Season 5: Belonging

Community is a warm word, a comfy word: we all want to belong to something larger. But community does not exist without exclusion: how else would we know whether we’re on the outside, or on the outside? In ancient Greece, to be banished was the greatest punishment of all. Being outside the city walls meant no responsibilities anymore, but it also meant no rights and no protection. The banished man was no longer human, but considered equal to a beast, or to a god: great freedom, yet no relevance.

This warm and safe place, community, is also a place of obligations: to behave well, to act right, to lie for your mates, and to see no evil; to not recognise harm even when it is done to you, because it’s done by one of us, and we must stand together. And not everyone gets a good deal on the inside. It is from within that Audre Lorde wrote: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” It is from within that Virginia Woolfe wanted a room of her own.

But we are not always allowed to choose. Many of us are kept outside the walled gardens of belonging no matter what: sometimes by dictation tests, sometimes because we’re girls, sometimes because we cannot afford the entry fee, sometimes we are kept outside with sticks and stones, and sometimes with exquisite politeness. Sometimes we are asked, like James Baldwin was asked: “Where were you born?” And when we answer, they ask: “No, where were you born before that?”

In the fifth season of Audiostage, we ask what it means to want to belong; what it means to be let in, and not let in. We ask about being made an outsider even when we want to be insiders, and about the choices we make in order to step out of places we were never let into. We begin recording in the week in which the Australian Government has started to weaken Section 18c, the part of the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it an offense to use racial or ethnic slurs. We record from a country in which so many of us are constantly reminded that we, perhaps, do not belong here.

Episode 5: Jade Lillie & Lydia Fairhall on what it takes to create a community
Episode 4: Leticia Cáceres & Lena Caminha on being understood
Episode 3: Candy Bowers, Amoz Gebhardt & Chi Vu on the female gaze
Episode 2: Paola Balla & Carly Sheppard on motherhood and feminism
Episode 1: Elaine Brown & Alia Gabres on blackness and whiteness

Season 4: #queer

The society we know, our own culture, is based upon the exchange of women, wrote Luce Irigaray. That world, in which women are commodities, to be traded by men, to further the economic model that is the family, is what we call the patriarchy. And women and men are not born, but become so, through a slow process of repeating gestures, of styling our bodies to be feminine, to be masculine. Where do we learn that? Through family, school, society, and by seeing ourselves, our ideal selves, in art.

Theatre has a complex relationship to gender norms. On the one hand, it is the textbook of how to be a man, a woman, a husband, a wife, a family. On the other hand, no art form is as open to subverting and questioning the norms that govern our sexed bodies. On theatre stage, there is also drag, burlesque, performance art, vogueing, the stage is where Nora slammed the door and walked out of her marriage.

Queer is everything outside the norm of how to be a man or a woman. It is subversive, but never violent. Queer is a gay man whose T-shirt says ‘dyke’, queer is a femme lesbian, queer is a single mother, queer is a man who cries.

In the fourth season of Audio Stage, we talk to performers and performance makers about what queer is, and isn’t, how it exists in performance, how queer performance exists in the world, about its political power, and its aesthetic urgency.

Episode 5: Matthew Todd: how to be gay and happy
Episode 4: The Rabble: queering iconography
Episode 3: Sisters Grimm: the queer mainstream & the drag political
Episode 2: Rachel Perks: to speak as a queer woman
Episode 1: Zvonimir Dobrović on what is, and isn’t queer performance

Season 3: Value & Price

In a money-driven world, performing arts are subject to market rules, like any other field of production. Together with funding – be public or private – performing arts receive a mandate to produce something of value. But what is value, in the context of art? Is it the price we can get on the finished product? Or is there an intrinsic value in art, for its own sake?

We feel the pressure to produce commodities – things to exchange for money. But with no tangible object to trade, except the experiential moment of the now, can the embodied performative event be a commodity, to be traded like any other? And how do we understand work, in this context? What monetary value can be placed on performance, and what work produces that value? How does money – whether public, corporate, or philantropic – affect, prescribe, and determine the content of a performance, the forms of thinking if embodies, its modes of production, the artist’s status in society, the economies of work, and the value of value itself?

Artists have been resisting and challenging market forces since the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, we see some artists re-defining and re-framing themselves as entrepreneurs and marketeers, while others are shaping alternative modes of experiencing an embodied event by resisting the mechanisms of capitalism. Where can performance sit, on the sliding scale between compliance and resistance?

Episode 5: Matthew Day on dance and physical affect
Episode 4: Sarah-Jane Norman on how dance occupies the self
Episode 3: Bojana Cvejić on the dance market and the dance worker
Episode 2: Deborah Jowitt on the value of dance criticism
Episode 1: Chrysa Parkinson on the value of dance as practice

Season 2: Responsibility

‘Responsibility’ is a word that comes up a lot in art, but its meaning is as multifaceted as the artists who use. It can mean duty of care to your fellow practitioners, responsibility to deliver the product the subscribers are paying for, or not traumatising an audience who did not consent to be traumatised. But it can also mean responsibility to be brave. Brave enough to tell the hard stories. To press on wounds that need pressing. Sometimes the old adage that art ‘holds a mirror up to society’ is far to passive. Sometimes that mirror needs smashing.

In this, the second season of Audio Stage, we are talking responsibility in art: what responsibility means to theatre practitioners, and how we remain ethical in art.

Episode 5: Angharad Wynne-Jones & Esther Anatolitis on the responsibility of cultural leaders
Episode 4: Jolyon James & Sonya Suares on responsibility in acting
Episode 3: Roslyn Oades on responsibility in verbatim theatre
Episode 2: Jane Howard & Richard Watts on responsibility in criticism
Episode 1: Melissa Reeves & Patricia Cornelius on responsibility of playwrights

Season 1: Memory & Documentation

In the performing arts, our work is mortal.

This is something we are acutely aware of within our practice; something that we incorporate into the very definition of our art form. Live performance. We are creating works to be experienced by an audience present to share the moment with its makers. So what happens to our art when it ceases to be ‘live’? When it becomes part of our personal and communal heritage? How is it remembered, misremembered, forgotten?

It is often said that Australian performing arts operate in deep ignorance of its history, its own heritage, which makes each new generation have to learn the same lessons anew. Peter Holloway wrote: “Each new generation of [Australian] dramatists has had to regain its craft, its Australianness, and its confidence from its own resources.” But how do you record performance? After all, it is defined by a moment of presence. Peggy Phelan said it most definitively: “performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented… Performance’s being… becomes itself through disappearance.”

Documentation of a live event is always inadequate, incomplete. But. Not documenting our history and work as a community is even more so. The danger lies in losing all record of what came before us, leaving artists to operate, in the words of Julian Meyrick, “as if theatre was a terra nullius to be populated exclusively by the latest trends and stage styles” without any awareness that we’ve been here before or that our art is a part of an on-going cultural heritage. Today we’re going to talk about some of that heritage, its preservation and how it influences our work today.

Episode 5: Julian Meyrick on exploring the past
Episode 4: John Kachoyan, Mark Wilson & Marcel Dorney on making theatre without history
Episode 3: Angela Conquet on documenting dance
Episode 2: Alison Croggon on writing history
Episode 1: Robert Reid on histories