At the beginning of every project there is the hope – the big dream of what it could be- what it could look like, could become- what the outcomes are- what the biggest, most exciting wonderful thing that could happen as a result of the project: for me, for the participants, for the projects themselves, for the audience, for the industry, for the wider over arching pursuit of art. And sometimes project management is about making sure that one of the stakeholders’s wishes does not out weigh the other… eg there is absolutely no point in continuing on a grand quest for your art form if there isn’t an audience and no industry is affected by it.

It’s 48 hours until segments from 4 new Australian plays that have been in the OFF THE SHELF residency are presented to an invited audience for feedback.

Off The Shelf is a pretty unique residency- and when I think about it – its the small differences that I think make it unique- and the scale of the project aims for quality not quantity. A quality experience for the participants.

Unlike other development residencies- it is small scale. 15 hours of space within which to write, rehearse or chat… within a 2 month period which the artists manage. It involves the projects coming fully cast, and not necessarilly fully written (though that does help!) and often with relationships between writers and directors that are untested. The variability in the project is huge- genre, presentation style, writing process, dramaturgical process- all different and as unique as the artists within the project. Also this is a project for artists who identify themselves as “emerging”- this is not a label I put on them- but they put on themselves.

(On a few applications this title was ignored and a few fairly heavy weight independent practitioners applied. And I took the brave step of not choosing them- not because the project wasn’t fantastic- but because they could grab a full residency from Queen Street or from one of the fully funded theatres.)

In the natural order of theatre, as with the order of the natural world- there is a natural selection to things- people come and go, are on the project, are off the project. And every project has its struggles- its problems to be solved, people to be wrangled, ideas to be acted upon or kept for another time. And regardless of the problems, the troubles to be shot- the project remains the centre of focus.

The projects which are showing on Sunday are a testament to the strength, resilience, passion, drive and generosity of the artists involved- their bravery match with urgency of wanting to say something. Each are unique in genre, process, presentation- each are not trying to fit into my expectation- or the “program’s” expectations- each are evolved as they should in their own time and space, in their own way. And I couldn’t be more excited, pleased, thrilled and proud. Because playwrighting is not paint by numbers. Creativity and imagination cannot be taught and perhaps thats why Eistein valued it over “knowledge.” I, for one, am much more interested in the unknown than the known; the risk-taking not the safe; the spontaneous not the predictable because truly that is what life is. And our job as artists is to reflect, explore and celebrate life- not to dull and dumb into into safe and predictably beige average outcomes.

Congratulations to the Off the Shelfers-

“Of the Causes of Wonderful Things” written by Talya Rubin, directed by Nick James
with Talya Rubin and Nick Curnow

“Wretched Excess” written by Stephen Graham, directed by David Adlam
with Aaron Glenane and Candice Storey

“Zetland” written by Jasper Marlow, directed by Mark Pritchard
with Nick Curnow, Alex Bryant-Smith and Andrew Johnston

“Combat Fatigue” written by Alison Rooke, directed by Ian Zammit
with Naomi Livingstone, Salman Shad, Patrick Connolly, Mark Dessaix and Oleg Pupovac