Begin 2017 with YOUR Vision and Work Backwards

Happy New Year!  I do hope that everyone had a fantastic time spent with family, friends and loved ones.

I love the holidays because I take advantage of the break in order to read to relax.  And that’s not to say that my mind wasn’t hunting for ideas to share with you regarding marketing and audience development.  In fact, I found many inspirational articles, books and blog posts about ways to further the development of relationships with audience members and innovative strategies we can use to market our arts practice.

However, I did discover that many articles tended to encourage their readers to move quickly past what many had expressed to be a begrudging 2016 and count down their top suggestions for forging ahead into 2017.  These included ideas about goal setting, the use of new technology in order to improve personal productivity and organisation, and noting daily rituals of top successful individuals that help make the most of their productivity.  As I do my best to avoid doing the same, I’d rather share my favourite advice read: work backwards.

Wait, what?  Work backwards?  Yes!  Almost every article or blog post seemed to agree that the best way to work forward throughout 2017 is to work backwards.

What does this mean?  How do we work backwards?  As I am sure you have already done, been doing, or plan on doing, to help kick-start your year take some time to set some goals.  What do YOU want to achieve in 2017?   It’s important to set both personal and creative practice goals.  And I suggest that the perfect place to start is by using your most valuable tool: your imagination.  Creative individuals have a lucrative gift of imagination.  Put it to good use by closing your eyes and imagining…it’s December 31st 2017.  Answer for yourself the following questions: what will you have accomplished by December 31st?  Be specific: where are you?  What are you wearing?  Who is around you?  What have you earned financially (and emotionally)?  Remember, there are no right or wrong answers so dream as big and as detailed as possible.

Next, work backwards: what will you have accomplished 6 months from today (by June 30st 2017)?  Where are you?  Who do you associate with?  What have you earned financially and emotionally by this time?

Continue asking yourself these questions for 3 months (or March 31st), 1 month (or February 9th) and 2 weeks (or January 23rd) from now.

Lastly, read out loud what you’ve written, reading backwards of course!  Start with your achievements in 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year.  Might I also advise to read these goals backwards (AND forwards for extra points) everyday to keep yourself focused, motivated and persistent. I hope these goals showcase a productive and successful 2017!

Street Art Performance Sparkles to Engage Melbourne Community

“This counts as my exercise for today.”
“What is that creature?”
“Where is that sound coming from?”
“How did the city manage to close the streets?
“Where will this show take us throughout the city?”

These were just a few interesting remarks I overheard last night while attending Les Tambour De Feu, presented as part of the Melbourne Festival.  This free street art event takes its audience on a musical and spectacle performance around a small parameter of Melbourne’s CBD.  The ensemble of 7 performers (six drummers and a ram mascot) leads the crowd (last night, I would guess there were 500 in attendance) through Melbourne’s streets performing stret art inspired by a Spanish folklore about a devil character visiting the earth for a day.  Their greatest niche is their use of pyrotechnic instruments illuminating the night and guiding the prcession. 

I found most valuable about the performance was the gift this troupe provided the community.

Many times, people present the benefits of the arts to argue why the arts should continue being funded by the community, either by the government or by private donors.  Most of the arguments list the following benefits:

  • The arts enhance a child’s scores in government regulated tests
  • The arts affect other industries, i.e. the food & beverage industry
  • The arts provide health benefits by offering a relief from stress.

However, why don’t we focus by simplifying the more relevant benefits from the arts?  For example, performances like Les Tambour De Feu, street art, offer the following benefits to their audiences:

  • Makes life fun! – How many of us go home from an 8-hour work-day to stay hibernated in our homes glued to the TV?  Performances like Les Tambour De Feu offer its audience an opportunity to change their routine.  Additionally, Les Tambour evoked a smile on many audience members’ face because it was visually appealing.  There was fire pyrotechnics, a large iron-clad creature leading the performance, who also chased audience members as it changed its walking path.  Best moment occurred when the performance began to walk down Flinders Street and people noticed a tram coming towards the procession. I began to wonder: will the tram stop for us?  What?!  It was undeniable that the audience had FUN experiencing art!
  • Brings community together – One of the main purposes for street art is to be accessible to all.  By not confining the audience behind four walls of a building, street art utilizes open spaces to encourage dedicated watchers and those passing by to watch with curiosity.  Suddenly, people find common ground, common interest.  I’d also like to note that, in my observation, I would guarantee that 90% of those who attended last night’s performance didn’t realize they were actually witnessing art. 
  • Peaks our curiosity – What I found REALLY exciting to observe as I followed Les Tambours around the Melbourne streets was seeing the reactions from individuals who were inside bars and restaurants along the performance route.  Many people stopped eating or drinking to investigate the source of the sound and why a crowd was parading behind this musical troupe.  It was exhilarating to see how art, in this format, allowed people to be curious and then investigate their curiosty.

I absolutely loved Les Tambours at the Melbourne Festival.  I am so grateful to have witnessed the power art has on the community, and being reassured that the arts is valued by the community.  I now challenge myself with the question: Does the arts reciprocate by valuing its community?  Or are we so focused on increasing ‘bums on seats” we’ve isolated ourselves from who really matters?  Stay tuned for my answer…

For more information on the Melbourne Festival, please visit www.festival.melbourne

REVIEW: For a Good Time, Call the Cosmonaut

What would it be like to create, perform and sell multiple events in a single festival?  For some creatives, detailing multiple projects can seem near impossible to perfect.  But for Ryan Good, a US performer and writer, Melbourne Fringe is celebrating his multiple artistic capabilities.

Using the stage as a platform to address socially taboo topics – like sex, sexism, gender inequality and absurdities in all of these – Good is creator and performer of COSMONAUT, which relives Cosmopolitan Magazine’s worst sex tips ever written. 

After a long exposition that seems to warm up the audience to all of Good’s expected quirky performance antics, Goode finally counts down the top 10 sex tips, making sure to demonstrate the ridiculousness of each tip.   I found myself hysterically laughing and making the most cringe-forming facial expressions all at once. 

What I appreciated the most was the informative section of the performance.   Did you know that Cosmopolitan Magazine was once a socially sophisticated reference to worldly news and social events?  Neither did I!  But the magazine rebranded itself in the 1960s to become a magazine for women: providing how-to articles on pleasing a man, keeping up the womanly image while looking after the family, cooking tips for quality meals at home and advertising house cleaning products.

Around this brief moment in history lesson, Good has total fun on stage!  Everything from his costume, which is vibrantly silly and provoking for laughter, to his original poor musical segments on the ukulele and his weaving random interactions with an audience member who is invited to sit on stage throughout the entire performance.

Good closes his hysterical performance by bringing out his sensitive side: he admits he addresses this ridiculousness as an educational lesson for the most important woman in his life, his 1-year-old daughter.  He hopes to not mess up her life as much as he might have ruined his by trying some this awful sex tips.

I lift a glass…er, my beer can…to toast Ryan Good for a romping good performance in COSMONAUT.

COSMONAUT continues to perform at Arts House in North Melbourne at 8PM until October 1st.  For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.

REVIEW: BOMB COLLAR Sets Off a Crowd Pleasing Performance

If I could take liberty to imagine the Hunger Games spread all over the world, and not just selected individuals represented tribes everywhere but tribes recruited individuals to form military regimes, this might be our future in about 50 years time.  Now, like many military perks between battles, entertainers come to give relief to military men and women after battle.  But in this case, this entertainer has to choose whether to live or die from his performance.

This extreme scenario is the background of BOMB COLLAR – a futuristic story about a treasured electro-pop performer fighting for his life through performance. 

Now, stretch your imagination because these circumstances seems far fetched, but giving into the temporary reality allows audience members to enjoy this wonderfully simple and unique performance by singer/musician Nick Delatovic..

Delatovic does push to please the audience; after all his life depends on it because there is a unique device around his neck representing a bomb.  As a peace offering, he distributes ‘happy medicine’ that allegedly soothes away the stress from the day’s battle.  Not to worry, it’s really just a jellybean J

Delatovic has genuinely quality vocal chops!  His catchy back-beats, amplified from a small speaker strapped to his chest, compliment these vocal abilities and add to the great performance.  It can be easy to compare his music to that of 80s pop sounds and Morrisey.

The small space within the Parlous Room of Arts House (or North Melbourne Townhall) works well to create a pleasant and intimate Fringe experience.

It's great to see a music performance like BOMB COLLAR within a theatre space.  For it reminds audiences that no matter what art form is expressed, they are willing to please the crowd through life or death.

BOMB COLLAR performs are at 6:30PM at Arts House in North Melbourne until September 23rd. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.

Get Ready for Melbourne Fringe Festival!

I am sooo excited!  This week one of my favourite Melbourne annual festivals begins: Melbourne Fringe Festival!  With events showcasing visual, performing and conceptual art forms, Melbourne Fringe celebrates its 34th year in recognising that art is for everyone!

This year’s program covers an array of events over three weeks (September 15th through October 2nd).  And to help patrons overcome any anxiety when trying to decide what to see at the festival , Fringe has created a Fortune Teller: a devise that, using algorithms, helps narrow down options based on keyword searches.  For example, if interested in seeing something with drama, clowning and singing, the Fortune Teller can recommend three or more events.

But if you are looking for some personal suggestions by a true professional (I don’t mean to boast, but I DO know good events…HA!) here are my top 10 picks for what I’m looking forward to seeing at Melbourne Fringe:

1.)  Menage – designed for an audience of two, patrons are given an opportunity to look inside the life of a sex worker.  I expect this show to be confronting, full of taboo but will also draw empathy for an industry I know very little about, minus stereotypical assumptions.  Menage sounds like it’s going to be personal, intriguing and a GREAT conversation starter!  Tickets have been selling fast already with many time slots already sold out.  That tells me that if interested, you better get your tickets FAST!

2.)  Echoes – I was honoured to have seen this show at the 2015 Adelaide Fringe Festival, and this story has stuck in my mind since.  Two women from different walks of life share the stage to tell their personal experiences in following their faith or choosing their own path.  The best part was discovering similarities between two very different religions and their time periods.  Heartbreaking, poetic and definitely a conversation worth presenting, I look forward to seeing ECHOES again because every audience brings something new to the experience!

3.)  Buried at Sea – When a writer digs deep into telling the story of Gallipoli, a personal one at best through his Great-Great Uncle, the line between reality and fiction starts to blur.  I believe any performance involving remembering the brave men who sacrificed for our freedoms in Gallipoli, and honouring our relatives, is well deserving of sold out performances.  As a fan of the television series, Who Do You Think You Are, I hope this show reveals how strong our ancestry ties are.

4.)  Déjà vu – Ever catch yourself reliving moments from a recent dream? Whoa! This sounds like a show that explores just that.  Best part is the performer herself, Andi Snelling.  I am confident that Snelling will draw from her own silly experiences leaving you charmed and sore in the stomach from laughter.  I was honoured to catch Snelling’s 2015 Melbourne Fringe show #DearDiary which highlighted personal entries throughout her childhood.  It was hilarious, touching and engaging, and I am really not expecting anything less this year.  As a Fringe veteran, Snelling knows how to please her audiences.

5.)  World War T – Oh the dreaded possibility!  Word War T will explore a potential future where the greatest president to ever have graced our world is President Donald Trump!  Personally, I have been glued to American politics all year, as I am sure many have been too, praying for family and friends to make the best decision for their future.  And I am NOT convinced Trump would be their best hope.  I like to think I am an open-minded individual, so I am hoping the show may reveal something I am missing about Trump; I mean, is he really as bad a guy as I think he is?  Actually, I really hope this show makes Trump look like the idiot he truly is!

6.)  Bomb Collar – Could it be?  An Actual bomb strapped on a collar?  The urgency seems real.  Will this performer beat the clock to give his audience a rocking show?  Time to find out.  Plus, I think this show will bring together sci-fi fans and electro-pop music followers to a kick-ass show.  I’m looking forward to this rocking performance!

7.)  ZOOM – Improv?  I’m in!  I love improv, and this show promises to deliver an original form filled with imagery created through narration.  According to its program description, this form of improv, best described as Birdman for the stage, has been performed in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Paris, Berlin and Wellington – so let’s see what makes this form of improv so different and compelling.  Go!

8.)  Stupid and Contagious – Think of the best concert event you’ve ever experienced.  Now, help these performers recreate it!  Inviting audiences to help create the most epic rock concert experience, I expect Stupid and Contagious to blow the roof off the house every performance!  Sure, these standards sound high, but if I’m going to get involved in the show, I refuse to lower the bar.  My best rock concert experience?  The Killers in New York City – GO!

9.)  Cosmonaut – As a former reader of Cosmopolitan magazine (admit it, you were once a reader too!), I am dying to see someone select and reveal the worst sex tips.  Performer, Ryan Good has performed this show at both Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals to stellar reviews.  To me, this sounds like the ultimate hen’s night out!  I only wish I knew someone who was about to get hitched.

10.)  Blank Tiles – As its program description reveals, Austin is a former SCRABBLE world champion with memory loss.  Sounds quirky, touching and heartbreaking!  I gather from the hero image that this performer will showcase amazing character work; and if the reviews from Adelaide Fringe reveal anything, the writing is supposedly very good.  I’m looking forward to seeing this sweet, feel-good story and hope that it becomes a performance that draws newbies to theatre to the Fringe! 

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit The Melbourne Fringe website.

Four Tips to Promoting Your Festival or Curated Event

To many artists (visual or performing), perfecting every element for a showpiece as part of participation in a curated event or festival can seem overwhelming.  Often times, artists strictly rely on the curator or festival team to handle the execution of a marketing campaign – at least your event is in the program brochure, right?  WRONG!  I can assure you, it is NOT enough to rely on a curator or a festival team to drawl a crowd to your show.  The reality is, with hundreds of events and participants involved in creating a successful festival or curated event, there is just not enough time or energy to dedicate to the promotion of every participant. 

So, what can participants do to increase their chances in attracting an audience to their curated or festival event?  While, like life itself, marketing strategies have no guarantees, here are four strong suggestions artists should to consider in order to secure more bums on seats:

1.)  Set goals

Goal setting is another way of making a commitment to yourself and your team.  Start goal setting by asking why your show is a participant in the specific event.  Every festival or curated opportunity carries its own benefits to its participants.  For example, as massive and widely popular as Edinburgh Fringe Festival is, it offers artists a chance to expand their brand into international audience members.  Understanding the reason for your involvement will help set a clear goal for your experience, and thus specify your marketing strategy.

Once you know the ‘why,’ then list at least three specific goals you wish to achieve during your participation.  Remember to be specific and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) your goals J

2.)  Identify your audience

Believing that everyone will want to come see your show makes you quite naïve and counterproductive to a successful experience.  After all, every person has specific likes and dislikes to everything.  But knowing who and how to target a unique audience can help filter good audience members from bad ones.  After asking yourself, ‘who would ideally come to the show?’ imagine an ideal audience member (or several).  Describe as much about he/she/both as possible about them: their age, gender (if identified by one), occupation, income earning, everyday interests and likes, informed reading sources, places frequently visited, etc.  The more specific you can be about your ideal audience member, the more clues you will have to guide you towards where and how to send marketing materials. 

3.)  Develop and practice your pitch

Do you what to say to convince people to attend your show?  Creating and practicing several styles to pitching can help you promote your show tremendously. The art to pitching is seamlessly applying it into every conversation.

A good way to start developing your pitch is identify and using ‘tag’ words or labels to describe your show.  Identify what kind of event yours is: is your show a comedy, drama, musical, cabaret, visual arts exhibition, art installation, or other?  Then identify what element(s) makes your show unique – maybe it’s the ensemble cast, a character, a known performer’s participation, other art forms being used, etc.  Next, incorporate a brief synopsis and the unique element(s) about the show into your pitch.  Finally, knowing how to describe your event to both an artist patron (someone who frequently attends the arts) and a non-artist patron (someone who has never attended an arts event EVER) is key! 

4.)  Develop relationships/partnerships

Friends and family are a great start to recruiting others who can advocate for your show.  Make sure to inform them with as many tools to use in their advocacy as possible: posters, postcards, social media posts (including hashtags, pictures or video), a clear pitch to use in conversations, etc.  The more info you supply, the more comfortable they will feel to help out.

Another partnership you can potentially rely on are your fellow venue participants.  Approach creators of the show(s) before and after yours offering them an alliance to promote one another throughout the festival.  If you can incorporate into your show run, a friendly announcement at the end of your giving thanks to those who attended and them recommending other shows is always helpful to your audience members.  Promote your fellow venue participants then!

While these are only a few suggestions to consider when designing a marketing strategy for your festival or curated event, it is important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers to marketing.  What’s most important is that effort is being made in order to increase your chances of securing bums on seats.  

Lessons Taken from ‘How Creatives Really Make a Living’

How exactly does a creative make a living? This seems to be the burning question on every creative mind since mid-2015 when the Abbot government, thank you George Brandis, decided to cut over $104 million out of arts funding. A reoccurring theme in many arts related publications, online forums and online arts sources, sustaining ones artistic practice has now lead to panic within the thousands of independent creative around Australia.

A collaborative presentation coordinated be General Assembly and Arts Hub on the very topic How Creatives Really Make a Living was held Tuesday, 1st June in Melbourne. A free event for creatives of all mediums, the room was packed – even leaving some standing on the side-lines.  All were eager to hear simple solutions to common frustrations to business sustainability.

Moderated by Arts Hub Deputy Editor, Madeline Dore, four panellists, highly regarded within their profession, summarised their discoveries about what it take to make a living as a creative. These panellists included Sara Toby (Just Another Agency), Tom Blachford (Freelance photographer), Honor Eastly (independent art maker and podcast announcer) and David Read (co-Creator of Melbourne Cabaret Festival). Below, I list five key points that I took away from the presentation:

Sustaining a career in the creatives requires patience

Expect to work long hours, feel overwhelmed and face many challenges. But also knowing why you do what you do will keep you motivated. Having your main objective as a creative is to make money won’t keep you in the game for very long. Go deeper as to why you consider yourself a creative. Is it the freedom to be your own boss? To support your travel dreams? To serve others? Whatever the reason may be, keep in mind that being a creative is more like a marathon and less like a sprint. The competition is high and the money is low, so go in with a positive and healthy attitude.

Quoting your work impacts more than you

Valuing yourself, your arts practice and your skills impact the way you shape your rates – how much you think a client should pay for your labour and work. However, a waterfall effect is currently trending where young skilled creatives enter the freelance market without knowledge of the average rates and are winning bids because of their lower rates. The question was asked of the panellists how do creatives overcome this impactful obstacle? Is it more education to the newbies or more education to the general community? Passionately, the discussion concluded on the fact that social change is needed but that will take time. Until then, there needs to be more resources for positive empowerment for artists, and a first step is to do the research within your industry about the average rates for your skills.

Friends are key

Especially when you are starting out. Or even if you are a veteran in the creatives scene, developing long-term relationships has many benefits. A major benefit is developing a barter system of skills to enhance your business. For example, trade your skills in graphic design with a photographer friend who needs a logo for their photography website in exchange for stockphotos for future jobs. That way you are helping a friend in need AND building your portfolio to show future clients.

Weigh you opportunities as ‘Exposure’ vs. ‘business exchange’

As a creative, especially young in your business, it is important to take every opportunity as it approaches. However, as your skills develop and interests starts peaking, know when the incoming jobs are reasons of exposure and reasons of business. In a heated debate between panellists Tom and Sara Toby, one creative says that you should never give away your skills for free. Another says go into an creative business knowingly and willingly to give most of your services for free. Because free services means exposure.   My conclusion: find an active balance between the two: know what from your business is coming in as paid services and what is free for exposure.

Find inspiration from everywhere

This too emphasises the importance of balance: balance of life. Though it is highly important to stay focused on your work, maintaining a healthy and active social life can add inspiration to your business. Expose yourself to other industries, artistic mediums, adventures, etc. as a way to keep yourself sane, motivated and, for lack of a better term, focused.

These were just five factors I took away from the incredibly inspiring night thanks to General Assembly and Arts Hub. Please leave a comment below to add to any ideas that stuck with you!

Ain’t Even Illness Stands in the Way of MICF Week Three! Highlights of My Experiences

I feel like it is tradition to experience during the third week of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival physical and mental obstacles. Overcoming these minor obstacles may be challenging but, like Wednesdays, getting over the hump ensures a smooth upcoming finish. This week, I found myself trying to recover from illness – a small cold inflicted on my immune system from a busy schedule and limited opportunities to sleep between work and entertainment. Regardless, I was able to see 11 more delightful performances showcased at MICF.

Tuesday, April 5th

Susie Youssef CHECK YOUSSEF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOUSSEF

A surprising an opening act! Telling tales of auditions gone awry! Susie Youssef used the MICF platform to remind her audience how versatile a comedienne she really is. Standing a mere 5 feet and some-odd-inches, Youssef is a sassy and ingenious improv warrior who captures every detail.

Thursday, April 7th

Steen Raskapoaulos YOU KNOW THE DRILL

Expect slick sketch comedy ranging from drill sergeants to retired doctors. Raskapoaulos presents a fast paced action packed show with lots of audience participation and call backs to earlier scenes throughout. A great example of sketch comedy that is spectacularly fun!

Friday, April 8th

Matt Stewart & Andy Matthews LOGISTICAL NIGHTMARE

When a sweet television gig up in Sydney beckons, you just can’t say no. But try coordinating with your comedy partner a time to write for an upcoming show it smells trouble. Matt and Andy did the best they could to put together a last-minute collaboration together for MICF; however, the proof was in the pudding. Their saving grace was showcasing their individual talents – Matt, a great conversationalist comedian; Andy a superb comedy writer.

Markus Birdman FAUSTUS

Paraphrasing a classic story like Faustus – a story about a man selling his soul to the devil in exchange for success – Birdman parallels his personal experiences (facing divorce, being a single dad, Britishisms) to that of the main character. Birdman ensures he enjoys being a comedian and will do it on his own terms.

Andy Matthews PLENTY

Proving to be a master storyteller, Andy Matthews presents one of his own fictional stories set to the background music of Mitch Berk. Those who enjoy stories like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would dig Matthews’ science-fiction storytelling. Andy is an intellectual comedian who struggles

Saturday, April 9th

POLICE COPS

By starting their performance 15minutes late under a disingenuous excuse of a broken hand, Police Cops started on my bad side.   A parody of late 1970’s or early 1980’s cop television shows, Police Cops involved three young performers with bad accents, high levels of vanity and cheap jokers. It seemed that these guys are more talented as dancers than comedians as most of the staging and directing moved along creatively smooth. Overall, it was an insult to the audience.

YETI’S DEMON DIVE BAR

Come to MICF’s most raucous, quirky and delightful cabaret/variety show, Yeti’s Demon Dive Bar! An uproarious freakshow variety hour filled with quirky characters, original musical numbers and spontaneous audience interaction, Yeti’s characters are brought to life by the masterminds of  Jennifer Byrne and Victoria Falconer-Pritchard. These two obviously LOVE to play with their audience to ensure patrons get their monies worth; I can’t wait to see more from this high-energy comic duo!

Ben Russell and Xavier Michelides NO SHOW

As the audience walks into the space, two performers are found on stage preparing for their show though vocal and body warm ups. They then leap into a twisted story narrative of two performers on stage… in front of no audience. But the show must go on before one of them gets upset. Filled with laugh-out-loud zany antics, most memorable moment is the “clap” performance that breaks out into the song “Big Yellow Taxi.” For a late night show, this duo will revive you of your energy.

Sunday, April 10th

Tom Ballard BOUNDLESS PLAINS TO SHARE

Whoever said comedians only do funny. Well, I hate to inform ya but you are WRONG! And to prove it, do yourself a favour by seeing Tom Ballard’s Boundless Plains to Share. Smartly using a unique platform like MICF to raise awareness on the great immigration debate, Tom Ballard presents a most compelling argument that there is no easy way to solve the immigration problem, but there certainly is much we can do to promote change. Ballard’s presentation doesn’t sensationalise anything as he argues both sides of the spectrum; yet he is able to remind us that throughout Australia’s history we have not been upholding our national anthem’s lyrics.

Anne Edmonds THAT’S EDDOTAINMENT

Anne Edmonds is my kind of female comic! Her crass style of comedy is delightful! Setting her intentions to turning her audience into her new friends, she tells her raunchiest jokes first, to get them out of the way. Latecomers and unsettling punters be warned: Edmonds calls out every distraction from the audience as it happens. These distractions throw her off track from storytelling and she does not appreciate it!

Snort WITH FRIENDS

It’s the battle of all comic battles – honouring the traditional rivalry between Australia and New Zealand! New Zealand’s beloved improv troupe SNORT challenged Australia’s roaring Bear Pack to compete for the coveted title of best improv troupe in the Pacific waters. Who came out on top? EVERYONE! An ingenious showcase of talent, teamwork and creative rivalry it was a joy to watch these comics work together to creative such a beautiful supportive environment. Another battle is rumoured to be scheduled soon – be on the look out!

Review: Week Two of The Melbourne International Comedy Festival

My second week of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival brought more joy, more laughter, a wider range of performance styles and presented more opportunities for me to engage with talent after shows. Once again, I am summing up each of my experiences in 160 characters or less to give you some insight as to what you should book now before it sells out and what you can consider holding off from seeing until next year.

Wednesday, March 30th

Felicity Ward WHAT IF THERE IS NO TOILET?

Felicity Ward sets the stage on fire with high energy and a conversational approach to comedy. It’s like talking to your best girl friend, gossiping about life’s most embarrassing yet troublesome moments. One of the best female comediennes in the biz, Ward is a trail blazer for Australian comics!

Jonestown HAPPY CAMPERS

Going on an imaginary camping trip with scoutmasters Sara and Nick is a delightful demonstration of Jonestown’s comedic chemistry as a duo. Enhanced by audience participation where the scoutmasters protect you from going too far (remember, it’s only make-believe) Happy Campers is a fun, campy show for all ages.

Thursday, March 31st

Hamish Parkinson FLY OR DIE

Placing the comedy literally at the audience’s feet, Hamish Parkinson is a fearlessly absurd comedian that shows that he enjoys what he is doing. Like his title states, Fly or Die, Hamish presents a show that commands the audience to either jump into the act or be pushed. Oddly hilarious and incredibly clever!

BUTT KAPINSKI

Involve yourself in the art of storytelling with the gentle guide of Butt Kapinski. From the director of Red Bastard, (MICF 2014), Butt Kapinski asks its audience to pay homage to the genre Film Noir by representing the characters in the story and adding spontaneous hilarity throughout the plot. A unique and wonderous experience if you allow yourself to be open, be free and be involved

Michael Burgos THE EULOGY

For a break away from traditional stand-up or sketch comedy, EULOGY is a theatrical experience crossing multiple art-forms of dance, poetry, music and character impressions. Examining the quirky human behaviour during one of life’s gloomiest moments, EULOGY is MICF’s most endearing comedy event.

Friday, April 1st

DINOSAUR PARK (THE JURASSIC PARODY)

A tribute to the 1993 classic film, Jurassic Park, Dinosaur Park showcases it’s three talented performers re-enacting the film’s iconic scenes in sequence with low-budget imagination and innovation. Simple yet charming and funny, certainly satisfies one’s appetite for quality entertainment.

Rama Nicholas MARY WEATHER’S MONSTER

Shake up your MICF experience by traveling back in time to the late 1800s. Witness Mary Weather’s Monsters for its grand complex storytelling and character work. A theatrical period piece that shines as bright as it’s performer Ramas Nicholas!

Saturday, April 2nd

Dave Thornton SO ON AND SO FORTH

Generic, bland and a few original punchlines. Dave Thornton caters to those interested in traditional stand-up but without much individuality. #sorrynotsorry

Neal Portenza NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA NEAL PORTENZA. TRACEY.

To sum up the genius creativity of Neal Portenza is to say ‘risking it all, literally, for a barrel of laughs!’ Fearless, off-the-cusp and entertaining at every moment, this show sucks in its audience and spits them out leaving them wanting more. Book your ticket(s) NOW!!!

Sunday, April 3rd

THE MIGHTY LITTLE PUPPET SHOW

Improv has its risky side – as discovered during a performance of The Mighty Little Puppet Show! Warning: though generally a very family-friendly show, The Ritas cannot control everything. Regardless, laughs filled the room!

Juan Vesuvius CALYPSO NIGHT: JUAN, TWO?

Combining DJ-ing skills with physical comedy antics, Juan Vasuvius presents an educational and odd-ball look at the art of mash-ups. For a good time, be prepared to laugh, learn about Caribbean Island history and music development and become a part of the antics.

For more information, or to book tickets to The Melbourne International Comedy Festival, visit www.comedyfestival.com.au.

Twelve Shows in the First Week of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Not Bad!

My first week of Melbourne’s International Comedy Festival was everything I was hoping it would be: busy, funny and anticipating more. I’ve seen some really great performances of all kinds of formats in various venues throughout the city amongst hundreds of audience members. In an attempt to get right to the point AND provide you with quality reviews of each comic, here is a look at my week at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in roughly 160 characters or less:

Wednesday, 23rd March:

Claire Healy A LITTLE TOO MUCH INFORMATION

In this quaint cabaret performance, Healy demonstrates how much she enjoys being a triple threat: a superb singer, songwriter and piano player. Filled with quirky songs, lyrics and facial expressions, A Little Too Much Information is Healy’s way of allowing her audience to quickly get to know her and vice versa. Be prepared to share! Because it’s fun!

Eileen Williams IRRELEVANT

A theatrical performance that reminds us how not too long ago the value of women was not relevant to a man’s society. Producing laughter from an uncomfortable state of being, IRRELEVANT reminds us how far we’ve come in te fight for equal influence but how much further there still is to come.

Gillian Cosgriff TO THE MOON AND BACK

Cosgriff combines pop-cabaret and comedy with space exploration and thoughts of marriage for a hilariously adorable comedic performance. Bonus: her on-stage costume change is brilliantly smooth and magical! Can’t wait to see more!

Thursday, March 24th

Victoria Healy THE VICK VAN DYKE SHOW

Hard not to like Healy – natural stage presence, down-to-earth comic. Comes with lanky limbs and great facial expressions. Personal fave, and a must see to know who next gen of Aussie comics are.

Mae Martin US

Nothing out of the ordinary from Mae Martin’s set, except her struggles to cope with an untimely bout of sickness. Truly professional, Martin delivers a smoothly structured performance that has broad appeal to many and contains a slightly political message. Filled with stories and anecdotes about her friends’ and family’s reaction to life situations Martin gains laughs by impersonating the people she loves.

Friday, March 25th

Igor Meerson HOU I LERNT INGLISH

Expecting secrets to Putin’s political agendas or insight into daily Russian life will leave you disappointed. Instead, Meerson stretches himself by performing his very first English set and has graciously brought it to Melbourne. This underdog wins with a humble performance and crackling observations about language barriers.!

Nish Kumar LONG WORD…LONG WORD…BLAH BLAH BLAH…I’M SO CLEVER

A hilarious critically acclaimed self-deprecating comedian who is cleverer than actual audience numbers give him credit! His clever point-of-view on life’s most trivial issues, like boasting strong opinions regarding the next Bond actor/songwriter, is a riot! Quality comedy at its best!

Saturday, March 26th

LESSONS WITH LUIS

Commitment to such comic character development leaves you wondering, Is this guy for real? If so, two words sum up this performance: utter genius! Lessons with Luis combines educational entertainment with simple and funny special effects. Brought me back to my childhood watching the American hit kids show, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Kate Dehnert SHABAMALAM

Dehnert gives her audience LOTS of energy. A set that is morphs from traditional stand up to a schizophrenic dialogue between two characters trapped inside Dehnert’s head, I later found out her performance is an homage to British TV show The Mighty Boosh. Good to keep in mind.

Laura Davis MARCO. POLO.

Returning as a winner of MICF’s 2015 Golden Gibbo Award, Davis makes sure not to let celebrity-ism get the best of her. Using a quirky set and costume choice where she covers her eyes and raises herself on a ladder, Davis moves around the stage without guidance in order to demonstrate her independence. Topically different from last year, but similarly clever in design. One to continually watch in the future!

Sunday, March 27th

Alice Fraser THE RESISTANCE

Endearing, wholesome and catchy original songs makes Fraser’s comedic set so likeable. Taught by people who surrounded her while growing up, she gives back by bringing the joy of laughter to many in her comedy.

Sam Simmons NOT A PEOPLE PERSON

Prop comic genius! A no-holds-barred comic master commands his stage, his audience and more in this raw, side-splitting comedic performance. Multi-award winning comic for a reason, but he doesn’t let the awards stifle his creativity.

Fun Facts About the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

This week marks the beginning of the 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.  In honour of its 30th year celebration, I would like to present a top 10 list of interesting and fun facts. Did you know any of these interesting facts?  And feel free to add more in the comments below.

Top 10 Fun Facts about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival

  1. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival is the third largest comedy festival in the world behind the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival.
  2. MICF started in 1987 by John Pinder, Barry Humphries and Peter Cook featuring 56 separate shows.
  3. Rod Quantock is the only comedian to perform at all 30 Melbourne International Comedy Festivals.
  4. This year, there are over 130 venues across Melbourne hosting performances during the festival.
  5. The average ticket price for a show at MCIF is $24
  6. The Melbourne Town Hall became the festival’s hub in 1990. In its early years, most performances occured at either the Fitzroy’s Universal Theatre and Melbourne’s historical Anthenaeum Theatre.
  7. In 2010, with an attendance of 508,000 and earning a revenue of AUD$10.9 million the Melbourne International Comedy Festival was ranked as Australia’s largest cultural event.
  8. MICF has a strong reputation amongst comedians/performers as a festival where playing is encouraged. British journalist, Simon Fanshawe says, “ [MICF is] the most relaxed, least fevered and probably the most audience friendly of all the festivals.”
  9. Australian comedian, Josh Thomas is the youngest winner at the age of 17 to have won the MICF Raw Comedy Competition in 2005.
  10. Since 1988, cartoonist Michael Leunig has designed the artwork for the festival program and other advertising materials.

Wishing all the talent involved in MICF a great run! Looking forward to seeing some great acts.

For more information about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, or to purchase tickets please visit www.comedyfestival.com.au.

Review: Black Hole Theatre Demonstrates the Intelligent Use of Puppetry in Contemporary Theatre Through BLIND

As part of the Festival of Light and Art, the brilliant collaboration between Black Hole Theatre, Duda Paiva Company and Theatre Works properly illuminates the heart and soul of its audience in the astounding performance of BLIND.

BLIND uses dance, puppetry and music to tell the tale of a boy struggling to cure his disabling eyesight and body ailments. We enter the story at the moment right before Paiva visits his latest doctor, a spirit healer. As the audience enters the theatre space, Paiva, in character, sits amongst the crowd and holds natural conversations with those seated around him.   As the lighting cue signals to the performer to begin, Paiva raises his voice to make light of the fact that he is conversing with those around him. He asks questions like what are their ailments, have they seen this doctor before and opens up about his previous experiences with other doctors. His neighbours, and the rest of the audience, begin to feel a deep empathy – this is someone who has clearly suffered so much from doctors poking and prodding and misleading to unsuccessful remedies. And then the tone shifts as Paiva steps deeper on stage and into the story – he sets up a playful tone by deepening his audience interaction, which opens us up to the playfulness of his storytelling.

The stage reveals a simple design of multiple pulley-system ropes suspended from the ceiling to the floor. Three white bodice skirts are sprawled on the stage and placed to look like lampshades. Paiva majestically moves around the stage exploring, picking at the ropes and before we notice, the ropes move with the performer to change the perspective of the stage. Music cues and lighting shifts add to these magical set changes, solidifying a clever transition from moment to moment.

April with Duda Paiva and one of his magical puppets.

April with Duda Paiva and one of his magical puppets.

And like most puppet shows, magic fills the air as the audience is introduced to each puppet character. Their reveal occurs within a blink of the eye – the spirit healer appears from one of the lampshades; three mythical puppet creatures appear from growths released from within the performer. Each puppet has its own spirit, exposed through its movement, facial expressions and vocal intonations. All of these traits are operated by the masterful puppeteer and performer.

It was a like savouring the icing on a cake when, after his final bow, Paiva invites his audience to explore the puppets on stage. Without hesitation, the eager audience accepts the invitation and the stage is flooded with bewildered and curious individuals. I quickly discovered the unique material used to create the puppets: padding foam. When asked by an audience member how he makes the puppets, Paiva laughs and says, “A blob of foam, scissors and a lot of patience.”

What any audience member can appreciate about BLIND is the fact that one does not have to understand the abstract storyline behind the performance in order to enjoy the show. BLIND is a show that gives its audience the gift of experiencing puppetry at its most intelligent form. And staying true to the company’s commitment, Black Hole Theatre once again proves that puppetry is powerful force used in contemporary theatre.

BLIND performs 8th – 19th March as part of the Festival of Light and Art at Theatre Works in St. Kilda.  For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.blackholetheatre.com.au.

Upcoming Opportunities to Support Independent Artists

Did you know there are some AMAZING opportunities to support independent Australian artists currently going on? To send you some inspiration on what to do this week and beyond, here’s a breakdown of what I am looking forward to:

Tuesday, 8th March: Continuing the Festival of Light and Art, Theatre Works, Black Hole Theatre and Duda Pavia Company present an Australian premier of BLIND. This solo work from internationally renowned dancer/puppeteer Duda Pavia showcases a rich theatrical tapestry of a dance, puppetry, audience interaction, sound and light creating a funny, moving and powerful performance. BLIND sheds light on childhood experiences of a young boy suffering an undiagnosed debilitating illness that renders him temporarily blind, and surprising discoveries throughout his search for healing.

Thursday thru Monday, 10th – 14th March: In its final weekend of performances, the Adelaide Fringe Festival has been bringing life to the small town for the past three weeks. During my first visit, I have packed my weekend to see three to four performances a night including theatre, cabaret, comedy, circus, and magic. During the light hours, I will be making my way to visiting visual exhibitions and participating in interactive events. Look out for reviews from all performances and events next week!

23rd March – 17th April: the Melbourne International Comedy Festival celebrates its 30th birthday by bringing
national and international comedians/comediennes together for a full three-weeks of golden entertainment. As one of the three largest festivals in Australia, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival keeps on expanding, and this year is no exception. With new venues, more late-night performances and comedy catered to anyone’s taste the festival will surely be a banging 30th birthday bash! Have you picked up your copy of the program yet? If not, get on it and start highlighting the shows that intrigue you!

So don’t wait! With so many opportunities to support Australian independent artists, I would hate for you to miss out. These artists look forward to entertaining you!

For more information about the Festival of Light and Art, visit www.fola.com.au.

For more information, or to purchase tickets to BLIND, visit www.theatreworks.org.au.

For more information, or to book tickets to the Adelaide Fringe Festival, visit www.adelaidefringefestival.com.au.

For more information, or to browse the Melbourne International Comedy Festival program, visit www.comedyfestival.com.au.

Review: Baker’s Dozen Theatre’s SOUL OF A WHORE

Last week I saw a production at Metanoia Theatre in Brunswick where I was introduced to a young theatre company, Baker’s Dozen Theatre. I was there to see the company’s latest production SOUL OF A WHORE, a story about an Evangelical Priest recently released from a Texas prison for fraud who captures the hearts of believers again by exorcising a Demon out of the souls of multiple locals. Like always, I was eager to meet new independent talent – i.e. directors, companies, actors, production crew – and anticipated the opportunity to be entertained by an ensemble of recent graduate performers. But like the old adage says, ‘too many bakers spoil the broth,’ I certainly left the theatre having experienced a bad broth.

SOUL OF A WHORE is a brew of poor storytelling choices. In the professionally designed program, Director, Robin Thomas says in is Director’s Notes, ‘I feel I have a responsibility to the actors and production team to allow them the opportunity to express themselves. Rather than impose my ideas onto them, I wish to encourage their passion and artistic capability.’ I have a problem with this choice from any director because, like any team (i.e sports, business, partnerships), one voice must hold the team accountable on a path that achieves a common goal.  Instead, this choice left me any others in the audience confused about the world these creators introduced to us.

The first blatantly poor choice was the set design – a bland space of baby-blue walls, a cut lateral picture window frame and an old rackety door. Downstage were tinier set pieces – a cigarette bin, a set of three chairs pushed together as a bench and an old telephone booth next to the door. Outside these bland walls there was no world, or at least a clear and distinguishable one painted by the actors’ imagination.

While mentioned, let’s discuss the actors’ performances. Poor. I couldn’t understand much of the stage activity because every performance was mostly done in anger and shouting tones. These were not portrayed as real people but charactuers. Dialogue between characters was so open to the audience that there were some moments it seemed they were breaking the fourth wall for no reason. Further more, I was left confused as to who was talking to whom, and what are they starring at on the ceiling?

Adding more fuel to this incoherent production, the costume choices were poorly conceptualised. I think it was because some choices were taken too literal while other not literal enough. An example of too literal choice was the elderly woman at the bus station. She was dressed all in black and looked like an Eastern European woman, not someone from Texas. I believe this choice was made solely in reference to the line within script saying (I’m paraphrasing) she looks to be dressed in black. Unfortunately, I was left confused about who this character was and why she had anything to do with the story.

An example of a costume choice not taken literally enough, was Priest, Bill Jenks. Firstly, for being just released from a Texas prison the Priest was too well-dressed and clean-shaven. Secondly, multiple characters made reference to his attire in the dialogue, specifically mentioning his checkered pants. Yet he stood dressed in nicely-pressed tan khakis. These poor choices made it difficult for me to believe the reality of the play.

I know I personally left the theatre confused, but there were others in the seats who quite enjoyed the performance. Some audience members chuckled at a few “funny” moments. It is difficult for me not guess that Baker’s Dozen Theatre currently have a strong friends and family audience base to lean on because I interpreted these laughs stemmed from the natural behavioural patterns of these performers and not from the actual storytelling itself.

Looking past these poor choices, SOUL OF A WHORE is a thought-provoking piece of writing. In my research of writer, Denis Johnson is a playwright known for long poetic verse plays – ones that can cover almost 200 pages in length. What I liked the most about Johnson’s writing were the interesting and conflicting themes presented throughout the story – good vs. evil, ego vs. reality, science vs. religion, spiritual healer vs. doctor, etc. However, I believe Baker’s Dozen Theatre did a major disservice to the play by having a sense of laziness in the preparation. I mean, Did anyone on the creative team research this production? Were the basic questions ever considered – what is the playwright saying by telling this story? Why, when the play could be set in any city/town/area in the world, would the playwright choose a small town enroute to Houston, Texas? I believe that if these questions were truly answered by all creative members involved, there would have been one less confused audience member.

If willing to sit through a student-attempted production, SOUL OF A WHORE will be your cup-of-tea.   If not, then I would recommend saving a Baker’s Dozen Theatre production in the next few years when the company finds their creative niche. Meantime, I hope the creative team treats this production as an educational opportunity to consider when it is appropriate to challenge themselves and when the challenge just isn’t worth it.

Highlights from Melbourne’s 2016 White Night

Who saw Melbourne White Night last Saturday?

I did! And I thought it was great. For those of you who don’t know about White Night (I recognise my international readers, HEY!), it is a 12-hour street festival that integrates art and architecture throughout the city. Visual artists are given the chance to display light and sound presentations on the inner and outer-walls of city buildings as a means to celebrate the city, its talented artists and the greater community. For those of you who went, what were some of your favourite features?

The National Gallery of Victoria’s exterior light show.

The National Gallery of Victoria’s exterior light show.

Circus acts like this silks performer lit up Carlton Gardens.

Circus acts like this silks performer lit up Carlton Gardens.

White Night is quickly becoming a popular tradition in Melbourne – it is one of the many festivals that punters eagerly anticipate. The most difficult part about White Night is managing the increasing growing crowds, leaving many to question when is the best time to attend the all-night event. In my experience, heading out around 11PM works best, for me. By 11PM, the early punters are beginning to disperse, finding their ways home, especially families carrying children along. Also by 11PM other early-bird punters are beginning to transition to the bars for a pick-me-up quencher. But bear in mind, when heading out at 11PM, plan on staying out until anytime between 3-5AM in order to see as much as you can – there is still a large crowd to manage so queues will be long.

Pirate mania from Scratch Warehouse performers.

Pirate mania from Scratch Warehouse performers.

Regardless when you make your way out to the event, what I noticed this year were some new additions to the celebration. I absolutely adored the circus performances that were scattered throughout Carlton Gardens. The silks performance was stunning and kept the attention of many when I was there. I also enjoyed bumping into many musical performances scattered down Swanston Street and side streets.

Alexandra Garden’s elegant dress display.

Alexandra Garden’s elegant dress display.

And then my eyes spirit really lit up when I saw Scratch Warehouse come down Swanston Street as a pirate ship. Performers from Scratch Warehouse dressed all in white garments, painted their faces white with black circles around their eyes and formed themselves into a skeletal design of a pirate ship. As I peered at the passing pirate ship, I found myself joyfully chuckling and appeased to see something different amongst the light shows on buildings and walls.

Did anyone catch those stunning dresses displayed in Alexandra Gardens? They were an elegant addition to the gardens. Set up like a fashion museum exhibition, these Victorian era dresses changed colours from green to purple to red to pink to white. Simply stunning!

AQUA VITAE on the Yarra River.

AQUA VITAE on the Yarra River.

My favourite presentation was the light display on the Yarra River between Birrung Marr and Alexandra Gardens. Designed on a geyser of water reaching for the sky, the team of Melbourne Water and Russell Goldsmith (Sound Designer and Composer) presented a light show that transitioned from forms, shapes and colours to the beat of mellow-transic music. It was certainly a beautiful wonder to witness.

The Golden Monkey recognises the year of the Monkey in Chinese culture.

The Golden Monkey recognises the year of the Monkey in Chinese culture.

Unfortunately, everybody is a critic. Some punters took to Twitter to rant about their personal disappointment regarding the lack of a light display at Flinders Street Station. I’m sure the White Night committee members had very good reasons to not display at Flinders Street Station, and, to be fair, there were MULTIPLE announcements on their Twitter feed and website clearly stating that Flinders Street would not be illuminated. What I wanted more of were presentations by independent performance companies – where are my dancers at? Where are my theatre makers at?

ACMI lights up along Flinders Street.

ACMI lights up along Flinders Street.

I hope the City of Melbourne continues bringing us White Night. It’s a great way to integrate both architecture and art during an all night street parade.

Review: POINT 8 SIX is on Point

Satirical. Metaphorical. Poignant. These characteristics blatantly sum up the main themes presented in POINT 8 SIX, playing at La Mama Theatre in Carlton. Most thrilling about this production is the opportunity to allow yourself to simply be entertained and delight in the brilliant performances on stage.

POINT 8 SIX is an absurdist farce set inside an experimental laboratory in the year 2142, where a passionate scientist conducts his latest research and development in human space and time travel. He operates his experiments by the use of robots… or maybe these characters were once humans who have been micro-chipped or re-programmed into computers… as each specimen travels back and forth in time and space to reveal how they connect to one another…or don’t connect to one another. To be quite honest, the character connections are revealed so quickly and through such complex plotting that I can only remember generalised details about each character: one characters serves as the rebellious instigator, another is the precious one whom is to be protected by everyone else, a German character is thrown into the mix, and an innocent buffoon unsuccessfully tries to keep it all together.

Sounds complex, right? Well, it is! Purposefully. Breaking the fourth wall, one of the characters asks the audience if they are confused. Answering yes would mean they are in sync with the story because even the characters are confused as to what is actually going on. Regardless, I believe the point of this production is to stick with the show and give into the world of imagination. Once I let go of trying to piece the plot together I was able to thoroughly enjoy the performance.

Two reasons to go see this delightful production is to 1.) fall in love with the characters; and 2.) lose yourself to a chaotic imaginative story. There are plenty of opportunities to laugh, love and think about the possible “what ifs” throughout this production; it’s a show suitable for everyone’s liking (minus children because of course language and complex issues). Under the direction of Kirsten von Bibra, the cast of six VCA graduates (Amy Jones, Brianagh Curran, Matt Furlani, Wim Wotherspoon, Adam Cass and Yvette de Ravin Turner) this creative team puts on a most entertaining show. I am most eager to follow the career paths of these talented actors, writers and director.

POINT 8 SIX closes this weekend, running until 21st February at La Mama Theatre in Carlton with performances on at 6:30PM Wednesday, 7:30Pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and 4PM on Sunday. Do yourself a favour and RUN to see this show!

For tickets and more information about POINT 8 SIX, please visit http://www.lamamatheatre.com.au.

A Challenge to Out-Grow The Tall Poppy Seed Syndrome

I think it is time for Australian’s to get over this ‘tall poppy seed’ syndrome!

Last week, the global arts community was hit hard by the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman (to name a few) after their loss from batting cancer. These two particular artists represent a generation of talented individuals who took their passion for expression and were successful at bringing in an income through it. And enjoyed the benefits of doing so. Bowie and Rickman are also described as ‘the last of working class art school students who could conquer the world.’ (Walesonline.co.uk)

Why is it that we celebrate artists at the most inconvenient times – at their deathbeds? History reveals that artists are most recognised for their works AFTER their untimely death. Van Gogh, for example, made pennies from his paintings throughout his life and died broke, but following his death his works grew to become worth millions of dollars, and gained admirers world-wide.

I was chatting to a friend the other day about what many Australians refer to as the ‘tall poppy seed’ syndrome – the act of spouting negative comments about a successful person. She informed me that this syndrome plays two important roles in Australian culture: 1) to keep the successful individual grounded; 2) to help the unsuccessful people feel like no one is better than they are. The latter sounds like an act of jealousy.

I then proceeded to ask my friend: are Australian A-list actors in block buster films also victims of this ‘tall poppy seed syndrome’? Furthermore, are AFL and cricket athletes victims to the syndrome? I was surprised hear her say NO.

There must be a double standard I am missing somewhere. Isn’t praising one’s work a way of celebrating successes with others? Congratulating someone on a recently successful moment isn’t saying anyone is less or better than anyone else; instead it is saying “We all have our moments to shine and right now is yours. Let’s recognise that!”

I like to put admiration for others in context like this: studies have shown that, in any line of work, employees do better at their job after being praised by their boss. We all work so hard at our jobs (whatever they may be): to keep food on the table, a roof over our heads, our children in line, and maintain a civilised behaviour. But Every once in awhile, wouldn’t it be nice to hear someone say “Hey! Job well done”? For a parent to receive praise from a teacher who reports how well their child is excelling in class would make them feel so good. Or an employee to be told by his/her boss after working long days for the last two weeks in order to complete the annual report, “Hey, great work on that report. Looks terrific!” It ultimately boils down to acceptance – knowing that the hard work has paid off.

Similarly, artists look to their audience members for acceptance and praise.   Artists need to know if their hard work on projects is paying off and worth their sacrifices. To an artist, knowing that their work has inspired one individual means their hard work at perfecting their artistic practice is paying off. Their work is being accepted; they are being accepted.

I’d like to challenge my readers to start approaching artists, especially your local lot, and offer up your praises. Let’s get over this ‘tall poppy seed’ syndrome and admire the art given to us now before it’s too late. Please share your admiration for an artist(s) in the comments section below – tell us why you admire that artist or what is it about that piece of art that you admire so much.

How much positivity can we generate for the arts?

Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.
— Alan Rickman

Winding Down and Setting New Goals

As the year winds down into the holidays and a turn into the new year, I find peace and comfort in reflecting and realigning my goals.

Reflecting on this past year, I feel very humbled. I am delighted to have launched BcauseARTS only a few months ago, and so far I’ve been able to accomplish the following goals: launching the BcauseARTS website, representing several talented Australian independent artists and organisations, facilitated a sponsorship between an independent artist and local business, and inspired a few Facebook followers and blog readers to unleash their creative intuition.

I now step towards 2016 with a hopeful heart.

In 2016, I plan to expand the BecauseARTS platform as a tool to profile more Australian independent artists and arts organisation. I invite Australian independent artists and arts organisations to contact me via email to assit in creating your artists profile. Please email me at april@bcausearts.com.

In order to continue initiating conversations through the BcauseARTS blog on topics and issues facing within the Australian independent arts sector, I invite guest writers to submit commentary pieces. Topics for discussion are unlimited and word count endless. I just ask that the material be thoroughly researched and allow for comments from the community at the end of each piece.  For the writers, I offer a global audience and is posted weekly, promoted on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I also invite writers to submit reviews of current Australian independent art performances, events and exhibition. Let us know where the event takes place, who and what is featured and what were the highlights of you visit.   If interested in becoming a guest blogger, please email me at april@bcausearts.com

Similarly, in 2016, I invite guest writers from a non-artist perspective to offer commentary on their point-of-view about the general arts community.  Potential topics could be: personal reviews on current productions seen in the Melbourne area; what about the arts community inspires you to witness the experiences you have been to; what keeps you away from the arts community; as a businessperson, what could an arts organisation do more of to sustain itself and lean less on outside funding; if curious about philanthropy what does it mean to you and why you do or do not fund the arts outside of admission ticket prices.  Again, the topics for discussion are unlimited, and the word count endless.  Let’s educate everyone! If interested in being a business guest writer, please contact me via email at april@bcausearts.com.

These are just a few of my ideas for BcauseARTS in 2016. My hope is to continue an education platform with BcauseARTS – creating a safe environment for clear communication between artist, business and community. Let’s make 2016 a great year!

Gratitude Towards Melbourne Independent Artists

You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the American traditions out of the girl!

Last Thursday I acknowledged my American roots by celebrating Thanksgiving – an American holiday recognising the first shared meal between the Pilgrim settlers and Native American Indians back in early 1700s. More importantly, it’s a time to spend reacquainting oneself with loved ones – family and friends.

In my family, we established a Thanksgiving tradition to remind ourselves of what we are truly grateful for in our life, and the gifts we received within the past year. This year, I am grateful for many blessings, but what I am most thankful for this year is ART – the brave, talented Melbourne independent artists who share their gifts with all of us by expressing their ideas in their arts projects, and the opportunities we, the public, receive to experience these amazing wonders. I am also grateful for the surrounding audience members who share in the marvel these gifts as their presence influences my experience with art.

My Thanksgiving meal…YUM!

My Thanksgiving meal…YUM!

This week, I am grateful to be attending the following events that help me in my continuing efforts to be a proud independent artists supporter:

This Wednesday, I will be attending a graduation performance by the Impromptunes, a musical improv troupe, at The Butterfly Club. Students from the troupe’s most recent program are celebrating their graduation from the program by showing off their skills in front of an audience. I’m really excited to be apart of improv – an art form that challenges performers to be vulnerable in front of an audience by creating entertaining scenes on the spot. The Impromptunes add to this daring art form the art of singing – ASTOUNDING! I wonder if any of the made-up tunes will make it on a new record in time for Christmas? Ha!

Speaking of improv, on Friday night I will be attending a performance by established Melbourne improv theatre company, Melbourne Playback Theatre, at La Mama Theatre. Melbourne Playback Theatre is an ensemble group of musicians and actors who use improv to “play back” audience’s stories in action for the purpose of gaining deeper understanding amongst human experiences. After receiving rave reviews from their last performance reflecting on climate change, Melbourne Playback Theatre’s two performances this weekend, Friday and Saturday nights, will allow audiences to celebrate great moments experienced during 2015. I am looking forward to witnessing the magic of this amazing company during an evening set inside La Mama’s intimate space.

In between, on Thursday evening, I will browse through vendor stalls with the hopes to begin my Christmas shopping at Northcote Townhall’s Kris Kringle Night Market. This annual night market allows local craft artists to sell their product goods to the public, an opportunity for individuals to support small, local businesses. I love these kinds of markets because in my observation, the local product artists are super talented – I’ve seen and purchased some really cute gems for people as gifts!

It’s the little things that I am quite thankful for this year. I am most thankful for the unknown talents scattered around Melbourne. I challenge my readers to reflect frequently throughout the holiday season on what you are most thankful for.   Be brave and share some thankfulness below in the comments.

Starting This Weekend, Head West to Footscray’s Big West Festival

Get ready, Melbourne, for another amazing arts and culture festival this weekend! Starting 20th November and running through until 28th November Footscray’s biennial arts and culture event, Big West Festival, will celebrate it’s 10th incarnation showcasing 50 projects inspired to define what it means to call a house a home.

In a recent article on ArtsHub by contributing writer, Lizzy Lamb, Artistic Director, Marcia Ferguson promises to deliver a solid program suitable for everyone’s taste. Most notably is the fact that most programming is FREE for the general public!

On Saturday 21st November is the Big West Festival’s opening celebration on Nicholson Street from 10am until 4pm. Pedestrians will have FREE access to explore various art installation pieces and performances. SHARED TABLE is one piece I am really looking forward to checking out. Created by the Indirect Object Theatre Company, an award-winning puppetry theatre company base din Footscray, SHARED TABLE is a two-person participatory event set inside a converted gypsy caravan. The art installation piece invites participants to step inside the unique caravan and follow pre-set, simple instructions. Participants become both audience members and performer for one another as they listen and then carry out the instructions facing one another.

Another great opportunity this weekend at The Big West Festival is the chance to participate in a Snuff Puppet workshop. Snuff Skool will allow participants interested in becoming a future member of Snuff Puppets to assist in the construct of a giant street puppet. A follow up workshop, appropriately called Snuff Skool: Rookie Roams allows Snuff Skool participants to showcase their puppet creation(s) around the festival – just like the Snuff Puppets do during their presentations!

Further more, it is encouraged by Big West Festival team to explore the festival headquarters anytime between 10am and 3pm. The headquarters is the source of inspiration for this year’s theme, HOUSE. For HOUSE is said (according to the Big West Festival website) to be “a theatre, a prototype dwelling for social housing services and in 2016, a home.”

Overall, I am certainly excited to see the some cool art this weekend at Big West Festival. Sounds like there will be something for the whole family and more.

For more information, and to see the Big West Festival full program, please visit www.bigwest.com.au.