whole job was.
  • "How do I reverse the polarity on this thing!!!?"
  • "You can overcome it Eddie, inside you is a better person!!!!" (this to a sort of hybrid monster with a flicking tongue. It's clear that the only better person in him is the one he ate)
  • "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!!!!" and Spiderman's response: "Enemies closer? What does that mean!!!?" Seriously? Really, Spiderman? You can't possibly guess what that might mean?  Can't even take a potshot at it, just a wild guess? Sigh. Later he says, shocked (after his enemy helps him out in some leaden manner) - "That's what she must have meant by keep your friends close and your enemies closer!!!". I have to leave the room before he says that because I involuntarily say "BAH!" if I stay and it annoys Gabe.
I am deeply concerned that my son listens to this twaddle - I believe that it is affecting his ability to communicate - 

this yesterday:

Gabe: How do I get the thing on the thing?
Me: What are you talking about?
Gabe: The thing.
Me: What thing?
Gabe: (Louder and more emphatically as if speaking to a stupid/deaf person) THE THING.

That exact conversation was had.

If someone asked me to write some dialogue for a child and his mother and I wrote that they would be discouraged by my lack of real relationship between the two characters. Even if I said "That was an exact conversation between my son and I". I think that they would then feel sorry for me at the lack of real relationship.

In fact it is that sort of dialogue that typifies conversations between parents and children. Children simply believe that parents will always know what they are referring to, this is because mostly, we do.

More dialogue that you can't make up:

(In the car - watching The Empire Strikes Back)
Gabe: Mummy what is the black guy's name
Me: (Wondering where the hell he learned "black guy") Um, Lando Calrissian
Gabe: No! The guy with the black, the black guy.
Me: (Relieved) Ohhhh, Darth Vader.

That is a lovable piece of miscommunication between a mother and child. It is hard to ever imagine actually coming up with that and writing it into a script. Apart from the fact that no one in their right mind writes a four year old into a script unless they want madness and chaos to ensue. Write an alpaca in, they are easier to control.

We are Alpaca's - easily the stupidest animal on earth.

My feeling about writers that are not good with dialogue is that they are the kind of people that have not yet learned to listen very well. My reasoning for this is sound, stay with me - dialogue is all around us. People say it. Just open your ears and shut your mouth and you will hear it.

Some of the best lines that I have ever heard, and then subsequently popped into a script, have been spoken by some unsuspecting stranger in a public place. Or by a family member, or a friend or just about anyone anywhere that I can overhear. Dialogue is best when it is natural - even if you are writing in a non naturalistic style - figure that one out. By natural I mean real or probable. Most of the scripts that I read are overwritten - people say too much or the same thing over and over again. Or what they say is hackneyed and unbelievable.

My point is this - dialogue is the stuff that we say all the time. The most beautiful dialogue says things neatly, and in a way that is often oblique. Or startlingly direct. It surprises, delights, moves and disturbs us. Much like Alpacas.

I added this so that I could Hangout with a bunch of nice bloggers who are clever and cool.