Well thank goodness that’s over! I don’t know about you, but 2011 was a weird one.

It was a melee a hubbub of choices, realisations, conversations, applications, squabbles, offers, acceptances, approaches, debates and near misses. I had cleared the decks – ended my long-term relationship with one of the nicest botanists Canada has produced, left a job I loved, stepped away from my much loved annual projects, and decided that 2011 would be a fallow year for me.

A quiet year.

A year off.

Instead of my usual large scale multi-playwright productions I decided to sit back and see who of all the playwrights and artists I have worked with/commissioned/coffeed who would come to me. I decided to dedicated myself to being available to be approached by any/all artists… and I decided I would try just reviewing… or even try to get a job at a theatre company (end my years of hard-slog independence – after all I felt in the need of shelter after a fairly tumultuous upheaval of job/love/life/identity)… I decided 2011 would be small, quiet and I would not launch anything big. I decided that I would spend a year listening and watching… a year of reading and inhaling.

In 2011 I saw 134 shows and wrote 128 reviews (that’s approx 120,000 words). I directed 11 playlettes in 3 months (equating to nearly 3 hours of stage content). I wrote 10 columns discussing the Australian cultural landscape. I met with many people about starting a Writer’s Theatre in Sydney. I held three play readings in my living room. I was nominated for a Sidney Myer Fellowship by some of my industry heroes. I wrote two lots of rehearsal observation for Michal Imielski. I was quoted nationally and internationally about cultural stuff I ranted about – mainly to do with theatre criticsm, sexism/ portrayal of women in plays, the culture of new play development. I was flown to Brisbane to the Australian Theatre Forum to “blog.” I commented on the National Cultural Policy. I commented on the Reg Murphy Centre. I hosted artists and crew and Adelaide’s lady Blogger Jane Howard in my spare room. I celebrated Currency Press’ 40th Birthday. I ate breakfast with Bruce Beresford and Noni Hazelhurst. I maintained my duties as a Board member of Shopfront Theatre AND was a founding advisory board member a brand new artist-run visual art gallery in Dank St Waterloo called Kaleidoscope Gallery run by the delightful Sami Mitchell-Fin. I helped plant a vegie garden in Granville. I surrendered to a new and terrifying relationship which breaks my Cardinal rule of “never date someone in The Industry!” I taught at NIDA (weird!). I delighted in regularly eating cheese and chatting with Kevin Jackson at opening nights. I joined a gym! I attended the National Play Festival. I was befriended by Anthony Skuse and fell in love with him and his partner and their life. I met regularly with Olivia Satchell and Shondelle Pratt for theatre/career discussion coffee catch ups. I visited Vanessa Hughes and Alan Logan in the Blue Mountains. I finally got my drivers license (after being too scared/busy). I started working with 7-On playwrights. I shot a short film. I wrote 14 letters of support/references for artists and organisations.

I ended the year by the river in Karuah, playing guitar with Michal Imielski and singing impromptu songs to a star splattered sky.

That was my year.

That was 2011.

Anyway. What you want to hear is my summary of 2011 in the world of theatre/culture/performance/art.

As you all know I don’t believe in competition in art. The act is pursuit enough.

Also, I’m not in the Sydney Theatre Critics circle. There is no award. I think that the notion of the Theatre Awards (Helpmans and the Theatre Critics Awards) is a bit weird, especially as not ALL theatre, nor ALL performance is attended or assessed by all of them. The shows that are eligible for nomination by the Theatre Critics must be seen by all reviewers – which really only encompasses 20% of actual theatre happening in Sydney – and predominently that of the main stages. And frankly, I don’t really think the main stages need awards and accolades – isn’t getting a wage and being resourced enough encouragement? The people who DO need the encouragement, the in-writing “thank you for your work” are the independent artists, the fringe artists, the emerging artists.

And look, I’ll admit it, I’m not really a critic. Not a proper one, anyway.

I try to respond to a show on it’s aspirations and context, more than my own. I also make work with the people I write up. I never claim to be an authority – but I always try to give credit where it’s due and ALWAYS find something to like about a production.

Here’s a thank you to all those unsung artists who kept me inspired and afloat, interested and curious in 2011 – one pf the weirdest years ever.

Thank you for the discussions, the conversations, the perspectives, the dreams, images, plays, installations and moments of surprise and delight. And thank you to all those who attended shows with me and all those who approached me to work with them – Alana Valentine, 7-On Playwrights, Vanessa Bates, Phil Spencer, Luke Carson, Katie Pollock, Lousie Fischer. It meant more to me than you’ll know.

Here’s a list of some of my favourite memories in theatre from this year.

New Australian plays worth noting and celebrating
Zebra by Ross Mueller
Sprout by Jessica Bellamy
This Year’s Ashes by Jane Bodie
Silent Disco by Lachlan Philpott
Aleksander and the Robot Maid by Caleb Lewis
Transparency by Suzie Miller
Dirtyland by Elise Hearst
Cut by Duncan Graham

Brave work by Emerging or independent Artists
Freshly Squeezed by Stagejuice Collective
Bare Boards Brave Hearts by Subtlenuance
Bite Sized by IPAN
How to Lose Sight by SHH
Cut Snake by Arthur
Confessions of a Grindr Addict by Gavin Roach
Bully Beef Stew by Sonny Dallas Law, Colin Kinchela and Bjorn Stewart
Bonfire by Sime Knezevic
Ama and Chan by Effie Nkrumah and Alan Lao
The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer by Tim Watts

Outrageous things that happened in the industry
* MEDIA RELEASE: No Richard Burton Award for New Plays to be awarded in 2011 because there weren’t any “outstanding” plays submitted.
* Short and Sweet being given $1.5 million to continue to exploit, er I mean “expand” their business, er, I mean, “playwriting in Australia”
* ArtsNSW short response grant disappearing THEN reappearing unexpectedly
* Realizing all the literary managers in Sydney are either British or have worked in the UK
* Tom Wright claimed in the SMH: ”There’s patently been a glass ceiling that women directors have hit … I can’t see a similar issue in the realm of playwriting.”

Great online discussions

From www.augustasupple.com –
Whose story is this anyway? The rights and the wrongs of theatrical storytelling.
A small note: Do Good and You Will Be Happy | Phillip Johnston & Hilary Bell
Who reads reviews? Who cares? Why bother?
From www.theatrenotes.blogspot.com –
Review: The Story of Mary MacLane by Herself
From www.noplain.wordpress.com –
Adelaide Critics Circle Awards 2011
From my facebook –
Who do you prefer Billy Joel or David Bowie?
Who gets to call themselves an artist?

Who I read regularly this year:

(and there are others I should mention I read – but let’s face it – I don’t think people who write under a pseudonym and conceal their identity deserve/or want recognition, do they?)

Talks and Forums
Tom Stoppard in coversation with Jonathan Biggins
Currency House Arts and Public Life Breakfast at Victoria Tea Rooms
Novemberism Panels hosted by John McCallum – especially Writer and Director when is it war and when does it work?
NIDA Sunday Playwright Forum: Old Worlds, New Horizons
John Malkovich in conversation with Jim Sharman

Artists to watch who debuted/made a splash in 2011/Who to watch
Zoe Norton Lodge (Writer, performer, producer, curator)
Gavin Roach aka “Felix” (Actor)
Erica Brennan (Performer)
Grant Moxom (Performer)
Pollyanna Nowicki (Actor, photographer, artist)
Sama Ky-Balson (Director)
Mark Rogers (Director/writer/devisor)
Helen O’Leary (Actor/writer)
Doug Hansell (Actor)
Bjorn Stewart (Performer devisor)
ISM Playwrights Collective (writers/event organisers)
Paige Rattray (Director/devisor/tour de force)
Vanessa Bates (Playwright)
Katie Pollock (Playwright)
Luke Carson (Playwright)