Friday, November 23, 2012

A letter to Arts NSW

Update: Stoked to hear that common sense has prevailed. Arts NSW is giving HotHouse Theatre transitional funding for 2013 (at the amount originally requested) so HotHouse can continue making and presenting locally and nationally significant work. Also goes to show that writing rantypants letters (see below) can help.

It was amazing to see the surge of support from across the country and the good folk at HotHouse reckon the enthusiastic and widespread letter and email writing campaign to Arts NSW and Arts Minister George Souris had a definite impact on this decision. They sincerely thank the local community in Albury Wodonga and the national industry for their support during this tumultuous time.

Well done to everyone at HotHouse and chookers for the 2013 season launch next week!

I am writing to express my outrage at the appalling decision of Arts NSW to defund HotHouse Theatre in 2013.

Beyond the concerning absence of fair process and transparency from Arts NSW, this decision further undermines the value of the arts in Australia and isolates people living in regional Australia.
Wayne Swan said no Australian should be disadvantaged because of their postcode. Growing up in the postcode of 3691, I experienced the isolation, social exclusion and lack of opportunity that the federal Government has worked so hard to tackle in the past few years.
I wasn’t good at sport, so I didn’t fit in. I was so shy and socially undeveloped that my primary school had me tested for autism. In secondary school, I felt acutely disadvantaged because even with distance education, my school of 1000 students was unable to offer the same curriculum as metro schools.
Then I discovered drama. Through the arts, I learnt how to express myself, think critically, interact with others and other crucial life skills; I wouldn’t be where I am today without theatre.
At 16, I did work experience at HotHouse and saw how it was doing so much with so little. Telling local (and national) stories, providing emerging artists with their start, and building an organisation of influence and high regard. Transforming a tin shed into a significant arts venue.
The effect of arts may not be easily quantifiable or tangible and that is precisely why government funding is so vital.
Denying funding to such a key organisation is not only emblematic of the recently popular myth that the arts don’t matter in a country where sport is king—it’s heartbreaking.
The fact is, HotHouse has experienced sustained growth and remains a valued institution, by the local community, by artists, and nationally.
Art is not fat that can be trimmed. 
If you’re not willing to put a price on it, then how can artists? By devaluing the work of a vital Key Organisation you set a dangerous precedent for a slide into a cultural wasteland. A far call from the vision for a creative Australia that had bi-partisan support at the Australia 2020 Summit.
Here’s my stake: I’m an emerging playwright who has spent 2012 developing a new work through the Australia Council JUMP Mentorship program.
HotHouse, which remains one of the few remaining companies specialising in the development of new work and supporting emerging playwrights, was to produce this new work.
In fact, just a few days ago, I was delighted to proofread the publicity artwork.
Today, I was devastated to learn that once again regional Australia has been sidelined. The message seems loud and clear: you don’t matter.
Emma Gibson

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What I'm doing now...

No, this blog hasn’t gone dark. I’ve come to the end of my Jump Mentorship, so have been allowing the dust to settle post-acquittal.

Thus I reach the end of phase 1 of this project. More on that later.
First, I want to acknowledge the great support I got throughout the Jump mentorship process, particularly from Jan and David at Canberra Contemporary Art Space, and of course, my mentor Colette, who warned me of the Dark Side but then trusted I had enough of the Force to be able to decide myself whether or not to cross over. She’ll shortly be rewarded with an utterly heinous Scandinavian snow globe, which I expect will take pride of place on her mantelpiece.

Not this snowglobe though, sorry Coda.

Here’s what I’ve learnt:
• Dream big
• Work hard
• Have integrity
• Take up every opportunity you can
• You can’t please everyone all the time (so instead: write a good play).

Yes, they’re all platitudes and yes they’re things I already knew. Not to sound like a know-it-all. I think they’re things most of us know—but putting them into practice is often a different story.

The biggest accomplishment for me this year is the way I view my craft. I still want to be more disciplined and structured. I keep telling myself that I want to write for at least an hour a day—but that often doesn’t happen. Instead, I’ll spend hours on the laptop researching, editing, planning —because often, those types of things consume more of your time.

So I’ve learnt to write when and where I can. I’m very fond of 30-minute creative bursts. In fact, on my lunchbreak today I jotted out an early draft of a scene in my notebook sitting in the grass at the park across the road from work.

I also feel like I’m getting more involved in the arts community, and I’m definitely spending a lot more time at the theatre. That’s where I’m headed tonight.

So I no longer view myself as a hum-drum dabbler. I don’t think I’ll be getting Nobel prizes anytime soon either, but I do feel like I’m slowing clawing my way out of the metaphorical womb to one day become an ‘emerged’ (past tense) playwright. Though I don’t think the development journey is ever really done.
So, where to from here?

I’m still researching and am meeting an interview subject this weekend. Following a successful reading in Albury in October, and good feedback from actors and audience members, I’m working on the third draft as we speak.

I’ll be workshopping that with some actors and a director and then we’ll be having a reading at the Street Theatre in Canberra, in front of an invited audience.
From that—well, I’ll then start work on draft 4.

Early next year, I’ll start development activities with HotHouse Theatre, which will produce the pyjama girl play almost exactly 12 months from today.

It seems like a long way off, but part of the beauty of writing plays is the collaborative aspects and partly because of this, the development process can take time. For me, the average length of time I spend writing a script is a year on average. The last one was closer to 2.5 years. It was an epic though, to be fair, and what I’m terming my ‘apprenticescript’.

I learnt a stack from that. I’m learning a stack more from this one, and I know there’s more exciting stuff waiting for me next year.