February 2007

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Daily Rag

Today I went to my day job and tonight I'm working with Christina, whose show "Semi Rural" is on at the Comedy Festival at the exact same time as ours. I'm helping her out in the next few weeks at the same time as directing "For We Are Young And Free" for Standing There Productions and organising the brilliantly-timed Law Week for Victoria Law Foundation, where I work.

Sometimes I wonder whether I'd be able to survive without nineteen concurrent deadlines. That's a theory I doubt I'm going to test any time soon.

Meanwhile, trips on public transport become the only moments I get to myself.

Melbourne has one of those daily rags that you can get at train stations for free. Ours is called MX. When I worked in commercial radio, I used to read MX from cover to cover with the frenzied excitement of an addict, searching desperately for some material.

And doesn't it deliver?

Today, it actually uses the phrase "paleolithic hottie" to describe the reconstructed face of a 14,000 year old skull.

Other highlights include:

The story of a zoo worker who dressed in an unconvincing orangutan costume in order to stage a fake escape scenario. Needless to say that when he was shot by another zoo keeper with a fake gun, the kiddies were horrified and fled from the scene.

The description of Richard Griffiths attempting to escape the Harry Potter crowds through a tiny box office window is pretty hilarious if you know how big Richard Griffiths is.

And finally, I enjoyed the following passage:

Children on a youth club trip in Northern Ireland ignored repeated warnings to behave as bedtime approached last Wednesday. So their leaders decided to teach them a lesson. they packed the youngsters into a minibus, drove them into the middle of nowhere and told them to find their own way back to base. The punishment backfired badly when the youngsters, aged 12 to 14, became hopelessly lost and the leaders were unable to go back to find them because the minbus broke down.

(Description of furious parents follows). Got to love MX.

Rehearsal space

Is there anyone rich out there who wants to give us a rehearsal space?

I was rehearsing with Michael yesterday in what is quite possibly the smallest room in the world. We had to tuck our elbows in.

The stage we are going to perform on is cavernous and enormous. It's like an aircraft carrier. It's like a set from that Howard Hughes movie.

I am quite an imaginative person, but I'm not that good.

In other news, Standing There Productions: snubbed again at the Oscars this year. What a disgrace. Shame on the Academy. I'm sending the showbag back in the mail.

Peg Leg Producer

Rita has a walking stick and a pet parrot on her shoulder.

Just kidding about the parrot.

I feel I should somehow become more interesting as a result.

Maybe I'll take up mandolin, or cigars.

Meanwhile, rehearsals are starting tonight and I only finished the script on the weekend. Taking off the writer's hat and finding the director's hat somewhere down the back of the couch is the new challenge. I know it's here somewhere.

Five weeks to go, everyone.

Mixed Emotions

Guess what...?

I finished the script!

I am so happy I could celebrate by going to Rita's birthday party and seeing her before she later cuts her foot open and spends the morning getting three stitches and attempting to rehydrate.

Yes, really.

Poor Rits. She came to the cast read-through tonight and she managed to remain vertical throughout most of it.

As they say, tomorrow is another day. Another set of deadlines, another packet of painkillers. We'll get there. If we'd both stop breaking ourselves.

(By the way, I also saw Under Milk Wood in the city on Friday night. It is such a beautifully written piece of theatre. I heart Dylan Thomas. Go and see it if you can - special mention to Mr Pugh.)

Auditions

You may have noticed a lot of talk about the State Library and not much talk about auditions here in recent days. That's because auditions were still happening and we were still thinking about various casting decisions and having long and detailed conversations over the phone about the requirements of various characters in the script.

Well guess what. We have a cast.

It's always a great feeling to cast actors in a show that you've been writing solo for so long. Really clever performers can bring a new dimension to something that you didn't even see yourself. It's going to be heaps of fun playing around with it in the next month or so.

However... it is always devastating for us to have to cull people from the pool of performers who have kept us entertained in auditions over recent weeks. I think this probably says more about me than it does about... you know... reality. Probably the reality is that people turn up, do an audition, forget about it, go home, hear back from us later and get on with their lives like the professionals they are. But for me, I imagine the worst case scenario: people might be disappointed, people might be annoyed, people might sit at home sticking pins in a director-shaped voodoo doll.

See, I can't help feeling in some small way like I'm breaking up with a whole lot of people, all at once (even though I still really like them). What's more, I feel like maybe they feel a bit jibbed because of course it's not like a normal break up; they don't get to scream at me down the phone and publically pash someone else just to make me feel bad.

I mean, they can, they're welcome to, obviously, but so far nobody has.

Of course, as I say, the facts are different. In fact, people have been lovely. People have written back to wish us luck and send their best wishes. People have said lovely things and signed up to our mailing list and promised to come to the show.

People are ace.

People don't feel like we're breaking up with them at all. Or maybe they do but maybe they're those mature kinds of people who manage to be friends with their exes and move on to more meaningful relationships elsewhere. I don't know, all I know is that I'm relieved and grateful and I would like to thank the people who auditioned for this show. It was a pleasure meeting everyone and seeing everyone perform. It's also good to know that people don't take these things as seriously as I do. I guess that means I should take my Telstra-employee-shaped voodoo dolls and put them out with the hard rubbish. Oh well.

Also, welcome aboard to our cast and crew. This is going to be fun.

Social Life, Anyone?

Spent the entire day in the State Library.

Have now become the particular type of obsessive who does things like this:

- Refuses to break except for lunch including having phone turned off, rather than on silent

- Does not go to the bathroom unless completely necessary, on account of not wanting to lose a desk to some infuriating student/genealogist/crazy man with shopping bags, who clearly does not deserve the desk because he/she has not earned the desk by becoming known by all library staff and making friends with the regulars (of whom there are about half a dozen - we roll our eyes at each other during the busy times).

- Considers the use of one's fountain pen instead of one's computer screen a "treat".

- Enjoys the company of security guards. Polite, quiet, desperate for whispered niceties but expecting nothing more, these are princes among men.

I wonder what parties are like these days.

Wow

I just met the world's first loud librarian.

No kidding.

She's a real squawker. Laughs like a stuck pig.

She just told a group of people on the fifteen minute computers that their time was up and two of them nearly passed out from laughing.

A loud librarian. Fantastic.

Shoooosh!

Dear people in the library who talk on mobile phones while other people are trying to write scripts,

Who do you think you're fooling when you rush from your desk and speak in a low murmur for as long as your heart desires in the book stacks?

The books stacks are not your refuge! The book stacks are privately furious. The book stacks are giving you stink eye , you low-murmuring, long-talking selfish bastards.

I am very good friends with the book stacks, and I respect them as independent persons within their own rights. I can tell from the way the book stacks are shaking with a hitherto unexpressed fury that the book stacks may at any moment dislodge themselves from their foundations and conspire one day to crush your very important phone conversation beneath their lofty, learned, perfectly quiet shelves.

Be very careful. The books and I do not like you very much at all.

PS there is a foyer and there is a bathroom and there is an entire world outside and also there is a button called OFF.

Yes, I am getting older. Shut up.

The nine letter word

So the guy in the State Library cafe pointed out that I hadn't put an "e" on the end of "carnivore" when I was doing the nine letter word in the newspaper this week.

The fact that I had come anywhere near getting the nine letter word was very exciting to me, and I had in fact been hoping that somebody would notice.

Which of course made me about ten times more embarrassed when he pointed out that there was a letter missing and it was, in fact, an eight letter word.

There is something metaphorical about this. At the moment I have a few huge tasks, no idea whether I'll finish them, and a propensity to forget the final detail that everyone notices I've forgotten.

Or something. I don't know. All I do know is that I keep wanting to tell the guy in the State Library cafe that I'm actually very good with words. Honestly. Or, should I say, honestl.

Auditions Finally Finished

So we finally finished our auditions last night. How is it that there are so many good performers in Australia and hardly any of them are on TV?

Auditions are so hard. So many people, so many different combinations, far too many frustrating circular discussions that go for hours longer than they should. My head, even more than usual, is totally ready to explode.

Which it will have to do in the State Library.

See you guys later.

Audition Exhaustion

I am so completely exhausted.

Rita and I were talking about how the audition process this time has been like the colour grading process in our short film.

How is casting a play like adjusting the colours in a film, you ask?

Fascinating question. Let me tell you:

When you do a colour grade, you lock yourself in a dark room and look at the same thing over and over, done in lots of different ways. When you emerge from your little dark room, you look at the world in terms of its colours. You think to yourself, "Isn't it interesting what they've done with the sky colour today?" and you sit in the train thinking, "That poor woman's skin tones are all out of whack".

When you come out of an audition, you're auditioning everyone. You're thinking, "Interesting choice the waitress made with her inflection at the end there." You're looking at people having arguments and you're thinking maybe they could use their hands less. You're thinking it's a pity that person doesn't project her voice a little more because you can't hear her but her performance is otherwise quite lovely.

It's maddening, it's exciting, and it's completely exhausting. I'm going to bed and it's not even four in the morning.

Just a quick note: wankers who cast plays always say that auditions are hard because everyone who auditioned is really good and it's very difficult to make the decision. I used to think this was rubbish because surely someone was crap, but I have to say, if you have any idea how much we agonise and discuss and redraft and reconsider, and how annoyingly clever everyone is at being hilarious and sensitive and interesting in their own special unique and interesting way, your head would explode.

I know mine is.

These Grapes Are Sour

I've been sent an email this week by several people about a playwright competition. I get emails like it all through the year, because I sign up to lists and because people are nice and think it would be good if I entered. I don't think I'd win, even I could enter. But I can't enter.

Competitions mean something in the theatre world. If you win a competition, sometimes it's the only exposure you get. That, and reviews. But a surefire way of getting reviews is by winning a playwright award for "excellence in Australian writing" or for "innovation in theatre" for addressing "issues of concern to Australia" etc. It's all a bit nauseating, but that's how it works.

The prizes are apparently offered to playwrights out of an interest in promoting excellence in Australian writing and revealing interesting things about our national psyche.

Let me be the first to say: what a load of crap.

In order to enter a script in a competition, you have to have done the following with it:

nothing

So, if you have produced the play yourself (because you don't like the idea of your script sitting around in a bottom drawer until someone else discovers it), you're not allowed to enter a script competition.

If you have allowed somebody else to produce the script, whether for stage or radio or in fact reproducing it in any way, you're not allowed to enter a script competition.

If you have agreed to one day in the future possibly allow someone else to produce the play, you're not allowed to enter a competition.

If you have entered the play in another competition, you're not allowed to enter.

So basically, you have to write your play for the competition. You have to submit it months in advance and you have to wait. You aren't allowed to enter it in anything else and you aren't allowed to put it on at the local scout hall.

This is because playwright competitions and funding bodies want to fund interesting and clever Australian pieces that hold a mirror up to society.

Or not.

Maybe it's because they want exclusive rights to put the play on first. I dunno. Just a wild guess.

I've been talking to some writer friends of mine. People who actually do write things that "hold up a mirror to Australia's psyche" and I think they should be able to enter competitions. Under the current rules, Shakespeare would be barred. Yes, I did just compare my friends and myself to Shakespeare. It's one in the morning on a Saturday and I'm getting worked up. I apologise. It won't happen again.

New Site

Hey so check this out.

It's our new show. Well, it's the image from our new show. It's Paris Hilton reading a book. Yes. Paris. Hilton. Book.

It is a real photograph, but methinks it was an ironic photoshoot (unless she is actually enjoying The Art of War, which I can only hope she is).

Anyway, now it's a Warhol. Shut up, it's seamless.

Meanwhile, in other news, we had our first auditions last night and I'm having my usual trouble. Everyone's ace. When they do auditions in Australian Idol, there are hopeless losers and talentless dorks streaming in from down the hall from an apparent bottomless pit. Where are those people? Why don't those people come? At least it would allow me some time to tune out.

Anyhoo.... I'm going in to the library now. There's a script I should probably write.

It Just Hit Me

So I've been working seven days a week lately and I've been thinking it ain't so bad.
Quite a good way to spend your time, actually, because you get to see people in your scheduled "breaks" between writing/organising/meeting Rita and drawing up plans for auditions.

Then, this arvo, like a truck, it hit me. I collapsed into a dream-addled sleep on my bed in the middle of the day. My phone rang, the washing machine whirred, the ABC radio news shouted at me from the stereo. I floated semi conscious above all of it. I'm exhausted. You see, I had been taking it a bit easy, because of auditions tonight, but it's that fact that I'm taking things easy that my body has seized upon and now I am yawning and staring into the middle distance and losing focus and falling into five minute non-power-naps without even noticing.

I did not schedule this in. Somebody get me a coffee. Or twelve.

No such thing as a free lunch

So my routine at the State Library is so set in stone now that I take a packed lunch and time everything in half hour blocks.

Sadly, this did not prevent me today from discovering my first REASON WHY THE STATE LIBRARY IS NOT ACTUALLY AS HEAVENLY AS I ORIGINALLY THOUGHT.

To the old man who shouted at me, I am sorry that I "back-talked" you when I dared to say "pardon? after you shouted at me to stop typing on my laptop. Also, I am sorry to have to break some news to you. You claim that "women don't back-talk men. It's not allowed".

I am afraid it is allowed, and in fact in some of the more civilised parts of society, it is an official sport.

Also, "jerk" isn't a swear word, so I in fact didn't swear at you. Arsehole is a swear word, and so are a great many other things that I did not shout back at you in the middle of the library while you held onto your plastic bags and shook your fist and failed to notice your crazy hair.

Life for some people must be very sad. The guy I met in the library was obviously sad, but I'm not sure sad is an excuse, so let's just go with crazy old bastard.

Reasons why the state library isn't heaven. What a bummer.

Auditioning the script

When I used to perform, I absolutely hated auditions unless I completely nailed them. There was no middle ground.

And when I didn't get a part, do you know who I hated? Do you know who I lost respect for? One of two people. Either the director (I can't believe she didn't cast me when clearly I was the most brilliant person in the audition) or the writer (it's not my fault the script was crap. What did they want me to do, work miracles?).

Obviously now my perspective on this has changed. Considerably.

Because now, as director, there is too much choice. Not too little choice. When we cast our last play, we actually had to draw maps. Days worth of maps. Does this "Samsonfish" go with that "Briony"? Could we imagine this "TJ" shouting at this "Oliver"? If we don't cast this brilliant performer in any of these roles here, then she can't be in the play at all! That's terrible! What do we do? Do we write another role, really quickly, and squeeze it into an already bursting script? Do we call her up and ask her to understudy? Do we tell her she was ace? Do we tell her anything? Would she mind if we took her home and brought her out for funny accents at parties?

Casting is hard from the director's perspective, because sometimes it doesn't matter how good someone is, they just aren't appropriate. Imagine if Geoffrey Rush was auditioning for Liar Liar, starring Jim Carey or Garden State starring Zac Braff. Our boy Geoffrey is a good actor, but he's really not great for the part.

All of which brings me to the other thing that actors don't notice in auditions: the writer is auditioning the script and the director is auditioning the version of the play that might be produced. There's so much stuff going on, it's a wonder the entire process doesn't grind to a complete halt before it even starts.

After the auditions for People Watching, I noticed a few bits that really didn't work. The actors stumbled over them or ad-libbed their own corrections without noticing. It was an excellent way to edit.

So now I think of auditions as a kind of workshop between everyone in the room. We're all trying stuff out. Sometimes it's going to work, sometimes it's going to fail. Nothing truly appalling will ever happen. At best it will be exciting, at worst it will be humbling. That's a pretty good sliding scale.

Anyway chumps, see you at the auditions. I'll be the one with the script and the big red pen.

Writing Heaven

Every person who writes or studies or thinks or reads has a favourite place where they are most productive. I have recently rediscovered mine: here. Quiet, light, friendly, inspiring, divided in subsections that don't distract you away from what you're doing. There's even a cafe next door with newspapers and sunlight and staff squinting at you through hangovers. It's so perfect. I completely adore it and I always have. I used to study there when I was in year twelve and then again during university, but I moped away when it was closed for renovations and I've only just made it back.

I'm sorry State Library. I have loved you all along.

You know, now, they give you free internet, a beanbag room with computer games and a gallery!

But the part I love the most is that I feel so overwhelmed by everybody else's studious determination that I suddenly feel as though I'm running out of time (which of course I am) and perhaps I should get on with things, like these other people are getting on with things, and like I have been known to get on with things in the past (cut to flashback of me in year twelve)... All of which means that I have done more work on my script in three days in the State Library than I probably had pre-harddrive-crash (or pre-crash for short).

Also, after the Library, because I worked so hard, I rewarded myself and saw two films: a documentary about the making of a Cuban film called I Am Cuba, and an actual Will Farrel film called Stranger Than Fiction.

See what you can achieve when you nerd up? GO LIBRARIES!

Lessons in Racism

Lessons in racism here.

This proves that those who say it is patronising to presume that racists are only being like that because they're manipulated are, well, manipulating the racists who clearly have no other alternative perspective with which to face the confusing world around them.

Great story anyway.

So I have been missing a fair bit from these pages recently because I have been organising an event for four hundred people in Hardware Lane in the city. This is why I find myself doing things like:

a) constructing "scales of justice" from plastic plates and silver wrapping paper on Australia Day while other people crowd surf and practice a strangely developing kind of slightly ironic slightly manic patriotism.

b) dressing up in a "Lady Justice" costume and swanning about selling raffle tickets to lawyers and judges and magistrates at seven in the morning in Hardware Lane.

c) getting to know intimate details about the various sizes and prices of paper cups.

So now I am back on board, writing various things that are not my script, in order to ensure that the script one day becomes a play. I am writing audition notices, press releases, mini biographies, and excuses that detail exactly why things aren't exactly being done by their very specific deadlines.

If anyone has a few spare hours up their sleeve next year about this time, come over to my place on Australia Day, there's some cutting and pasting I need you to do.