Highlights of a Weekend Spent at Melbourne Fringe

Taking advantage of the beautiful warm weather this past weekend, I enjoyed several events within the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

The walking tour instructions allowed me to play!

The walking tour instructions allowed me to play!

On Saturday, I first enjoyed a city walk called TELL ME HOW TO WALK. The walk can be complete at your own pace and at your own free will; just simply download a free app that holds instructions for the walk. The walk begins at Princes bridge by Federation Square and continues through into Birrarung Marr. Along the way, the app’s instructs you to search then stop at landmarks – mostly art statues that reside along the river walk. The instructions also allow looking at the environment around you – smell the air; gaze at the city; run along the path; etc. Then there are reflective questions to answer, which have no right or wrong answers but certainly lead you to the next instruction.

By the end of the walk, I felt humbled by the opportunity to spend a moment basking in the wonderful city of Melbourne. The walk truly reflects the simplicity and power of art – reminding us to take a moment to enjoy and be grateful for our surroundings.

ENDLESS GAIN: 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats)

ENDLESS GAIN: 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats)

Next, I discovered Scratch Warehouse, a community minded mixed art space, with a gallery, theatre, private art studios and library located in North Melbourne. Having only opened 8 months ago, Scratch Warehouse opens its doors as a Melbourne Fringe Festival venue showcasing several art installation projects and live performances including ENDLESS GAIN. ENDLESS GAIN simply showcases a single wall of 400+ black maneki-nekos (or waving lucky cats), courting eternal good fortune. The simple presentation put a smile on my face and let out a delighted chuckle.

Though not part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, but presented inside the Scratch Warehouse, was KRUMP. KRUMP is a photographic exhibition celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Melbourne Krump community by photographer Rachel Main. Photographs introduce members of the community as well as the best in creative dance moments over the 10 years.

On Sunday, I attended an afternoon matinee at La Mama Theatre. For an intensely dark drama that examines what it means to let go of expectations and the past, go see BOCK KILLS HER FATHER.

Performed to a sold out audience, BOCK KILLS HER FATHER is a story set within a single evening of coincidences in which five women together reveal and confront the man they previously looked up to as a father, a teacher and a role model but whom has done them wrong. Through bouts of verbal confrontation four women: Bock, Taylor, D’Agostino and Chambers; reveal their most vulnerable nightmares: Bock’s father, and teacher to Taylor, Chambers and D’Agostino, have raped, neglected and gave broken promises. Continuing his habits, the story reveals a fifth woman, Sarah, who is the man’s current girlfriend and newest victim. The most difficult piece of reality to swallow is the fact that Bock’s father chooses to be a coward by remaining within the safety of his own home and watching the five women verbally and physically attack Sarah.

Performed in true ensemble format, the actors complimented one another’s performance. Each character was clearly defined and individualized through speech patterns, behavioral gestures and costume choices. Complimentary to the performances was the smartly planned direction done by Penny Harpham. Harpham cleverly utilizees the intimate space of the La Mama Theatre by using and defining clear entrances and exits that also provided intriguing lighting effects that created more shadows and added depth to the already dark and eerie setting.

Another outstanding element was the poetic writing by Adam J. A. Cass. If you believe to have seen his name before, you would be correct: Cass is an award-winning playwright, and has two written pieces in this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, BOCK KILLS HER FATHER and FRACTURED. In BOCK KILLS HER FATHER Cass presents his signature writing style with use of poetic imagery to heighten the important dramatic moments throughout the plot.

The creative team of BOCK KILLS HER FATHER should be proud of their exceptional hard work.

ENDLESS GAIN can be seen at Scratch Warehouse until 4th October.

BOCK KILLS HER FATHER plays at La Mama Theatre until 27th September.

For more information on both events, and to purchase tickets, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: Elbow Room Questions Identity and Leaves Its Audience Empowered

What is the expectation of experiencing live theatre? Well, I believe the majority can agree to three expectations: 1.) to be entertained; 2.) to leave our own lives for a moment and peak into a world of strangers who are dealing with similar sets of issues; and 3.) to be challenged to address social and political issues that are too scary to handle alone. Elbow Room’s production of WE GET IT satisfies all of these expectations and more at Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2015 NEON Festival. WE GET IT is a dark comedy satirising the political and social norms affecting gender identity, particularly within the confines of the entertainment industry. And it is theme presented from the moment one walks into the theatre lobby until the curtain falls ending the play. WE GET IT transports its audience into the world of creating a reality television competition show. It is the taping to the final episode of a new talent competition dedicated in discovering the next great female actress. The last diverse five actresses remaining are challenged to perform a classic monologue from a piece of theatrical literature: Nora from A DOLL’S HOUSE (Ibsen), Antigone from ANTIGONE (Sophocles), Blanche Du Bois from STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (Williams), Lady Macbeth from THE SCOTTISH PLAY (Shakespeare) and Medea from MEDEA (Euripedes). Rules of the competition and the voting process are simply explained by the competition’s gracious host, Emily, who, expressionlessly, reveals the latest voting system as Bums On Seats System, or #BOSS.

As the actors move about the stage preparing to present their individual monologues, they also move to an area behind a white curtain where confessional videos are produced to generate “good television.” These moments reveal personal experiences the actresses encountered during their professional careers that reveal gender limitations to roles pursued. It is revealed through these confessionals that limitations have been set onto these women because of their skin tone and body image; however, these confessionals are solely created to generate popular votes and boost overall scoring by being the most relatable to the audience. Instead, these confessionals created moments of uncomfortable displeasure leaving the audience to wonder “Is that story true?”

Complete with witty and profound banter that define character relationships, such as THE MAN directing one of the competing actresses, “Don’t be mad at me. I’m your ally,” the writing struck chords with the audience as it moved them to reflect on their own experiences of broken promises from manipulating allies. The overall presentation of WE GET IT revealed the funny, broken and naturally uncomfortable expectations of self-identity society often inflicts on us – either by stereotyping our gender, our race through the colour of our skin or by body image. In the end, Elbow Room and its stunning ensemble (featuring Tamiah Bantum, Amy Ingram, Kasia Kaczmarek, Maurial Spearim, Sonya Saures and Emily Timlins with special guest appearance by Marcel Dorney) illustrate the harsh affects of sexism and racism that leave the audience, at moments, uncomfortable, yet ultimately empowered to learn from identifying with these harsh realities.  And with all mistakes, we are reminded that there is hope.  Hope to inspire change for the future. Hope to educate future generations so that they may disregard these enforced human stereotypes and instead embrace each other as we are.

This is independent theatre certainly not to be missed.

Performances continue this week at the Neon Festival presented by Melbourne Theatre Company until 19th July running Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30PM and Sunday at 4PM. For tickets and more information, please visit www.mtc.com.au.

Who and What Makes a Philanthropist?

I started BcauseARTS to raise awareness about two major topics I am very passionate about: the increasing interest and mystique into Australian philanthropy and the recent heartbreaking decision to cut over $100 million dollars of government support for the independent arts sector. I would like the BcauseARTS community to address important questions, topics and experiences within these two ideas.

So I begin today with defining “philanthropy.” What is it? What does it mean to be a philanthropist? According to Webster’s dictionary, “philanthropy” is defined as “an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes.” Similarly, Wikipedia states that the word, of Greek decent, means “love of humanity.”

Think of all the kinds of non-profit organisations that exist and what they do: there are some organisations focused on child and family welfare, education, health and wellbeing, disease control and prevention, animal rights and well-being and (a personal bias) the arts. These organisations serve to build awareness of the unjust circumstances associated within the topic. For example, non-profits who support child and family welfare become the voice of those who have few because of current circumstance. They raise money to help the unfortunate souls break free from poverty.

april-mcg

Fundraisers are becoming increasingly popular in Australia with at least one event happening monthly in Melbourne. As a runner, I personally keep track of all the upcoming races in and around Melbourne, most of which raise money for a non-profit health-related organisation. This past Sunday, for example, I participated in the MCG Stadium Stomp climbing over 7,000 steps and my admissions fee went to the Leukemia Foundation, a health and well-being non-profit organisation. I assume from my participation bib number there were at least over 3,600 participants. And according to the website, the Stomp raised $58,452.78 for the Leukemia Foundation!

Are those participants considered philanthropists? I say why not! They gave a moment of their time to participate in an event that benefited another's struggles.

So where are opportunities for more philanthropists outside of admission fees? A great opportunity is found at any museum, gallery or arts venue. Last Sunday (yes, the same day I did the Stadium Stomp…I planned a full day so my legs wouldn’t cramp after climbing over 7,000 steps) I visited the new exhibition at Federation Square’s Yarra Building called THE ABORIGINE IS PRESENT by Robyn Latham. The free exhibit, presenting every weekend throughout the month of July, is inspired by Marina Abramovic’s THE ARTIST IS PRESENT performed at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art a few years ago, and invites audiences to sit opposite members of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members and simply be ‘Present.’ According to a recent interview with The Age, Latham hopes the exhibition will allow Australians “to move past the shame, blame guilt, all of those things that are in the collective unconscious of most of Australia, to go beyond that, to actually seeing the person”. Though I am not a native Australian I focused on the opportunity for making human connection.

After my experience with THE ABORIGINE IS PRESENT I exited the Yarra Building and noticed a donation collection box with a sign taped to the front informing me that the Koorie Heritage Trust sponsored this exhibit. The Trust was collecting donations to continue its efforts to support future Aborigine art collections for the community’s enjoyment. What was most interesting is that no one person nor the box demanded I give or note how much I should give, but I did anyway. With very little money on me, I dropped $0.50 into the jar.

$0.50, I know, is not a lot but it can quickly add up. Let’s add some perspective: I noticed that there were roughly 15 people observing the exhibit during that same 20-minute time frame I attended. If each of those 15 people also dropped $0.50 into the donation collection box, the Trust would have raised $7.50. Now, going further, we can assume that of those 15 people, more money could be dropped in the collection other than $0.50 – let’s say every 3rd person dropped $1. In 20 minutes, the Trust could have raised $10! And what might the trust do with that money? According to that collection sign, it will go towards supporting more indigenous artists displaying quality entertainment benefitting the entire community.

The point being is that everyone has the ability and opportunity to be a philanthropist. Every cent makes sense and can be used to increase the “love of humanity.” And that’s why philanthropy exists.

I could go on and on about this topic for ages, but I want to open the floor up to the community. Let me know what you think philanthropy is all about, and how you may have participated in a philanthropic act recently. Also, what current exhibitions, performances, installations, street art, etc. have you experienced and others should see too? Share your comments below or you can email me at bcausearts@gmail.com. Please note: This is intended to be a safe community where opinions are valued and shared without fear of judgement or ridicule. Please respect the opinions and statement written in the comments.

I look forward to reading your words…