Friday, May 13, 2011

Artecycle - Waste, Anew- Upcycling Series- INTERVIEWS

Waste, Anew

Artist’s tend to see the lighter side of excess, consumer waste is filled with both possibility and accountability. Artists Tim Craker and Anna Maria Plescia are adepts at adapting garbage into objects of contemplation, objects that happen to resemble natural forms.

“I am fascinated by mobiles, and often use soft durable plastics like take-way food containers,” explains Craker about his recent airborne works. “For me the installation stems from a response to art materials. The work is not primarily inspired by wanting to work with waste materials, but by seeing materials or objects that have a certain possibility, I want to see what these things these materials can do.”

“People often assume that the work is all about recycling, and that - for example - I have collected and washed used takeaway food containers to make art. In fact I purchased the containers new - I wanted them to be smooth and clean, shiny and uniform and in large quantities, and instantly available. Of course the work does make a necessary reference to our use – both over-use and mis-use -of disposable plastics, but that is a secondary meaning to me - or rather, not the reason I made it. It's more about seeing other purposes for everyday objects, and realising unseen potentials.”

For artist Anna Maria Plescia , her interest in using waste materials came during her time studying at RMIT.
” We were encouraged to use waste material like old phone books, cheap and easy available material including street leftovers , two dollar shop products that are quickly disposed of by consumers, toothpicks for example. We were encouraged to use waste alongside traditional materials like canvas.” 

“For an artist with limited means, waste is an inexpensive medium easily available. That said, we don’t see it on the streets as much- you need to be a scavenger today more than ever before, recycling is happening on a bigger scale, throw away phone books are harder to find.”

“My work in last year’s exhibition was made by cutting phone books carefully with a band saw, organised to look like a pool of water was flowing from the wall. It was a work about excess, excessive waste, excess information, and that waste is also a part of nature now.”

“I'm more in to the beauty of waste, that’s what turns me on as an artist, there is beauty where you would least expect it. I like to make a work that provides a sense of the miraculous, a transformation or regeneration, like there is life after death. This year my work, Anew (2011), is like a small tree trunk with two major limbs, a canvas and toothpick combination, it has both an inside and an outside, both equally important, it looks a little threatening too.”

Craker’s new work, Web (2011), is a delicate interlacing of green waste, ‘recycled’ fennel that grows wild along train tracks, an Islamic patterning of sorts, “it’s a work about adaptation now- I was inspired by an old school text, The Web of Life- as a child I though the title was corny, but I loved that it was about plants and animals adapting to different environments. Web is an aromatic take about geometrical perfection in an organic imperfect reality.”


Incinerator Arts Complex
Moonee Ponds until June 12

Images above: Anew (detail), 2011, Annamaria Plescia
Image below: TAKE (N) AWAY, 2009, Tim Craker
Below: Web (detail), 2011


Miss Burlesque 2011

The Miss Burlesque competition is back, presenting the finest, fittest and fairest maidens in the land. Paul Andrew finds out what's in store, and what's next. with event organiser Cassandra Atkins.

It is often said that the most erotic body of all is one partially clothed, it’s the power of suggestion,” suggests Miss Burlesque organiser Cassandra Atkins while stitching a great violet crystal onto one of her own form-fitting stage costumes, “it’s all about what is secret and hidden, what can’t be possessed, it’s the imagined that matters in Burlesque.”
Atkins has spent thirteen years semi-naked seducing audiences of women and men with her sensuous stage routines as a professional "strip artist" in championships around the world. 

“I love being a strip artist and I imagined running a competition of my own at some point”,  the performer reveals,” Industry professional Jac Bowie and I were brainstorming one day; a comp that would work well in today’s climate,  and we came up with the Miss Burlesque title. Neo- burlesque is so popular now, there is no competition like this anywhere in the world, so we said let’s do it. What’s exciting for us is that the new Burlesque is less about the strip, more about the tease, about the humour.”

Atkins cites a list of Burlesque legends including US artist Lily St. Cyr as mentors.

“Lily was a legend because she understood mystique, that beauty emanates from the inside. The body in the right shaped costume with the right bits showing is a lot more sensuous then the naked body on its own. It holds the mystery and keeps you thinking and wanting more. It’s like the chasing game of love, if you give them what they want too soon then you’re no challenge at all, the seeker finds you dull. Keeping yourself covered leaves the special someone, or an audience always wanting more. “

“The dream now is to hold the first ever Miss Burlesque International by 2013, “ Atkins adds. “ We are in the process of franchising the ‘brand’ to producers overseas. Miss Burlesque Canada and South Africa are set to start in 2012. We are in talks for a number of countries in Europe and the USA. Miss Burlesque has been successful here in Australia, and hopefully eventually, an international title.”
“When we organised the first Miss Burlesque last year we received a lot of scepticism, people putting the competition down, saying the burlesque community doesn't need a competition, that performers shouldn't be competing against each other, it will only produce bad for the industry not good, it won’t help your career if you win and on and on and on. I could see some of their points but the truth remains our whole life is a competition, why not have some fun with it.”

“We watch sport on television and in news programs there are competitions around us everywhere. We have proved these people wrong. In my life I have never seen so many women in a competitive environment working together as one, supporting each other, being involved in their community and using competition as an opportunity to grow, to make friendships. Watching the WA entrants drinking cups of tea, hand sewing, gluing beads, stitching, helping one another in a sewing circle sharing stories and experiences was so gratifying for me, a sense of belonging. These girls made me cry from happiness. “

“Oh,” Atkins adds as a final note,“keep an eye out for Mr. Burlesque, that’s next year’s epic.”

Miss Burlesque 2011
Thornbury Theatre Saturday May 14

For more information:

Monday, May 09, 2011

Shannon Murdoch - INTERVIEWS

Shannon Murdoch
Written by Paul Andrew   
Sunday, 08 May 2011 22:14

Footscray-based playwright Shannon Murdoch was recently announced as the winner of the 2011 Yale Drama Series Award for Emerging Playwrights, for her play New Light Shine – a work about four small-town lives linked through a violent crime and their hopeless attempts to erase the past and build new lives.

The Yale Drama Series comes with a $10,000 prize and has previously been judged by theatre luminaries such as Edward Albee and David Hare. In 2011 the sole judge was acclaimed playwright John Guare, who has received an Obie, New York Drama Critics Circle Award and Tony nominations for both House of Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation, which also won the Olivier Award for Best Play. In addition, he is a Tony Award winner for his libretto for Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Paul Andrew chats with Shannon Murdoch about her writing.

Shannon MurdochShannon tell me a little about your motivations for entering the Yale Drama Series Award, how did it come about?
Mostly a sense of “what do I have to lose?” It’s a great competition that is pretty much open to anyone anywhere who is writing plays. I think everyone should submit. Entries close on August 15.

What do you love the most about the play as a literary form?
The spaces you are forced to leave. Because it is collaborative, and only works if that collaboration is respected, the moments of blank space left for the actors, director, designers and the audience to fill are just as important as the words.

Tell me about a piece of theatre you enjoyed recently that knocked your boots off?
I have two.

I really loved Thyestes at the Malthouse last year. I walked down St Kilda Road afterwards needing to put pen to paper. Any theatre that makes you want to go and make more theatre is worth its weight in gold.

I’ve also just read a book of plays by Rajiv Joseph, an American playwright, which knocked my boots off. Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, which is playing on Broadway at the moment, is about the best play about war that I’ve come across. It’s brutal, funny, and full of heart. And there’s a talking tiger who swears like a trucker. I’m pretty sure you can’t ask for more than that.

What do you feel makes theatre enchanting today?
Tenacity. It continues to bloom, to reinvent, to surprise, shock, reflect and antagonise, even though people seem to believe it is a dying art form.

It is said that smell is the primary sensory trigger for memory?
Maybe not a memory trigger, but more of a reality check. If you want someone to ruin your most precious memories of childhood, go talk to your siblings. But I don’t recommend it. It’s not good for your soul, and you won’t come out of it any closer to the truth.

Why are we so enchanted by memory?
I think memory is a need, up there with food, shelter and love. It’s how we know who we are, how we choose our friends and enemies, how we interact with the world. But memory is not truth. It’s subjective, fractured, and faulty.

That was the starting point in exploring memory in this play. I wanted to look at what happens when one memory is put under the microscope to see where the truth lies.

Memory is also often the subject of confusion, disagreement and divergence for families?
I think my experiences are similar to every other person on the planet – these small and seemingly inconsequential experiences that become wars of ownership within families. The war is rarely about the actual experience in dispute. It’s more about acknowledging the different effects of the experience on the people involved.

Tell me about your earliest and most fond experience of theatre?
My mum took me to see Cats when I was eight. It blew my head apart. The spectacle alone was enough to switch something in my brain and never switch it off again. But then the actors came down from the stage and into the audience and sang right in front of my face. Well, that was it. I was a goner.

Tell me about your very early experiences of reading a play?
My mum was a speech and drama teacher so there were always plays in the house, and plays being read and spoken and pulled apart. My first memory of tackling a play was helping my mum learn lines for a drama exam from Patrick White’s The Ham Funeral. I can still quote huge chunks of this play from my mum walking around the house saying these lines over and over again, struggling with them, trying to make them sing. I didn’t think about writing plays for a long time after that, but I did get accidental training in how important the words you put on the page are.

Tell me about two playwrights you are particularly passionate about?
I seem to find, on average, a new playwright every week that gets me excited. But two of my perpetual favourites are Alma de Groen for her unflinching look at women who challenge and question their role in society, and Naomi Wallace for her language.

You studied at Griffith University – tell me something about local playwrights who inspire you?
Australian playwrights seem to be breeding in record numbers and taking theatre in so many interesting and diverse directions. I was just at the National Play Festival and the breadth of stories being tackled by Australian playwrights is breathtaking. It would be a crime not to see all of these plays on Australian stages in the very near future.

Describe 'New Light Shine' in seven words?

Tell me something brief about the setting of the play, was it inspired by a true place?
It’s not inspired by any one place. When I was writing the play, I thought of it as one of those suburbs that people have no reason to go to unless they find themselves living there.

Tell me a little about each of the characters – Anna, Peregrine, Joe and Oscar – how are they similar, how are they different?
Oscar is a great big walking warning on what happens when you only play at being a grownup.

Anna takes ambition to the level of martial art, and refuses to see the damage she creates as she screams her way to her goal.

Joe is an innocent that shows how destructive being innocent can be.

Peregrine, more than any other character, knows exactly who she is. Everyone around her is intent on changing her, but she never moves an inch from her true self.

Tell me about what lies at the very heart of the sibling relationship in the play?
The breakthrough that came with this play was when I realised that all Joe wanted was for his sister, Peregrine, to come home. The violence, the horror, and the inevitable sadness, stems from this simple wish that Joe can never articulate.

How do you feel this work is a transition from your earlier plays, and is this a conscious transition perhaps?
I don’t think there is a huge transition from earlier plays – I guess it’s more a case of the more you do something the better you become. There’s a lot more comedy in New Light Shine than in earlier plays which helped balance some of the darker elements of the play.

Do you feel like there is a recurring theme or motif in your writing now?
I constantly find myself obsessed with women who are not playing it by the rules, and the price they always have to pay for it.

Tell me about how it felt when you received the news about winning the Yale award?
Shock, mostly. And then there was an overwhelming sense of relief. All this hard work, all those rejections, all that mustered self-belief to get to the desk every day and keep pounding out the words suddenly seemed completely worth it.

Award judges in the recent past have included John Guare, and playwrights Edward Albee, and David Hare; exciting stuff, what did the judges have to say about your work?
John Guare was the sole judge for 2011. He said: "The raw, haunting, richly poetic, deeply emotional, New Light Shine affected me as no other entry did."

I could pretty much die happy now.

'Raw' was one comment made by John Guare – are they speaking about your turn of phrase, the language?
You would probably have to ask John Guare about that one – he’s the one that described it that way. But this draft that won, came out in a rush. I wrote it in a weekend in some sort of fury of frustration and inspiration, which didn’t allow for any self-editing or to question what I was putting on the page.

Where did you write the play in Footscray, a sense I had while reading your work, if so did this sense of place have some bearing on your writing?
Most of my plays, including New Light Shine, have been written in Footscray, and I’m sure that living in this unique place has infected my writing. You can’t walk to the supermarket in Footscray without stumbling into a great story.

Tell me about the actors you would dearly love to see cast in these roles if it were possible?
To be honest, I haven’t really thought about it. That seems like having your dessert before you’ve eaten your dinner.

Is there a production of your work due in Melbourne this year?
No, there isn’t. Funnily enough, and for reasons I don’t fully understand, my work has had much more success in America than in Australia. I don’t spend much time trying to figure out why, I’m just happy that anyone, anywhere, likes my work enough to produce it.

What are you working on now?
Two plays.

One is about an urban planner who thinks that the only future for neighbourhoods is to turn them into parks.

The other is based on a true story about a murderer who was given six life sentences, and is campaigning to get a release date, even though that date will be long after he will be dead. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be about hope.

What insight(s) would you share now with a new writer to plays with some of their own family contentions and discontent?
Focus on the emotions, rather than the people or the situation. With emotions as your starting point, you give yourself more choices and more scope on where to take the story.

What do you tell yourself each day that enables you to write your best – a mantra, a quote, a wisdom?
I have a quote from the playwright Adam Rapp above my desk:

“… You have to realise that there’s nothing in it other than the love of doing it. I fell in love with playwriting because it’s a magical space that stories could happen in. There’s no money; it’s about poverty. So if you don’t enjoy sitting in a chair and trying to figure out how to make people not leave, or leave, or do things to each other, you’re probably not going to like it.”

Submissions for the 2012 Yale Drama Series

Submissions for the 2012 Yale Drama Series competition must be postmarked no earlier than 1 June 2011 and no later than 15 August 2011. The competition is open to any original, unpublished and unproduced full-length play in English. For complete contest rules please visit