The Latest on the Theatre of Life

I can believe that I haven’t written a blog since 2015. A lot has happened since then. Life changes, mainly. Maybe one day they might be the subject of a play but I think it’s unlikely.

However, the last couple of years have been very busy.

To take you all the way back to 2016:

My “new” one-acter, eBay Doomsday, was picked up by Pop Culture Theatre (PCT) and did the rounds of the Victorian One-Act Play festivals, winning awards and nominations here and there. My thanks to director Michelle Swann and her actors Scobie Parker, Liam Gillespie, Kate Karandais and Steve Saul, who all did an amazing job. You can check it out here.

Also in 2016:

PCT picked up my “old” one-acter, The Glenfiddich Solution. This time Bruce Hardie and Kate Deavin were onstage, and they were directed by Imogen Martin. It, too, did good business on the circuit, picking up a few awards and nominations along the way. Again, great to see one’s work up on stage being done really well. Thanks guys. You can check it out here.

This year, another “old” one-act play of mine called Skin was a finalist in the 2017 National Playwright Competition, run by the Playhouse Players here in Melbourne. I decided to direct the piece myself to guarantee a certain level of quality, and cast two excellent actors in Trevor Paparella (thanks for stepping outside your comfort zone, Trevor!) and Christina MacLachlan (who won the Audience Choice award for Best Female Actor–a lovely vindication of the work she’d put into creating her character).

The updated version of Skin is available here.

It was great to get back into the director’s chair. It makes you look at your work in a totally different way.

This year, too, I have a play that’s been shortlisted in Ark Theatre’s 2018 ARKFest, a festival of 10-minute plays, so if any company’s out there pick it up and run with it — if only I could tell you what it’s called! Entries must remain anonymous, so I really can’t give anything away. Will have to wait and see what happens with this one.

In a side note: I thought I would comment on the #MeToo campaign. I am sympathetic to all the silence breakers who have come forward to share their stories of abuse. It is never OK for those in positions of authority to abuse their power. However, I wonder if there should be a special hashtag for men who have specifically been abused by women? Perhaps something like #MenToo? Or one simply called #menwhomarrypsychobitches? There are plenty of us out there, and we have been silent, too, because the court system as it is allows affidavits to be lodged without any supporting evidence, for accusations to be made in all manner of court proceedings which are slanderous and libellous, and without recourse to being challenged. Where does this kind of abuse stop? Sometimes the very institutions established to dispense justice fail to protect those who are innocent. One day, perhaps, the silence breakers on the cover of a Time magazine will be a group of men who have had enough of having their names dragged through the mud. One day, perhaps, there will be a play there, too.

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Hiding behind your Muse

The 2015 One-Act Play season here in Victoria is now over and I think I’m supposed to be angry. Angry that another writer has written, produced and starred in a one-act play that very closely resembles Two Women & A Chair.

This “new” play has the same premise: two initially antagonistic female actors show up at an audition (with one chair as the set) and essentially fight each other for the role. They bitch, they play act, they argue over the nature of acting itself. It all turns out to be a Machiavellian head trip by the director, and both works share a number of uncannily similar features: a lesbian undertone; one character pretends to have a necklace; by the end both characters have wound up pals defying their fate.

As I said, I’m supposed to be angry. Others certainly are, and have told me so.

I got in touch with the writer and they assured me it was all just coincidence. They said they’d never read Two Women & A Chair, had heard of it but never seen it. In a blog they admitted their story was not “completely original” and that they would have to “come to terms with that.”

The idea of originality is a complicated one, but the bottom line is you take what is known and do your own spin on it. In Star Wars we can see all the elements from a thousand other stories: the beneficent old knight (Obi-Wan Kenobi), the farm boy hero (Luke Skywalker), the dark father (Darth Vader), the princess (Leia) held in the high castle (the Death Star), but they’re all mixed up and re-imagined in Lucas’ story. We’ve been tranported from “Once upon a time…” to “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” Something new has come out of something fundamentally old and “familiar.”

What has saddened me about the whole experience is that this writer hasn’t done anything “original” with the material – and they’ve taken longer than Two Women & A Chair to do it. Nothing new has been brought to the table. No great twist, no new revelation, nothing new has been shown that has not been done before. Worse than cheating themselves, I think this writer has cheated the audience.

They’ve blamed their Muse for this lack of “originality,” for “forgetting” that these characters had been put before me “not so long ago.” The only thing I can think to say is, maybe it’s time to get a new Muse.

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