OPINION | Postcard from ATF17 – Riley Spadaro discusses diversity

Posted by Cecile Lucas, October 19th, 2017

Just how white is the Australian Performing Arts industry? How do we create space for diversity on our stages and within our organisations? This week, recent WAAPA graduate Riley Spadaro reports for us on his experience as first-time attendee at the 2017 Australian Theatre Forum, and outlines the profound challenges that arts organisations, producers and artists are facing when it comes to cultural diversity, what pathways can we create to be more inclusive and how can we embrace our differences.

What could “better” look like?

The Australian Theatre Forum is a biennial national conference for theatre artists, producers and cultural provocateurs to come together and discuss national concerns and practices. It is a significant industry event for sector-wide conversation and action. Co-curated by Alexis West and Steve Mayhew, and hosted on Kaurna Country at the Adelaide Festival Centre 3 – 5 October, ATF 2017 declared it was ABOUT TIME we tackled the sticky topics.


But where to begin? What are the problems and possibilities of our time?


Climate change?

Cultural competency?

Dismantling funding models? Gender constructs? Glass ceilings? Governance structures? Heteronormative narratives?

Implementing self care strategies?

Increasing diversity on Australian stages?


Q: “What can the arts actually do?”

A: [Pause]


A genuine dilemma here.

Deep breaths.

I can only begin by stating where I am.

I am a white, cis-gendered male who identifies as part of the LGBTQI+ community. Like most of my friends, I am standing in a space between Yes and No, between knowing and not knowing, with bullets flying past my head and “No” being written in the clouds above. It is a painful place to be, but I own that. I am a second generation Australian, but I do not identify as culturally or linguistically diverse. I am able-bodied. I am a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. I am educated (albeit with minimum earning capacity). By the time this blog is published I will be living in Sydney and working at Belvoir on Barbara and the Camp Dogs. I have mobility and I am unmistakably privileged.

I speak from this perspective because it is the one I know, but it is not a singular experience, nor should it be viewed as such. Space is not finite. Space creates space.

Barbara and the Camp Dogs by Ursula Yovich and Alana Valentine (Image: Daniel Boud)

Without question, ATF 2017 was the most inclusive forum in recent memory – boasting 31 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander delegates, 47 CALD, 57 regional-based, 58 LGBTQI+ (5 of who identified using they/them pronouns), 25 people with disability, 78 young and emerging, and 101 with a special dietary requirement. I would love to believe this level of inclusivity was normal, and part of me, some days, naively thinks it is the case. But having these statistics read aloud and met with applause was an uncomfortable indication of how far we have to go. We are in a marathon – not a sprint – and we are tired.

It is important to acknowledge that we have been attacked, repeatedly, over the last two years. We have been faced with a traumatic government intervention into arts funding that quashed the small-to-medium sector, a global shift towards isolationist politics, an increase of 6 parts per million in C02 emissions, and now a divisive postal survey asking us to vote on someone else’s right to love. It is important to acknowledge that we are weary, but to give way to despair is the ultimate cop-out.

The opening keynote from Jo Bannon was a war cry.

“At our best, we are a bit fucked – personally, politically, socially.” (Yes, Jo. We know.)

“The pooch is screwed and it can’t be unscrewed.”

“Art can’t unfuck the world, but it can fuck it right back.


Invigorating. Exhausting. Toxic. The revolution was alive. What would the backlash be?

One delegate: “If you are not actively working to dismantle systemic structures of whiteness then you are participating in white supremacy.”

Another delegate: “Frankly, I’m tired of saying sorry.”

(Poor start. Let’s unpack.)


Earlier this year, I studied abroad at the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore where I trained alongside students from across the Asia-Pacific Region. Studying in a culturally and linguistically diverse community forced me to confront my privilege as a white cis-gendered male (an uncomfortable discovery), and prompted me to ponder the questions: what is the underlying terror in the Australian cultural unconscious and does this terror give rise to the need to construct borders? Indeed, the imagined Australia is built on an Anglification of the geographical and ideological landscape. That is, non-Indigenous Australia – or, more specifically, ‘White Australia’ – is constructed on the idea that a person, object or geographical location can be classified as ‘Australian’ or as ‘Not Australian’ based on its seeming whiteness.

For performance studies scholar Joanne Tompkins, this anxiety with ideological classification stems from “a fundamental discomfort with the process of settlement and the establishment of nationhood” and a “will to forget what is actually known” 1 – that the Australian land mass always was (and always will be) Aboriginal land. Indeed, the notion of white ownership is institutionalised by a regime of truth which advances white nationalist discourses through legislative mechanisms of anti-immigration and marginalisation. For instance, hardline, state-sanctioned policies on border security and offshore detention work to enforce a white national identity by entrenching xenophobic attitudes towards ‘Non-Australians’ in legislative processes and systems – giving rise to a language that, in no uncertain terms, separates ‘us’ from ‘them.’

The use of this divisive language could be attributed to an unconscious lived-dislocation, or a seeming inability to construct a sense of being ‘at home.’ That is, the preoccupation with maintaining a ‘culturally pure’ national identity could stem from an innate insecurity towards the illegitimacy or non-permanence of white land ownership. Indeed, White Australia is constructed on a systemic dislocation and dispossession of land from Indigenous and First Nations people, and, therefore, any attempts to reclaim or reshape colonialist narratives are met with hostility.

But the arts are inclusive, right?

In her article Multiculturalism and the Mainstage, Dr. Roanna Gonsalves commented: “if the performing arts are meant to hold a mirror to society, then the Australian performing arts sector functions as a spectacular distortion.” 2 Today, 25% of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas, 44% were born overseas or have a parent who was, and just under 20% speak a language other than English 3 and yet these culturally and linguistically diverse voices are largely under-represented in the Australian performing arts sector. 4

(Note: As a definition, ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ is problematic as it reinforces a sense of ‘other’ and addresses non-Anglo-Saxon ethnicities as one homogenous group, rather than as separate cultures. However, despite these limitations, the definition is useful as it acknowledges that people of non-Anglo-Saxon background encounter a shared range of issues relating to access.)

Further, just over two years ago, the Australia Council for the Arts examined the programs of 135 Australian presenters and found that Indigenous and First Nations performing arts were under-represented in mainstream venues and festivals. Indigenous and First Nations works comprised around 2% of the almost 6000 works programmed in 2015 seasons. Almost 50% of presenters did not appear to program works with Indigenous or First Nations creative control, involvement or content, citing financial risk, difficulty in finding works that are not tokenistic, concerns that Indigenous work is “too serious”, fear of “doing First Nations work wrong”, and Australia’s underlying race issues as the main barriers. 5

And I get it – the truth always hurts. Being reminded that we are living on a land that never was (and never will be) ours is uncomfortable. Being told we have to “pay the rent” on stolen land is uncomfortable. But perhaps we need to lean into this discomfort and, like Indigenous performing artist Teila Watson (aka Ancestress) suggested, quietly take note of our resistances and work towards reconciling ourselves to them.

Perhaps we need to acknowledge that truth is subjective. Perhaps we need to embrace quiet and listen to each other’s truths. Listen to the pain. Listen to the wounding. Listen to the love. To listen is to move towards a space of not knowing, towards a space of zero. Conversation is the first step in dismantling the status quo. Words to speak over and over: “I don’t know, I’m listening, I don’t know, I’m listening, I don’t know.”

And I admit – all of this does seem out of reach. But it is important to remember that institutions are not natural phenomena – they have been invented and we can invent them anew. We need imagination as to what ‘better’ might look like. We need to let ourselves be led by our dreams.

Q: “So… what can the arts do?”

A: [Pause]


Art – in its most intoxicating form – holds its grounds while it destabilises yours.


On the first day of the ATF, in an incandescent response to the keynotes, Zainab Syed – Performing Lines WA Associate Producer and my friend – asked us to close our eyes and listen.


“… My dome will always shimmer in the sunshine

There will always be enough windows in me to let the light in.”


Art is to hold together. Art is thoughtful dissent. Art cannot change the world, but art can change people. People change the world.


Make the change you want to see.


Fuck back.


I have just disembarked from a red-eye flight to Sydney (a thought: is my exhaustion and lack of sleep an indication of something inherently good about myself?) and I am invigorated. This is the moment of change. Standing on the precipice of not knowing is electric.



Riley Spadaro, Independent Artist

Barbara and the Camp Dogs | 2-23 December.

Belvoir Theatre, Surry Hills, Sydney | Info and tickets>>


1 Tompkins, J. (2006). Unsettling Space: Contestations in Contemporary Australian Theatre. New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan.
2 Gonsalves, R. (2011). Multiculturalism and Mainstage Australian Theatre. Journal of the European Association of Studies on Australia 2(2), 72-83.
3 BEMAC. (2015). Theatre Diversity Initiative. Retrieved from http://bemac.org.au/projects/theatre-diversity-initiative/
4 Department of Immigration and Citizenship. (2013). The People of Australia: Australia’s Multicultural Policy. Retrieved from https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/12_2013/people-of-australia-multicultural-policy-booklet.pdf.
5 Australia Council for the Arts. (2016). Showcasing Creativity: Programming and Presenting First Nations Performing Arts. Retrieved from http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/workspace/uploads/files/research/ australia-council-research-rep-57c75f3919b32.pdf




PROFILE | Julian Hobba, The Blue Room’s new ED

Posted by Cecile Lucas, May 29th, 2017

The Blue Room Theatre has a new Executive Director – please welcome Julian Hobba.

Julian is a Director, Programmer and Producer. Not only has he collaborated with many emerging and independent theatremakers during his four years as Artistic Director of the Aspen Island Theatre Company in Canberra, he was Program Manager – Arts and Culture for the Centenary of Canberra, and before that was Company Manager at Malthouse Theatre. He has written, directed or produced a number of his own pieces, including The Slip Lane (2016), Bartleby (2014) and Father.Son.Rule which was shortlisted for the 2008 Griffin Award.

Our Marketing Coordinator Cecile Lucas recently caught up with Julian to find out what brought him over our way, and what he has planned at The Blue Room.

CL: How familiar were you with Perth’s artistic scene before applying for this job?
JH: I’ve met a lot of artists from Perth over my time working in theatre, whether they had migrated to Melbourne, were touring shows or we were meeting at industry gatherings like the Australian Theatre Forum. Between those exchanges and my own interest in Australian theatre, I had a good sense of the macro-level changes in the WA industry and the work that was touring from here. I think in the past decade Western Australian work and artists have enjoyed much greater prominence in the national ecology – companies like The Last Great Hunt and Side Pony Productions for example – and Fringe World has become a greater focal point on the theatre calendar as well.

CL: What excited you about working at The Blue Room Theatre?
JH: There is so much energy and impetus around The Blue Room Theatre and I was aware of the critical role it’s played as an incubator for the work and the companies that have made the national impact I was referring to.

For me there’s a voice that Australian theatre has within Australian culture more broadly that I really gravitate towards it because it kind of makes life worth living. The voice is playful and irreverent and approachable. It’s inclusive and curious and unashamed. The Blue Room Theatre is one of the companies in Australia that embodies that voice, celebrates it, and creates a community around it.

CL: What do you see as your mission as Executive Director? Where do you want to take the organisation?
JH: The Blue Room Theatre has a great story to tell about the importance of the new, and new works of theatre. What we do equips the whole community to better understand, and communicate about, the contemporary world, the way it’s changing, and our relationship to one another.

I really see our mission, as a staff and a board and a membership about 500 people strong, is to do everything we can to support the artists who demonstrate that through their work 40 weeks a year in our two theatre spaces. What we exist to do is support the creation of great new work and great artists and make our venue accessible to the broadest possible audience.

As an organisation, we know that over the next period of the company’s life we need nurture work onto our stages that reflects the diversity and reality of our community. We need to enable the next generation of theatre artists and develop the most urgent voices. We also need to be a good collaborator within the sector and encourage established artists to be ambitious to make works of scale and tour.

Personally, I would really love to see lots of established artists apply to experiment at The Blue Room Theatre – to try that work they would love to do but sits just outside their comfort zone. It’s really exciting to see an artist who has great technique but is clearly discovering something new on stage in front of you.

CL: Are there any productions you’ve seen recently that you think will appeal to Perth’s audiences?
JH: My favourite show for 2017 so far was called Still Life and was at the Sydney Festival. I’m sure it would appeal to audiences anywhere.

It was directed by a Greek director named Dimitris Papaioannou, who is one of those senior artists I was talking about, maybe, who has done a lot of different things, like film and even directing events like the Athens Olympics opening ceremony, but always comes back to theatre to push himself and reconnect with the brilliance of live performance.

The show was about 80 minutes of vignettes inspired by the Myth of Sisyphus. It was largely physical theatre, including an opening sequence of at least 20 minutes which was just play with a large block of ‘marble’ that crumbled onto the stage as different performers were pushed and contorted through a hole in its middle; limbs in and out, from performers in twos or threes. And a thin plastic film, that was a roof to the stage, sagging over the performance and filling with mist. It was funny and also quite stark.

CL: What do you look for in a script? And what turns you off?
JH:Personally, I tend towards lyrical scripts I think – Greek classics, Tennessee Williams, Lorca and Tony Kushner were probably the first plays I really fell in love with; and Patrick White, Dorothy Hewett and Jack Hibberd from the Australian canon. I started out loving poetry and I think the stage can do lyricism in a way that other mediums can’t and it’s what makes play scripts special and unique.

What’s great about The Blue Room Theatre’s programming model, though, is that the decisions aren’t reliant on the tastes of just one person. We have a peer review system that brings expertise and familiarity with a wide variety of theatrical forms and work is programmed based on the strength of its ideas, its team and the thoroughness of its production concept and planning. I think that allows us to take the work that’s most ripe for a presentation within our seasons.

OPPORTUNITIES | Not your usual options…

Posted by Thom Smyth, April 20th, 2017

While there’s been a lot of focus on diminishing government funding for the arts, there are still heaps of other opportunities out there if you know where to look. This month, we’ve unearthed a few of them to get you thinking beyond the government funding box. Many of them will also get you out of Perth to see work and expand your networks around the country and the world! This is far from an exhaustive list – check out the online resources available at Res Artis or Transartists. Make sure to check if it’s a supported residency or if you have to raise the funds.

Need advice on applications? We found this great resource from Arts Queensland. Still stumped? Contact your preferred auspice body (who do them all the time), or get in touch with us and we can point you in the right direction – shoot an email through to thom@performinglineswa.org.au.

That image up there? Thom caught that as part of Pony Express’ The Raft of the Medusa development at Adhocracy. See below.

ANTARCTIC ARTS FELLOWSHIP | Expressions of Interest open
For those who are fascinated by the stark icy landscape of Antarctica, and love the confrontation with the vastness of mother nature, we couldn’t find a more immersive experience than this one.

The Fellowship is a rare opportunity for artists and writers to experience Antarctica first-hand, and share this with the broader Australian community through their chosen art form. The Arts Fellows travel south by ship or plane, and spend time at Australia’s Antarctic research stations. Applications close Fri 5 MayMore info>>

ADHOCRACY RESIDENCY | 2017 Artists call-out
We love Adhocracy! Thom went last year – read his blog about it here. In 2016, WA artists Pony Express (Loren Kronemyer and Ian Sinclair) were among the 12 artists and groups programmed, and our Sydney colleagues were producing artists-in-residence Lz Dunn & collaborators. Adhocracy is Vitalstatistix’s national hothouse, supporting the creative development of new experimental and interdisciplinary arts projects. Artists receive funding to support their travel to Port Adelaide, accommodation and a fee, allowing them to spend four days and nights in an open studio environment developing new work. Each day, audiences and peers are invited through a public program of artist talks and work-in-progress showings presented across three evenings. It’s fun, friendly, informal, and has resulted in some awesome shows! Applications close on Monday 29 May. More info>>

PROFESSIONAL ARTS PLACEMENT | Shanghai International Dance Centre
The Australia Council is offering professional arts placement opportunities for arts workers to visit China. These placements will build international expertise, inter-cultural capability, foster industry relationships, and develop an understanding of the Chinese arts market. EOIs are now open for arts managers, producers, and production managers to apply for a Professional Arts Placement at the Shanghai International Dance Centre. Applications close 16 May. More info>>

The Georges Mora Fellowship gives one contemporary artist $10,000 for up to 12 months’ research and given the means and uninterrupted time to work closely with the rich resources of the Victorian State Library, including access to a private study within the Library, which can be used outside normal opening hours! Applications close 23 April. More info>>

Get out of town with the Cultural Trust – grants up to $7,000 to assist emerging and early career artists of exceptional talent to take up professional development opportunities, usually overseas. They support applicants who can demonstrate both initiative and exceptional talent, together with an ability to convert their ambitions to reality. Applications close 23 May. More info>>

Sissy Reyes – ‘The Window’. Captured at Arteles Residency using an Ian Potter Cultural Trust grant.

ARTELES | Enter Text Residency (Finland)
Enter Text is an international residency program for poets, writers and text-based artists, taking place at Arteles Creative Center in Hämeenkyrö, Finland. The program brings together emerging and established writers & artists with various backgrounds, from all fields of literature and text-based art. Applications close 30 April. More info>>

WOMEN’S CIRCUS | Artist Residency Program
This offers female artists working in performance their very own room – for free!  The program provides up to 2 weeks of access to the Drill Hall, our training and rehearsal space in West Footscray. The Artist Residency is an opportunity for artists to explore, refine, re-develop, rehearse their work in a supportive space. Applications close Mon 1 May. More info>>

BUNDANON TRUST | 2018 Residency Program
Located in calm and luxuriant New South Wales South Coast, Bundanon Trust’s Artist-in-Residence program is open to professional artists and thinkers from all disciplines, individually or in groups, and is here to support new work, research and collaborations. This is your opportunity to apply for residency space in their beautiful surrounds. You may even spot a wisdom of wombats (actual collective noun!). Applications close Mon 19 JuneMore info>>

OPPORTUNITY | Navigating the touring jungle

Posted by Thom Smyth, February 14th, 2017

So you were one of the 750 shows that featured as part of this year’s Fringe World Festival. You think your show has legs, and you want another opportunity to revisit it and give it a further life. What do you do next?

There are many avenues for touring your show, but finding your way through the jungle can be a little daunting. Fear not – we’ve got a handy round up to help point you in the right direction for your work.

Our biggest tip – do your research! Jump onto some venue websites to see what they are programming – it’s the venues that make the ultimate decision what goes on their stages. Check out the showcase events and what sort of shows they are featuring. Have a chat to other artists who have toured.

Performing Lines & Performing Lines WA
At Performing Lines WA, we work with independent Western Australian contemporary artists to get their projects off the ground, including regional and national tours. Recent tours we have completed include Sensorium Theatre’s immersive production for children with disabilities, Oddysea, and The Skeletal System’s Great White by Will O’Mahony.

We also have offices in Sydney and Hobart. Our Sydney office works with artists and companies in any state, while Hobart focusses on Tasmanian artists.

Our focus is on producing contemporary performance – check out our artistic policy here. There are a number of other options that may be a better fit for more traditional theatre, comedy, circus and dance shows.


National Touring Selector
The first step to getting on the road is to head over to the National Touring Selector to register your production. The NTS is a virtual market for performing arts, bringing together producers and presenters, and offering a comprehensive list of resources and contacts. It is also used by many of the showcase events to take registrations of shows.


Country Arts WA
Western Australia has a number of options available to support and tour your production. Country Arts WA may be a good first stop for you. They offer an annual Shows on the Go program touring self-contained productions to a mix of managed and volunteer run venues. Want to know more? https://www.countryartswa.asn.au/our-services/touring/

Shows on the Go program
Shows on the Go promotes professional, self-contained productions, and is a community-driven touring model where regional venues vote for the productions they would most like to see performed in their town. An annual Shows on the Go Touring Menu is produced via shows registered on the National Touring Selector website. For information for touring in 2018, please contact the touring team at touring@countryartswa.asn.au

Maybe (   ) Together’s Small Voices Louder successfully pitched at WA Showcase 2016.

This is a state-based showcase bringing together West Australian artists and companies with presenters and venues. The Circuitwest WA Showcase will be held on 10 til 12 May 2017 at the Subiaco Arts Centre. Circuitwest is the peak body representing Presenters and Producers in Western Australia.

At last year’s showcase, Alex Desebrock of Maybe (   ) Together pitched the aMoment Caravan and Small Voices Louder. Performing Lines WA picked up Small Voices Louder, and we’ve just opened the premiere at Perth International Arts Festival, while aMoment Caravan just completed a successful season as part of The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights program.

Submissions are open until 1 March 2017 and feature a variety of different categories to represent your work in the showcase. To submit your show for consideration, click here.

Not sure about pitching? We’d recommend attending a day to see how it all works and seeing if it’s an appropriate forum for your show.

Also – check out the Circuitwest website for a list of venues, news and more.


APACA PAX (Performing Arts Exchange)
The Performing Arts Exchange (PAX) is the Australian Performing Arts Centres Association’s (APACA) networking and tour development event. The accompanying APACA Conference also offers professional development opportunities with international guest speakers. This year’s event will take place in Sydney from 21 to 24 August 2017. Applications to present at the event will open in April.

Showbroker, a new performing arts market opportunity, will be launched in Adelaide from 27 February to 1 March 2017, during the Adelaide and Adelaide Fringe festivals. Producers of tour-ready work will be pitching – check out the full program here>>

arTour is Queensland’s state-based touring coordinator. It supports performing artists and producers from all around the country to tour work through regional Queensland. arTour runs an annual touring showcase event and will be hosted at the Redland Performing Arts Centre on 21 and 22 March 2017. Applications to pitch have now closed – keep an eye out for next year.

Regional Arts Victoria
Regional Arts Victoria are Victoria’s touring body. Partnering with the Victorian Association of Performing Arts Centres (VAPAC),  Regional Arts Victoria runs an annual performing arts marketplace Showcase Victoria – this year’s event will be held at Malthouse Theatre from 31 May – 1 June 2017. Applications to pitch have now closed – keep an eye out for next year.

Nicola Gunn’s Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster. Performing Lines secured a recent New York season at APAM 2016.


Australian Performing Arts Market
If you think your show has international appeal, the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) is Australia’s internationally focused event for contemporary performing arts. Held bi-annually in Brisbane, applications to be part of the 2018 program will open later this year.


A range of funding is available to individuals and performing arts organisations for touring.

The Department of Culture and the Arts (DCA)
The Regional and Remote Touring Fund (RRTF) supports performing arts shows touring to regional and remote towns and communities in Western Australia, and is available for performing arts organisation or artists with a ‘tour ready’ show who can demonstrate support from a minimum of two regional presenters, venues, or communities in regional WA.

Smaller tours may be possible through the Creative and Commercial Development grants system – click here for more info>>

Travel-only support is also available to assist with the costs of pitching at interstate showcase events. Check out the Commercial Development Grants Program for more info.

Australia Council for the Arts
The Playing Australia: Regional Performing Arts Touring program supports performing arts to reach regional and remote communities  across Australia. These grants are available for individuals and organisations to support the net touring costs associated with national (multi-state) touring.

Smaller tours may be possible through their other grants programs. Click here for more info>>


Both arTour and Circuitwest websites offer a collection of helpful resources, including tips, templates and videos, when planning a tour.

Still confused? Give us a shout! Shoot an email through to Thom Smyth, Marketing Manager – thom@performinglineswa.org.au

NEWS | Rachael Whitworth reports on ISPA & IPAY

Posted by Cecile Lucas, February 9th, 2017

Our Producer Rachael Whitworth has just returned from a trip to the US, concluding her engagement with the ISPA Australia Council Legacy Program. She attended the ISPA Congress in New York, and the International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase in Wisconsin. Too excited to hear all about it, Cecile did not leave her time to catch her breath, and quizzed her on the international experience.

Cecile: You’ve recently attended the International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) Showcase in Wisconsin, as well as the International Society for Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress in New York. Can you tell us a bit about each?

Rachael: I have been an ISPA Australia Council fellow for the past four years. This has been an amazing opportunity to be a part of the global fellows program which fosters emerging and mid-career arts workers from around the world. The fellows come together for a day before the official congress and it is always my favourite part of the program. It provides insight and understanding of arts practice from around the globe and makes me feel very lucky to be living and working in Australia. Some of the fellows literally risk their lives in their quest to create and distribute art in their home countries.

There is a strong focus on leadership at ISPA: how can we make arts relevant to our communities and continue a legacy of the arts as a mechanism for inclusion and change? This year, the theme was ‘Currents of Change: Arts, Power + Politics’. This focal point was intensified by the state of politics around the world and sharpened the lens on the need for the Arts to provide a voice for those who are being silenced whilst offering insight and a different way of thinking for others.

IPAY is a market and showcase for theatre created for young people. This is a smaller gathering of about 200 people and everyone is extremely friendly and open! The program literally runs from 9am to 11pm every day, with full shows presented, break-out discussions around particular topics, 15 minute pitch sessions and an exhibition hall for meetings. It was pretty exhausting as the four-day showcase was packed but I met a lot of presenters and saw plenty of international work, both good and bad.

What have you found the benefit of these sorts of event to be for the artists you’re working with and for you as a producer?
ISPA is a professional development opportunity for me as a Producer. I have dramatically expanded my international network and have a better picture of how the arts industry operates in different countries around the world. Many of the people I have formed relationships with I may never work directly but certainly some of this network may lead to opportunities for artists. Indeed, we’ve a couple of exciting presentation opportunities in the pipeline….

Travelling to both ISPA and IPAY also provides exposure to a lot of performances that helps to benchmark arts practice in Australia. And so, this benefits artists that we work with at Performing Lines WA as I have a context for what is happening in performance practice around the world and how the work made in Western Australia may or may not fit in different markets.

Did you see any shows that were amazing?
There are lots of festivals happening in NY in January and I try to see as many shows as I can. You might expect everything you see internationally to be amazing when in fact, there is an equal amount of good and bad everywhere. I saw an amazing dance work for young people And then… by Claire Parsons Co (Sweden), The Polar Bears Go up by Fish and Game (UK) and Shh!  We have a plan by Cahoots (Northern Ireland) at IPAY.

And Then...’ by Claire Parsons Co

My favourite shows in NY were part of COIL Festival by PS122: Forced Entertainment’s Real Magic was incredible – it repeated a 10 minute section of a reality show over and over for 90 mins; and A Study on Effort by Bobbi Jene Smith, an intense dance work with a live violinist.

A Study on Effort by Bobbi Jene Smith

How does Australian work you’ve seen compare to the sorts of shows presented at these markets?
The good news is the Australian shows at both conferences were awesome, and some of the best in the program! Nicola Gunn’s Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster (produced by Performing Lines) and Antony Hamilton’s MEETING were standouts at COIL Festival, and Slingsby Theatre’s The Young King won the Victor Award for best show at IPAY as voted by attendees.

I think the standard of Australian work is very high. Much of the best work I saw, particularly in NY, has something very important to say about the world. Whenever I return to Australia, I always have a refreshed sense of making sure we work on projects that not only have artistic rigour but also a clear focus on what the work is trying to say or reflect about our society today.

So imagine I’m a producer from a small-to-medium and/or an independent artist. What advice would you give to me if I’m considering attending a big arts market like these, PAX or APAM?
If you can, I highly recommend attending before you go with something to sell. It’s a chance to meet people, see how other artists and companies represent their shows, and get a feel for how it all works.

If you are wanting your work to tour, you need to have that in your mind from the outset and create the work to be nimble and tourable. That doesn’t necessarily mean small, or cheap-looking, or that its fits into a suitcase, but that it’s smart and made with an eye to how it will pack up and hit the road. Australian work is very expensive to get anywhere, so really consider the set and your cast and touring party size. Good images and interesting description of the work is important in getting people to engage with your idea and form, in what is often, a very competitive and tiring environment.

I think it is always best for presenters to actually see work live which I know is not always possible at these markets. If you know why you have made the work and who you made it for, you can quickly and succinctly direct your work to the presenters who are actually interested.

Got other questions about pitching your work? We can help. Have a chat with Rachael, Fiona or Thom. Shoot us an email at hello@performinglineswa.org.au
Stay tuned for our rundown of upcoming arts markets, and for Thom’s Top Tips for preparing tour marketing materials.