As it gets to the narrow end of the year, it’s not surprising that I seem to be dipping into moments of introspection and retrospection – as I gear up for production – namely Vanessa Bates’ The Night We Lost Jenny and Alana Valentine’s The Sex Act for the season of Women, Power and Culture – and Platonic a site specific work by Playwriting Collective 7-ON.

After a massive 2010, 2011 has been a time of finding balance and scale. It’s been a conscious time of rest… I have often reassured my dear actorly colleagues that waiting and inaction can be a wonderful and nourishing thing. And this year has been a time of walking my talk. I needed some time to think about what it is I do… what it is I offer… who it is I am… and what is most important to me.

It is wonderful to see so many around me forming collectives, creating playreadings, dreaming up productions and the onwardness of the industry, especially I regards to playwrights and playwriting at the moment is nothing short of inspiring. In particular Tahli Corin and Josh Tyler’s new podcast called The Process and also a new writing Month (November) hosted by ISM at the Old 505 theatre in Surry Hills… there’s a lot on and happening in Sydney… in fact, I reckon if you are a writer, it’s pretty much the place to be.

This year has also seen me encounter a lot of rejection. A lot. Grants, literary jobs, residencies… and all I have accepted with a shrug and a smile and a small sense that perhaps I wasn’t the right fit, it wasn’t the right time. I’va also been offered lots of things – jobs, projects, plays that I have ended up releasing myself from for much the same reasons. I’ve received a lot of “NOs” and I’ve said a lot of “NOs”… and it’s all in the balance.

Sometimes, the decision to say NO… or to receive a NO can be brutal. When a NO happens especially to something you really want, or need or feel perfect for, it starts a wild and unrelenting philosophical interogation – AM I A HACK? IS THIS THE UNIVERSE TELLING ME I’M CRAP? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? It is after a few moments of this line of thinking that I stop. Make a cup of tea. Breathe. And relax. Because it really is an opportunity to stop and reflect, refine my thinking and start again.

But there is a slight identity crisis that happens. What am I doing? What should I be doing? Am I doing too much of the wrong things. Am I destined to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Should I aim to be the next Lee Lewis?

I recently applied for a residency – and below is my application. I didn’t get it. The interview was fine. There were some questions I thought were a bit weird and that I’m sure my honesty inhibited all chance of me being accepted – but you know what? I can’t be other than what and who I am. I don’t have a five year plan – I have a 20 year plan. But the important thing about this rejection was the application – the chance for me to write and define my thinking about what it is I do, who I am and what excites me.

And for that I am grateful.

So here is my response to the question: “Who are you, what do you do, tell us about your artistic practice…”

My name is Augusta Supple.

Via Google, I can be found in text – sometimes clumsy and unedited – earnestly reflecting on a piece of theatre, art or culture I am delighted by or struggling with – or perhaps I am commenting on issues pertaining to women in positions of creative control – or the value of culture.

Via Google, I can be found in photos hugging playwrights or actors or directors or standing with spinach quiche in one hand, a mineral water in the other – wearing all black or perhaps a pretty dress.

I’m not sure if that tells you who I am or what I do, exactly. But it gives you some idea of my level of engagement with the Australian theatre landscape.

I grew up in a small country town in Northern NSW, called Corindi Beach, which isn’t on most maps… but is on this one (third town from the top):

Depending on who you are/ where you’re from/ what you are interested in/ what you do on a regular (or semi-regular) basis, you may know me as a particular thing. The list below is an indicative but not exhaustive list of the nametags I’ve worn, the jobs I have done – or I am still doing – or I am taking a break from doing – or will be doing again soon – at some stage in my artistic practice.

Director, Creative producer, Board Member, script assessor, grant assessor, dramaturg, facebook participant, carpenter/set builder,
arts advocate, Stage Manager, muffin maker, blogger, theatre reviewer, arts commentator, musician, career advisor, rehearsal observer, Optimist, teetotaller, Workshop presenter, whippersnapper, grant writer, playwright, networker, Arts administrator, Forum convener, art buyer, Artistic Director, theatre subscriber, program coordinator, Theatre Punter, Key Note Speaker, Curator, philanthropist.

My artistic practice is completely devoted to the development and production of New Australian playwriting. I have a deep and insatiable desire to hunt out new writing – new genre, forms, new scripts, new talent. I am driven by a desire to find the next great Australian play and playwright.

For the past 5 years I have created multi-playwright projects to develop and promote new Australian writing. I have in that time seen the role of the curator/programmer as one of the most interesting and challenging roles in the theatre and I am keenly aware that these roles are few and far between. I have created these projects and panels so I can cultivate my relationship with playwrights as I love directing. I enjoy working with actors and writers and designers and crew. I love directing – and the easiest way to get to know writers I am interested in working with is to create a multi-playwright project.

One version of my bio says –

“Augusta Supple is a Sydney-based creative producer, director, curator and writer who works exclusively on new Australian plays. She has created programs, panels and festivals to nurture, promote and celebrate new Australian performance writing including Metamorphases (PACT), Brand Spanking New: a celebration of new Australian writing (New Theatre), Off the Shelf script development hothouse (Queen Street Studio), Stories From the 428 (Sidetrack Theatre), The Boiler Room Series (The Sydney Fringe Festival). She is on the Board of Shopfront Contemporary Arts Centre and Kaleidoscope Art Gallery, a script assessor for the National Play Festival and Re-Gen programs (PlayWriting Australia) and writes reviews and arts commentary for, and”

There’s a longer version of my bio that talks about my work in Canada directing the opening and closing ceremonies for a large music festival, as an assistant director on a large-scale community promenade play, as a director of the Guelph Youth Theatre, as an Arts Program Director at a Youth Music Centre. It also talks of my work writing plays for young audiences and co-writing musicals for children. There’s a focus on Independent theatre and on emerging artists. There’s also something in that version which lists the plays I have directed and the writers whose work I have directed in the past few years – Kate Mulvany, Ned Manning, Jonathan Gavin, Kit Brookman, Tahli Corin, Patrick Lenton, Brooke Robinson and the 7-On playwrights.

I believe that for every great theatrical experience great writing comes first. It is the keystone to great performance.

My practice is centred around an unshakeable belief that theatre is at it’s best when it operates as a colleagiate community without prizes or awards or hierarchy.

My aesthetic is based around my love of abstract art and sculptural installation – I am interested in what theatre can do that film can’t – which is ask for imagination to fill in the visual gaps.

The stories I like to tell ask us to take a second look, a deeper look and confront what is. They are about offering an audience a question or sometimes offering an answer to an unasked question. When I read a play, I read it for story, for message, and try to listen to what stays with me, what resonates long after I’ve finished reading. I read looking for a feeling. Reading plays can be an intellectual pursuit – for me it is instinctual.

Many directors have a list. I can’t say there is a play I’ve always wanted to direct. I have no desire to direct Hamlet. I have no list. The plays I want to direct have not yet been seen, some of them not yet heard. Some not yet written. Some by people who aren’t even playwrights yet. Though I don’t have a list of plays, I do have a list of playwrights I’d like to work with.

I guess I’d like to think of myself as this – If Katharine Brisbane and Wendy Blacklock had a baby… I’d be that baby.

The sentence that would most likely sum all this up would probably read like this –
“Augusta Supple is a passionate woman, committed whole heartedly to the creation, development, promotion, discussion and enjoyment of new Australian playwriting.”

The short answer is perhaps this –
“I am Augusta Supple and I do what I can.”