Category: “Man in Quotation Marks

Easter Sunday. A day of celebration. It is the first Sunday following a full moon after the March equinox…symbolic of rebirth and renewal…a celebration of the goddess of Spring…Easter to me is a day of reflection…of embracing what is to come even though in this minute I have no idea what that is.

In Sostrup garden there stands a crucifix...
In Sostrup garden there stands a crucifix…

Sitting in the old beautiful library on the first floor of Sostrup Castle I have been researching, preparing for an intense new creative development of EVE2, a play that had a brief season called EVE in 2012 in the delicious Sue Benner Theatre Metro Arts downtown Brisbane. EVE had a beautiful creative team with Leah Mercer in her usual role of director/devisor, Anna Molnar as Producer, Gabby Castle as Stage Manager (with Johnny Castle as ASM), Amy Ingram as Executive Producer and Stace Callaghan playing the role of Oscar, the storyteller, matched by Moshlo Shaw who played the musician/husband. Aaron Barton created a magical set and his partner Gen Trace designed the lighting while Travis Ash was sound designer. Daniel Evans was co-devisor as well as co-ordinator of the Independent Program at Metro Arts. Because of force of circumstance, the untimely death of Moshlo, we decided to return to Eve and do it differently, wedding some of the character of the Man in the third show of The Belonging Trilogy, “He Dreamed a Train” with Eve’s voice. This idea was an offer from Travis and when he suggested this I knew it was the right direction. Travis will now devise and play Musician/Storyteller/Man and Benjamin Knapton will direct/co-devise this new version with Freddy Komp and Nathan Sibthorpe creating visual magic. We have a decent task ahead of us these next ten days.

The library at Sostrup where I am working
The library at Sostrup where I am working

Being here, half way round the world in a town where I know one person apart from my partner Bill, provides an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be in relationship with the world. What it means to connect to others. What it means to live deeply. I see this residency as a pilgrimage of sorts.

So today my research focuses on what pilgrimages are for…I believe every artist is required to take a pilgrimage, not to achieve anything overtly, but simply to find the time to discover what they already know. A time to step out of my ordinary life in Brisbane, full of people and artists and homes and studios and rehearsals and plays and meetings and walks and galleries and…and…and…and to STOP. What is it that I long for? And if I understand this, then I will understand what it is that EVE2 longs for: in the original script she writes that she longs to be loved. But it is far more than that. She longs to belong though she does not express it in those terms. Yet.

My Muse accompanies...
My Muse accompanies…

David Whyte, the poet who writes about the soul’s journey talks about our ” longing to belong” and I think that this pilgrimage is the perfect occasion to discover what my longing is…I know I have a longing for story in order to belong. But is it more than that?

an image of EVE...always longing to belong
an image of EVE…always longing to belong

In my search, I came across this poem that sat well with me as I read it:

The Spirit of Longing
Tell me, men of learning, what is longing made from?
What cloth was put in it that it does not wear out with me?
Gold wears out, silver wears out, velvet wears out, silk wears out
Every ample garment wears out–yet longing does not wear out.
Great longing. Cruel longing is breaking my heart everyday
When I sleep most sound at night longing comes and wakes me

Excerpt from old Cymric (Welsh) poem
Cited in The Mist Filled Path by Frank MacEowen

If we see longing as a good thing, as a way of guiding us towards what is real, what is true, what is our calling, then I can hold it closer. And if I take on board what Phil Cousineau ( suggests:

“The call to the sacred journey your secret heart longs for won’t come by expectation, will not arrive in a logical way. If you imagine that something is trying to call to you, try to practice stillness for a few minutes each day. Be still and quiet and you may be surprised what you start to hear”.

If I take this on board I listen, slow down. I reach for my phone less. I turn off my computer. I hear more. I change my posture: I am alert. Awake. Present. My two feet are planted on the ground. And I walk. For all creative thoughts can come from that step after step.

Sometimes its hard to step forward
Sometimes its hard to step forward

Phil Cousineau also quotes Bruce Chatwin. When I first arrived in Brisbane I worked on a piece of theatre directed by Doug Leonard and our primary texts were Bruce Chatwin’s Songlines and Eve Langley’s Pea Pickers…and here I am 26 years later still working through this material. Doug had a way of selecting the most potent texts and bringing them to life.

So Chatwin is quoted in Cousineau’s book:
“I have a vision of the Songlines stretching across the continents and the ages; that wherever men have trodden they have left a trail of song (of which we may, now and then, catch an echo); and that these trails much reach back, in time and space, to an isolated pocket in the African Savannah, where the First Man opening his mouth in defiance of the terrors that surrounded him, shouted the opening stanza of the World Song “I AM”.


“I AM LONGING TO BELONG” is the cry for millions of people displaced, lost, or superficially surfing this thing called life. It’s as though many of us are caught up in a net not of our own making. We follow others rather than lead ourselves. And we do not know what our personal mythology is…that is what a pilgrimage can awaken…there is time to reflect on the stories, poems, journeys, relationships, dreams that make up our lives.

As I walk down the stairs in my house back in Brisbane I have written above the doorway in black “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin now. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”. We all know Goethe’s quote. We see it on people’s fridges, magnets, shop windows, gyms, bookshops. We see it, but do we take action? Do we begin what we dream? Some of us do and others of us put it off till it’s the right time, or the right place…I sit somewhere in between. I sometimes take action and other times I wait. I wait. I wait until I cannot wait anymore. I step out.

So I have stepped out. I am longing to belong in this new play, working title EVE2.

So I have stepped out. I am reminded of Joseph Campbell’s “mythological symbols touch and exhilarate centres of life beyond the reach of the vocabularies of reason and coercion” (cited in The Mythic Path” (KIndle edition). I am here to rewrite my personal myth: to ‘weave the raw materials of daily experience into a coherent story” (The Mythic Path). To create and re-create the map of belonging.

I am quoting David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner:

“A personal myth is a constellation of beliefs, feelings, images, and rules–operating largely outside of conscious awareness–that interprets sensations, constructs new explanations, and directs behaviour…your personal mythology is a lens that gives meaning to every situation you meet and determines what you will do in it. Personal myths speak to the broad concerns of identity (who am I?), (where am I going?), and purpose (why am I going there?)”.

“He Dreamed A Train”, a play about belonging: nominated Best Technical Design, Matilda Awards 2014

“It pushes the boundaries, creates a new kind of experience, a multi-media performance in which actors and technicians play with and off each other in a mind-blowing interdependency. Designer/director Benjamin Knapton juggles this kaleidoscope of form and function with firm control, never allowing the possibility of chaos, which is lurking in the background, to take over. For all its intricacy it’s a tightly disciplined production, with neither actors nor stage effects dominating the other”.

Continue reading

HOME, a play about Belonging, is part of the Queensland Theatre Company’s Diva Series

I’m driving home after the Queensland Theatre Company’s launch at Queensland Performing Arts Centre downtown Brisbane last night and thinking of how many people contributed to my show HOME…it began as a response to my second daughter’s SMS when she was living in Palestine. Homes were being bulldozed down and I began to think about what is home? I was reading her text as I sat on the back verandah (as so many of us do here in Brisbane) overlooking trees, hearing birds, no danger in sight. So I approached theatre director Leah Mercer, a colleague and dear friend (we had just created the award winning “Knowing of Mary Poppins” a couple of years before), and our process began. Leah is based in Perth so there were a lot of red eyed flights across the land. We tested our product as we went, we both took it to Mexico (a collaborative conference and HOME is based on collaborative practices) and then later Chicago (Theatre of the Oppressed Conference and HOME has been grown to be a community event to help re-author stories that may no longer serve us). Leah, Bev Jensen (another dear friend and fabulous visual artist who has journeyed with us for the last four years) and I began with a creative development at Metro Arts (2011) where we moved the seats in the Sue Benner and performed as theatre in the round complete with trapdoor. We were ably helped by a team of dedicated theatre lovers (Kate Caley, James Newton, Shilpi Rahman). We thought we would fit 30 punters, but we performed to 50+, people sitting on the stage with me. It was a glorious two days. Then David Berthold’s La Boite Indie decided to take HOME on board in 2012 and we had champions like Nicholas Paine and Adam Brunes. Warm up consisted of gypsy sticks, and Myffy who had just started her delicious stint as La Boite’s front of house manager, along with Nick, would come into the theatre and dance with gypsy sticks…we all warmed up together. Arlene Castle, our production manager/stage manager Gabby Castle’s mum was in charge of the devonshire teas that we served after the show and she collected a beautiful assortment of old teacups, tea pots and when there were scones left over she would wrap them with red ribbon and give them to our audience to take home and share. We did a community workshop with forty plus people. We created a Frame-It Project, where Gabby Castle, Aimee Dittmer and Rebecca Ward wandered the parks and markets taking pictures of what people saw as home.

The responses to our sell out season of HOME at La Boite were overwhelming, people responding to their own ideas and memories of their home and what it meant to them. We created a community event that had no beginning or end. Bev Jensen created an installation that people could walk through and touch. Her daughter visual artist Brenna Jensen helped create a video of HOME (Creative Development of HOME, Metro Arts, 2011). Markwell Productions created another video with highlights from La Boite season (Highlights of HOME: A STORY OF BELONGING La Boite season

But many of you don’t know this part of the story: in 2011 as we grew HOME, a small group of us used to meet weekly at Pullenvale where I live. We would bring food to share, we would sit in the garden and we would plan. We began to create garden rooms here at Pullenvale where performances could be held. We created a kitchen garden, a bedroom garden, a library garden and an Alice in Wonderland knock. We cooked almond biscuits, made aprons, made books, banners, tablecloths, wove paper,drank gallons of tea and learned what it meant to nourish each other at the same time as growing a show about nurturing. This process lasted a year, and it was one of the most nourishing years of my creative life. I looked forward to those Tuesday mornings. All five of the participants were collaborative therapists or student therapists and that was deliberate: we used the gatherings to thicken our understanding of what it is to be collaborative, how to help each other (and our audience) grow stories that transformed, empowered and generated new ways forward. The group consisted of Bev Jensen (visual artist), Kat Caley-White (collaborative therapist, visual artist, singer and teacher), James Newton (collaborative therapist) and Shilpi Rahman (collaborative therapist).
Now we are moving to Queensland Theatre Company in 2015. We will offer creative community workshops and we are hoping to incorporate some of the writings from those workshops into the performances. The season will be followed by a Queensland Tour (Artour).

I am excited about performing once again with Travis Ash, my youngest son. He has composed the music, he plays live and he performs about 6 monologues throughout the piece that shine a light on the world view, so that when I am at home, complaining about being a taxi driver for my four children, he then talks about the woman who nearly lost her son in the Children Overboard scandal. It was my second daughter Micaela who helped choose and write these monologues: I approached her with the thought of weaving international stories throughout HOME as a way of connecting this tiny piece of Brisbane with the entire world. Micaela is a creative writer as well as a trained lawyer and her eye is sharp. She came up with some wonderful stories. We chose many international as well as national stories, one of them a poignant story about a Vietnam vet, shared by Richard Jensen, Bev Jensen’s husband.

Thank you is never enough but it is all I can do right now: thank you to all the wonderful people who contributed to getting this show up…it takes a village to grow a show, and I love my village.
Behind any achievement there is always someone who is holding the reigns. I have a husband who always supports. Despite his own challenging work, he is always there to hear lines, make coffee and hold hands. Without my Bill, HOME would not be opening on 14th July, 2015 at Queensland Theatre Company.

Thank you Leah Mercer, my long time collaborator, who is opening our next show “Joey the Mechanical Boy” at Blue Room Perth, just after we finish “He Dreamed a Train”, the third show of the Belonging Trilogy.

He Dreamed a Train (a title I borrowed from my brother) opens at Brisbane Powerhouse on 15 October 2014. Directed by Circa’s Ben Knapton, and performed by Travis Ash and me, Train focuses on what happens when ruptures enter a family. We would love to have you come and experience a new way of storytelling: where the traditional meets the postmodern. Ben Knapton has specialised in audio visual performances and we are presently working magic in the rehearsal rooms at Brisbane Powerhouse (

Monthly Letter No. 1: Collaborative practice and how ideas just keep growing

I have not written ‘letters’ before and may never again, but I feel like writing one right now.

I’m thinking about collaborative practice and how, when it works best, ideas build on themselves and new ways emerge seemingly effortlessly. An example of collaborative practice this morning was having a cup of tea and sesame snaps with Bev Jensen a visual artist who has designed some amazing stage shows over the last few years. My favourite so far was the set Bev designed and built for HOME, a reflective piece about belonging, which had a season at La Boite Independents last year.
As we sat in the Pullenvale sun, Bev came up with a name of our next project: “Open Theatre Scheme” as opposed to “Open Garden Scheme” which happens each year when gardens are open to the public. So an “Open Theatre Scheme” would require the garden/house to be a sort-of-theatre-space…we will trial it late November, 2013 with a private showing of “Man in Quotation Marks” or “The Man who dreamed a train” our latest work in development. We will incorporate garden, home, bush, ‘playpen'(an old tennis court where actors play). Last year Bev spent some time, along with other members of the 4change nest ensemble, creating garden rooms and these rooms will once again come alive. So for now, we will call it “The Open Theatre Scheme” and see what happens!

Monday night is the last night for the Master Class series at La Boite: i think a new one begins the following week which should be fabulous ( ). This is surprisingly my fourth week with this particular group and it will be a rewarding three hours, bringing together the whole eight weeks of coaching (other classes have been facilitated by Kathryn Marquet (who plays in The Glass Menagerie next month) and David Berthold (director of La Boîte).

Tuesday is Perth week, facilitating ImpulseTraining with a group of artists based in Perth ( ). We will focus on ImpulseTraining which covers a wide range of experiential exercises including creative writing, ‘gypsy sticks’, basic elements of movement, meditation and much improvisation. We will focus on the space between the actors rather than the internal landscape of the actors. This creates a vibrant sense of presence for the actors as well as their audience. I also look forward to re-connecting with my long time and far away theatre collaborator Leah Mercer who lives in Perth.

Monday week 2 of July is back at Metro Arts and Pullenvale, focusing on the creative development “Man in Quotation Marks” or “The Man who Dreamed a Train”, partly based on the book written by David Brown (my brother).

Book Description of “HE DREAMED A TRAIN”. Here is a cut and paste from Kindle

“Tom stands on a cliff beside his smashed car. The comfortable life he knew lies in ruins beside him. Into the distance runs an abandoned train line, speaking to him of the feeling he somehow left out here as a boy.
What does the land want him to do?
To find the answer we must go back a hundred years to the first dreaming of the train track and to Anna, who wakes unexpectedly at the Governor’s Ball, to find herself surrounded by sleeping people”.

At this time of the year there is a lot-lot-lot of independent theatre in Brisbane with:
–‘Powerkids’ happening at Brisbane Powerhouse (I want to see The Empty City by David Megarrity and I did see Argus by David Morton…well worth while) and
–‘Orbit’ at Queensland Theatre Company’s GreenHouse where every theatrical in town is working right now including Grin and Tonic.
–Lots happening at the Judy (Judith Wright Centre): I have heard that ‘Salon’ is great! and
–Metro Arts is gearing up for their next Friday night!
–Zen Zen Zo is still in rehearsal with Medea and
–deBase has just closed “Hurry up and Wait” with Liz Skitch and Clint Bolster
–Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble is deeply entrenched in Theatre of the Oppressed Training and working in prisons.
–La Boite is in rehearsal for “Glass Menagerie” and Andrea Moor’s production “Venus in Furs” just opened (standing ovation?) at Queensland Theatre Company.
–QPAC Slava’s Snowshow has received much attention!

So winter-in-July is full. Hope you enjoy it. In this best-weather-in-the-world-winter-wonderland-Brisbane!

Work-in-Residence at Metro Arts “He Dreamed a Train” or “Man in Quotation Marks”

Here is the link to amazon version of “He Dreamed a Train”, and here is a cut and paste of David Brown’s short biography:

David A. Brown
David A. Brown

“He Dreamed a Train”

Publication Date: June 4, 2013

Tom stands on a cliff beside his smashed car. The comfortable life he knew lies in ruins beside him. Into the distance runs an abandoned train line, speaking to him of the feeling he somehow left out here as a boy.
What does the land want him to do?
To find the answer we must go back a hundred years to the first dreaming of the train track and to Anna, who wakes unexpectedly at the Governor’s Ball, to find herself surrounded by sleeping people.

From the Author

This book has its beginnings in the 1990s when I first saw country towns wither after the loss of their airline. My proposal to the NSW Government to restore small trains instead was ignored, and I eventually realised that I did not know how to make dreams come true.
I thought that I might learn through writing a novel, but the book took its own path. All the events described in it are based on actual experience, but the way they are threaded together as a story owes more to sensing than to thought.
I hope it speaks to you, perhaps in ways you cannot describe.

About the Author

David Brown has been a psychologist, inventor, writer, speaker and student of life. His friends include engineers, mediums, artists and doctors. When not in the field where, he says, psychologists belong, deep within the machinery of a factory, or redesigning parts of the Sydney Opera House, he has been a CEO of a charitable Foundation, owner of a regional airline, and moonlighting as relieving manager of a tourist hotel in Norfolk Island. Extraordinarily active for 35 years, he has had a worldwide influence in fields as diverse as industrial design, the treatment of psychological trauma, and visual comfort at work.