Australian Theatre Network meet-and-greet: 14 Sept

(I gulped my sandwich and sat on the floor…)

“Theatre networks are forming around the country, from fledgling groups to the established Theatre Network Victoria and Theatre Council of Tasmania. If you are involved in a network in your state, or just interested in finding out more, grab lunch and meet in the Temporary Archive in the Park Mezzanine, Wednesday 14 September at 1.30pm. Contact Nicole Beyer, Director of TNV, for more information: nicole@tnv.net.au”

I mentioned that theatre folk are by their nature fascinating gyspy community and for the first time the Australia Council (and state government funding bodies) have encouraged the theatre sector to combine forces to have a unified voice. Initially spruiked as a means of Small-Medium Theatre sector pooling resources, the NSW Theatre Network which is slowly developing under the housing of the Griffin Theatre (thanks to previous Griffin GM Nathan Bennett and Version 1.0 CEO David Williams). The NSW theatre network has not yet formed because the diverse needs of the sector is so large. Kim Hanna was then commissioned to present a scoping study for the sector – which was presented one Sunday a few months back (I sent a colleague by proxy- at short notice I was unable to attend) and the paper largely reflected what we all essentially know an dear at every forum and meeting offered to artists (best exemplified during the meetings hosted by Virginia Judge when she was setting the arts agenda) – that artists feel isolated and ignored, disconnected.

For me as an Independent artist – I find it fascinating when I see individuals who are staff in companies identify themselves as independent artist. Really? I thought as I saw one delegate who is employed by a medium-sized company cross out the company he works for and is on the delegate list as attending – and write “Indy.” Guess what? You think you’re an independent artist? You’re not. Just because you’re not paid as much as you’d like, doesn’t make you indy. The indy sector has very different needs from the sector that is sheltered by triennial funding. Individual artists also have a very different set of needs and requirements from those who are a part of an indy company and from government funded organisations. For me, a theatre network which includes the major performing arts organisations – and those companies that are resourced by many infrastructures will overwhelm the voices of the individual indy artists. They are more practiced, more confident in voicing their ideas.

The question is largely about how do we form a national network – with the diverse and wide reaching demands and expectations of each state – how does a sector unify?

The TNV (Theatre Network of Victoria) has now been in operation under Nicole Beyer for 2 years… and recently Tasmania has a part time representative for 12 months, Anna Kelsey-Sugg, to create a unified sector. The Tasmanian theatre network also includes community, pro-am, youth and amateur companies – not just the independent and mainstage sector.

The other states and territories have their own challenges, eg the Northern Territory does not have a training institution to create an immediate bridge between facilitators and artists and there are only two professional venues in Darwin.

The questions and needs that are unique to the resources, companies, psychology, landscape, opportunties of each state are a huge and fascinating challenge. And a network is more than necessary – it’s essential. It takes a LONG time for all of this to happen… and for the question of who is this for, what do we need, how should we proceed.

(… then my foot fell asleep and I headed to the Women in Theatre Research panel…)