First Published March 2007

Being in the business of the theatre is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle choice. The choice results in a certain self-righteous smile when paying your rent at the bank and the clerk asks you if you want to consider a mortgage. “No,” you think to yourself… “I am not of the 2.4 kids/car/mortgage/$100 haircut every second Wednesday variety of person, ” and as you confidently stride out of the bank, your shoulders start to slope, your head bows and your heart feels a heavy dullness as you realize that, that in itself, shows something of the transience of what you do.

Theatre is like life itself, with a certain “now you see it, now you…” kind of aspect to it. The instant the light fades; the audience claps (hopefully), the actors take their bow: It’s over. It will never be the same as it was, even in a re-mount. “You can never step into the same river”, which is the brilliance of it. The creators of the theatre event, theatre (in a universal sense) and the audience are constantly moving/evolving / experiencing and to try to stop or preserve it would be against the very nature of the beast. It is the immediacy, intimacy, the “carpe diem” aspect of it, the “Now! See it now!” impetus that makes the active act of seeing theatre such a revitalizing force. That is its strength. That is its purpose: to remind us that “it’s now or never.” Theatre is not something that is a passive pastime.

The problem to returning home with a swag full of experience is that no one has seen anything you have done – no one knows what you do. No one, that is, but you. The memory of it is living in you. Only you know what you are capable of. As Tom Stoppard so eloquently expressed in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, “We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”

What makes people brave enough to engage in this thing called the theatre? What makes them invest so much of themselves in this art form? Theatre people may not have the material markers of “success” like other people do. They may never own a house nor have a really glorious superannuation fund or a gleaming gold nest egg. They may not reach the stardom that would encourage paparazzi to chase them. But its not fame nor fortune that drives someone into the theatre: and if it is, they may be sorely disappointed. If you want to be famous perhaps you might want to audition for a reality TV show or try out your best Jedi moves on You Tube. There are plenty of ways to be famous… and being a theatre person is fairly low on that list.

There are a lot of things that can stop you from doing what you love. You could be terrified of the competition. Of failure, of judgment (of others and even more terrifying your judgment of yourself). Lack of money. Lack of time. Lack of space? I have had many pitches rejected… more than I have had accepted. Rejection is apart of this game. And although I don’t like it… it’s not a deterrent. Everyone’s a critic, everyone has an opinion… And so they should. I am more excited by a critic who is brave enough to call a spade a spade… than one who sings platitudes to a company for their “effort”. But it is difficult to be brave. Its hard to put yourself out there to be judged and rejected, time and time again. Sometimes I don’t feel so brave. Sometimes I can’t see where or when
The problem to returning home with a swag full of experience is that no one has seen anything you have done.
my next show will appear: and the dread of being asked by anyone especially long lost “colleagues”, “so, what are you working on right now?” is enough to cripple me into a spiral of self doubt and into eating a litre of gelato.

A few weekends ago, I sat on the grass outside Currency Press. I was there as an anonymous and interested member of the arts community to honour the memory of Alexander Buzo who passed away last year.

For those not familiar with Buzo: he wrote many plays and social commentaries including such essential reading as: The young person’s guide to the theatre and almost everything else, Coralie Landsdowne Says No, Norm and Ahmed and Big River.

There were a smattering of people stretched out like school children on the lawn listening to a few readings of Buzo’s work whilst idly picking at the grass. I looked around, a few academics, a couple of actors and the legendary Katherine Brisbane co-founder of currency press. We went inside the currency press building and sat wooden folding chairs and settled ourselves for some readings of his plays. Sandy Gore read a section of Coralie Landsdowne. Of course I had read it before, in fact studied it at Uni under the careful mind of Professor Elizabeth Webby (who was sitting behind me at this reading).

But nothing prepared me for the precision with which Ms Gore pinned those words to my heart. She was just sitting there, with a photocopy of the script in hand as the sun streamed through the window of a room too small for this moment. She transformed those printed words on a page into a breathing character. And for that moment I felt it. The gravity of the scene. The world of the characters. Tears formed in my eyes and I thought “how beautiful, how devastatingly beautiful!” How amazing that I have had the opportunity to see this moment. That someone was brave enough to think those thoughts, then brave enough to write it down, brave enough to show it to someone else, who was brave enough to direct it, to publish it, to perform it.

How wonderfully brave it is to contribute to the ongoing conversation of art, of theatre. Despite the possibility of rejection, failure, financial collapse, art happens anyway. Sometimes in spite of and sometimes because of the struggle. Sometimes in the most unexpected places you can find inspiration and remember why it is you even bother. Being brave is really hard, and I guess that’s what makes it so worthwhile.