Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August 31. Day 244. In God We Trust

 It's a weird old thing. The only place where I am a Catholic these days is on paper (such as the census form which as we all know wasn't paper this time around but clearly should have been). I find myself in church only on occasions of weddings, baptisms or these days far more likely funerals. And yet the responses are still there ready to tip out of my mouth as readily as they did when I was a Catholic schoolgirl.
But when push comes to shove lapsed or otherwise the Catholic schoolgirl is still there. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic at least at some level. You're born to it and you die in it. This may be why I am so incredibly attracted to the story of Saint Mary's in Exile which will officially open tomorrow night. The story of a priest who followed his own faith and his own belief in social justice rather than the strict teachings of the church is compelling. It's a story about faith. It's a story of a David and Goliath battle but at its heart its a story about people. It's a secular story as much as it is a religious story or that's how it was sold at the media briefing this afternoon. I do love the opportunity to go behind the scenes before a play opens, to meet the cast and to get that sense of awe you feel when you first see a set, first see the actors on stage. To be able to do that twice is an honour indeed. It also gives you the opportunity to get inside the director's head and in this case that of the writer as well. And here's a scoop. Word on the street is that the current Archbishop of Brisbane Mark Coleridge has apparently decided to have a look. What I wouldn't give to get inside his head and see just what he thinks of the production. It's a question of faith.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August 30. Day 243. Eating like a bird

Bloody fussy lot, the birds in my street. Not influenced by the saying "beggars can't be choosers" they refuse, simply refuse to eat mince from Woolworths. Or so I'm told. I'm pretty sure a blind taste test has not been conducted possibly due to the challenging logistics involved in blindfolding birds. I will have to take Margaret's word for it. Those who have been playing along at home will know that my neighbour Margaret is a little bit set in her ways by which I mean stubborn as a mule. She says Coles mince rolls nicely into balls and can be lined up on the windowsill, a bit like a Maccas drive through although I'm pretty sure she's never been to one of those. Woolworths mince lacks the essential ball-rolling qualities, apparently. It might well be argued that the birds should not be eating mince from either of the big two. My dogs certainly should not but these details Margaret chooses to ignore. The dogs' diet I protect by careful timing of visits. The birds, I'm afraid, are on their own although the recent price hike of mince to $9 a tray may force a rethink. Somehow I doubt it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

August 29. Day 242. Busting makes me feel good

I have not seen the new Ghost Busters movie. I will not see the new Ghost Busters movie. Further I have not attempted to catch a Pokemon and nor will I. Still that doesn't mean I'm above cashing in on the latest popular culture trends. I love exploiting the latest thing. I also like a little bit of theatrics. So today I enlisted the help of Drama Teen and his drama school buddies Lizzie, Sarah, Kerry and a friend for a stunt that was part fun and part serious teaching moment. The actors invaded an Online Journalism lecture being given by Spencer Howson who was in on the gag. The aim? To make sure the students had been listening when I bleated on about the need to have their phones at the ready to cover anything, anytime. But there was a second message I wanted to get across. That the need to cover breaking news in the moment was only part of the story. Journalists are people too and as such should be also thinking about their role as a human. Rule one is Do No Further Harm but rule two is can I do good by interceding. There's a further question: is the good of getting the story out "the public's right to know" greater than the good that can come of stepping in or helping out?
In the moment that's never going to be easy to answer especially if there's some serious sh*t going on around you. This is why I like to at least raise the question when there's pretty much nothing at stake (unless someone actually felt threatened by a white sheet with holes). And finally it gave me  laugh and I still believe learning while having fun is the best of both worlds.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

August 28. Day 241. Celebrate good times. Come on

 It's birthday season in my family. There's something about November that seems to make people want to conceive and August that makes them want to give birth. This means present shopping and in return cake. This is a fair deal in any man (or women's) language. So it was today that we all gathered at the home of my sister Marie for a combined celebration for the birthdays of her daughter Scarlett, my mother Margaret and our niece Amelia. For each it was a special birthday. Mum reached three quarters of a century, Scarlett left her teens and Amelia entered them. Now if that's not a good reason to eat, drink and be merry I don't know what is. And then because we are all getting old we went home and had a little lie down (well I did. I can't really speak for the others). It's their party and they can lie if they want to.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

August 27. Day 240. Les Liaisons Dangereuses

John Warner as Le Vicomte de Valmont
Fiona Kennedy as  La Marquise de Merteuil
 Every generation seems to think that they invented the sexual revolution. Young people think those who went before are old fuddy duddies. And the old fuddy duddies allow the belief to prosper by seeing the young as wild and promiscuous. How quickly we forget. Let me take you back to 1782 (no, I wasn't alive then although I'm sure many of my students would find it hard to believe). But that was the year Pierre Choderlos de Laclos wrote Les Liaisons Dangereuses a positively scandalous novel written entirely in letter form. Even today the antics of those wild French aristocrats would make the nude selfie-sending teenagers blush. In fact my jaw may have dropped just a little as I sat in the audience of Villanova Players' stage adaptation this afternoon.  This is a wickedly funny tale of revenge, betrayal and manipulation as well as many, many dangerous liaisons. The performances were as captivating as the characters were conniving. And that was only round one. But a few hours later on the other side of town I was transported to 1926. This time it was Growl Theatre's production of  The Constant Wife written by W Somerset Maugham. Once again the tale is about duplicitous dealings, infidelity and the battle of the sexes. It raises interesting questions about love, lust and the manoeuvres of marriage. I may have snorted just a little when the lead character Constance Middleton delivered the classic line about modern wives being parasites "a prostitute who doesn't deliver the goods". Lordy. And we think we live in enlightened times. Okay, this may not exactly be a history lesson but we can learn a lot about a time from the works created by the greater writers of the period. And actors allow the audience to be a fly on the wall. There are far, far worse ways to invest a few hours on the weekend. I for one highly recommend it.
The Constant Wife is on at the Windsor School of Arts Hall until September 3.
Les Liaisons Dangerueses is on at the Yeronga State High School Hall until September 11.

Friday, August 26, 2016

August 26. Day 239. Poetry in motion

There's a certain poetry about a Friday afternoon. No, I don't find myself sprouting verse, blank or otherwise. It's more that Friday is POETS Day, a fine tradition known as Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday. I must say that this week more than most I felt an urge to down tools and escape. There's probably even some perfectly wonderful rhyming slang to describe the mood but I am too tired to think of it or repeat it. But with my furry  accomplices in tow, we went off to visit Grandma. For the dogs, it was more like Christmas than Poets Day. They got to charge around the back yard after birds that were close enough to suggest a possibility without ever getting close enough to present any danger. And I got to sit back and watch the stage show. It really was poetry in motion.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

August 25. Day 238. You can all duck off

 And here we go again. It's that time of semester where the overwhelming sense of drowning begins. Where the piles of marking mount and the piles of bottom flare from sitting so long over the mounting marking. It's exhausting and of course the more you need sleep the less time there is for the dearly beloved ZZZZZs. But I have come to realise that saving time by tying yourself to your desk is a false economy. The brain as well as the bottom need a break and the dogs need a walk. So off we went to visit the ducks. I feel fairly certain that the ducks could have lived without the enthusiastic welcome offered by Rumple and Winkle. They were, indeed, ducking for cover but when it was all over I know we all felt better for it. And it's not as though the marking's going anywhere much as I might wish it would. Sighs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August 24. Day 237. Rain, rain go away

 The only advantage of a rainy Wednesday is that it doesn't make a day spent marking feel so bad. The marking still sucks. The resentment is a little less, or at least I think so. There would want to be some compensation because there is one big, fat negative - Winkle. Winkle, she of the book Winkle Did a Wee, reverts to character every time it rains. Every single time. Pretty Princess Winkle simply refuses to get her fur or her paws wet. She wees indoors and today she decided to do number twos as well. Yes that was a plural. Not only more than one in my house but in more than one house. She left a little present when we went to visit Margaret as well. Seriously, cleaning up dog sh*t makes marking look like a walk in the park. Perhaps that was her gift to me today to distract me from the pain of marking. It didn't work. It just gave me another thing to be annoyed about. But with hump day over things can only get better, right? Right?????
(Please say yes. I'm talking to you, Winkle)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

August 23. Day 236. It's hard to get good help

If you want a job done properly do it yourself. Well that's one philosophy and I admit that there are times when that is the best, often the only way to go. Trying to find someone and brief them and supervise them and then correct the mess can take more time and effort than simply pulling your finger out and getting on with it. But there's no need to be silly about it. Recognising when to delegate and/or outsource is a fine life skill. You have to trust  that the master knows what he or she is doing and leave him/her to get on with it. My dogs are especially good at that. They are incredibly trusting. They watch me with admiration and trust with no sign of doubt or questioning. They might "prompt" gently around meal times but for the most part I'm the leader of the pack and they are good with that. There must be times, however, when they wonder. Like today. My only job was to take them to the dog park after a long day marking. They had been most patient. At the dog park you don't need much - the dogs, a ball and I normally pack a treat to reward them when they come when called at going home time. Well at least I had the dogs. One out of three ain't bad. It's terrible. The forgiving little creatures played chase instead and tomorrow they will once again leave me in charge and once again I'll probably fail. It's hard to get good help.

August 22. Day 235. Art imitating life

Sure, life sometimes imitates art but it is so, so interesting when it happens the other way around. This is especially so when it's about sex, religion or politics. The story of St Mary's, a Catholic Church in South Brisbane just down the road from where I live, is a story of such intrigue, such fascination that it reads like a stage play - and now it is, or at least it will be in a week or so. The priest and congregation of St Mary's is now in exile and worships not in the church built Italian Renaissance-style church built 1893 but in the very ugly Trades and Labour Council building which is, ironically, just across Hope Street. The story of how the church in Brisbane split and how Father Peter Kennedy was excommunicated from the Catholic Church is the story of an unholy uproar within the church. When you hear Queensland Theatre Company Artistic Director Sam Strong talk about it, as I did at a play briefing tonight, you just want to see it. It is rare that a writer and cast are able to meet the individuals they are representing on stage. It is rare for an audience to be able to see such local stories on stage before the ink is yet on that page in history let alone dried. It is an exciting project. I'm pretty sure that after two years in the development stage, this isn't the last we will hear of St Mary's in Exile

 Father Peter cried when he saw it at a special private preview. I have a sneaky suspicion I might just do the same.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August 21. Day 234. A tissue, a tissue. We all fall down

Chronologically speaking I'm a grown up.
But age is only a number and the number 51 doesn't adequately represent me.
Some days 100 might be closer to the truth but on the inside I think just about all of us are big kids.
I'm a kid still trying to work out what I want to do when I grow up.
My neighbour Margaret is a big kid who giggles like a little girl whenever the dogs turn up and just about everyone at South Bank at the Sunday sessions on the lawn became a big kid when presented with a giant Jenga set. 
And why the hell not?
Little blocks are for little kids. Make the blocks a bit bigger and big kids can't resist.
It makes absolute sense.

And that comes from a big little kid.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

August 20. Day 233. You're only human

There's a convention in the theatre (actually the theatre is full of them but for the purpose of this exercise I'll pick just one). At the end of the show when taking bows, the performers gesture to thank those back stage, those in the lighting and sound booth, the orchestra if there is one and the audience. The audience. The audience who on paper did nothing but sit there. The audience who bring nothing but themselves and their $$$. The audience who in fact bring everything. A bad audience can ruin a show as much as a bad performance. You've got to bring with you a willingness to be entertained. Obvious really but under-rated. You'll hear performers say "tough crowd"  and I've sat in a theatre that might as well have been packed with crash test dummies. I've also sat in the audience packed with friends and family which can be just as annoying because they laugh too early or too loud or in the wrong places. Which brings me to today.  I was at South Bank when I saw a familiar face, a performer known as Melon the Human AKA Tom Stewart. A storm was approaching so Melon decided to rush to preform before the heavens opened. The crowds eagerly gathered and moved in close as the finale approached. Melon choose a volunteer whose job it was to blow bubbles behind him as he juggled giant bubbles. Simple enough but she just didn't play along except in the most perfunctory, disengaged sort of a way. I've seen more life in a lecture theatre at 9am on a Monday. Remember this bloke successfully auditioned for Cirque du Soleil. Remember he charges nothing. All you HAVE to do as an audience member is play along. That wouldn't seem like much to ask but she wasn't playing. Not to be deterred Melon the Human put in a super human effort and the crowd cheered. Some even opened their wallets. To the rest of you, I hope you used that $5 or $10 you might have contributed wisely. There might be no such thing as a free lunch but a free performance we take for granted. Hardly seems fair.

Friday, August 19, 2016

August 19. Day 232. Stone the crows

Humans have an extraordinary ability to find a common enemy to blame rather than face an uncomfortable truth. We like a scapegoat even if that creature is not a goat but a crow.
I mean they do not sound pretty but they do perform a most useful service. And if they are annoying bin feeding opportunists, the question we really should ask is who left the waste lying around in the first place? The crows on the steps of QPAC this morning were just doing what nature intended (although strictly speaking nature probably didn't intend for Grilled chicken and chips but you get the idea).
We leave our bits lying about and then get all judgey with the crows for having a go. That hardly seems fair now does it?
Personally I think there's an elegant beauty to the crow and I do find I have a natural affinity to all creature so determined to get a feed.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August 18. Day 231. The Murri Way

This year's possibly eternity's most politically incorrect comedy Sausage Party did make a few biting comments about the world we live in. Racial intolerance was one of the world's big issues in the writers' sights. Of course, in the way only Americans can there was a Sesame Street style resolution that basically said if we all just got to know each other all those problems would melt away. If only it was that simple. It isn't but it certainly is an awesome place to start, especially if you work on the hearts and minds of the young. This is clearly the philosophy of the behind this week's QUT Murri-Ailan Way, a celebration of National Aboriginal Islander Day Observance Committee  week. In the parade ground right outside my office there were performances, demonstrations and workshops. I watched Jyi Lawton paint before stopping by Aunty Edna’s basket weaving workshops. Aunty Edna told me she was from the Torres Strait where basket weaving was considered women's business. She explained how the banana or palm leaves needed to be rolled carefully so they wouldn't curl and how you had to give the weave a really good tug to ensure it was really really tight. And than she laughed, a laugh that was infectious. Only in American movies would that be the answer to all the world's problems but taking the time to understand each other's customs and traditions is always time well spent.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

August 17. Day 230. Heart of Gold

 It is very easy to be so caught up in your own thoughts that you fail to see the things around you. Like buskers, for example. I tend to notice the ones at South Bank but barely given a second thought to the ones who sit outside the bus/train station in Tribune Street. By the time I hit there I'm on the homeward run and the mind is very much on the to-do list. I'm thinking dinner or marking or if I'm really lucky a nap. I acknowledge the buskers but never stop, never listen, never lighten my wallet. Today I had walked right by Rio or Shmeagol ... and then he started singing. I stopped and turned. A woman walking behind me mouthed "he's good". And indeed he was. His version of Heart of Gold was indeed very good. So I walked back and emptied my wallet of all its gold coins and asked to take pics. He was lovely and his philosophy to his music is as well: "Music with no price tag in mind but only with the intention to strike hope, consolation or ecstasy in a human.
It is what it is." Yep, a heart of gold

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

August 16. Day 229. While the Cat's away the dog will play

She really is the gift who keeps on giving. Winkle has an ability to seek out and destroy things you didn't even know you still had. Today, in an almost ultimate irony it was face paint left over from when Drama Teen performed in Cats about two years ago. If only she knew... And then tinsel. She really is a little devil in a way Rumple never was. People tell me that you forget and that Rumple is no longer a puppy. As someone whose father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in his 50s, I am well aware of the frailty of memory, especially my own. I know you do forget. I also know they are two very, very different beasts. My problem is that it is almost if it's wrong to compare your "kids" and say one is very different from the other. That this one is wickedly cute, funny and playful (Winkle) while that one is smart, loyal, loving and endlessly sensible (Rumple). Difference seems to be considered inherently bad. It's like the ad where the original is the best and any departure from that model is clearly of inferior quality. Different is just that. Not the same. That's a good thing. My dogs are different (just as well really). I love them differently but I love them equally. And I do love that Winkle is capable to decorating herself almost perfectly in face paint. The fact she also decorated the carpet is far less appealing.

Monday, August 15, 2016

August 15. Day 228. Performance Anxiety

 I always considered performance anxiety to be a term that related largely to alcohol-induced bedroom shortfalls. As the parent of an aspiring actor - one whose audition monologues generally involve playing a psychopathic criminal - I should have given more thought to exactly what happens to your brain when you play emotionally taxing roles. But I didn't ... until today. Director Marcel Dorney, whose latest project True West opens at The Powerhouse this week, was explaining just how draining the piece is for the actors. True West is described as "a modern masterpiece that is a physical and psychological showdown of sibling rivalry played out in two hours of the most gripping theatre you’ll see this year". The roles of the brothers, previously played by the likes of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John Malkovich and David Wenham, are being taken on in this production by Thomas Larkin and Julian Curtis. Even just seeing one scene in rehearsal you get a hint of where this is going and that it is not good. But listening to Dorney speak you come to understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg. He explained that studies have shown that when a performer conveys a depth of emotion on stage, the mind might know it's an act but the body does not.  The impact is exactly the same as if that individual is actually living that experience. The research does back him up. In an article in the Guardian psychologists at California State University wrote that there was a body of research concluding  "there is a psychological cost for participants engaged in the creative arts". In short, to convey grief or anger, or despair or self loathing or profound sadness in an authentic way you have to feel it, and that hurts in a real way. Dorney went on that to say the Powerhouse season was relatively short (12 performances between August 17 and August 27). If it was a longer season, mechanisms would be have needed to be put in place to protect the actors essentially from themselves. And all for our theatrical enjoyment. Given that level of commitment it would be quite wrong not to see True West. It promises to be one of those unforgettable nights in the theatre - for the actors and the audience.