NPF update ~ theatre notes

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

NPF update

Richard Watts reports on the National Play Festival web page debacle on Arts Hub. PlayWriting Australia AD Chris Mead declined comment, saying that the fuss diverts attention from the NPF program. Yes, it does: and isn't that the point? A series of someones decided that this was the image to sell our theatre writing culture. As if it doesn't have enough problems already.

Even a gracious acknowledgement that a mistake was made and nodding towards the concerns would be nice: but as David Williams of Version 1.0 commented darkly on Twitter, "people are rarely interested in disussions of dominance, esp their own. That's what dominance means, the opacity of power".

While I'm at it, check out David's searchingly illuminating post on the The Pleasures of Patriarchy.


Goosecap said...

After Caleb Lewis's withdrawal from the Philip Parsons Young Playwrights Award due to its apparently 'radical politicisation'(what? Oh yes, that's right, women were mentioned) and now Playwriting Australia's Chris Meade's refusal to comment on a question / topic / debate that has 'ignited' quite a few interesting imaginations and stirred a few intellects, one begins to wonder whether or not playwriting in Australia is worth paying any serious attention to at all. I mean, if you want to actually take a look at what's going on in this particular artform, how do you make your way through all this cotton wool it's wrapped in?

Anonymous said...

Okay, they might have got the image wrong - and maybe should have said sorry (although I'm not sure using a sexual image automatically equates to marginalisation - perhaps some people, men and women like being in sexy underwear? And as a representation of theatre equates to being fun, sexy, controversial) There is more than one reading - But to my point: I hardly think Playwriting Australia should somehow become the scapegoat - made out to be the aggressive leader/villian in the marginilisation of women in our industry. Lets go back to the facts - they program 50% women and men - they are doing it! Not our mainstream companies. And beyond this I have a friend who is currently working for Playwriting Australia as a facilitator working with playwrights - 3 men and 3 women - of diverse cultural backgrounds. Samoan, Tongan, Vietnamese, Greek, Lebanese - tackling a problem which sits right up alongside gender inequities as a huge stain on our very middle-upper class, white, white bread, high concept, snobby, closed, theatre scene. Name the non-white women on the panel at the forum the other day. The non-white actors on our stages, the non-white writers being produced, let alone the non-white directors in our mainstream. Then go west of Newtown or anywhere in the suburbs of Melbourne and see how far we've got to go as an industry. Playwriting Australia are at least trying to do something about it - in a very practical and concrete way - as they are doing with female playwrights! Let's get it in perspective!

Anonymous said...

yo, not to mention the multi faceted cast assembled for the acting especially during this process that continues to shift and change...

after all, man, I know?

Goosecap said...

Terrific. Thanks for all that. What you've said does create a perspective and does engage with the debate / question. It doesn't 'solve' the original problem, but it does clarify the context in which certain quite legitimate questions have been raised.

But why isn't Chris Meade saying all of this? Is the subject beneath him? Does he see no problem?

Anonymous said...

I guess Goosecap only he can answer that - but I imagine they realised they made a mistake in a lot of peoples eyes - not everyone's (as I said we all read imagery differently - what's sexist to one woman is sexy, or humourous, or pop culture to another) and are trying to minimise the damage to their own festival by ignoring what they perceived as a misreading/misunderstanding. You're right though. He should just admit they fucked it up - and say sorry to anyone that was offended.

Paul said...

Well changing it obviously implies that they, perhaps reluctantly, admit to an error in judgment.

I don't see it as a major problem or offensive, but I'm also not a woman and so that isn't a valid position for me to take as it will be assumed I don't understand why others think it is.

Paul said...

I should add, for the sake of balance, that I don't think it's a terribly creative or inspiring design either.

Alison Croggon said...

Many thanks Anon #1 for actually addressing the question. I won't repeat Goosecap's post except to say ditto.

But let's also get some perspective. I wrote three lines slapping the NPF on the wrist for what I saw as a highly questionable design choice. It obviously struck a chord: there are others who thought the same, and wondered how such a choice was approved and published without anyone blinking an eye, given the shit that has been flying around about the representation of women in theatre.

The ensuing discussion illustrated why so many people (including me) get so tired of the argument, no matter how crucial we believe the argument to be. The response is basically: get over it, you frigid, humourless extremists. The response is: what problem? The response is: if there is a problem, it's not our fault. It's probably your fault. And look at all the damage you're doing, pointing it out.

Try having the same argument over and over again for decades, and you soon run out of gas. The real problem for feminism is that people get tired of always being at square one, at having to explain the politics of representation yet again in the face of blank or hostile dismissal of the concern that not only sidelines the issue as trivial, but actively labels anyone who expresses it in pejorative (and yes, always sexually demeaning) terms. It's a response specific to feminist arguments - if you don't believe me, google the response to Anwyn Crawford's recent brilliant critique of Nick Cave in Overland.

If the website featured a semitic-looking fellow with a hooked nose and shifty expression clutching a bag full of money, no one would blink at the protest. But it took a lot of slaughter to make that shocking. The fact that the routine trivial representation of women has practical, serious implications for the lives of women every day doesn't seem to count.

I think the number of anonymous comments on this issue speaks for itself. And the defensiveness. What's wrong with admitting a mistake? Does the world fall down?

Just reading Victor Serge today: "If moral responsibility is to be assigned to the extent of the development of insight, isn't the greatest that of the intellectuals?" If we are artists, we should expect more of ourselves. And if we don't hold our own to account, what right have we to criticise anyone else?