Saturday, September 1, 2012

ANOTHER overdue blog: Stockholm

And another international excuse.

I'm sure I project an image of a glamorous jet set life style, but I assure you this is absolutely not the case. In fact, I'm typing this from my couch with a snuggie blanket over my knees and my cat at my feet.

In August, I went to Sweden for the Women Playwrights International Conference. It was awesome. It was utterly inspirational, and in has indirectly changed the direction of this play. More about that next time.

Personally, I reckon I’m pretty terrible at networking. The very word terrifies me. Standing around in a theatre foyer gossiping or discussing the show I’ve just seen comes naturally, but tell me to sell myself or my work – in the same theatre foyer with the same people standing around – and I discover my gob suddenly glued shut.

In Stockholm though, I gained confidence in talking about myself and my work. Suddenly it was okay, because by being at WPIC, I felt I deserved to call myself a playwright. For me there are two reasons a) I realised how important it is to me and b) I felt my writing must be a little bit okay given my script was one of 100 selected from around the world to be presented there, though I was absolutely in awe of the people around me, particularly the enormously talented Australian contingent.

Swedish actors perform my play (not the pyjama girl)

Speaking of, I'm going to defer further description of Stockholm adventures to two other lady playwrights of my acquaintance, Zoe and Jenny, with whom I shared a squealing reunion on a cobblestone street in Stockholm)--go on, read their delightful blogs. 

Taking on my identity as playwright was a big breakthrough. Second major breakthrough was the realisation that we’re lucky in Australia. Sure, European countries have fabulously structured theatre industries, where actors have wages mandated by experience and in some places working in theatre is the type of career choice that won’t break your parents’ hearts. Necessarily.

BUT I realise how lucky I am to be able to create work just because I want to create it. Not because it needs to be created out of protest. Not because it is the only way to have an issue heard. Not even because it is a tool for education and community building. But simply because I have something I want to say.

Theatre is a wonderful tool for all of those things. Of course I can still write political theatre. But I can also write a romantic comedy if I want to. The freedom to be purely creative is not a luxury enjoyed by playwrights the world over, particularly female playwrights. Freedom of expression is another issue entirely.

We all know the power of theatre, and the conference theme, the Democratic Stage was apt.

As an emerging playwright from a non-metro city, I felt like a grade 6 moving to the big school—there is so much out there that I don’t know about the industry, both in Australia and overseas.

In Egypt, where theatre is telling the stories of revolution that journalism failed to tell; In India, where theatre teaches people that it’s okay to have a daughter, in the ten countries across the world participating in an international theatre project built around the shocking fact that domestic violence kills more women worldwide than cancer.

And this made me realise just how important it is to tell the story of the Pyjama Girl. 

I was lucky enough to attend a research-informed theatre workshop run by some wonderful Canadian playwrights. One of them, Tara Goldstein has written a book on it Staging Harriet's House: Writing and Producing Research-Informed Theatre. Now, back in Australia, nearing the end of the JUMP project, I've been reading this book as I redrafted the script and have come to an important realisation. The play I'm writing is not verbatim at all. It cannot be. 

And on that cliffhanger... I'll leave you until next time.

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