Spectacular Highlights (and some low-lights) From My Fifth Day @ the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Day five at Adelaide Fringe, and the experiences continue to impress.  Here’s a breakdown of highlights from my day:

Who says artists can’t have it all?  South Australian superstar, Joanne Hartstone proves that artists can do it all – perform, produce and direct multiple events within a festival season – in her one-woman show THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN.

THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN gives Hartstonea platform to showcase her multi-talented capabilities.: not only does she superbly embody the character Evelyn Edmonds, a young Hollywood wanna-be starlet, but she also sings classic jazz tunes from the 1940s.  With a voice that sounds similar to that of the greats Judy Garland and Jean Harlow, Hartstone commands the attention of her audience throughout the nostalgic performance.

If you are looking to support a solid South Australian artist who gives audiences bang for their buck, I highly recommend catching Joanne Hartstone in THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN.  Likewise, I recommend some of her other festival events: WE ARE ANONYMOUS, BLINK and NUCLEAR FAMILY, which were reviewed earlier this week.

Poking fun at one’s own culture as a way of building an understanding between two different cultures comes with boundaries and risks.  However, Angela Yeoh’s RUNNY MONEY finds that balance graciously while paying homage to her own roots in Chinese culture.

Throughout the show, Angela sheds light on quirky stereotypes of the Chinese culture.  According to the performance, Chinese people maintain a strong relationship with money and business, always trying to outsmart the next man with a big a idea.  It is emphasized that the importance of work is passed down to children at a very young age, and often times education is centered around business development.  At one point, Angela introduces a funny plastic machine (made in China, of course) that has the ability to scan the audience’s personal possessions on the spot in order to predict its value.  Based on these values, we receive our economic social status and then are given certain privileges.  

That is only one of many hilarious and interactive moments presented by Angela Yeoh in RUNNY MONEY.  Without giving too much more away, I highly recommend anyone to see this hilarious comedy showcase.  It is stressed by Angela that the work is still in the creative development phase; however, this performance has a solid foundation with potential for greatness!

Speaking of comedy, award-winning character act, Neal Portenza, returns to Adelaide Fringe to present a new work in development, which allows him to be as zany, spontaneous and interactive as ever before.  While making up skits and trying out new punch lines on the spot, performer, Josh Ladgrove showcases his ability to think quickly and fearlessly stumble through authentic comedy routines.  His genuine approach to his audience and comedy is a shining example of his own philosophy, “Art is not art if there is a chance for destruction.”

Unfortunately, not everyone understands Ladgrove's comedy.  During last night’s performance, a heckler kept egging Ladgrove to erupt in anger and break focus from the performance.  Instead, like a comic champ, Ladgrove gracefully accepted the annoying heckler, stating that he appreciated their random spouts of negative feedback.  The show continued with the heckler remaining in the audience until the end.

I’ve seen Neal Portenza several times at both Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and each performance is different.  Never disappointing.  Looking forward to catching him again at this years; Melbourne International Comedy Festival!

Unfortunately, not every event at the festival is an absolute winner.  As a fan of American playwright, Sara Ruhl, I was excited to see a performance of LATE: A COWBOY SONG presented by Lady Like Theatre Collective.  However, this production left me slightly disappointed at its cookie-cutter and lazy interpretation.

As a playwright who challenges gender roles and social norms throughout all her work, Ruhl pushes characters and environments to the edge.   Unfortunately, I didn’t see much edginess in this performance.

Amongst the many elements within the play’s writing that were missed, I did find a few choices that worked: an acoustic guitar was nicely played by the cowboy.  Using imagination and creativity for characters riding real horses the male actor is used to symbolise the horse. 

However, here are some of the missed elements, or elements that need more development, that were under-performed in this production: there was a strong lack of understanding traditional role playing between the characters; there was a lack of growth in the relationship between the cowboy and the leading lady; there also was a lack of conflict within the relationships that was spoken in between the words, especially between the cowboy and the husband. 

Hopefully, this creative team keeps working on LATE: A COWBOY SONG.  I would love to give it another chance to see it develop deeper.

For more information about these shows, or to purchase tickets, please visit the Adelaide Fringe Festival website.

Day Four: Witnessing the Significance of the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Day four was a day full of theatre events at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.  Unexpectedly, it became a day that demonstrated the significance of honouring festivals like the Adelaide Fringe – because it’s about celebrating open access for both artists and audiences.   

Being an open access festival, Adelaide Fringe does not act as a curator but instead allows any artist or group with a creative idea to participate in being apart of the 31-day arts celebration.  The creative team behind WE ARE ANONYMOUS certainly demonstrates this is a open accessibility for artists.  WE ARE ANONYMOUS is presented by Ink Spot, a South Australian youth theatre company, who showcase their understanding of the world around them.  This show sheds light on recent events surrounding the international phenomenon that was ‘anonymous,’ a group of mover and shakers wanting to change and challenge political norms around the world.  Directed by Joanne Hartstone, WE ARE ANONYMOUS is told through a large ensemble of young performers who work together to reveal the consequences of cyber trafficking.

I was thrilled to see this show because so many of the young performers have budding careers ahead of them.  They all embodied confidence, focus and passion for the story they were sharing with the audience.  Somewhere amongst the group must be the next Geoffrey Rush or Cate Blanchett! 

Another important element the Adelaide Fringe Festival celebrates is the ability for artists to develop new works and or new skills.  MIRROR is a great example.  Performer, Robbie Greenwell presents a series of characters and vignettes that showcase his talent as a character performer.  Charming moments and unique surprises sprinkle throughout the performance.  Most importantly,  at the end of the performance, Greenwell humbly asks the audience to leave feedback from their experience.  It becomes apparent that this performer remains within the creative development process and invites his audience in on the journey.

I am looking forward to seeing a future performance of MIRROR to witness the development.  For those curios about an artist’s creative process, I highly recommend checking out MIRROR. 

BLINK brings artists together in a mentorship capacity, another important element Adelaide Fringe celebrates about the artistic journey.  Established performer and producer, Joanne Hartstone works together with several emerging artists to bring British playwright, Phil Porter’s charming love story BLINK to Australian audiences.

In many ways, this production comes together to demonstrate real innovative creativity.  Performers Lucy Brewer and Gianluca I. Noble demonstrate superb character development; the set design cleverly provides layers to the staging and to the multiple environments within the scenes; music weaves in and out of the story to emphasise romantic comedy elements throughout.

BLINK is a heart warming, charming and delightful piece of theatre that showcases the hard work of emerging talent and a partnership between established and emerging artists at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Lastly, connecting audiences to artists in creative and interactive ways is what makes Adelaide Fringe Festival a successful celebration to the community. NUCLEAR FAMILY is a piece of theatre that does just this.  Audiences are invited to choose important outcomes that dictate how NUCLEAR FAMILY unfolds.  As audiences are put together into three groups, they are presented with two or more choices to select from that will decide the fate of the story.  Within these decisions the groups must explain why they have made these decisions, and then witness the revealing consequences.

NUCLEAR FAMILY is a fun, engaging and interesting theatrical event that allows the audience become part of the storytelling.

For more information about each of these performances, or to purchase tickets, please visit the Adelaide Fringe Festival website.



The Reward for Artists to Create Valuable P2P Marketing

ArtsHub posted an interesting article last week about the latest marketing trend sweeping across the globe – gamification!  Gamification puts marketing onto smartphones and hand-held devises to engage audiences with fun activities.  (Remember Pokemon-Go?  A solid example of gamification!) Additionally, gamification allows the producer to capture audience stats instantly.  You can read the full article HERE, which highlights how Adelaide Fringe Festival is using gamification to engage with their audience members. 

This got me thinking – what’s the production cost to add gamification to any marketing strategy?  Diving into some research, I discovered that most experts agree the price tag for developing gamification marketing varies depending on features to install and information the producer wishes to capture.  Further more, developing gamification is about time, effort and brainpower, which requires a lot of experience in UX development and having a focused direction.  As independent artists, many of whom run their own small business, you have to ask is it really worth incorporating into your marketing?

But what is worth an independent artist's marketing efforts is focusing on P2P marketing.  P2P, or people to people marketing, involves face-to-face communication and real-time relationship development.  Most importantly, P2P marketing is about providing quality customer care to your audience.  Customer service involves creating an experience from beginning to end.  And by 'beginning' I mean the moment the audience member walks into the venue door; and by 'end' I mean the moment the audience member walks out the venue door. 

Most venue foyers are designed to sell snacks and beverages before the event.  That’s great!  Do independent artists see any of those sales profits from food and beverages?  You would if you sparked a deal with the venue space, but highly unlikely. 

It is imperative that independent artists begin thinking about creating an experience outside of food and beverage sales. 

A good place to begin is to remember that, like visiting a new country or entering into someone else’s home, audience members are stepping into unknown territory.

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!

Review: Oh What a Night! – The Melbourne Monologues Brilliantly Showcases Melbourne Writers and Performers

All great writers emerge from somewhere.  Here in Melbourne, we are lucky to have groups like Melbourne Writer’s Theatre to support the emergence of some amazing new and established talents.

Since 1982, Melbourne Writer’s Theatre has been supporting emerging and established writers by providing them a platform to showcase their works.  In the company’s latest production at the La Mama Courthouse Theatre, The Melbourne Monologues showcases the beautiful writings of Louise Baxter, Christine Croyden, Alison Knight, Mazz Ryan and Bruce Shearer.  Though each piece delivers a unique perspective and individual qualities, together, under the direction of Elizabeth Walley, these six monologues showcased how brilliantly, cleverly and compelling new writers challenge our everyday perceptions.

Even more so, The Melbourne Monologues also elegantly showcases the incredible talent of some of Melbourne’s emerging and veteran actors.  Standout performances included Isabella Gilbert, who embodied an individual pursuing a career change as a rapper wholeheartedly, convincing the audience in the power of self-belief.  Performer, Stephanie King also gives a standout performance portraying a mild-mannered woman delighting over the development of a love affair with gardening and the man behind the garden tools. 

Catching a glimpse of some of the emerging and established talent within Melbourne Writer’s Theatre by attending The Melbourne Monologues excites for a bright and fulfilling future in theatre.

The Melbourne Monologues performs at The La Mama Courthouse Theatre until November 13th.  To purchase tickets, CLICK HERE.

Review: THE WORLD WITHOUT BIRDS Finds Honour in the Classics

Fables are often forgotten in today’s adult modern world.  But the lessons they offer in their storytelling are invaluable to everyday life.  Writer, Christine Croyden has embraced the classic form of fable and musical theatre in her latest brilliant production THE WORLD WITHOUT BIRDS: A Musical Fable gently reminding its audience how relevant classics remain in our daily lives. 

So as not to give away the cathartic message this particular fable tells, I would rather tell you more about the highlights you can expect from this delightful performance.  Under the direction of Elizabeth Walley a small ensemble of four actors delight the La Mama Courthouse stage playing multiple stock characters in the form of bird species.  Each bird portrays stereotypes like young and naive, old and wise, cunning and territorial or ignorant and cruel.  The audience can relate to these characters either because we see ourselves in them or have encountered such traits throughout our journey.

Playing the “Queen of the Birds,” Margot Knight eloquently captures the paralleling traits of a delicate bird and the delicate inner life of an older woman.  She dances with such emotional delicacy throughout the story finding balance between protecting her own vulnerabilities and standing up defending her personal value.

As a musical, while vocal abilities from cast members vary, it is smart to feature the supporting talent of Charlotte Fox who plays the young princess bird.  Her voice radiates and envelops the courthouse space.  Original music writer, Ella Filar has cleverly given Fox the ability to crescendo into an operatic tonality heightening the plays climax.

What’s truly appealing about this production is Croyden’s writing.  It has a sophisticated ability to honour classic fable storytelling full of poetic imagery that concludes with a cathartic lesson with that of contemporary events.  It is equally delightful to hear the multiple play-of-words throughout the production to birds: ‘birds of a feather,’ ‘bird brain,’ ‘fluff my feathers.’ 

Also appealing is the accompaniment from the 3-piece live band.  The music glues the production together as it plays music that refers to the fluttering lifestyle of birds.  The baseline reminds me of baroque style classical music, which I believe sheds light on the classical and sophisticated style found in Croyden’s writing.

THE WORLD WITHOUT BIRDS: A Musical Fable is playing now at La Mama Courthouse Theatre until November 6th.  To purchase tickets, CLICK HERE

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.  

It's About Controlling Your Chances Through Marketing



Last week, I attended a workshop organised by Melbourne Fringe exclusively designed for participants of the 2016 Melbourne Fringe season.  The workshop was called ‘Tour Ready,’ inviting artists to consider and prepare for the possibility of touring their production/exhibition following their Fringe experience.  Guest speakers included Justin Murphy from Regional Arts Victoria, Marisa Cesario from Gasworks Arts Park and independent artists Emma Hall and Cameron Stewart from the award-winning production WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE. 

Each speaker gave heaps of useful information to artists who are interested in preparing themselves for touring opportunities.  Additionally, they offered their own support to artists throughout the preparation process. 

Most intriguing was a simple comment stated by Emma Hall from WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE.  Reflecting on her experience throughout the development and execution of WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE, Emma expressed her overwhelming elation over the fact that her show received so much media attention and award recognition.  Before her first production run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hall began a simple marketing campaign that involved emails to people she knew through the network of knowing others.  ‘I sent emails to people I didn’t even know, told them a little about the show’s concept and crossed my fingers,’ she recalls.  From those simple emails, she booked one media personnel to attend a performance.  However, that one performance conveniently was to be an outstanding performance!  And then everyone started hearing about Emma and her show.

She continued her reflection by stating, ‘I couldn’t control the marketing machine that was happening because I was so focused on the creative machine but things were still happening.’ 

I approached Emma at the end of the workshop evening thanking her for an honest reflection of her experience, and particularly thanked her for mentioning the ‘marketing machine.’  I ensured her that from hearing her tale, she had done executed a great marketing campaign, and that’s why it worked.  She began her process by understanding her participation within the festival – that she had to build an audience from scratch.  So she set a simple goal: to attract people she knew to her show and invite them to invite others.  She also asked for help from those she knew, asking whom else might be interested to attend.  Additionally, she followed up by sending email invitations to the individuals suggested by people she knew.  All that simple but persistent effort paid off!

Sometimes, though not always, marketing can be that simple.

The point is: yes, marketing is a complex machine.  Certainly one that can either function smoothly OR seem like a fight to the very end.  Regardless, putting any kind of effort and energy into the machine is much better than putting no energy at all. 

My advise to any artist, participating in a festival like Melbourne Fringe or producing an individual production, is while you may not control the outcome of the marketing machine, you CAN control your chances by putting forth the energy into the machine.  Start by setting a goal by asking why are you producing this show through this platform?  Some possible answers could be to build an audience, to maintain an audience, to stretch my creativity or to gain experience/exposure.  However you answer, let the answer guide your marketing efforts.  Throughout any marketing efforts, be honest, be humble and most importantly keep things simple.  Remember: the more energy directed towards a goal, the better chance your efforts will see results.



The life of an Australian Actress Living in New York City

What’s it like for an Australian artist who immigrates to the US in search of more artistic opportunities?  Crystal Lee Peterson, an actress from Adelaide, SA, decided to move to New York City in 2011.  I recently caught up with Crystal via email to ask her about a day in her life.  While she reflects on what brought her to New York, she also recites the good, the bad and ultimately the reality of her new life as a thriving New York City actress.

Before her big adventure, Crystal recalls living in Adelaide: ‘Like many actors I had lots of jobs that you would think aren’t related to acting: banking, sales, telemarketing (which I despised).’  Eventually, Peterson successfully signed with an agent from Adelaide Artists Agency whom assisted her to secure roles in Australian independent films and commercials. 

But in 2011, Peterson set a goal that would enrich her artistic future.  ‘Some of the best teachers and acting schools are in New York and despite my training in Australia I wanted to push myself to the limit,’ Peterson says.   Thus her adventure to New York began.

Upon arrival, Peterson hustled to earn a place within New York’s large artistic community.  Not only did Peterson enrol in a scene study class, but she discovered helpful resources that listed opportunities for actors to embark.  She began participating in play readings, auditioned for independent and student films and began conversations with fellow artists everywhere.  ‘[I’ve learned that] it’s all about owning [the room] every time you perform.  One opportunity leads to the next.  Teachers refer you.  Directors will like you.  Casting directors may remember you for other projects.’  She adds, ‘I mean here I think [actors] have to do the work [themselves].  I don’t have an agent but I’m working.  Here we have a lot more resources to consistently book work on our own through casting sites.’

Peterson ends her email by listing a typical week in her New York life: ‘Yesterday I worked on a television series; this week I am shooting a TV episodic; last week I finished a play and went to a voiceover audition.’ 

As I hear Crystal’s story, I cannot help but smile from ear to ear.  I am so happy for her!

Peterson’s story is one that highlights a pro-active artist.  What makes Peterson so successful, and I wonder if she gives actually herself enough credit, is that she began her New York adventure by setting a clear goal – to increase her artistic education abroad with challenging classes.  By setting clear, achievable goals, Peterson was able to focus all her energy until she was successful.  After committing to the hard work, Peterson made another great decision: to remain open to other opportunities along the way.  And today, Peterson is a thriving actress working in film, television, commercials, stage and, soon, voiceovers!    Congrats, Crystal!  We are rooting for you from the other side of the big pond.

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


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


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.


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


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 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!


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!

Reviews: Highlights From My Weekend Spent at Adelaide Fringe Festival

Last weekend, I traveled to Adelaide to experience both my first encounters and closing performances of the Adelaide Fringe Festival. I walked away with an even deeper passion and appreciation for the arts then ever before, and I can’t wait to tell you about what I saw. In my attempt to not make this a never-ending-story or rant, I will keep my reviews of the 11 performances I attended to a bare minimum (2-3 sentences at max for each show) to give my readers an insight into some of Adelaide Fringe’s highlighted performances:

Friday, 11th March – A day at Holden Theatre, which is a space that is as equally stunning as the performances inside it!


“The word is perfect but the ears of men are not.”

Poignant political insight into the parallel controversies of searching for religious purposes in modern and old-fashioned times. It was refreshing to gain a new perspective of Modern Muslim beliefs from someone outside a terrorist extreme. Beautiful performances and a well-written script caused the audience to sigh out “Hmmm” many times in agreement with captured moments of truth and revelation.


“I want to know why it is better to let people drown than to let people in.”

Questioning society’s norms in the ways we stereotype one another based on the multiple roles we play on a daily basis (father, mother, blue-collar worker, intelligent, ignorant, cheap, bitchy, etc.), Joe Sellman-Leava is an absolutely gifted performer where his home is the stage. A simple set, a complex concept and captivating audience interactions it is hard to define Sellman-Leava as either a one-man show phenomenon or a standup trendsetter. It is no wonder this performer won 5-star reviews from local publications.


An endearing personal tribute to a family hero, Gary McNair pays homage to his storyteller granddad who taught him that everyone has a purpose in life to be remembered. McNair justifies that he continues the family gift as storyteller in this remarkable performance that charmed, touched and inspired the audience to enjoy the truth and lies of your loved ones, for in the end it doesn’t matter which end is up.

Saturday, 12th March


A true representation of gypsy touring theatre, GREMLINS is a zany, family-friendly, laugh-out-loud show that leaves you either questioning your overall sanity or you’re saying: “I dunno what the hell just happened, but I liked it!” Performed under an outdoor tent at the Garden of Unearthly Delight, four actors covered in green makeup and dressed in battered, mis-matched take their audience on one of their latest 28% reliable budget airline flights. The catch? The plane is totally inoperable. Remarkable commitment to each character and the relationships to each other. GREMLINS received the opportunity to add an additional performance during their run and it was well deserved!

Outside of the Gremlins' tent!

Outside of the Gremlins' tent!


Another tribute performance to an elderly relative, ELEANOR’S STORY is based on the true events of the performer grandmother who grew up as an American citizen in Germany during World War II. She relives the experience of witnessing a shift in the community’s attitude and physical adjustments made as Nazi flags took over the skyline. In general, a solid performance but would have suggested a bit more tweaking in the direction as the actor was lost on stage outside of lighted areas, and important moments were missed due to obstruction from other audience members seated in front. Regardless, ELEANOR’S STORY received a standing ovation at this last performance, a humbling experience for the actor who admitted to performing at Adelaide Fringe last year to two people per performance. I hope she continues to come back with more wonderful work in the future.


Imagine the opportunity to witness former US President, Bill Clinton give an encouraging speech that reflects the important life lessons he learned during his governmental career. Actor Bob Paisley performed just that! Imagined as a TedTalk, Paisley portrays former US president Bill Clinton as a humble man passionate to support his wife in her current presidential pursuits and recalls his missteps along his political career path. Paisley is so convincing as Clinton that at times my eyes and ears led me to believe that I was actually listening to the former president in a rare speaking engagement opportunity. I was elated to hear the news of this show continuing a tour after Adelaide, where a future performance will actually occur in Clinton’s hometown of Little Rock, AR!

Sunday, 13th March


A decent gospel performance sprinkled with mediocre tap dancing, this one was a hit with an older generation. Set inside Flinder’s Street Baptist Church, Brown charmed his way into the hearts of his audience members by singing his favourite and original gospel tunes, praising the positive love from Jesus Christ for all. His backup band might have felt otherwise as I observed members sending body language signs of laughter and eye-rolling behind Brown’s back – there was strong evidence to believe that these musicians were not Brown’s original band mates, minus the overpowering backup singer (probably his wife). Adorable to witness smiles of joy spread on the older generation audience members – at least this performance was someone’s cup of tea.


A grandfather genuinely tries to pass on a valuable lesson to his grandson about bravery and perseverance through his heroic take of the classic story, Beowulf. An incredible ability to colour the stage with multiple characters Irish actor, Bryan Burroughs best showcases his raw talent in physical theatre and movement throughout this performance.


I walked away from this performance saying to my partner, “I cannot describe what I just saw but I LOVED every moment of that performance.”

A corpse emerges from the shadows on stage and holds conversation with the audience reliving its living experience. We find out that this corpse was actually a young girl found burnt to a crisp when her body was found and laid to rest. Filled with voice-over dialogue, sound effects, lighting transitions that ensured shadow changes and audience interaction to subtly remind us we are all connected to one another, living or dead, Pat Kinevane supplied a true artistic Fringe performance. I DO want to see more of his works!


My Fringe sidekick, Will and I outside Adelaide’s Oval.

My Fringe sidekick, Will and I outside Adelaide’s Oval.

A circus act that pumped it up through and through, Fuego Carnal gave its audience heat, passion and an appreciation for the focus and physical sacrifices needed to put on a true circus show. Screams of appreciation frequently rang throughout the circus ring after each physical stunt was done by the performers. Time flies when you are having fun, for what seemed like only 20 minutes, the show lasted for its entire 50-minute guarantee. Audience members of all ages were able to enjoy a traditional circus performance set literally under a big-top (an outdoor tent space) within the Gluttony Gardens!

In conclusion, if you haven’t ventured your way to an Adelaide Fringe Festival weekend, or even a day, please do yourself a favour and GO! Or better yet, I hope these shows make their way to the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival! Regardless, I had such a great time during my experience of Adelaide Fringe that I plan on making it an annual trip in my calendar. I can’t wait to met more artists, witness amazing talent and be mesmerised by the growing size of this Australian festival.

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.

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