Ushering in an old era? ~ theatre notes

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ushering in an old era?

Will the new Age arts editor, Michelle Griffin, herald a new era of accurate, in-touch arts journalism? Not if alleged arts journalist Robin Usher's report on the Green Room Awards in today's paper is any indicator. But maybe she hasn't had time to settle in yet. In today's report, Usher gobsmackingly manages not once to mention the Malthouse Theatre - even though, with 24 nominations, it garnered more than any other single theatre company. He also misunderestimates the MTC's haul by more than half - he says they got eight nominations, rather than 18. I thought he was, very eccentrically, refusing to count co-productions, but even on that basis he's got the wrong figures (nominated non-co-productions run five for the Malthouse, six for the MTC). (Update: See comments for further discussion on the non-co-pro question). To be fair, Usher does mention the Malthouse/STC's The Women of Troy - but only crediting it as an STC production.

This plumbs new depths, even for Usher. Perhaps someone should remind him that it is a news story, not an opinion piece.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

What has happened to Raymond Gill? Hopefully Robin Usher's days are numbered if there is a 'new broom'

Alison Croggon said...

Gill is now Chief Arts Reporter (as opposed to a Senior Arts Reporter, as Usher is). Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

Anonymous 2 said...

Ms TN, i'm all for the catching out of bad ushering, but i can't for the life of me find seven Malthouse non-co-pro nominations. Are you counting the Black Lung ones? Hardly seems fair game. I don't want you to list them, I just don't want you fighting bad statistics with bad statistics.

theatre enthusiast said...

I think Usher's proper title is actually Senior Husband of Paranoid Playwright. It is the only explanation for relentless campaigns against every theatre company (and artistic director)that chooses to remain a Murray-Smith-free zone (a considerable and distinguished list).

Alison Croggon said...

Yes, I did count it as a non-co-pro. I counted it as a Malthouse production because they initiated and financed the three month Black Lung residency that resulted in those shows, but fair call. Two non-co-pros then, if you prefer....

Anonymous 2 said...

The Black Lung residency is probably the best thing The Malthouse has done, ever. Yes they funded those three months, but clearly those young men worked very hard to make the first Avast happen before the Malthouse knew they even existed. More to the point, to suggest that the credit for those shows belongs at the Malthouse (without a nod to its co-pro status) must do a disservice to growing an audience for the Black Lung if they were to make new work at a different venue. A small parasite can exist in symbiosis, a large parasite can quickly devour an ecosystem.

Alison Croggon said...

TE, Usher isn't married to Joanna Murray-Smith, Raymond Gill is. Unless she has a Senior and Junior husband! Goodness!

I've got totally confused now on the non-co-pros. By my count it is seven productions (Moving Target, 2 noms, Tartuffe, 1, and 4 for Vamp - which was not considered for the Companies panel as it was considered cabaret - not my personal feeling, but there we are). But I have a feeling Moving Target was a co-pro with the Sydney Opera House. (It's erroneously listed on one nom as a co-pro with Belvoir St, and on the other a Malthouse show).

The fact is that co-production doesn't give any indication of the artistic ground for the productions. Season at sarsaparilla was, eg, an STC show, which was remounted and toured to the MTC a few months later. Venus & Adonis was a Bell Shakespeare show which was invested in and hosted by the Malthouse, so they can take some artistic credit for it. As I said about the Black Lung shows, they were produced by the Malthouse, if created by BL. (If you count Black Lung as non-co-pro, that makes a total of 11 nominations). Etc. Which is why it's much easier and more straightforward and sensible if you just say that all productions presented by a particular theatre are their shows - eg Season at Sarsaparilla was an MTC show in that season. And why the heck not? They still put their money into it to get it on.

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. Moving Target was a menage à trois by Adelaide Festival, SOH and Malthouse.

Alison Croggon said...

Anon 2, I'm very baffled by your assertion that the Malthouse's support of Black Lung amounts to parasitism. I thought it was a model of visionary production. It could have been disastrous, as those things often are, with smaller companies asked to change their process to fit with the larger company's imperatives. Instead, they gave them the run of the Malthouse and stayed out of it. If you don't realise how unusual that is, you should get out more.

And I think you're confusing production credits with artistic credit here. They're two different things. What's listed on the Green Room Awards (supposedly, anyway) is production credits. What's acknowledged in the nominations is artistic credit. Clear as mud, eh.

Alison Croggon said...

...and yes of course, Moving Target premiered in Adelaide. But was hothoused over two years of workshops at the Malthouse.

Alison Croggon said...

Why can't I do this in just one post? ...anyway, for what it's worth: the unarguable non-co-pros for the Malthouse is five. The total is 24. I'm not sure really why it's necessary to count them, given how major companies are forced to operate these days - they all do co-pros because it spreads the cost of production, and the resulting program in any case reflects that company's artistic decisions. If you wanted to, you could work out which was the initiating company, and give them the artistic credits, but it's not always clear-cut - ie, co-pro shows are not always buy-ins or merely financial deals.

Sorry, btw, for the ugly language.

Anonymous 2 said...

Yes, no more arguing the count, TN, that's for you and Usher to lock horns on.

But, come, read my comment again. I am not damning the Malthouse for employing the Black Lung. I applaud the endeavour. I agree that their hands-off approach was enlightened. But what i protest, and the reason i make the comment on your blog, is your elision of Black Lung as a "co-producer". Clearly they are a company with no money, but i was pointing out that, if a major producer like the Malthouse garners all the praise for the artistic output of a fledgling company, that company will always remain fledgling and audiences will attend the Malthouse again and not follow the Black Lung to their next squalid haunt. I cannot blame the Malthouse for this situation, but i point to it as an example.

So, the only point i was really trying to make was that an unexpected consequence of you fighting for the Malthouse against Usher's bias, is your own unfortunate denial of the vital role that an unfunded company like Black Lung can play in making a venue like the Malthouse as exciting as it is.

Anyway, hope that's cleared the air rather than muddying the water.

Alison Croggon said...

Anon, production credits are always about resources and money. Black Lung always had the artistic credit: it's there on the nominations. I get your point, but I also think it's a bit of a non point: on this blog I have always maintained the importance of independent theatre, and argued that mainstream theatre is nowhere without it. And I would be aghast if I thought that I was contributing to the elision of any artist's just crediting.

Though it's fair to be picky with my possible miscounting, since I'm being so snarky about Usher's.

And to think I could have avoided all of this completely, had I remembered that Vamp was there in the cabaret section! Goddamit!

Anonymous said...

New 'broom' ??

Fuck me.

Born Dancin' said...

The Green Room's "Nominations by Company" media release lists MTC noms as totalling 8, plus the 10 STC co-prod noms. The longer media release is more accurate, though there are some errors there too. Might explain the MTC mess-up. Pretty odd that Malthouse was left out, I agree.

Alison Croggon said...

The Malthouse PR team sent out a press release listing all its nominations as well. It's hard to imagine it wasn't sent to Usher. Or has he dropped off their press list?

Born Dancin' said...

Hmmm, I didn't get it.

Michael Magnusson said...

Can we have a flow-chart for all of these co-pros and hothouses please (Alison, do you have a huge white board on you wall to keep track of it all?)

Alison Croggon said...

*Shudder* I know. I sound like a corporate facilitator. Pardon all.

Anonymous said...

1. Robin Usher is a lightweight who doesn't quote correctly, which is to say that he bends truth...so is one of those awful journalists that people don't trust...and why would you when he mangles the truth?

If Robin Usher was writing that previous point, he would make it something like this...(let me just copy and paste and edit...)

1. Robin Usher is a weight that people trust...

2. Whether it is a Malthouse or STC or SOH or anything is irrelevant, much like the Green Room Awards are.

For instance, lets say there are 6 judges on a panel for some category, and they all see fifty shows for the year. Now one judge sees a really amazing show on the final night of the season, and the other judges miss it. So at their meeting at the end of the year, that one judge insists that the show they adored, must get a nomination. But then because the other 5 didn't see it, it is voted down. Therefore, the Green Room Awards don't feature shitloads of great works, some of them nobody sees, let alone the Green Room Panel.

3. The Green Room Awards are a lightweight group of theatre lites accessing complimentary tickets, at the expense of the artists box office takings, which is something a larger venue can sustain (given they might have 1000 seats) rather than a small producer.

4. How many last nights does a Green Room Judge attend with a free ticket rather than on the first night? The last weekend is when the punters come and the income is made, yet the Green Room Judges seem to think it's okay to come in the last week. As though their opinions matter at all.

5. As to the idea that their opinions matter at all, lets all see the names on the panels and decide for ourselves whether they are worthy of judging us? I would suggest that by and large they are irrelevant.

6. How can it be a Malthouse production? It was quite good wasn't it? The Black Lung business. Can't b Malthouse then. Only Tower productions are any good there. It's true, just ask me.

7. Perhaps it is better to have something like the Helpmann Awards...but this means that to be nominated you have to pay. Hmmm, what is more fake and unreal, the free access biased Green Room Awards, or the capitalist Helpmanns? Help me Sir Robert, my achilles is aching.

8. Someone should really ban these awards, and I will back that up by saying the sheer number of duds that get nominated is proof that they are irrelevant. For instance, when Woyzchek gets a nomination for anything at all, you will have proof that these awards are the stupidest, wrongest, dumbest, most useless crap ever.

9. Some of the nominations in the Green Room Awards are thoroughly deserved. This means that somehow they are still sort of good, but then again, what about the shows that don't get a nom that was awesome? Huh? Huh? What about them shows huh?

10. Someone bomb scare the awards ceremony this year please...just so the 4 hours can turn into 5

11. September 11 should be nominated for a Green Room Award (honourary mention)

12. Oh, I think I need to take a crap

Wal said...

Amusing rant.

My theatre working friends agree with you about the shortcomings of the selection process of the Green Room Awards.

But I couldn't find any nominations for Woyzeck.

And Ms Croggon is on one of the panels and I don't think she's irrelevant. (There is a list of all the panel members on the Green Room website for anyone interested.)

Anonymous said...

Interesting comment about the 'first night' factor. As a crrritic (who prefers to remain anon) I make a habit of revisiting as many shows as I can. It a) allows me to examine it more thoroughly and b) buy a ticket and support the industry where it is needed most. It also makes me feel a little better if I make negative comments as I've 'paid my money and made my choice'. Seeing a performance with a real audience instead of 'rent a crowd' is enlightening and the show has usually warmed up a few performances in anyway.

Anonymous said...

If Mr/Ms 12-step anon had a successful crap, there'll be nothing left to say.

Maryanne Lynch, Dramaturge in Residence, Malthouse Theatre said...

Hello

Without getting into the counting game, I thought you should know that Venus and Adonis was a co-pro between Bell Shakespeare Company and Malthouse Theatre, which used the three artists in residence at the latter company (dramaturge, lighting designer, designer) as core members of the creative team that made the show. And also, Moving Target was initiated as a project by Malthouse Theatre, which subsequently garnered support from other production players. There's probably a couple more things to correct in all this flurry of posts but I thought I'd just correct a couple of the initial inaccuracies.

Casey said...

Wal: I think 12-step is projecting to next year's nominations. The 2009 Malthouse production of Woyzeck is, of course, not eligible for the 2008 Green Room Awards.

Wal said...

Thanks for the clarification Casey. My bad. And I should add that I don't fully agree with 12-step when he says..." when Woyzchek gets a nomination for anything at all, you will have proof that these awards are the stupidest, wrongest, dumbest, most useless crap ever."

Woyzeck deserves a nomination for its music.

Anonymous said...

Woyzeck deserves a nomination for Marco Chiappi

Marco Chiappi (woops that should have been anonymous)

Anonymous said...

woyzchek deserves a nomination for very good marketing