This blog entry was written in response to an entry by Katherine Lyall-Watson on her Our Brisbane blog. Katherine's been around the traps a long time and is respected for her forthrightness and honesty. I've been unable to post my comments on her page. Every time I've tried I'm told there's an 'unacceptable space' in my screen name or the entry has been 'flagged as potential spam'.
So, I'm posting it here, with a request that other actors in our merry band pop over to Katherine's page and at the very least, read the entry and comments.
There have been many interesting and salient comments made on this topic, and in stark contrast to the majority of blogs and message boards online, none of them rail too hard at any of the others.
While there have been disagreements on fine points, the input here from producers, actors, writers, and directors highlights our community's commonality of purpose and overall vision.
This should be a source of optimism.
I've been involved in our theatrical 'fraternity' for a relatively short period, and at the fringes for the majority of that time, but even at such a remove it is plain to see that, overall, there is a unity and solidarity in our community which cannot be underestimated.
Earlier today when I first read this blog entry, my reaction was something like this:
Given that I have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear, ready access to unpolluted water and reasonable health care, griping about the lack of opportunity to be paid for prancing about like a tit seems a mite ungrateful. Most of the time I feel very lucky to be living in a society where I don’t have to play ‘cholera bingo’ with the water or risk being blown to jammy smithereens every time I leave the house.
But reading the responses here has given me pause.
Setting aside the obvious luxuries of living in the developed world, yes, within the context of our spoiled, sun-kissed, chubby little lives, trying to forge a career as a professional actor in this town is a shit fight.
It's true that theatre is locked in a struggle.
It's true that actors have a fight on their hands to eke out an existence. It's true that most of us have to subsist in jobs we loathe in order to continue doing what we love.
It's true that austerity measures, both in the public and corporate sector, are affecting everyone, QTC and La Boite included.
It's true that your average Joe is more likely to see a blockbuster movie for $15 than he is to fork out a minimum $20 to see a play.
While I'm no position of authority on this, it's obviously true that the structure of companies (theatrical or no) has had to change to meet the needs of an evolving market.
When you take a look at some of the amazing work being produced by independent theatre companies, it's truer than ever that 'professional' is not a dollar sign...it's a standard.
This dialogue makes me feel very optimistic. I sometimes feel like I'm treading water and I know the same is true of many of my friends and colleagues. Yet we continue to act, write, direct, produce, design...because we love it, and in most cases, feel completely empty when we're not doing it. We do it freely of spirit and purpose.
Yes, some of our little fraternity feel that Brisbane no longer holds any promise for a professional career, so they go to Sydney or Melbourne or they seek to study interstate (how many farewells are being attended this very night?[Friday 16 Jan]).
Some become so disenchanted that they lose the spark and give it away altogether.
But no great blame can justifiably be apportioned within our 'industry'. It's a naif who thinks there's not a small element that seems to be involved purely out of a sense of self-aggrandisement. However, that does not apply to the overwhelming majority of us, from freelance actors to major company ADs. All of us are committed to the same goals: making work for artists and art for the people.