It seems that art exhibitions are the thing at Easter here in Denmark. We spent two days looking at different galleries up north but my favourite exhibition is of course the one at Sostrup Slot. There are six artists exhibiting in three different locations. I had a favourite work from each artist, most of whom I met the day the exhibition opened. Here are my favourites: do not read this as a critical appraisal. It is a warm pedestrian response to the things that caught me eye:

Sofie Aabenhuus: www.sofieaabenhuus.dk
Sofie’s work is seductive…the more I looked at it the more I discovered hidden treasures. In one painting I saw a face (totally unintended by the artist) but a face none the less:

if you look closely enough you can see a face in the orange circle

if you look closely enough you can see a face in the orange circle…and my shadow…oops Sofie so sorry!

This work had a companion and together they created a place of contemplation:

The companion piece. These two paintings are my favourite Sofie paintings

The companion piece. These two paintings are my favourite Sofie paintings

I also had the fortune to meet Sophie’s beautiful daughter Liv, meaning life…and she was just that, full of life and joyful to watch.

Anne Floche:www.annefloche.dk
As you wandered through Sofie’s gallery you come to another one with Anne Floche’s work. Anne’s work is stunningly beautiful. Again I had two favourite pieces:

Angel wings sit in the centre of the studio. They are huge, made of clay...extremely beautiful complete with bones...contemplative...

Angel wings sit in the centre of the studio. They are huge, made of clay…extremely beautiful complete with bones…contemplative…

and as one enters the building you see Anne’s huge pot:

a giant pot: one would have to have a giant room to hold it and someone has! I believe it has sold on the first day.

a giant pot: one would have to have a giant room to hold it and someone has! I believe it has sold on the first day.

Anne’s work makes me think outside the box: the size for one really demands attention. Its strength of character and its ability to take me into the land of the imagination…so powerful.

Now, lets cross the courtyard, through the grass with beautiful crocuses growing and into the next studio. Here we find

Bente Lyhne’s work: www.bentelyhne.dk

i couldn't stop looking at this...i wanted to go through the door

i couldn’t stop looking at this…i wanted to go through the door

I loved many of Bente’s works and in particular the doorway shown above. It appeared epic to me and awoke in me the Celtic belief that there is another world if only we would stop and see it. One of the books I am reading right now is called The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers and Seekers by Frank MacEowen, and he quotes Steve Rabery:

The Celts believed that there was another dividing line that all people could straddle, if only they stretched themselves a bit. And that’s the divide between the world and the otherworld

Its as though Bente’s door is the door that separates, for me, this world and the other world.

Lars Kalmar Kastanje: www.studio-kastanje.dk

Next to Bente’s work is Lars Kalmar Kastanje’s paintings:
Lars is also the resident architect at Sostrop Castle and has helped create magic: in one of the rooms in the monastery he has painted directly onto the walls and it looks fabulous. Here is a more solemn piece:

its as though the person depicted is about to run across the painting

its as though the person depicted is about to run across the painting

I reluctantly leave the jazz, the warmth of Lars and Bente’s studio and head over to the castle. On the second floor, just outside the library where I write, is Ulla Lundsgart’s work.

Ulla Lundsgart: www.ullalundsgart.dk

Ulla has created huge drawings of flowers that have so much life they jump of the page:

Vibrant colours, huge depictions, powerful and happy

Vibrant colours, huge depictions, powerful and happy

This one is my favourite: apologies to you Ulla, I don’t think I managed to capture the whole image but regardless you can still see the beauty.

Tomorrow I will go to the third floor and see the final work, that of Jens Thordal-Christensen: www.jens-thordal.dk

It is March and FOCC is in residence at Sostrup Castle, a beautiful and very old castle in the north of Denmark. We arrived last week and the weather has been kind: cool but very walkable…most days have blue sky and geese or swans flying overhead. Ducks in the pond, crocuses growing in the fields, buds everywhere.

Sostrup Castle in Denmark

Sostrup Castle in Denmark

Our hostess, Kirsten Swift has made us feel very welcome, providing terrific accommodation in the apartment block: a very old building onsite converted into apartments with kitchens and everything anyone would ever need. Behind the apartment is the monastery where nuns used to live. Kirsten has added a pyramid, covering the inside courtyard and creating a cosy yet grand outdoor area that is protected and can house hundreds of people.

The Pyramid, a glorious space to contemplate and also host large gatherings

The Pyramid, a glorious space to contemplate and also host large gatherings

We are working in the old part of the castle, the library, where old books from centuries ago line the shelves. Next door is the piano room.

Piano Room

Piano Room

We are working on EVE: EVE was produced as part of the Metro Arts Independent Season in 2012, and then Blue Room in Perth. It was a hugely successful production, both sides of the continent, winning awards including Member’s Choice Best Production and Best Performance from the Blue Room and a Gold Matilda in Brisbane. Since then, our wonderful Moshlo Shaw, a musician of such calibre, has died so we are needing to rewrite and reproduce. Travis Ash is rewriting the musician’s role to incorporate the storyteller and I welcome his huge contribution to the new version of EVE, so new in fact we may even rename it. Benjamin Knapton will be directing it and we welcome our He Dreamed a Train team onboard: Freddy Komp (who also had a huge hand in our show HOME) and Nathan Sibthorpe as IT extraordinaire.

We look forward to having the beginnings of a new script by the end of this residency. Meanwhile we will enjoy the beauty of the place, wander the gardens, appreciate the beautiful sculptures, the art galleries and the natural surroundings.

IMG_0261

contemplating APAM after a very stimulating and challenging week

contemplating APAM after a very stimulating and challenging week

Its now nearly March. For many it is the beginning of the academic year. For others we have been back at work for some time. What is this 2016? How will it unfold?

It began with several festivals in quick succession: it seems Brisbane Powerhouse is a power house, providing the community with multiple festivals to keep us entertained and connected.

The last big festival of sorts was APAM which was on this week at BPH, Sofitel, QPAC and Judith Wright Centre. Many performances from around Australia and New Zealand came to test their appeal for the wider audiences and many were successful, creating tours through Asian and Europe, USA and Canada. The dream of an international tour is a tricky one and I have the tension inside me: would I rather travel or work?

I did not apply to APAM to pitch: even though I am a practitioner of 40 years I am a newbie when it comes to selling. I am still unsure how one sells work: I know how to create it, dream it on, even get it on, but to then try to sell it to others, well that is the hiccup. The stumbling block. But what was a delicious discovery was that I was not backward in recommending other people’s work: I heard myself on multiple occasions wanting people to buy Aeon, onestepatatimelikethis, The Stance, Collusion, Circe’s Carnival of the Animals etc…no problem at all…and all of these works will get a showing elsewhere. They were excellent as were many other ones that showed on the local stages. I did not see everything. When we are attending a local event there is still the need to facilitate that workshop or go to that meeting, but I did see enough to know that the art in Australia is flourishing and that it is ok that we don’t like everything (I found myself lukewarm about some things and red hot about others)… there is a wide variety of audiences out there.

I have put a community provocation on Facebook to have more theatre pitches from Brisbane for the final APAM 2018. Kris Stewart reminded us that we had several, but I am thinking theatre, not musical theatre (love it), not dance (love it) and not circus (love it) but theatre, those golden nuggets of conversations between audience and performers, stories that connect, charm and transform. I could not see any from Brisbane. And we had some from elsewhere that were charming (“hello, goodbye and happy birthday” was one that was definitely delicious), challenging (in the best way) and very watchable. That caused me to reflect on the shows that I have seen in Brisbane these last months that elicited the very same response: I have been charmed, challenged, engaged…

And the provocation to myself is to deeply consider what it is I am wanting: do I need to take my work farther afield? Or is it ok to remain local, constantly striving for excellence but focusing on my own community’s needs…I have not found an answer yet, but I am considering it.

Melt Festival has everything, complete with camera! This is an HIV display complete with live people handing out gifts

Melt Festival has everything, even instant cameras! This is an HIV display complete with live people handing out gifts

MELT FESTIVAL BRISBANE POWERHOUSE

This week has been a good one. So much happening in Brisbane or about to happen in Brisbane. I have just finished a week of being involved in Melt Festival at Brisbane Powerhouse which is one of the most alive venues in Brisbane at the moment, with beautiful restaurants WATT and Alto, a very alive bar that sells good things, two terrific theatres, a studio, art galleries and open spaces for performance.

Adam Gardnir moved to Brisbane recently to take up a position as producer for BPH and one of his gigs was to produce Melt Festival. He rang me and asked if I would be part of Gaybies, a verbatim piece of performance to be read, rather than performed, sharing the stories of children of gay people. The stories were short, sharp, funny, poignant and worthy of a show. It had been done in both Melbourne and Sydney and now it was Brisbane’s turn.

(A side note, and future post: I can’t wait for that to reverse, that we have brilliant and important shows premiering in Brisbane and then Melbourne and Sydney want to buy them…a few weeks ago I read Sam Strong’s message (Sam is the new artistic director of Queensland Theatre Company) to the artists/people of Brisbane and he said something like “We will lead Australian Theatre from Brisbane”…and I can’t tell you how excited I was to read that… what I want to dream on is that all our theatre companies and artists come together and collaborate together, then wild wonder could happen!).

Our first session of a two day rehearsal period

Our first session of a two day rehearsal period

BACK TO GAYBIES: We met last Monday, introduced ourselves and the magic began. For some reason this particular group of people from our Brisbane community opened their hearts to each other. A tad tentative at first, we gradually became friends. Kris Stewart, the artistic director of Brisbane Powerhouse set the tone of the rehearsal room: fun, light, fast and committed. We were a mixed bunch, ages ranging from 17 though to 63. Some of us were professional actors, but most of us weren’t. We were administrators of organisations, teachers, army majors soon to be politician (yeah Pat), festival directors (our very own David Berthold), magicians, advocates, school students, writers, counsellors, musicians, singers, composers, company directors, theatre critics and radio announcers. We were many things and most of all each of us had a deep interest in equity and the importance of sharing stories that normally are not heard.

Along with Kris we had Joseph Simons (a fabulous choreographer/dancer and now director) in the room assisting Kris, Jason Glenwright as lighting designer and for the set we pulled together a couple of portable tables, an assortment of chairs, found a piano, old toys, art materials, cake.

We were ready to begin.

MELT: A Celebration of Queer Arts and Culture 2016

Curtain Call (there are more of us, they are either side of us)

Curtain Call (there are more of us, they are either side of us)

What I loved about the week was the intense energy: we were all experts in our own fields and when you get a group of very dedicated and focused people together on the floor there’s enormous respect and energy. A deep acceptance of different ways of being in the the world. Rehearsals were loud, fast and alive. People came and went, sometimes caught up in their professional lives so we had a couple of people who played multiple roles so that we could cater for other gigs that were programmed at the same time.

We were each given a large hard covered book sourced from a second hand bookshop (mine was a thriller) and inside that book was the script, carefully pasted onto the pages of the novel. So there we were, two folding tables, art supplies, streamers, poppers and a hard covered book with the script inside. We began to highlight our personal text as we read and re-read the verbatim piece. We had limited freedom: we were not to learn the text and we could only move as directed due to lights and rhythm. That is sometimes an extremely creative opportunity because we then had to work inside a very small perimeter. Our job was to find small movements (what we call ‘business’ in the theatre) that added to the different textual meanings, yet did not pull focus. That is the most joyous part of the theatrical experience because it embeds you in the story. I spied an old tricycle upstage and some fairy wings. I did not logically think “I can use this” I just knew that if I placed them next to me, the action would emerge. And it did. Though there are pitfalls when working on action within a reading (balancing a heavy script with physicality can get tricky)… one night I was so involved in my fellow actors story, I was leaning in, totally focused, and at the same time I was trying to re-create a small animal made of pipe cleaners. Suddenly there was silence…

“Oh,OH OH, my, I think that’s me” I say in a very loud voice. After the audience and my fellow performers had stopped laughing at my expense (I adored it too) I proceeded with enormous vigour. Sometimes in verbatim theatre pieces (or for that matter any piece of theatre where the actors are talking directly to their audience) this very act of “messing up” joins us more fully with our audience. We begin to collude. Audiences love to see humanity on the stage and the rawest humanity possible is when an actor misses their cue, joins their audience with joyous laughter, and moves on.

We rehearsed for two short days. We performed for four wonderful days. Mostly we had large houses and the audience showed their appreciation with laughter, joy and attentive listening. After the shows we would move out the Alto Bar and continue the conversations with relatives, friends and people we had never met before.

GAYBIES PRESENTED BY BRISBANE POWERHOUSE

Hotly political and deeply personal, Gaybies shares the intimate real-life stories of children from same-sex parents, surrogate mums, donor dads, co-parents and guardians.

Directed by Kris Stewart (Brisbane Powerhouse Artistic Director) and written by Dean Bryant, you’ll see a cast of local performers and community members bring to life this funny, charming, heart-warming and inspiring show. This is for everyone who cares for our greatest asset: children.

We are thrilled to announce the amazing cast for Gaybies:

Barbara Lowing, Actor
Bec Zanetti, Actor
Blair Martin, Queer Commentator, 4zzz
Brad Rush, The Arts Centre Gold Coast
Brittany Francis, Actor
Christopher Wayne, Celebrity Magician
David Berthold, Brisbane Festival Artistic Director
Emily Gilhome, Actor
Gordon Hamilton, Artistic Director Australian Voices
Kurt Phelan, Actor
Libby Anstis, Brisbane Powerhouse Board Member
Lizzie Moore, Actor & Cabaret Star
Margi Brown Ash, Actor & Mental Health Advocate
Pam Barker, Gay & Lesbian Business Network
Pat O’Neil, Labor Candidate for Brisbane
Rebecca McIntosh, Sex TV Host & Personality
Xanthe Coward, Journalist

This event is part of MELT: A Celebration of Queer Arts and Culture 2016.

Opening night

Opening night

I think everyone should take every opportunity to volunteer for a community show, a coming together of rare and wonderful humans who have focused their energies outside of theatre, yet have that same passion and commitment that we all relish.

You know how I mentioned we had a radio announcer? Well some of us ended up at 4ZZZ chatting to Bec Mac, the extraordinary Brisbane performer who has enormous energy and passion. Never without a funny quip Bec Mac is someone we are going to see a lot more of.

Bec Mac

We turned up at 4zzz, only to have to wait for one of our guests who thought we were meeting that evening. All good. Usually its me who gets the time skewed. We all made it and had a terrific chat abou the show and its impact and we finished with a talk about the importance of community shows and how they can change the landscape one person at atime.

Melt Festival is on for another week. I’ll be there next week seeing Joe Simons First Things First, a show that has toured Autralia and now has its first showing in Brisbane (Dance Australia said this about Joe: “Joseph is an engaging personality…a marvel to watch”).

See you there?

Gaybies 2016

Gaybies 2016

hello, come in, sit a while

hello, come in, sit a while

As a therapist for artists, I work in the fields of “intimacy and solitude”. I spend time with people whose vocation it is to change the world. For that to happen, I have to constantly define and refine my own practice both as therapist and as artist. Right now I am in the final stages of writing a PhD about Home and Belonging. Where do we belong? How do we belong? What does it mean to belong? As I have reflected I have discovered old writings that are still to be dreamed on:

This work was to be done using a telephone.

Pick up the phone (image taken outside of a Chicago Art Gallery several years ago)

Pick up the phone
(image taken outside of a Chicago Art Gallery several years ago)

The audience member would stand in a phone booth. The phone booth would be comforting, not cold. It would smell good. The voice of the actor, my voice, would be soft.
The audience member would pick up the phone.

The voice would be heard:

A phone box made out of books. A place of contemplation

A phone box made out of books. A place of contemplation

If I were to have an idea it would be the idea of connection.
If I were to have an idea it would be an idea of touching lightly
Walking lightly. Breathing lightly
If I were to have an idea it would be cooking something for you.
I would cook you scones and make jam and whip cream for you.
I would make a cup of tea with tea leaves, hot water, a beautiful ceramic tea pot and thick creamy milk and rich sugar.
Not white.

Tea for you

Tea for you

If I had an idea I would invite you to sit a while and breathe with me and listen to music of your choice.
For I am your host you see.
If I had an idea I would hold your hand until you no longer wanted me to hold your hand.

Hands can speak

Hands can speak

I would wrap my favourite hand crocheted rug around your shoulders and rock you like your mother did when you were small.

My Grandmother's cushion

My Grandmother’s cushion

If I had an idea I would breathe for you so that you could scream for freedom and your love, your capacity would explode the world apart with its power and strength. Then we would put the world back together again, a kinder world, a more gentle world.
If I had an idea I would polish your shoes so that you could see your beautiful smile every time you leaned over to scratch your ankle.
If I had an idea I would sew you a coat of deliciousness that you could wrap yourself in when you yearned for a warm moment within this oftimes cold world.
If I had an idea I would carefully pour warm oil over your head to wash away the hurtful comments and actions from those who do not know who you are.
If I had an idea I would sew you up in a huge envelope and post you to your love.
If I had an idea I would blow sweet kisses across all borders and dance (not) naked in the streets of violence- with open heart—a naked heart perhaps.
If I had an idea I would walk the walk of Australia to awaken the stories waiting to be told by silent grandmothers and boisterous girls.
If I had an idea I would create for you journey shoes to take you wherever it is you needed to go right now.

I would write you books for whatever you need to hear right now and I would sing you words to settle your anxiety of old.

I will write you a book

I will write you a book

I would, if I had an idea, dance until you told me-stop.
I would cook until you said
“My darling. I am finished. I have had enough. Let me rest”. And I would.

And I would leave, knowing that you were safe

And I would leave, knowing that you were safe