National Play Festival FAIL ~ theatre notes

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

National Play Festival FAIL

As several appalled women have pointed out: with the marginalisation of women playing the theatre headlines, could there be a worse time for the 2010 National Play Festival to feature a suspender-clad nude-buttocked gal on the front page of its website? Click on her bum and you find out about PERFORMANCES. Way to go, guys.


Anonymous said...

Exactly what I thought when I opened my email this morning! Protest!

Goosecap said...

The image is depressingly (male) adolescent. As for IGNITE YOUR IMAGINATION: that's a great title for a drawing competition for primary school children. Who are these buffoons?

Paul said...

Site is now down for "Scheduled maintenance".


Goosecap said...

Scheduled maintenance?
Just goes to show you that even idiots can plan ahead.

Goosecap said...

Seen the new image? Even worse, if possible. A retreat into cynicism. These 'guys' really know how to respond to a seriously asked question!

The whole 'thing' smacks of the infantile.

What kind of play is suggested by the image? Suburban, domestic, a little 'naughty', funny (maybe), something like Cluedo, sexist, peopled by stereotypes (aren't old people funny and grumpy!) etc. Another play by David Williamson anyone?

Sure will 'ignite' the imagination!

By the way, if it matters, I'm a male.

frances said...

Now it's been changed to safe suburban Aussie home values. Somehow I don't know which is worse.

Goosecap said...

Seems like the 2010 National Play Festival is walking that scary tightrope between the utterly mediocre and the completely irrelevant. Go for it!

Patricia White said...

Jaysus, people - choose your battles.

How can we wonder at feminism's increasing (real or perceived) irrelevance when this is the kind of clangingly frigid, aesthetically snooty rhetoric you're choosing to pour your energies into?

Ooh, she's a 50's pin-up. Boo, hiss - an audience is being challenged to ignite their imagination. I imagine we're all old enough to deconstruct the image without it setting back women's pay grades and making abortions illegal.

The program, as far as I can tell, features an equal number of male and female playwrights. This is good. This is important. If we're going to talk about anything, can we talk about this?

Anonymous said...

Queenslanders excluded from the showcase once again.

Alison Croggon said...

(Is that true about Queenslanders?)

Since when was feminism irrelevant?

Yeah, I was wondering when the frigid sex-hating time-wasting humourless feminist bitch meme was going to raise its blood-soaked head, like the monster that won't die in the movies.

If the program is really taking women seriously as artists, why is it a good idea to represent women on its front page as (a) a sexualised bimbo flashing her bum, (b) dead and (c) as a funny/stupid old woman in curlers and slippers? Just askin'.

And this is about writing, where one would expect people to be especially aware of the politics of representation?

Oh yeah, there's a little boy in a suit and a guy with a hat. And a dog and a gnome. None of them dead and/or half naked.

Goosecap said...

'Equal numbers' of male and female playwrights involved in what?

'Chasing the lollyman'(what is that)? Writing the 'Bestest play'? Learning about 'Face Time'?

Why this infantilisation of the playwright (male or female)?

BTW, I wasn't aware that feminism had become increasingly irrelevant (in reality or perceived as such). When did this happen?

Alison Croggon said...

FWIW: I "put my energy" in a considerably longer post earlier today. This one took as long as it takes to point to a web page and write three sentences. If you read the other post you might understand why this design is a bad mistake.

Anonymous said...

Alison, of the 18 shows the Play Festival has showcased in its present form, only 1 has been a Queenslander. The closed workshops are 19 to 1. The ANPC was a lot worse. There are a few "local plays" having excerpts read for the "Plays for Breakfast" thing at 9am, which reeks of appeasement to me. And who wants to digest a play for breakfast? Good grief. Not to mention the QLD Premier/Arts Minister handing over $100,000 of QLD arts money for this. Money that could have gone towards sending some good quality Brisbane work down south for a bit of much needed exposure/scrutiny.

Sorry. I'm rambling now. Didn't mean to hijack the conversation.
I'm a feminist through and through and think the debate is long overdue. If it's any consolation, apparently the naked woman didn't appear during the launch (the others did). But apparently it did have everyone staring at the publicity postcards with confused bemusement afterward.

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Anon - I've been reading the Qld blogs lately and although I don't know the scene, I'm beginning to get a feel of the challenges facing local artists. And I confess I'm a little surprised by those figures, since the festival is being held there.

Yes, art isn't a democracy, as we all know; but I can't help feeling all these issues are linked.

Anonymous said...

Woah. She's a bimbo now? Like Josephine Baker, Dita Von Teese and Madonna are, I guess.

You're right, art has no place deploying images of women in their underwear (er, Cindy Sherman), or dead (um, the canon). Enjoying the pictures of near-naked boys on this blog though.

Alison Croggon said...

A cat has four legs, therefore it is a chair?

Maybe if you read the commentary instead of gawking at the pictures, you might have an idea of what I'm pointing at. Unthought stereotypes have no place in art. And the pomo irony thing is old.

Anonymous said...

As a woman, I find it frustrating that the stuff of my labour- what I've fought for, torn down, prised open- constantly runs into one-dimensional caricatures of what it means to be female.
In support of what you said, Alison- there are myriad ways in which the feminine could be represented.
Why repeatedly reduce the female psyche/body/condition to cliche?
I welcome being challenged by the terrifying, gripping abysses that are part of human experience; it's not about wanting to curl up in safe, sweet, marshmallow centres where you don't have to engage with death, nudity, margins, sharp surfaces.
There's a marked difference between sensitive, intelligent portrayal and that which is designed to shock, exploit, excite into a standard response.
And yes, now the website resembles an 8-year-old's scrapbook.

Alison Croggon said...

All too true. When I was younger, and having just written a bunch of poems that deliberately imagined the experiences of childbirth and sexual love in high-mindedly literary terms, using them as metaphors for the evolution and expansion of consciousness and spirituality and language (yes, I was calling on all the Big Poets), I was once introduced at a reading, well-meaningly of course, as "a poet of love and motherhood".

I still wince at the memory. It was like suddenly being doused in saccharine.

I bet that never happened to those Romantics, for all the muse conceiving things behind their fevered brows, as they struggled with the birthpangs of creation. That's why I've always preferred Lorca's idea of Duende to any idea of the Muse. But dammit, I'm on a rant now.

Rowley Birkin QC said...

Perhaps they should have gone with this?

John Roberts said...

Just for a moment have a small sense of humour and stop being so serious.

The issue of women in theatre is far more complicated than a small-minded spray at a cheeky website.

That type of naval gazing is far more appalling and parochial than the National Play Festival website will ever be.

The holier-than-though howling down, like what happened at Hey Hey It's Saturday earlier this year, is almost worse than the act itself. Gag to all you moralisers.

Alison Croggon said...

Yes - it is more complicated, Mr Holier-Than-Thou. Some of those complications are teased out on this very website. Have a look at this post - uploaded the same day as this - and at the ensuing discussion. That is, if you can afford some of your time to this trivial issue. I'd say that not being able to see what the problem is, is quite literally the problem.

Goosecap said...

Oh look, a woman's bum! Ha ha ha ha ha! How cheeky! Ha ha ha ha!

Is that better?

By the way, what has the Navy to do with this subject?

Alison Croggon said...

Btw, having been pilloried as a godless defender of child porn, it's kinda refreshing to be on the other side of the diabolical equation. For a change.

lightfoot said...

My goodness!

"If the program is really taking women seriously as artists, why is it a good idea to represent women on its front page as (a) a sexualised bimbo flashing her bum, (b) dead and (c) as a funny/stupid old woman in curlers and slippers? Just askin'."

(a) Is a woman in lingerie always just a bimbo?
(b) dead - could happen to anyone
(c) old women in slippers are funny and stupid - really??

Alison I hate to have to say it but your interpretation of these images is far more offensive than the pictures themselves - as a woman I shrink at the suggestion that any of these states of womanhood is reprehensible - who are we answering to exactly?

I wonder at the ferocity of such a blighted view of female diversity - and I'd also like to know what you think might be the "correct" way to represent women in such a context?

Is there really a universal one-size-fits-all acceptable representation of empowered womanhood?

If there were wouldn't she negate all the others?

Be careful what you wish for I say!

Anonymous said...

I am a man and I found this image incredibly sexy. It's a beautiful woman walking away in lingerie, leading me (the viewer) towards the stairs that lead ...upstairs.

So as a person who seems to be the target of this particular image, one point to the NPF.

But deduct one point for the very same reason. The fact that it had this effect objectifies the woman, reducing her to one dimension and me (the viewer) to one objective.

But give them one point for the image as a whole, which I read as a Cluedo-esque whodunnnit. Who killed the girl? The old lady? The man with the gun? The creepy kid in the corner? Or the beautiful femme fatale making a hasty exit from the scene? (Or did she slip on the banana peel, momentarily distracted as she was by the dog in the armchair, playing with himself)

But deduct one point because this is, after all, a play festival. It should be above whodunnit analogies and women who men want to follow to their possible demise.

I'm flicking through the latest American Theatre mag (which strangely enough, has a huge article on Women in Theatre) and there are so many beautiful and inspiring stage images that truly do ignite my imagination. A cut and paste whodunnit image just doesn't cut it for me.

Final Score: NPF - 0

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Lightfoot - if you think those images are not feeding into three cliched representations of women, good for you.

But what if instead you had:

1) A Paula Rego nude
2) An image of Kali
3) Simone de Beavoir at 70

Certainly ignites my imagination. And has a rather different effect.

Alison Croggon said...

PS - I don't mind being ferocious. But possessing a "blighted view of female diversity"? Only thinking there's a "correct" way to do things? When what I'm protesting against are stereotypes?

John Roberts said...

Having gone away and immersed myself in this 'trivial issue', I still believe you need to lighten up.

But keep howling if you want to.

It's true the indie sector doesn't have a similar problem. But that big brick wall between indie and professional doesn't look like it's coming down anytime soon. And we all know how much money all those women are working for in the small sector.


Now - there's a real issue to get your teeth into TN: the unpaid woman in the arts.

Alison Croggon said...

Unpaid? Like Ms TN, you mean?

I guess there's a reason that it is called "patronising".

But I'm glad you did some reading all the same. Maybe now you could read some of that excellent work on how the structures of language itself reinforce the secondary status of women, or how the representation of women reinforces their status as chattels and objects, and all that other Feminism 101.

It might also be worth reflecting that behind those brick walls in the arts, it's mainly women in the well-paid managerial positions. They're just missing in the creative positions. Since art is crucially about representation, maybe representation matters? And maybe after a few centuries, some jokes wear thin.

Btw, I hardly think pointing out a faux pas is "howling".

Anonymous said...

It's concerning that women are relegated to supportive roles- and women working in administration are hardly paid a fortune?
Female perspectives and experience are frequently pushed to the sidelines.

John Roberts said...

Oh my god - you pulled out the ‘I don’t get paid to do this either’ card! Dear-oh-dear.

Which brings us to another problem - the way the older generation excuse the fact the younger generation don’t get paid – all because they didn’t when they were young.

TN, we’ve all done the free work. Now us oldies have book deals, maybe a newspaper contract and some other work to go with it. Maybe those young women should just keep doing work for free.

Or maybe we could look at ways to get them into the system.

Alison Croggon said...

Non-payment in the arts is actually a gender-parity situation, Houston. There's some quite extensive discussion of that very issue still on-going under that other post you read so carefully.

And Ms TN doesn't get paid for the work she does on this blog. And for a large amount of her creative work. Present tense. I get paid for the work that pays.

lightfoot said...

Hello again
It is interesting that you mentioned Paula Rego - have you noticed that her interpretation of Hogarth's "Marriage a la mode" bears a striking similarity to the NPF image?

There's an old woman - not in curlers and slippers but could she be funny and stupid? It's possible.

There's another woman behind her on the floor who is probably not dead but nonetheless is not looking too well

And way in the back there - goodness gracious! A woman in her underwear who might be a bimbo if only we could ask her. She is being watched by a man in a suit who is not dead.

There is also a dog,and a couple more men who are also not dead/old/bimbos
One of the women might be a drag queen but I'm not really sure.

So what is the difference? Provenance? Aesthetics? Medium?
Are we just retreating into aesthetic narcissism when we argue
the NPF image is not up to scratch?

Alison Croggon said...

Hi Lightfoot - Are you seriously suggesting that those images are just like Paula Rego? No wonder we disagree, since you seem to think artistic ability/vision/complexity count for nothing. ("Retreating into aesthetic" - aren't we speaking about art? Or has art nothing to do with aesthetics? Or do you think aesthetics has nothing to do with an ethics?)

Aside from those things, the difference is wit.

I think I've said my piece on this one. You can keep thinking of me as a hardline ideologue if you want. Or you could think about my actual point.

Anonymous said...

I shall think about your actual point, Alison, when you make it.

Alison Croggon said...

Maybe read the original post again. And then read this. Myself, I am dizzy with tedium.