Pascall Prize speech ~ theatre notes

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pascall Prize speech

My acceptance speech for the Geraldine Pascall Prize for Critical Writing is now online at the Geraldine Pascall Foundation site. The important bit:

But I also see some sparkles in the gloom. There are a lot of smart young bloggers in Australia, hungrily seeing art and responding to it. And artists themselves are vocal in demanding more and better responses to their work. The internet has stepped into the breach. Theatre Notes was the first theatre blog in Australia, but these days it’s by no means the only one. Melbourne in particular has a rich and lively culture of theatre blogging. This prize means a lot to me in many ways, but a major reason is that it demonstrates conclusively that blogging is not just the province of bored teens. And I hope it will encourage not only me, but the talented younger critics I see developing around me. They need encouraging. As we all know, criticism is no easy career choice. It sometimes feels thankless, and it requires the skin of a Sherman tank.


Jana said...

My favourite bit is this:

On Theatre Notes, people can disagree with what I say, or extend it further, or correct my mistakes. Criticism becomes more properly what it is: a conversation. It’s this conversation in all its permutations – in magazines and newspapers, in letters columns, at dinner tables, in theatre foyers, on blogs – that makes a culture. Without it, we just have a lot of art.

I tried to say something similar once, but here you put it so simply and elegantly.

Thanks for posting this beautiful speech - and congratulations again!

George Hunka said...

Once again, Alison, congratulations on both the award and your graceful acceptance speech. That you were given the award for both your work in the Australian and your work on TN is testimony to your critical acumen and your textured prose. As one of the first to welcome you into the theatre blogosphere back in those heady days, I'm glad to see that you've gotten the recognition you deserve.

It takes the edge off much discouragement I've been feeling lately about the blogosphere generally. All theatre is and must be local, obviously, but I do miss some of the trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific conversation about broader issues that was so common back then. The blogosphere has been a fine arena for reviewing, broadening the terms and voices of debate, but less so for criticism. My original hope was that the kind of criticism and theory written by people from Artaud to Bentley might find a home here, since it's been largely absent from both the mainstream press and from the bookstore shelves for so many years. Some of it remains in academic journals, but often these are closed to non-academics.

The blogosphere and the print media have now become co-dependent, as evidenced by your own career (as, once, by mine). This has both its positive and its negative points, and this may not be the place nor time to go into them. Glad to read about shows that, unfortunately, I cannot see and that your reviews only provide a desire to do so. And while within the review -- especially the lengthy reviews on TN -- there is space for those considerations of theatre, culture and aesthetics without which criticism is little more than a shoppers' guide for consumers, the kind of writing about theatre that originally brought diverse writers together from all over the world seems to have gone by the wayside. The oceans seem to have closed themselves up again.

But I'm muttering. Brava again.

David said...

Alison, just wanted to add my congratulations on both the award and a speech full of grace notes. As print journalism and blogging are seen as competitive rather than, as you suggest, complementary, the award for both branches of your theatre writing is very encouraging. And the way in which TN refutes the notion that criticism (especially in blog form) is necessarily an ephemeral, even trivial activity, is simply beautiful.

Alison Croggon said...

Thank you all very much. Yes, I've sometimes wondered about that myself, George, old friend; it was great fun in the early days, when there was so much more conversation across the international blogs. (Though mind you, with David you provide precisely that cross-Atlantic/Pacific possibility right now!) I guess in general life gets busy and sometimes it's hard to keep up even with parochial concerns, on all sides of the oceans, and theatre is inevitably, but richly, a parochial concern. Maybe we who are interested in that just have to be more conscious of having that conversation, and make it happen. I've always thought that the great (and also the depressing) thing about blogs is that they are what we make them.

On Stage And Walls said...

What a gracious gesture Alison. Reading the blogs is as important (and more important for many) than reading the papers now. I'm still reeling from that Malthouse season brochure a couple of years ago where all our blogs were mentioned as important resources.

George Hunka said...

Indeed. I haven't seen a New York season brochure mentioning blogs as "important resources," particularly. So consider yourselves lucky, Michael!

Me, I'm just about ready to pack it in. Conversations are fine, though one-sided conversations don't deserve the name, and perhaps the blogosphere was never the place for that larger conversation anyway. No matter how well one writes about theatre, nobody likes a vacuum. It's that other life -- and I'm looking forward to that new creative development project, Alison.

Alison Croggon said...

Not gracious, Michael (although thanks) but true. Conversation is very fine, indeed... but you can't have it in an empty room, and blogs are energies that work best as networks, rather than as singular stopping places. Very hard to do alone, so I understand George's frustrations. I should be very sorry if you stopped all the same, George; I always read you, even if I don't always comment, and I really value your blog. I'm sure I'm not alone in that.

And yes, I'm looking forward to focusing on one thing (mostly) for a couple of weeks, and remembering what it is that essentially I do. (It's unfunded, for those who take notice of these things). It's an exciting project with some people I deeply respect, and I'm hoping will kick some dormant synapses into life. I love responding to work, but the past three months is the first time in forever that I've been primarily criticising without it being balanced by practice of my own (impossible to second guess one's interior landscape, but I think I've been basically very tired indeed, at the level of the soul). And in the end, I start feeling that as a kind of diminishing return, and as an evasion of myself, and I think that eventually emerges as an impoverishment in everything I do. Hopefulyl it hasn't affected the blog too much, but if I don't address it, it will...