It’s great that currently there is increased discussion around the representation of women and minority groups in theatre, both in New Zealand and internationally. What’s not so great is when men, however well intentioned, think they can make a useful contribution to the discussion but instead end up providing a great example of the problem. That seems to be what’s happened with the recent fringe show “Actressexual” by Sam Brooks. I haven’t seen the show myself, but some of the responses to it are worth reading:
Both of these responses include women’s voices and reference the significant efforts made by women over decades to change the status quo which, apparently, and weirdly, it seems the play itself does not do. Instead of focusing on the actual issues and giving space to women, the playwright chose to focus on himself and male playwrights.
With this post I don’t really want to give more space to Brooks, but to draw attention to the thoughtful responses and to the many women writing excellent roles for women – let’s put them on stage, and let the men go off and bitch about each other on their own!
“I explore in my body and voice different modes of white resistance to challenges about power and privilege.”
Audience quote: “…FLIPPING BETWEEN THE HUMOUR AND THE UNDERBELLY…”
This showing is a part of a series of performance-based investigations since 2008 and in collaboration with Jade Eriksen.
The physicality of the showing is inspired by 18th century writings and interpretations of that century’s original voguer Emma Lyon and her “Attitudes”. These static, non speaking performances/tableaux vivant were a form of ‘mime art’, a cross between postures, dance, and acting. Performed to the European elite of the day as a form of popular entertainment the subject matter was based on specific historical and mythological characters.
Refusing Performance has been presented in pop up/guerrilla fashion in various conferences and hui in Aotearoa and at the Odin Teatret, Denmark for the 2016 Transit 8 Festival- Theatre-Women-Conflict.
In 1992, I received funding from the Suffrage Centenary Trust to write a play about women in parliament. Fast forward 25 years and, as the country prepared to celebrate the 125th anniversary of suffrage, I wondered, how well has the play stood the test of time and what would it be like to update it?
The original play,“Women Like Us”, tells the story of our first woman member of parliament, Elizabeth McCombs, alongside the story a fictitious contemporary woman politician and interwoven with cameos of several other historical figures. “Women Like Us” premiered at the Globe Theatre, Dunedin, in 1993 and toured to Taki Rua Theatre for the 1994 Wellington Fringe Festival. The production was directed by Anna Cameron, with the cast of Clare Adams, Mary Sutherland and Adrienne Ranscombe; lighting by Cathy Knowsley and poster by Prue Edge.
Re-reading the script, I was struck by how far we have come in the intervening 25years – particularly thanks to MMP. Numbers of women in parliament have soared, we are up to our third woman prime minister and many other senior public positions have been held by women. And yet, in many other areas women are faring the no better or even worse. Pay equity is moving very slowly, domestic violence statistics are appalling and despite high profile campaigns, insidious or overt misogyny continues to impact significantly on nearly all women’s lives. Many of the improvements Elizabeth McCombs fought for in the1930s are still being fought for today, and I realised that the script was still highly relevant. With Magdalena Aotearoa, I applied for funding to update the script and create a schools resource pack so that it could be easily used in the classroom. We got the funding and the project is underway!
Updating the script has (not surprisingly) turned into a major rewrite. The stories of Elizabeth McCombs and other historical characters haven’t changed,but it quickly became evident that the fictional MP needed to go.Why have a fictional character when there are now so many real and amazing women MPs? To make the play more accessible and interesting to high school students, I replaced that character with three students whose school is holding mock elections as part of a project on democracy. This has increased the number of actors required (not a bad thing for school productions!) and expanded the range of issues that the play explores or references. It’s also created structural challenges: previously the stories of the two main characters followed similar chronological journeys, but this is no longer the case with the teenagers and Elizabeth McCombs.
In Wellington in November, a three-day workshop with actors, director and dramaturg helped me to work out a lot of the structural issues and significantly develop the new characters. Workshopping a script isn’t something I get to do very often these days – mainly because I haven’t been writing this kind of “straight” theatre for sometime; my work has been much more experimental and devised. So it was a joy to come back to hearing the words spoken by others, trying out different ideas, being challenged about things that don’t make sense, sometimes surprised by others’ interpretations, and overall getting valuable insights and feedback. Sally Richards, Lilicherie McGregor, Lorae Parry, Carrie Green, Isadora Lao, Madeline McNamara, Claire Waldron and Lisa Maule all made very helpful contributions to the script’s development.
Refining the language of the teenagers was fun – as well as impossible, since teenage slang can change literally overnight; so the script will be prefaced with an invitation to adapt, update and localise elements such as this. Some minor characters disappeared in the workshop process and another one nearly did – but I fought for her and eventually discovered her reason for existing. On the final day we presented a rehearsed reading of the first act to a small invited audience, with a very positive response. One woman even asked to stay on to hear the second act, as she was very engaged and curious to find out what happened.
I am now continuing to digest and incorporate feedback from the workshop into the script, and to iron out some of the trickier bits. Lilicherie is starting work on the schools’ material, which should be ready to go to teachers early in the next school year. We hope that the resource will make it easy for teachers to use the script in the classroom across a variety of disciplines including theatre/performance, English, history and social studies. The cast is now a minimum off our actors, but there are more than 20 different characters so in the classroom the parts can be shared out to give many students a small speaking role.
Our funding doesn’t stretch to a professional production – and it’s nice not to have that pressure hanging over the writing process – but perhaps that will come once the script is finished. In my research before I began rewriting, I saw that there have been a number of performances marking the 125th anniversary of suffrage and remembering the important contributions of many women over the years (I’m living in Germany at the moment so unfortunately I haven’t been able to see these plays, but I follow from afar). It’s great that these women – women like us – are finally getting the recognition they deserve!
Proudly supported by the Ministry of Women’s Suffrage 125 Community Fund.
Why did France award the Legion d’Honneur – its highest accolade for exceptional courage – to Phyllis, a little known Kiwi woman from Ireland?
I’ll Tell You This for Nothing – My Mother the War Hero tells that WW2 story in a 70 minute solo performance written and acted by her daughter, Kate JasonSmith.
QA nurse Phyllis, sent to the front lines, finds the love of her life there. But there were many nurses on the front lines and not all of them were honoured as Phyllis was.
War, bravery, romance and danger – potent ingredients for fine drama – and Phyllis was a great raconteur.
Kate, herself an award-winning director and actor, has worked with dramaturge Deb Filler and director Jan Bolwell to craft this dramatic and often humorous tale of her mother’s life.
Writer & performer – Kate JasonSmith
Director – Jan Bolwell
Designer – Lisa Maule
Dramaturge – Deb Filler
Producer – Shirley Domb
Stage Manager – Neal Barber
Lighting Design & Production Management: Haami Hawkins
Soundscape: David Downes
Costume consultant: Jocelyn O’Kane
Tailoring: Anne de Ge
usGraphic Design: Tabitha Arthur
Accent Coach: Hilary Norris
More information: https://bats.co.nz/whats-on/ill-tell-you-this-for-nothing/
Celebrating Women’s Voices
17 Aug – 27 Oct
Various times and charges apply
The 19th September 2018 is the 125th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in New Zealand and Circa Theatre is delighted to celebrate this, as well as New Zealand Theatre month by once again hosting WTF! Women’s Theatre Festival throughout August, September and October.
The four plays (Bloomsbury Women and the Wild Colonial Girl, Modern Girls in Bed, Blonde Poison and Uneasy Dreams and Other Things), one devised work (Medusa), one developmental season (Rants in the Dark), two play readings (Tender, Sean Penn in his Boat) and workshops all showcase women playwrights, directors, designers, actors, dancers, musicians and theatre workers.
They give voice to historical female characters as well as focusing on issues facing women today and are more fully explained in the following pages. The seasons start in August and runs into October, but those productions in September are all written by New Zealand women.
Circa Theatre is also proud to be hosting the Fourth Women in Theatre Hui on 15 September 2018.
Following on from the highly successful Twelve Angry Women convened by the brilliant British playwright Sara Clifford in 2017, Circa Theatre is hosting a second writing workshop for women. The same format will apply: a day’s workshop followed by a public reading of work inspired by the workshop, curated by director Katherine McRae. The reading will take place as part of the fourth Women in Theatre Hui at 4 pm on 15 September in Circa Two.
What are you on the verge of . . . ?
Email womenintheatrenz at gmail.com for registrations.
Date: Saturday 1 September 2018 10am – 4pm
Venue: Circa Theatre
Registrations close 18 August 2018.
Women on the Verge is part of Circa Theatre’s WTF! festival (17 August – 27 October) held this year to coincide with the 125 anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in NZ and NZ Theatre Month. The festival includes four world premieres of new NZ plays by women, development showings and readings and the WTF Hui will be held on September 15. For the complete programme visit Circa’s website here.
How do you think you would feel after nearly 9 years in Parliament? Come to this satirical and outrageous performance by Catherine Delahunty, ex Green Party MP, and meet the truly bizarre underbelly of politics exposed via poetry and bad gossip.
From ” Double the Quota of White Men” to “The Lying, the Bitch and the Wardrobe”, from the extremely dark to totally ridiculous Catherine plumbs the depth of the personal and political.
Teamed up with her sister, theatre director Sarah Delahunty, Catherine has creating a fitting tribute to the corridors of power.
Deborah Hunt and Helen Varley Jamieson are amongst more than 30 women theatre-makers and performers featured in the programme of Magdalena München Saison 2018 – a three-month season of women’s performance taking place from 2 February until 28 April 2018 in Munich, Germany.
Deborah Hunt – “Snowhite”
The season is based around artists’ residencies at the Villa Waldberta, funded by the Cultural Department of the city of Munich. Maskmaker and Puppeteer Deborah Hunt will be a guest at the Villa during February. She will present her solo performance Tale 53; Snowhite and lead a workshop, The Macanudos, which will culminate in a colourful public parade. Zoe Gudović (Serbia) will also be a guest at the Villa during February, and she and Deborah will collaborate on a performance for the Break through series, which takes place in a 1m square window at the studio of performance artist Dorothea Seror, in Munich’s Kreativquartier.
Other guest artists from the Magdalena network who will have residencies at the Villa Waldberta are Kordula Lobeck de Fabris (February, March and April), Thaís de Medeiros (February, March and April), Jana Korb (February), Teatret OM (March), Jill Greenhalgh (April), Annie Abrahams (April), Sylvie Marchand (April) and Claudia Urrutia (April). Helen Chadwick will be a guest at Ebenböckhaus, another Munich artists’ residency, during March. Gilla Cremer, Amaranta Osorio and Yamile Lanchas will also participate in the programme.
Participating Munich-based artists are Martina Marini, das KloHäuschen, Helen Varley Jamieson, Prayer for the Mothers, Elis & Catherine, Raquel Ro, Cecilia Bolaños, Sinai Solis, the Hercules & Leo Case, Sabine Bollenbach, Mira Mazumdar and Dorothea Seror.
The full programme of performances, workshops, installations, discussions and more can be found at www.magdalenamuenchen.de.
If you’re planning to be in Munich during the season and want to participate in a workshop, there is a 10% discount on workshop fees until 31 December 2017.
I would like to invite you to a showing of my performance investigation….
Refusing Performance – The Attitudes Vogelmorn Bowling Club 93 Mornington Rd Friday 17 November 6.30 pm
I try to explore in my body and voice different modes of white resistance to challenges about power and privilege.
This showing is inspired by the eighteenth century’s original voguer Lady Emma Hamilton and her “Attitudes”. These static, non speaking performances/tableaux vivant were a form of ‘mime art’, a cross between postures, dance, and acting. Performed to the European elite of the day as a form of popular entertainment the subject matter was based on specific historical and mythological characters.
This is part of a work I live with which explores ‘unhappy performatives’, ‘acts of impossible necessity’, ‘unmoored maneuvers’, and ‘when giving is taking’.
I have been creating work on these themes since the late 80’s but this particular piece is a part of a series under construction since 2007. Jade Eriksen, Jo Randerson and the wider Magdalena Aotearoa network have been invaluable supporters of the work over that time.
I have performed The Attitudes in pop up /guerrilla fashion in:
Auckland – Festival of Uncertainty
Wellington – part of Barbarian’s Incubator Project and Spring Uprising and at various times at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School
Denmark – in Transit 8 Festival 2016 – BEAUTY AS A WEAPON Theatre-Women-Conflict at Odin Teatret, Holstebro
Jade and I would like to develop this work further and we are particularly interested in the different contexts in which it can exist both inside and outside a formal theatre setting.
This showing and your part in it as audience and respondents is part of that development. We would like to share with you the question…..
How might this work contribute most effectively to courageous conversations about race, whiteness, power and colonial fall out?
25 minute performance and up to one hour discussion
The celebrated diva Miss Cynthia Fortitude and her long-suffering accompanist Miss Gertrude Rallentando are back! These stars of the brilliantly original NZ comedy, The Legend Returns, make a bold shift into Baroque opera featuring Gertie’s magical harpsichord, a sorceress from Hokitika, a furious media storm and other theatrical paraphernalia.
Cynthia gallantly holds the evening together, even when Gertie’s infatuation with all things Japanese threatens to derail their 50 year partnership. A cornucopia of music and comic delight!