Lecture Notes (pptx 566k)

The Performing Arts in
What is this lecture about?
 The
performing arts in Australia
 An overview of the range, diversity and
achievement in this sector
 An outline of the structure and some of
the ideas that underpin and drive this
 Provide some appreciation of the great
deal of activity that there is in this sector
British Playwright David Hare said that:
 “if
you want to understand the
social history of the country, you
cannot do better than study the
plays of the period”.
This can be extended to the whole of the
The performing arts of a country
tell us a great deal about the resources, the interests and
the diversity of that place.
The choice of
 Themes: the stories that are told
 Content; how those stories are conveyed
 Characters; who we choose to tell those stories
 Settings: what places, times and terrains are chosen
 Designs: realism, naturalism, absurdism, post
modernism, indigenous.
 Venues: inside or outside: from the Sydney Opera
House to the Darwin Town Hall Ruins
For example
@ La Boite theatre you can see Tender Napalm
@ QTC you can see Kelly – a retelling of the story
of an Australian bushranger who represents the
ambivalent relationship with Authority
@Metro arts has Under the Radar
@ Expressions Dance you can see Dance Energy
@ QPAC you can see Jersey Boys
@ the Brisbane Festival
Yarrabah! the Musical
Facts and Figures
Australians are keen participants in the arts
 Nine in ten Australians participate in the arts.
 More than half of Australians attend live
 One in four Australians go to the theatre, one
in four go to see the opera or classical music
and one in six go to see dance.
 Australians believe that the arts are an
important part of life and should receive
public funding
Some facts and figures
Australians attitudes to the arts are
overwhelmingly positive, with almost all
Australians agreeing that:
 “the
arts should be an important part of the
education of every Australian”
 “the arts should receive public funding”
 “the arts make for a more richer and
meaningful life”
The broader arguments for the significance
of the arts
Tourists are eager consumers of Australian art and
As are locals who increasingly engage through the many
Learning through the arts helps children achieve better
results in school
Students who train in the arts use their skills for creative
thinking to support a vibrant Australian economy
The creative industries are major contributors to GDP
and jobs
The performing arts create jobs and contribute to GDP
The Performing arts in Australia are
A diverse and mix of art form, cultures and
peoples – a meeting point for cultures
 Resilient in the face of the changing
economic, social and cultural lives of people
in the many communities.
 A dynamic and eclectic mix of the
professional, the commercial and the
 An important bridge across the lives of many
communities socially, economically and
An example of diversity and range
Show from You tube
Marrugeku Burning Daylight
Marrugeku Crying Baby
The Performing arts in Australia
Aboriginal Music
Popular Music
Classical Music
Much of the performing arts
underpinned by
Strong amateur traditions
 Resilient commercial performing arts
 Consistent government support over the
past fifty years
 Small, but active contemporary
performance sector
the readings provide examples of the contemporary
Government Funding
The single most influential factor in the
Australian arts sector in the past 50 years
 Available from all three levels of
 Originally designed to deflect the
pressures of the market place as the arts
were not seen as being able to support
 The arts seen as a public good
Government Funding
Funding purpose often caught between
arguments about the intrinsic or instrumental
value of the arts
Governments now looking for value for
money and want a visible return for the
investment: jobs, buildings, improved social
Arts organisation have become very good at
arguing the social benefits of making art, the
commercial benefits of a vibrant arts sector.
Government Funding
Some see this as occurring at the expense of art
making itself
 Others argue that too much reliance on funding
removes the critical pressure of the box office
 Without funding we may not have Les
Miserables or Warhorse-both developed in
funded situations.
 Terracini argues that there should be about 30%
funding, 30% coming from sponsorship and the
rest of an arts company’s budget earned through
box office.
The Literature (some of it)
In Repertoire: Contemporary Performance
 In Repertoire: Contemporary Dance
 In Repertoire: Performance for Young
 Some of the companies, the individuals,
the productions, the ideas and the images
that are and have informed the
contemporary performing arts
The Performing arts in Australia
Aboriginal Music
Popular Music
Classical Music
 Classical
 Contemporary Dance
 A great deal of crossover between
various forms of dance
Classical Dance
Strong classical tradition
 Strong involvement in dance throughout
the community: many classical dance
schools throughout most cities and
 Ballet companies in most states
 The national classical company is
celebrating its 50 year of operation
Contemporary Dance
Sydney Dance Company
 Dance North
 Lucy Guerin
 Chunky Move
 Expressions Dance Company
 Strong classical technique supporting work
that is innovative and unique
Some examples
Show from ‘you tube’:
 Sydney Dance Company 6 Breaths
Bangarra Dance Company Terrain
Music in Australia
Classical Music
Popular Music
Aboriginal Music
Classical Music
Symphony Orchestras in all states
The Australian Chamber Orchestra led by
Richard Tognetti
The ACO IS the best chamber orchestra in the
world. They don't come from Germany. They
don't play like a German orchestra. They play like
Australians, with great energy, enthusiasm AND
exciting ideas in their playing (Terracini)
 Show from ‘you tube’:
 The Australian Chamber Orchestra
 The Australian Chamber Orchestra The Glide
William Barton
Indigenous man from Mt. Isa with growing
national and international reputation
 Multi- instrumentalist but most known for
his use of the didgeridoo
 Works in many classical music settings
 Has worked with Australian contemporary
composers such as Peter Sculthorpe
Symphony Orchestra 2011 Grand Finale William Barton Didgeridoo
Music Theatre
Since its early days Australian stages have been filled
with musicals; usually imported they ranged from the
British pantomimes and classic American style musicals
of the 20th century
The 1980’s saw Australia embrace the world wide
movement of musicals led by such shows as Evita, Les
Miserables, Miss Saigon et al. This trend had a major
impact as many Austrian performers began training to
become triple threat performers: sing, dance and act.
Recently Sydney was touted as the out of town tryout for
musicals like An Officer and a Gentleman before it made
the move to the perilous New York stages.
Contemporary Music Theatre
Contemporary music theatre take many forms and
occur in sometimes surprising locations.
It takes chamber opera in new directions, engages
with new media and the visual arts in installations,
includes innovative musicals and through scored
stage plays for adults and young people,
theatricalises the concert, transforms grand opera,
and looks set to reach a growing audience through
television, radio, national and international touring.
IHOS is a performing arts company based in
Tasmania, Australia, with an international
reputation for original music-theatre and opera.
Works are multicultural, multilingual and exploit
multiple art-forms, blending voice, dance and
sound with installation art and digital technology.
 IHOS has origins in the Greek-Australian
tradition. The company was established in
Hobart in 1990, by composer and artistic director
Constantine Koukias, and production director
Werner Ihlenfeld.
The Barbarians:
 commissioned by the Museum of Old and New Art,
is an immersive and remarkable new opera by
Constantine Koukias, inspired by the iconic Greek
Alexandrian poet Constantine Cavafy.
 Performed in modern Greek with bilingual
narration, the opera is the product of a large
collaboration of designers, musicians and singers,
with a Greek Chorus of ten men.
From YouTube: IHOS The Barbarians
Oz Opera
 Traditional Opera Company stages the classic
opera repertoire
 Iconic events
 Show from YouTube
Opera Australia Handa Opera
South Pacific
Yarrabah! The Musical: a co-production
between Opera Australia and the community
of Yarrabah in North Queensland
A long history in circus, both traditional
and contemporary
Australian audiences have long embraced
Circus Oz, The Flying Fruit Fly Circus and
a host of physical theatre companies that
work outdoors, in theatres, in circus tents
across the country or, like Legs on the
Wall, abseil tall buildings.(Gallasch, In
Some contemporary Circus
Circus OZ
 The Flying Fruit Fly Circus
 From YouTube
 Circa 46 Circus acts in 45 minutes
 From YouTube
 Legs on the wall Homelands
Theatre in Australia:
but not so much classical
Belonging by John McCallum
Australia as a continent is a strangely vacant place, in
which many people have struggled to find a place.
For the first invaders - convicts and their jailors
huddled on the coast – there was at first nothing out
Plays were written in a marginal land by and for exiles
Theatre exploring questions of whether we actually
belong here
Nowra’s play The Golden Age dramatises the
extraordinary complexity of what ‘ome’ might mean
in a country full of exiles and the dispossessed.
For people then and now, Australia is a
large, seemingly empty continent!
Much theatre was and is concerned with:
 Alienation and a deep sense of not
belonging/ of worth (early settlers through to
present day)
 Search for unity / nationhood (turn into the
20th century) – theatre was challenged by
how to represent Australians to themselves;
used the bush legend to do this;
 Many plays portrayed men and women,
husbands, wives and families struggling to
survive the country, the droughts, the floods
and the isolation
Australian themes
Does it define itself in terms of a relationship
with this land?
 The question of belonging / insider or
 To distance
 To history
 To the suburbs
 To class
 To naturalism
Australian Theatre
There is a national pattern of theatrical activity
based on these structures:
 a mainstream theatre company in each city,
 a strong alternative theatre company in each city
 a commercial theatre based on high-quality
productions of imported musicals and emerging
local scripts
 a number of smaller, independent theatres
servicing the specific needs of either conservative
or adventurous audiences
 Vigorous community theatre movement
Australian Theatre
Consistent commitment at all three levels of
Government to supporting the arts
A network of venues throughout the country
Plethora of academic & private arts training
Ever improving standards of acting, design and
21st century culture: cross art/ form
collaborations/ New ways of making and
producing theatre and performance
Some examples
 From
 La Boite What if La Boite didn't
 From YouTube
 Belvoir St Theatre ‘death of a
Key Influences on performance making
Festivals & Fringes (360 in Australia, approx.)
 Brisbane Festival
 Sydney Festival
 Adelaide Festival
 Perth Festival
 Melbourne Festival
 Darwin Festival
 Alice Springs Festival
 Ten Days on the Island
Fringe Festivals
Adelaide Fringe
 Alice Springs Beanie Festival
 Desert Mob
Other Voices
Wesley Enoch:
 ‘Time for the arts to show society a way
 The arts are important for the health and
vitality of a community
 Indigenous arts offers such vision and
 Cultural, political and social leadership are
all manifested in indigenous arts practices’
Jim Sharman says that:
 Australian
theatre began with the
corroboree, a ritual dance-theatre
integral to the lives and culture of its
 The notion that theatre, and art in
general, are divorced from life and its
rituals, as a diversion from life, took
root with the arrival of European
Jim Sharman says that:
Storytelling would also have been and is part
of traditional culture.
In the legends and tales crucial to any
society is a direct connection between past
and present
It's a small step from the tribe clustered in a
cave around a storyteller silhouetted by a
camp-fire's reflected flames to our modern
tribes gathered in a theatre, or in that
labyrinth of caves known as a cinemacomplex.
Aboriginal Theatre
Underpinning much of the theatre is a
desire to inform and perhaps find a way
forward - reconciliation
 A way forward to heal and move on
 much of the underlying purpose of
Aboriginal theatre seems to be about a
‘cultural leadership’
Bran Nue Dae
A Turning Point in 1989
Twenty years of social and political
activism began
o Emerged from the 1960’s Aboriginal
Civil rights movement
o Writers, political activists, actors,
dancers and song writers began to
o Used the mass media to promote
their message
Some Key contemporary
Bangara Dance Company in Sydney
Ilbijeri Theatre Company in Melbourne
Yirra Yaakin Noongar Theatre Company in
Stalker Theatre Company/ Marrugeku.
Elcho Island Dancers N.T.
Tjapakai Dance Theatre in Cairns
- And maybe the Chooky Dancers!
The subtle influence of this important tradition
remains in fine theatre pieces such as
Terrain or Matthina by Bangara Dance
 Jandemarra by Steve Hawke
 Namatjira and Ngapartji Ngapartji by Big
 Waltzing the Wilarra by Yirra Yakkin
 Mimi by Marrugeku
 Shanghai Lady Killer by Stalker Theatre\
 Coranderrk by Ilbigerri Theatre
Deborah Cheetham
A Yorta Yorta Soprano, composer and author
Commissioned to write a piece by the Olympic Arts Festival
(1996) and the Festival of the Dreaming
 White Baptist Abba Fan, is an autobiographical account of
Deborah's life and includes arias by Handel, Puccini,
Catalanni, Dvorak, Gounod and Addams.
 In 2010 she wrote and produced an opera Pecan Summer:
performed by a cast of Indigenous and non-Indigenous
 The opera tells the story of the 1939 walk-off of 200 Yorta
Yorta men, women and children from the Cummeraganja
mission in southern New South Wales, across the Murray
River into Victoria.
From YouTube
Indigenous opera takes shape
What was this lecture about?
 The
performing arts in Australia
 An overview of the range, diversity and
achievement in this sector
 An outline of the structure and some of
the ideas that underpin and drive this
 Provide some appreciation of the great
deal of activity that there is in this sector
 Namatjira
and Ngapartji Ngapartji by
Big hART
 Ngapartji Ngapartji
 From YouTube
 Nothing Rhymes With Ngapartji
 Thank

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