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

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.  

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.

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.

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!

Welcome Melbourne’s Newest Grass-Roots Festival of Theatre: The Poppy Seed Theatre Festival

This week is the opening of Melbourne’s newest, most vibrant grass-roots festival of theatre known as The Poppy Seed Theatre Festival. Directed by the talents of Philip Hayden, Scott Major and Sonya Suares, and featuring works by TBC Theatre, Kajody Arts Productions and Man With a Plan, Fire Curtain Co. and 15 Minutes From Anywhere The Poppy Seed Theatre Festival guarantees six weeks of amazing independent theatre between 11th November through 13th December. All productions will be presented at convenient Melbourne CBD locations: fortyfivedownstairs, Victoria Trades Hall and The Butterfly Club. Wednesday night, 11th November, marks the festival’s opening, which leads with a performance of TBC Theatre’s PROJECT HYSTERIA.

The Poppy Seed Theatre Festival will feature four productions by four of Melbourne’s most talented independent theatre groups with three presentations bringing international works to the Melbourne community. TBC Theatre, an ensemble of writers, directors, actors and production specialists, brings two one-act plays from award-winning American contemporary playwright, Tennessee Williams in PROJECT HYSTERIA.   These two one-act plays are considered to be precursors to his famed plays “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie”. Fire Curtain Co. brings London’s most exciting new voice in theatre, Vicky Winter’s latest work, THE ONE to the Melbourne community. This award-winning play is both dark and hilarious, and is a story about a couple trapped in a violent and destructive cycle of co-dependent love and lust. 15 Minutes From Anywhere brings Major General Kenneth Mackay’s 1895 classic of Australian literature to life in THE YELLOW WAVE – an epic saga of love heroism and sacrifice as Australia is invaded by the Mongol hordes. The only original production presented at The Poppy Seed Theatre Festival is presented in collaboration between award-winning producer, Cameron Stewart of Kajody Arts (2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival Best Producer) and Man With A Plan. GIN SISTER is an eclectic theatre piece using a combination of song, dance, verbatim, poetic self-reflections and classical text that takes its audience on a journey through the female experience of our favourite poison, alcohol.

Needless to say, there will be something for everyone’s taste at The Poppy Seed Theatre Festival. Throughout the six weeks of festivities, audience members will be have the opportunity to see something new, revisit a classic to discover new twists and join an opening night production party to befriend some of Melbourne’s elite independent theatre creators. BcauseARTS would like to wish everyone involved with the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival a happy and safe festival run, and I look forward to seeing all the productions!

For a full program of the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival, please visit www.poppyseed.net.au.

Review: A Charming Debut Reveals WHO IS DANI CABS?

WHO IS DANI CABS? lives up to its title – a comedic standup performance that tells the funny and endearing significant moments throughout the comedian’s life.

At the Tuxedo Cat, Dani Cabs’ debut standup charms its way into the hearts of his audience. He reveals what his childhood was like being born in Australian as the third child to parents from Uruguay, and befriending an array of multi-cultural schoolmates. Cabs also reveals his many talents including speaking in multiple languages, his history as an aerobics instructor, his love for futbol and his eye for fashion (or lack thereof).

Yet behind the ridiculous antics, Cabs reveals his most vulnerable hopes and dreams: to find a role model. He hopes his older brother could be a role model, in the absence of his father, but realizes how much his brother sacrifices in life to support his family by sticking to societal norms. As a filmmaker and performer, Cabs hopes to find a role model in the likes of Hugh Jackman, but realizes he will never be as fit as Jackman nor does he have a partnership with a lady for 20+ years. By the end, Cabs accepts what he has in front of him, which is a great audience and the opportunity to keep growing.
Charmingly funny with the ability to produce a clever and subtly sweet message, Cabs is a comedian I am looking forward to seeing again and again in the future.

WHO IS DAN CABS? is at The Tuxedo Cat until 22nd September. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: Let’s Not Become Too DETACHED From RePAC Productions

For those looking to enjoy a simply funny and entertaining night of theatre, DETACHED offers a solid introduction to the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Produced by RePAC Productions, a trio of acting mates – Allen Laverty, Preston Forsyth and Catherine Gavicic – who reunite after 15 years, DETACHED tells the comedic story of three housemates who discover just how much their obsessions with smartphones, video games and the internet has caused them to be detached from one another. But just how much are they willing to sacrifice?

Me with RePAC team member, Allen Laverty!

Me with RePAC team member, Allen Laverty!

Established by a well-written script, the production is also accompanied by great performances and a set that is literally encased with metaphors to heighten the message behind the story. First, electrical wiring borders the front of the stage indicating the endless routes to electric outlets to keep multiple devices plugged in at all times. Whether an accident or not, during certain moments on stage the actors found themselves tripping over the wiring adding to the comedic overtones. Secondly, once given instructions, a voice similar to Siri begins a video montage, projected on a white screen behind the acting area, and accompanied by the fast-paced music of The Naked and the Famous, shows snapshots of ordinary people found on modern-day apps like Tinder (swipe right, swipe left) and Facebook (Like). At the end of the video, we return to lounge room where three characters: Jack, Nicki and Derek are glued to their individual devices. They even converse through their devices – asking for advice on how to read into the meaning behind text messages from potential dates – instead of face to face. Lastly, elements of sound – the commonly recognized chimes heard when signing into Skype, or starting up a MAC computer – also draw the audience into the buzzing world of distraction. We even hear an argument between the upstairs neighbours when one discovers the other is on the Tinder app.

RePAC Productions produces a tightly constructed piece of theatre concluding in full circle – the actors somehow end the story in the same exact positioning as they did in the beginning, and once again Siri is instructed to “begin” the show, a.k.a start the video montage. With a strong debut piece of theatre like this, I’m left wondering with anticipation as to what more this trio will come up with next.

DETACHED continues its run during the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival on Tuesdays and Wednesdays 16th-30th September at 7:30PM at Shebeen. For tickets and more information, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: Teamwork Between a Dancer, a Painter and a Musician in FINAL MOMENT

For a more artsy and experimental addition to your evening spent at the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival, begin with a visit to the Conduit Art Space on Brunswick Street in Fitrzoy for the 20 minute performance of FINAL MOMENT.

Conceived and performed by contemporary dancer Jack Riley, visual artist Andrew Treloar and musician Jordan White, FINAL MOMENT is an experimental cross-art performance testing the question ‘what do you get if you put a dancer and a painter in a room together?’ The result is a beautiful art installation inspired by teamwork between performers, the environment and the audience.

The visual result to last night’s FINAL MOMENT performance!

The visual result to last night’s FINAL MOMENT performance!

The Conduit Space has a large window facing Brunswick Street that allows any passerby to watch the performance with curiosity; a strong incentive to draw a crowd to a Fringe event. Most exciting, and subtle, is witnessing the clear way the performance changes by elements seeping through the window – the streetlights create shadows adding another layer to the dance performance and visual creation occurring on stage. Even as the trams rode by, the sound inspires the musician to catch and loop sound effects that add texture to the accompaniment.

What was most interesting throughout the 20 minute performance were these scattered moments where the audience is questioning who is following whom? All performers watched each other with a keen eye, changing their movements according to the other.

FINAL MOMENT represents the spirit of what the Melbourne Fringe Festival is all about – an opportunity for artists to try new ideas.

Happy Opening Week of Melbourne Fringe!

Congratulations to all those independent artists – comedians, cabaret acts, performers, circus performers, singers, stage hands, directors, visual artists, etc. – who are gearing up for tonight’s preview night of the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival! This year’s program features over 400 events involving 5,000 artist participants in over 175 venues and extending over 19 days, making this the largest Fringe ever! According to Fringe Festival CEO, Simon Abrhams in a TimeOut Melbourne article, “Our facts and figures [indicate] we reach over 300,000 people entirely through the independent arts in just 19 days.”

It seems that this year, in particular, is a crucial year for Melbourne Fringe and all the independent artists who participate. Abrahams reflects on the recent government arts funding cut in the same TimeOut Melbourne article, saying, “There’s no doubt that the independent arts in Australia currently are under attack. I believe that is entirely through a lack of understanding of the significant audience impact, artistic impact and industry connectivity that these parts of our arts sectors provide.”

What’s so special about Melbourne Fringe Festival? First, in my observation, it marks the beginning of Melbourne’s spring/summer festival season. Soon following the Fringe Festival is the Melbourne Festival, also featuring an exciting lineup of music, performance, art exhibitions, comedy acts and more! We will address Melbourne Festival in the future.

Secondly, Melbourne Fringe Festival is an opportunity that most artists seize to try new ideas and projects. In an article by The SydneyMorning Herald, Abrahams states, “For emerging artists, it’s a space where they can try new things, can learn their craft. It’s an incredibly supportive context. But what I love about Melbourne Fringe is that it’s also full of really established senior artists, as well who use it as a time to work up shows that they might go on to tour, or they might be trying to extend and experiment with their practice.” One example is long-time children’s singer-songwriter, Peter Combe who is performing an adult show for the first time ever! In a recent interview for The Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Combe says, “The notion of singing along to children’s songs at 10 o’clock on a Saturday night is weird, but they just love it…It’s very touching to see these people rediscovering these songs they grew up on.” Will you be caught singing along in the audience too?

Lastly, Melbourne Fringe Festival offers not only something for everyone including a children’s program, but all the events are on sale at affordable prices; most events are available for purchase at just over $20. Additionally, the 175 venues used throughout festival expand across all of Melbourne’s inner-city suburbs – Carlton, North Melbourne, Northcote, Melbourne CBD, South Melbourne, St. Kilda and more. Check out what’s going on in your neighbourhood!

Furthermore, keep your eyes on BcauseARTS’s blog as I write about many of the events at Melbourne Fringe. Maybe it will inspire you to check out something new!

If you have an event featured in the Fringe program that would like BcauseARTS to review, please contact bcausearts@gmail.com.

Like always, for more information, or to purchase tickets to a Melbourne Fringe event, please visit www.melbournefringe.com.au.

Review: Complete Works Theatre Company’s MEDEA presents classical Greek theatre staging to an intrigued Australian audience

Complete Works Theatre Company is rounding out its two-week tour throughout Victoria by bringing it’s delightful production of Euripides’s MEDEA to Melbourne University’s Union House Theatre.

Do not be turned-off by stereotypes normally associated with classical Greek theatre according to its title.  MEDEA is a story that demonstrates a woman’s determination to fight for justice against a man who betrays her without cause.  Complete Works presents an adaptation that drives exceptional performances from its actors appealing to all audience members.   At moments, the audience, consisting of university students, young professionals and even mid-aged adults, delighted in the comedic characteristics found in Jason established in the writing and precisely gestured by the actor, Philip Cameron-Smith. Other standout performances were Jennifer Vuletic who played Lady Maid & Chorus Member with such an ease of concern like any mother or friend would demonstrate, and Naomi Rukavina who portrays Medea with such tragic elegance and power-hungry grace. Other highlighting elements include a surprising element at the end of the play creating a mystical appeal to the character involved. I would tell you more about that surprise, but it’s worth witnessing to know what I’m talking about.

Though direction from Artistic Director, Andrew Blackman, used classical Greek theatre structure to a contemporary audience, the 90-minute performance swiftly passed by as each event moved with suspense, intrigue and delight across the stage. The lighting, designed by Julia Knibbs, accompanied the tradition Greek Theatre staging as it illuminated actor’s faces from the front creating shadows not only on faces but also on the wall to appeal to the character’s larger-than-life struggles of man vs. fate. Sound design, composed by Finn Cooney, complimented the Mediterranean setting.

MEDEA continues its run at Melbourne University’s Union House on Thursday and Friday, 30 & 31 July at 10:30AM (SOLD OUT) and 1PM, and will complete its tour on 4th August at East bank Centre in Shepparton. For tickets and more information, visit www.completeworks.com.au.

Take the Lemons and Make Lemonade

It is unfortunate to start the week on a devastating note: George Brandis’s new NPEA will distribute $20m in grant money to large arts organisations and purposefully exclude individual artists. Adding fuel to the flames, the budget cuts will begin to affect the arts sector as soon as 2015 funding rounds, leaving the Australia Council with only have $12m to stretch amongst two funding rounds in September and February. This is a massive loss compared to the 2013/2014 funding rounds, which allotted the Australia Council to distribute $46m amongst projects, fellowships, the touring programs and the artists with disabilities program. Finally, to tip the iceberg (so to speak), those organisations and artists who were expecting to receive funding from Australia Council for the next three years after the last competitive application process will lose that funding and are forced to reapply again but for smaller amounts.

Like the rest of Australia’s arts community, my heart is broken. However, being the optimistic that I am, I look forward to making lemonade out the lemons the government chooses to give us. I especially want to remind everyone that there are other options to funding projects and they’re not far away. BcauseARTS is a Melbourne-based company is committed to doing the legwork of finding atlernative funding solutions for the independent arts sector by approaching small businesses and individual community members interested in giving back to their community.  As founder of BcauseARTS, I enjoy speaking on behalf of this wonderful arts community – I have been advocating for the arts for over 10 years and have turned audience members into annual donors for several arts organisations.  Additionally, I believe that small gifting is the best way to offer support.

Don’t believe me?  Read Philip Thiel’s story from last Tuesday’s Arts Hub (for the full article, CLICK HERE). Thiel, a teacher and online blogger, decided to support the Australian arts community by committing $5,000 from his annual budget to build the Thiel Grant for Online Writing. At the end of two years and a lot of hard work setting up the fund, he launched his foundation and opened grant applications for writers to submit proposals in support of upcoming projects. Like BcauseARTS, Philip believes that every person is a philanthropist, if they only start small. That’s the key – small gifting adds up! To Philip Thiel, I say thank you. On behalf of the arts community, thank you for setting the example. May we all commit to small gifting for the arts.

If you are interested in supporting Thiel’s Grant for Online Writing, please CLICK HERE.

Similarly, if you would like to be introduced to an independent artist or small/medium arts organisation through BcauseARTS, please email bcausearts@gmail.com.

Review: Elbow Room Questions Identity and Leaves Its Audience Empowered

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

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

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

This is independent theatre certainly not to be missed.

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

Who and What Makes a Philanthropist?

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

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

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

april-mcg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to reading your words…