“Augusta Supple: boycotting the Sydney Theatre Awards this evening – instead I will be remembering and celebrating all those artists and shows NOT nominated – including Shannon Murphy & Jane Bodie for This Year’s Ashes, Sam Strong & Christopher Stollery for Speaking in Tongues, Ross Mueller for Zebra… (to name but a few missing champions…)”
I thought I’d share with you a Facebook status that raised some discussion around the value of Award in the theatre.

Many know I really don’t like awards – and I don’t attend them generally. But I want to reassure you all it’s not because I am a twisted, misanthrope – nor because i am “grumpy” as suggested on Twitter this morning, but because I actually think that Awards fail to encapsulate the field of art.

Instead of heading to the Sydney Theatre Awards I decided to stay home, drink tea and remember some of my favourite theatre moments from 2011 – which I Tweeted from my new Twitter account – from the solace of my lounge room.

The Award nominations are selected by a group of very established and well-respected reviewers – all of whom I read, respect, admire and love. And I have no quibble with them as humans or as professionals or as theatre goers – in fact, I may be their biggest fans. I particularly love Elissa and Jason’s dress sense – the most DAPPER theatre couple in Sydney!

I just have a dislike of awards – because it is an arbitary act of exclusivity – and in theatre – it can be so hurtful. I’m not into glamour, I’m into ideas. I’m also into theatre being the winner at the end of the day – the fact it exists is what is wonderful.

I just think it is important for all theatre makers to be reminded that their contribution is felt and remembered and recognised by many, even if there isn’t a certificate or trophy to prove it.

I dislike also the structure of these awards, because they only take into account shows ALL the reviewers from that particular set have seen – meaning that many deserving Indie artists aren’t given the opportunity to be included…

Of course there are practicalities in this – and of course I absolutely applaud any venture which celebrates our artists. I just personally don’t enjoy awards events. I do however enjoy artists and their fine works and i feel very lucky to have seen the work that I have in 2011…

So last night i tweeted a string of rememberences of people, performances or shows i saw last year that haunt me or delighted me – You can check them out on my twitter:!/AugustaSupple

And I did this not as a means of being grumpy – but really to add to the celebration.
I take nothing away from anyone who makes theatre anywhere – all of it is valuable – i just wanted to supplement the list with my contribution of work that will forever sit in my heart…

Unfortunately one of the critics seemed to interpret this as “Grumpy” – which has a lovely lilt to it “grumpy gus” – but I wanted to share with you that I’m not grumpy… I am absolutely in love with theatre as a form and endlessly proud of all who contribute… And really I am also very hopeful and optimistic. in fact – I think I have said in the past, and it still is true – “I prefer shortlists to winners” when it comes down to acknowledgements.

I just don’t like Awards – the idea of nor the practice of – and especially during a high-fatigue season for me (IE SYDNEY FESTIVAL) my interest in them wanes…

I just question: how can we celebrate and acknowledge artists without the arbitary process of ranking them?

Is it possible to rank or celebrate the “best” when the field is so diverse?

And should we?

That’s all..

But please be ressured – I’m not grumpy. Not pouting. Just thinking.

The bigger conversation:
Augusta Supple” boycotting the Sydney Theatre Awards this evening – instead I will be remembering and celebrating all those artists and shows NOT nominated – including Shannon Murphy & Jane Bodie for This Year’s Ashes, Sam Strong & Christopher Stollery for Speaking in Tongues, Ross Mueller for Zebra… (to name but a few missing champions…)

Matt: I concur!

ME: Thanks Matt – I’d like to say that many shows worthy of recognition aren’t – Helen O’Leary’s MY PARIS is as Indie as it comes – and yet ignored! And Kate Gaul has also been overlooked.

Mark: does anyone really care what critics think anyway?

ME: Yes – I do. I respect all the critics in this town and LOVE chatting with Jason Blake and John McCallum and James Waites and Kevin Jackson and Diana Simmonds – I just think these awards suck!

ME: Here’s the list…. Theatre Awards

Tom: But would it be an any more valid or useful event if those you favoured had made the cut, as opposed to the ones that did get picked? By which I just mean it’s all rather subjective surely, and all such awards are generally of little help in determining the true value of a work no matter if you agree with the outcome or not.

ME: Nope Tom – I have always been against awards – I just fundamentally disagree with ranking when it is down to taste. (You may have notice my musical play offs in 2011, Tom? Bruce Springsteen Versus Michael Jackson for example – that proves the point -all excellent artists have a place and it’s impossible to rank them)

Mark: Not to say I don’t respect them, or their opinions. I prefer blogs like yours, kj’s, James. People who are not only just criticising, but actively involved many many areas of the arts. I just find that too many fledgling and emerging artists are too concerned what A critic thinks as opposed to their peers and community at large.

Anna Lise: Well I have all sorts of feelings about ‘Awards’ including this one, but I think Angela and Leticia, and in fact the whole team deserve an award for The Dark Room. And I don’t say that very often!

ME: Dearest Anna Lise – of course I’m not against artists nominated. Not at all – and this year is no different and this awards is no different to what i have said every other year – I believe in shortlists, not winners. And I also feel it important to remind people of the excellent work that hasn’t been nominated.

Christopher: Have we not just, by reading, writing, thinking and talking about theatre, just proved the utility and value of theater awards?

ME: But why an awards, Chris? Why not a giant, open celebration of ALL work? What’s this obsession with ranking? Why not have a networking events – like a Night at the Proms but of Australian theatre? Surely the winners of theatre are those who are making work? or working on making work? There is also no point in having a theatre awards, just so that people can discuss the theatre awards – I would prefer a night which encouraged promotion and curiosity of a diverse representation of the Sydney Theatre community.

Tom: I think the essential problem with all such awards is exactly that they create winners and losers – which ranking promotes disharmony, envy, bitchiness etc: pretty much deadly stuff to the theatre which needs collaboration and trust to live and breathe.

Christopher: because making a choice creates interest and scandal. It also forces us to think and reflect and forges our own opinions in a way that a showcase doesn’t in quite the same way. I think the large xmas party was something of a gathering of the clan that hopefully will be expanded and repeated. Networking nights [although the idea of going somewhere to be networked by and with people is a pretty unappealing prospect to most I suspect] are great too, but having a ‘point’ to the evening – however arbitrary or false – motivates attendance and focus’ minds. Both have their place and are part of a healthy diversity of theatre culture.

ME: Yes Chris, that’s true – but it is a very homogenous field of “theatre” represented by the critics – most who only see mainstage shows and therefore limiting the pool of nominees. Yes indeed i heard about the group party – which I also think is an awesome idea – but, Chris, again, not everyone who makes work was invited. ALSO I think healthy debate and networking happens in foyers – or should – and does around my foyer visits – so surely as an industry we are used to and acceptingof networking by now?

ME: ‎(And on a sly self-referential note Chris) it’s not the awards that have triggered this discussion – but my boycott of it. (Cheeky, n’est ce pas?)

Christopher: I think you have many fine points there. There are many flaws in the theatre culture of Sydney and the coverage of the awards judges is one of them – and let’s not mention the Helpmanns. I think the Xmas party was a felicitous occurance when three companies realised they had planned to party on the same night – it wasn’t intended as a comprehensive event, but that it may turn into one is wonderful. And I agree your boycott of the event has started this thread – but that wouldn’t be possible without the event itslef. :-)

ME: Always lovely to banter with you! And of course (as always) we are both right!

M-Dawg: Awards sell wine, cheese, movies, painters, comedians, why not use them to sell theatre?

James: My favourite show of the year was a bit retro: B Ellis and K Williamson having sex on the billiard table!

Catherine: It is etched in my mind. Haunted by its poignancy. But how did the billiard table feel?

GDOG: The Sydney Theatre Awards (with all respect to the nominees and judges) are absolute baloney. I’m not sure that, as Chris T enthuses, the intrigues and scandals of this year’s selections and omissions really will draw attention to the broader field… rather they focus our attentions on the predilections, fetishes and peccadilloes of a very, very small group of critics. I firmly believe the only awards any of us should take notice of are ones that my friend Kirsty gets nominated for and the Oscars. And maybe the CONDAs, where EVERYONE gets nominated.