Posted by Thom Smyth, November 8th, 2016
Performing Lines WA is currently looking for two staff to join our small team – a full-time Associate Producer and a part-time Marketing Coordinator (0.4 FTE).
Applications for both positions close at Midday on Monday 5 December.
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER (full-time) | We are looking for an emerging Producer to learn on the job with our experienced team. This position is suited to a recent graduate or Independent Producer, or someone in a related industry with a keen interest in the performing arts. First Nations community members and members of Culturally And Linguistically Diverse communities are strongly encouraged to apply and will be prioritised in shortlisting process. Download the Application Pack>>
For Associate Producer enquiries, contact: Fiona de Garis, Senior Producer | email@example.com or 08 9200 6213
MARKETING COORDINATOR (part-time) | Working closely with our national Marketing Manager, the Marketing Coordinator position is suited to those with excellent communication and writing skills with a keen interest in content creation and digital marketing. Download the Application Pack>>
For Marketing Coordinator enquiries, contact: Thom Smyth, National Marketing Manager | firstname.lastname@example.org or 08 9200 6212
Posted by Thom Smyth, November 3rd, 2016
Sexual violence and the subsequent treatment of survivors is an ongoing matter of international debate and concern. Yet nothing seems to change. One show, Project Xan, is tackling the issues this subject raises in a deeply personal way. Xan Fraser was attacked as a child, and her subsequent treatment by the court system and then the media was appalling. Xan also appears in the show. Thom Smyth caught up with performer and project consultant Siobhan Dow-Hall.
Thom Smyth: Tell us about Project Xan. How would you describe the show?
Siobhan Dow-Hall: I would describe Project Xan as a rallying cry – a call to arms. It’s a plea to talk honestly about issues that affect so many, many, many women (and men). Project Xan is not about us standing on a soapbox and berating people, and it’s certainly not about sensationalising the real-life assault of Xan Fraser. It’s about all of us coming together as a community and asking ourselves: what can I do?
TS: You’ve been participating in the development of the show over quite a long period of time, as well as now about to perform in it. How did you initially get involved?
SD-H: My involvement in Project Xan came about through a beautiful moment of serendipity. I got talking to Hellie Turner (the director and writer) during the interval of another show we were seeing together. I mentioned I had just started a research masters looking at the theatricalising of social justice issues; in particular, how we can use theatre as a medium to address rape culture. Hellie said, “Boy, have I got a project for you!” From there, Hellie and I worked very closely together on the ‘ideas’ portion of the show – researching real-life cases and exploring psychological, sociological and feminist perspectives on them.
TS: This documentary work draws on court transcripts and media articles and many other sources, but also features Xan Fraser, who the show is about, IN the show. What is working on a show with such deeply personal subject matter like when that person is with you onstage?
SD-H:Xan is a genuinely extraordinary person. I think many of us have expectations of what victims ‘should’ be like. Xan, though, is living, glorious proof that a crime is something that happens to you, not something that defines you. Xan still struggles with what she went through. She’ll have moments onstage when something triggers her; she’ll cry, and we all cry with her. But Xan is not ‘broken’: she’s fun and funny, very determined, and incredibly generous with her story. From the beginning she invited us to make her story our own and to feel safe working with this material. So to be honest, we’re all having fun working on this show. We all respect the material, obviously, but we’re not interested in wallowing in tragedy – we want to come together to try to make a difference.
TS: The show highlights some very important but very difficult issues. How do you approach those topics in a way that challenges the audience but keeps them actively engaged and not shutting off?
SD-H: I think the important thing when working with this kind of material is to remember the medium you’re working in and utilise the opportunities it affords you. We’re making a theatre piece, so there’s no point standing and delivering a lecture, political speech or newspaper op-ed. We’ve really tried to engage with all the eccentricities, complexities and possibilities of live performance. I know that’s not very specific, but you’ll have to come see the show for specifics! Ultimately, it’s been about finding how to present this information in ways that draw the audience in. We’ve tried our best to make a show that takes you with us on this admittedly difficult but worthwhile and important journey.
TS: While there has been significant media attention around some recent high-profile attacks (such as the Stanford Rape, Jill Meagher in Melbourne) this kind of behavior keeps happening. Has working on the show provided any answers for you as to why progress in this is so slow?
SD-H: We talk a lot about extreme cases in the media, but as a society we struggle to recognise the everyday nature of sexual threat and violence. Tom Meagher (Jill Meagher’s husband) wrote a fantastic piece on this subject. He talks about the danger of the “monster myth” – our tendency to characterise sexual predators as evil men lurking in darkened alleys waiting to assault women they’ve never met. The reality is that the large majority of victims are assaulted by people they know – people they would describe as friends, family members, or partners. The reality is that most women (I would personally argue all women) have been touched sexually without their consent, whether it’s a grope at a bar or a brush past on the bus. The reality is that most women have felt sexually threatened or humiliated at least once in their lives. The reality is that this happens to men too – perhaps not with the same frequency, but it certainly happens. We don’t talk about the banality of sexual threat, or of all the small behaviors that endorse and minimise it. We don’t talk about the fact that sexual predators don’t look evil – they look like you and me, and potentially like someone we love. If we only talk about the most extreme and horrifying examples of sexual violence (the tip of the iceberg, as it were), we will continue to ignore the teeming bulk of sexual assaults, sexual threats, misinformation and misogyny that lies beneath – meaning things will never get better. We must talk about this issue, and we must be clear about what we, as a society, expect from ourselves and from each other.
TS: Self-care is a major issue when working with heavy subject matter in an artistic context. What mechanisms do you have in place to switch off at the end of each day?
SD-H: One of the things that makes it possible to work with this material every day is our belief that we’re trying to make a difference. I think hopelessness is debilitating, but Project Xan is actually very much about hope. It’s about Xan’s hope that sharing her story will prevent other people from going through what she went through, and it’s about our hope as an ensemble that we can start a conversation about these issues and make a difference. You do have to remind yourself that you can only do so much at one time! You have to play with your dog, or go for a run, or drink a glass of wine (sometimes all three at once, but this takes serious coordination). We all believe talking about these issues can make a difference for the better, and we’re excited to be part of the conversation.
TS: What do you hope people will take away from the experience?
SD-H: We really hope people walk away with a better understanding of what it is people mean when they talk about ‘rape culture’, ‘slut shaming’, ‘harm minimisation’ or ‘victim blaming’. We hope they understand that sexual assault does not exist in a cultural vacuum – that it’s fostered by beliefs, values and everyday behaviors. Each and every one of us on this show, regardless of age or gender, has had a moment where we recognised something we had done that perpetuated harmful beliefs. That’s what we hope our audience can come to terms with, too. It’s not about blaming each other – it’s about taking steps to prevent sexual assault, and that starts with ourselves, our relationships, our friendship circles, and our children.
TS: What’s up next for you?
SD-H: For me personally? I’m going to walk my dog, go for a run, drink some wine and finish my thesis. What’s next for Project Xan? We hope the show has another life after this run. We’ll keep you posted…
jedda Productions’ Project Xan by Hellie Turner
8 – 19 November 2016 | PICA Performance Space
Posted by Thom Smyth, November 2nd, 2016
Next up in our profile series, Thom caught up with The Blue Room Theatre’s new-ish Producer Jenna Mathie to talk career paths, LOFT, self-preservation and more.
Thom Smyth | How did you get started in the industry? Have you always had your sights set on producing?
Jenna Mathie | While I was at university a friend of mine asked me to produce a show she was directing. I had been doing some production work at the university theatre but never produced anything in my life so didn’t really know what I was getting myself in for. I said yes, and loved it. After that, I produced a number of shows while I was at university, but started working in the cacophonous world of orchestras and classical music and it fell by the wayside. At some point, I realised I didn’t want to work in music anymore but did want to produce theatre. So when I moved back to Perth in 2014 I did a number of short term contracts that helped me develop the skills I thought I needed to be a producer. Along the way I emailed Susannah Day, the then Producer at The Blue Room Theatre and before I knew it I was working here as Assistant Producer for Summer Nights. Since then, they haven’t been able to get rid of me.
TS | What were some career highlight/s before starting at The Blue Room Theatre?
JM | I’ve been pretty fortunate and have travelled quite a bit through the various positions I have had. In 2013/14 I lived in Cambodia and worked with an inclusive arts organisation which was incredible. It made me realise both the power of the arts in all different forms and at all levels of expertise, but also how lucky I was to be born in Australia and do what I do for a living. I also worked on a presentation of 2001: A Space Odyssey with the music performed live by a symphony orchestra at the Sydney Opera House which was brilliant.
You were appointed to the position earlier this year. What’s been the biggest challenge in taking up the new gig?
JM | Getting yourself out there and trusted by artists can be tricky and takes a while to develop. Having worked here in different roles since 2014, I had a bit of a head start than if I had come in completely new. But the wide variety of personalities and different needs of every artist we work with means it does take a while to build the trust that is so integral to this role. As an organisation The Blue Room Theatre actively tries to assist and support as many artists as possible, which can make saying ‘no’ hard. It has been a learning process on how to not overcommit, but at the end of the day I’m one person, in one organisation, so it is important to say ‘no’ and look after my own sanity as well as the sanity of the other staff members here.
TS | The Blue Room has recently closed its final round of the LOFT devolved funding scheme. What are some of the program’s successes so far? If it is continued, would you want to change anything going forwards?
JM | LOFT has been absolutely wonderful. It’s a platform for support and getting the work of independent artists produced – more than the funds. Just like any show at The Blue Room Theatre, if you walk in the door you get the support of the whole staff. You’ve got a team behind you who are constantly on the lookout for opportunities for LOFT projects.
So far we have had two creative developments, one of which has since been successful in receiving further development opportunities, and the other which has a very exciting 2017 in the pipeline, as well as a killer season of Those Who Fall in Love Like Anchors Dropped Upon The Ocean Floor at Griffin Theatre in Sydney (the first WA show in the Griffin Indie Program). It’s been great to see artists and producers who have been successful in receiving funding through LOFT leverage that support to secure other funding and opportunities.
With each round of LOFT we invite peer assessors from the Eastern States to sit on our panels, building networks and getting West Australian works in front of artists and arts leaders from around the country. Continuing to build these networks and provide opportunities for presentation, development or exchanges interstate is something we would love to ramp up.
Project Xan by jedda Productions (funded through LOFT)
Going forward, it would be great if we had more money to give to independent West Australian artists, as each round has been so competitive and it is always a difficult decision for the panels. With the limited amount of opportunities available in Perth, we want to support more mid-career and established artists in developing and presenting the biggest and boldest ideas they have. Project Xan is a wonderful example of this and it opens at PICA in a few weeks, so make sure you check it out.
TS | The arts industry is kind of notorious for consuming your time and energy. What keeps you going?
JM | I really love what I do and the artists that I get to work with. I spend a lot of time at work, seeing shows and talking to artists and producers which can be tiring. But at the end of the day I can’t think of a better way to spend my time than around engaged, curious and intelligent people, and in Perth we are lucky to have a lot of artists that fit that description. That said, I do turn emails off on my phone every evening and weekend, so as soon as I am out of the door here the administrative side of work stops, even if I am talking about or seeing theatre. I think that’s really important, to draw boundaries for yourself and stick to them.
TS | The role of the ‘Producer’ varies widely across organisations. What do you see as the role of the Producer in an organisation like the Blue Room?
JM | Yes, Producer absolutely does mean something different in every organisation. At The Blue Room Theatre, all of the productions we work with in presentation seasons or through the LOFT initiative have their own Producer as well. So I see my position as providing assistance and advice to those Producers to make sure they are feeling supported, well-resourced and like they have someone to come to with any questions or queries along the way. I think about it as endeavouring to produce a sustainable independent theatre sector in Perth; so creating and managing opportunities to help make this a reality. This is not only done through presentation seasons, but through professional development programs and also the advocacy and support we offer members and shows.
TS | What is on the horizon for the Blue Room in 2017 and beyond?
JM | We kick off the year with Summer Nights, which is our curated program of theatre and performance in FRINGE WORLD. For the first time we are programming the Studio Underground at the State Theatre Centre of WA, which is very exciting, and some brilliant WA artists are presenting in the space. This is an opportunity we are really proud to be able to provide. We will be starting a few new professional development programs, as well as continuing to support West Australian artists to develop and push the boundaries of their artistic practice, from the emerging to the established.
jedda Productions’ Project Xan by Hellie Turner
8 – 19 November 2016 | PICA Performance Space
The Blue Room Theatre | Season Two
[Porto] | Finishes Saturday | Tickets/info>>
Tissue | 8 – 26 November | Tickets/info>>
Signifying Nothing | 15 Nov – 3 Dec | Tickets/info>>