Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Vale Pinnacle

People sometimes wonder why it is that a fellow like me, with all the prospects available to a young man with a spring in his step and a song in his heart, would subject themselves to night after night of theatre openings in tiny, under-ventilated venues with butt-numbing seats and tonsil-rattling soundsystems. It’s a calling I guess. Or perhaps it’s something else. Yes, who are we kidding. It’s something else.

Probably the catering.

And so it was with fists clenched and a heart dropping below sea-level that I realised last night was the passing of the Pinnacle. North Fitzroy’s Pinnacle used to play host to openings of shows playing across the road at The Store Room, and owner Jan’s culinary skills would knock the fillings out of this hack’s spit faucet. You had ricotta stuffed mushrooms, vegie spring rolls, all kinds of dips and chips and pies and cheeses and olives and wine and beer and happy faces red-cheeked from smiling like ice-creamed fuelled infants and not caring about it at all. Looking a bit like this:

Last night I left the theatre to see those memories receding fast like the abandoned child in the rear-view mirror.

It looks like openings will be held in the newly renovated bar at The Store Room. And ok, ok, that has its good points. Boosting the profile of the venue, etc. But I can’t say I didn’t hug my pillow in the cold blue darkness last night and shed bitter, bitter tears. (Can’t say I did, either. That was just a joke. As was the “fillings being knocked from my spit faucet.” I have no fillings).

The show in question was The UFO Show, and it was surprisingly good. I mean, not surprisingly in that the folks behind it (Uncle Semolina & Friends) generally get outstanding reviews. But, you know, UFOs and stuff…how much material can you get out of that? A lot, apparently. Fast paced, dozens of characters and shifts in scene, lots happening at once, and very funny. All big ticks in the boxes there. The company is also committed to doing interesting things with the playing space, so last night the whole theatre was rearranged (I won’t say how) and the audience was limited to about 20.

Downside: 20 people at an opening night party doesn’t make for swinging from chandeliers and spilling drinks everywhere and running up the wall to do a backflip. So I had to wait until I got home to do all that stuff.

The Store Room’s InStorage seasons this year have been really super-strong, so good on ‘em. Catering after the show was limited to wedges (with herbs and dips and stuff) and a tab at the bar. Which I guess is good for a little venue with an audience of 20 or less. The wedges were pretty impressive, I’ll admit, but it’s no Pinnacle. Is this enough to break my Opening Night Attendee passport status (we have a union and all)? Could this be the end?

Now, I ain’t saying I’m the best judge of stuff. I should probably have stuck to scribbling my name in the style of the AC/DC logo in the margins of my high school textbooks and left the writing career at that. But I didn’t. And while my chief reviewing talents may well be the sonorous clap I have perfected (which can actually sound like several people clapping at my discretion), I do feel justified in saying this: as long as there is something, even wedges, on offer: I will be there for you. And for me.

Monday, August 29, 2005

What is this that it is?

I do not know. I do not know what it is that it is.

I suppose on one level I do. I know that it is a website called TheatreAlive! The exclamation mark seems mandatory, but at today's launch of the thing I didn't hear a single excited wide-eyed cry of the title at all. If the launch is anything to go by, it's TheatreAlive. No upwardly trailing trill at the end, no jazz hands, no punchy delivery. Just TheatreAlive.

What it is that it is that confuses me is that the thing had a launch at all. It's a good idea, sure. The website will list every show on in Melbourne, as well as helping media-
illiterate arty types to promote their shows successfully. It also provides a rundown on all of the arts companies and individuals and stuff, and I'm kind of impressed that there are already so many in there, including some I've never heard of despite nearly a decade keeping tabs on this stuff.

But how do you launch a website? Crack a bottle of champagne over a keyboard? Pull a big lever that sets off fireworks? Dress a dog in a tutu and set it loose in the crowd? I would love it if any one of these things happened, especially since I'd had to reorganise my entire week's schedule so I could get along to the lunchtime event.

But it was just a bunch of speeches from higher-ups, the obligatory MP Mary Delahunty, and for some reason William McInnes.

Even Bill didn't seem to know what he was doing there. After Mary introduced him as William Innes, he took that as a cue to begin recollecting all the different names he's been mistakenly introduced as over the years. And then he began relating some funny stories about his ti
me as an actor. But as he admitted, he hasn't really done much of the small-to-medium sized work which is the site's focus. So he ended by saying: "My name is William McInnes. Not William Innes." And left.

I couldn't even stay to review the post-launch food. I was too bewildered by it all. Again, I think the website is probably a great thing, even if it is a government initiative which might work to centralise control over the promotion of arts companies, thus marginalising those who don't come to the table. And there was the usual rendering of arts-related talk in the terms of business-speak. But I don't think all of this stuff means the service isn't a good one.

But the launch? Apart from giving those interested a chance to schmooze, I would have rather it went something like this:

AHFLV: Criminy, I've got an email in me inbox.
AHFLV: Righto.

Would have saved us all a lot of bother.

This week has more openings than the AHFLV mail-checking service (we have them on hand to investigate letters for biochemical agents and stuff). They shall be reported on in due course.

Also: do not trust this woman. She is a pickpocket.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Between Ballet and Burlesque

Hi, and hello.

Now, I don't want you to say I didn't warn you. If you read on, you're might happen upon something that takes you to a place you didn't want to go. Something that makes the more melodramatic amongst you do a double-take, bunch up your fists and rub your eyes in disbelief, let your jaw drop etc. If you're the town drunk, you'll look at your paper-bagged bottle and then throw it over your shoulder.

You may say "AHFLV, I came here by accident and look what you've done. You've taken me to THE HOUSE OF CONFUSION."

("Also can I get half a tank of gas and some Cheetos?")

Last night, between the premiere of the Australian Ballet's La Bohéme and the launch of the Suicide Girls DVD at Ding Dong, I managed to stick my head in the door of the afterparty for the ballet. And the horrors I did see.

Actually, most of it seemed quite civil, but as it turns out it was more of a Soylent Green/Stepford Wives/Blue Velvet kind of deal. Looks normal on the surface, dark and ugly things seething underneath. I'd only meant to stay for a couple of seconds to see what food/drink was on offer (the purpose of this blog) but I was caught behind a bunch of people as West Australian Ballet Artistic Director Simon Dow gave his opening night speech, and I couldn't sneak back out. He seemed like a nice guy, and dedicated the show to his late parents which was sweet and I liked it and stuff.

Then I caught the catering. I have two words for ya.

Beef Salad.

Yeah, you read right.

Beef. Salad.

The Beef Salad wasn't the first thing I spied. First up was what looked like tuna salad, in little white bowls which people were picking from. Shredded lettuce and tuna (it may have been chicken). When asked what it was, an attendant mentioned that "there isn't a huge variety of vegetarian options tonight". She didn't give any warning on the BEEF SALAD.

Again, little white bowls of beefy salad.

When you go to the ballet and someone offers you ambiguously-tuna-or-chicken-salad, then follows up the sour-lemon look this occasions with an offer of BEEF SALAD, it is time to ask yourself:

My answer: Yes. I'm going to Ding Dong. Which I promptly did, and not-so-promptly missed the launch, but had fun nonetheless and stayed out past bedtime.

Water and round objects did not appear to run uphill. No people seemed to stand on a slant.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Farewell, Sweet Audio Device

There have been intriguing updates to the recent drama surrounding the unexplained and some say suspicion-raising death of my CD player. Firstly, I had to let it go, and so I put it where all Old Things go: a box in the cupboard. But as I was sifting through the other Old Things relegated to that closet (old show programs, clothes that don't fit, my youthful optimism (THERE it is!), a grandparent or two, some ugly ties, etc) I happened upon a dusty old shoebox I couldn't recall placing there.

"Hello, what's this then?" I muttered to myself. Molly mewed in response, but I could not speak her language.

Brushing aside generations of cobwebs and damp, I opened the box to find some ancient letters bundled up and sealed by some earlier John in my family. They seemed to be from the 1910s or 1920s, but I'm no historian, and I've never even played one on TV. Note the family resemblance:

That's my ancestor there on the right, and what a dapper crop of chaps his chums appear.

I don't know what's going on in this one, but I began to wonder what else Grampa B had stashed in his closet, if you know what I mean. Ah well, I suppose things were different back then. I mean there was probably a war on or something.

I was about to put this stuff back when an old advertisement slipped from a corner of the box. I've reproduced it here, although age has affected it's quality somewhat:

Yes, it seems Gramps was facing the same issues I am. I don't know if he ever did buy his iGramophone.

Perhaps I never will.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Ancient Secrets of the Arts - UNVEILED! Part 6

The vast house in which I live is quiet, save the scratching of vocally adept cats at doors and the patter of rain and the windy echo of the wind through an open lounge room door. A time to reflect, or at least to simulate reflection.


A lot of living human beings think of the opera as a fairly difficult artform. As someone who has attended at least two operas, I think I stand fully accredited as a commentator on this public opinion.

Forgive me as I put on my critic's cap for a moment and offer my incisive judgement on said notion: really, really stupid.

Because opera is the most basic, simplistic form of entertainment around.

Now, I realise that opera is the least attended artform in Melbourne. And I realise that those who attend operas are also those most likely to attend other forms of entertainmen

But it's hardly the stuff at which you exclaim "Jiminy Crickets!" and rush to your smarter friends for some sort of explanation.

Let's face it, opera is the bodybuilding of music.

You have a bunch of mostly largish people duking it out onstage for vocal superiority, and as the evening progresses they bellow harder, hit higher and warble longer than each other in an all-out display of aural musculature. They're not in it for the art, they're in it for the sonic smackdown.



And so forth.

But you and I know we're not here to discuss the complexities of classic opera. We're here to keep it real, and in doing so get straight to the point. The point in this case being: Rock Opera.

The only thing to say is:

Tommy can you hear me?

Tommy can you hear me?

I hear you, Tommy. I hear you good.

THUS ENDS SERIES ONE OF ANCIENT SECRETS OF THE ARTS because I need a break from this thing.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

A Sweet-As Tall Hat.

"Perhaps…if I had a tall hat. "

I have a friend who uses this phrase semi-regularly, in a number of ways. As a way of resolving difficult or pointless questions, as a way of employing the term “perhaps” more often, and sometimes just as punctuation.

It’s from the musical Oliver!, though she’s never been able to tell me in what context the phrase is said. So I’ve been thinking: what is that Oliver could (perhaps) do, had he a tall hat?


- Be forced to duck slightly upon entering a low-ceilinged room or walk-in closet.

- Remove it in the presence of his elders/betters.

- Not remove it when acting defiant towards elders/better.

- Throw it at Bill Sykes, decapitating him and altering the end of the whole freakin’ sorry tale. (requires Goldfinger style razors on hat brim).

- Get his picture into Teen Tall Hat Fancier magazine.

- Produce a rabbit or dove (with practice).

- Wear it in unusual ways, thus gaining the respect of his homies.

- Hide medium-sized objects (bottle of booze, collapsible sword, second bowl of gruel).

- Begin his vaudeville career.

- Conceal the onset of premature male pattern baldness.

- Doff it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

This is serious.

My poor wee CD player is, in fact, completely lost to me. No amount of coaxing, cheerful talk, comforting petting or rallying cries of "up 'n at 'em!" can get a response. It's dead to me.

So this is what it feels like when doves cry.

And hard as it may be, I'm forced to confront the question no one should have to ask:

Is it time to let it go? And find a new portable music device in my life?

Thing is, from a cold, hard, rational point of view, the answer would be an obvious yes. An iPod or something is clearly what I need, being far superior technically and much more in keeping with the demands I place on my travelling music companion.

I burn a CD every day or two just to have something new in my ears. This isn't that cheap.

I have nearly 30 GB of music on my computer at work, which makes up over 95% of the thing's hard disk space. It practically spits out smokes and makes shuddering sounds every time I turn it on, that's how weighed down by tunes it is. I near to clear it up a bit.

The cost of fixing the CD player would probably be close to the cost of some kind of mp3 thingy.

Carrying around a bulky discman is pretty awkward sometimes.

My little CD buddy and I have travelled the world together - we've been in nine countries and three continents by my estimation. And despite the occasional tantrum, he's never let me down.

He was a gift from my ex who is still a close friend, and how often does that happen?

Can I really afford the outlay for a new device? (No).

iPods are kind of a "gateway" technology, and the purchase of one will lead to me buying other, harder devices which may not be in my best interests.

Well, that's it. I've laid out my case.

And so I ask you, the almighty internet, to give me your verdict. I know you aren't really a being capable of sound judgement, instead being more of a collection of electronic signals and wires and stuff. But I have faith, and that's all it needs.

Hear me now.


Upon waking today, I felt a creeping suspicion that Something, once again, Was Afoot. I began gathering evidence.

Firstly, and most inexplicably, my discman won't work. It worked before I went to bed, and now it doesn't. It was also lying near my door, as if dragged across the floor by unknown hands (or...paws?)

My housemates are missing, and the last contact I had was a phone call yesterday evening asking the definition of a gerund. This is not normal behaviour, surely.

There are four empty bottles of Coopers Pale Ale on the kitchen bench which weren't there when I arrived home this morning (at a late hour, rainsoaked from walking all the way home from an excellent dance at Ding Dong thank you DJ) .

There is a vacuum cleaner in the middle of the living room floor.

The streets of North Fitzroy are eerily quiet.

Last night, every ATM in the city broke down for some reason.

My bedroom door handle won't turn in one direction.

There is a pink skirt sitting on one of my shelves (now that is seriously worrying me, as I would have noticed that when I got home, and 'taint no pink skirt wearing ladies (or cross dressers) been in my room for a long time).

Despite putting some credit on my phone yesterday, it still says that I have none.

The cats are passed out in the upstairs hallway, even though they haven't been fed today.


I know what you're thinking: zombies. That's what they want you to think. To the trained mind, all of this adds up to a crystal clear picture:


There was booze, tunes, someone in a pink skirt (I'm thinking Peter's butch lady friend Ginger from next door), drunken phone calls FROM MY PHONE and some kind of party prank which involved my housemates, who MAY EVEN NOW BE LYING IN A DITCH. They somehow shut down Melbourne's banking system, probably as part of said party prank. They tried to clean up but by the time they'd busted the handle on my door, as well as my discman, they were too out of it to finish up.


The lesson: catnip can be fun in small doses, kids, but sometimes cats can have a problem. At least I could have been invited.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Ancient Secrets of the Arts - UNVEILED! Part 5

Back in the salad days of my adolescent years, my little sisters performed in a school musical and, because of genetic relations which I had no say in, I was compelled to attend. What I saw stunned me.

They were performing in a show called Germs! The subject matter,
surprisingly, was, yes, germs. The players took on the role of dirty little bacteria, and somehow the twisted and borderline-sociopathic mind that penned the script managed to wring almost two unhygienic and internal-organ-obsessed hours out of the subject. Howard Hughes would tried to wipe out the entire cast just for attempting to incarnate yucky microbes, as well as the various lycra-incited crimes against good taste committed that night.

Ok guys and dolls. What this little stumble down memory lane is leading to should be fairly apparent: high school musicals are usually an exercise in abject humiliation and intergenerational contempt. This leads many creatively-inclined types to leave the musical behind once they finish high school, and this is a pity, since it is only then that musicals really start to get interesting. To find out why, we must examine a few...


Astute readers will already haved noted the fact that AHFLV's Ancient Secrets of the Arts series is itself a musical. This is indicated by the simple fact that the title includes an exclamation mark. Pretty much anything can be en-musical-ised by adding an exclamation mark at the end. Try it.

Battlestar Galactica!*
Whining and Dining!*

*results from a google search of "serious drama" and hence, one would imagine, resistant to musicalisation.

Exclamation marks, well, they give it the old razzle-dazzle. With this is mind, I put the Exclamation Theory to the test by adding said punctuation mark to to a 10,000 word thesis which was lying at the back of my bookshelf, and thus one year of hard work and painful research was revitalised as "The Spectacular Spectator: Early Cinema Audiences in Melbourne!" WELL HELLO, DOLLY! Opening it, I found the dry dissertation had been replaced by a fast-paced tale of adventure and romance, including such show-stoppers as "Could this be Reel?", "Nickelodeon Nancy", "Show 'em the Sprockets, Boys" and the boisterous finale, "Let's Call it a Choc-Top!" Classic stuff.

There is an important point to be made here, however. The Exclamation Musical is not the only sort, and is in fact the kind which can often lead to the ghetto-isation of the genre as simple-minded fluff only enjoyed by gay men, starry-eyed girls or people who have a thing for jazz-handed germs. The vast majority of successful musicals are in fact probing, if thinly veiled ruminations on pressing contemporary concerns. You might think the underlying themes of the musical rarely venture off the beaten track and into the woods, but the opposite is in fact the case.

For instance, My Fair Lady presents an urgent reminder of the complexities of sexual relations between old English men and destitute young women.

When Rex Harrison sings (and by this, I means talks) "Why can't a woman/be more like a man?" over and over and over we can just about hear the ache in his heart. And Audrey's glass-shattering screech "I'm a good girl, I am!" demonstrates her lack of comprehension towards the real issue: Eliza is emphasising her goodness, but all Henry hears is that she's a girl! Oh, fickle fate!

Conversely, in South Pacific, we are given a bunch of rowdy sailors who are bent on letting us know that "There is nothing like a dame!"
They may have sunlight on the sand and moonlight on the sea, and mangoes and bananas they can pick right from a tree, but they sure don't have women! Now, the obvious interpretation of this would be something about unbridled male sexuality in the navy, but in fact closer inspection reveals that what this song (like most in the musical) deals with is in fact the psychological ravages of the post-War pacific. Stuck on an island, away from their loved ones, unable to form meaningful attachments with others and unsure of their role as representatives of the new imperial leaders of the world, the conclusion is inevitable.

They have MANGOES & BANANAS. Read between the lines, peo

So, it should be apparent that the writers of musicals aren't the sac
charine peddlers of mindless pulp you might expect. In fact, the most successful writers usually come in pairs.

Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Rodgers and Hart.

Lerner and Loewe.

Sondheim and his grinning one-legged manchild Balthazar (not pictured).

If you've decided to write a musical, you might be foolishly tempted to look beyond these icons towards that lofty pinnacle known as Webberania. And while, yes, Andrew Lloyd does represent the highest point of the genre, you simply can't go into it with expectations like that. You'll never reach those altitudes.

After all, would YOU have thought to ask the question: what happens when a gang of singing cats get together and start cruisin' the hood? Would YOU have put futuristic glow-stick waving goons on rollerskates as part of the Starlight Express? Could YOU have transformed a relatively unknown historical figure named Jesus into a SUPERSTAR?

OK. So just stick with the Bye Bye Birdie if ya knows whats good for ya.

It's for this reason that most of the greats worked in tandem, and you would be well to do the same. Find yourself a writing partner and start throwing some ideas around. Don't hold each other back. Anything goes. Plus you've got company.

And should things go wrong, don't be dissuaded. Just remember. After Rogers lost his Hart, he just went out and got Hammersteined.

So everybody now-


Ancient Secrets of the Arts - UNVEILED! Part 4


I've never been in a band, but I've been in the same room as several. I believe this unconditionally qualifies me to reveal to you, the wide-eyed and naive innocent, the secrets to MAKING IT IN THE BIZ.


I once shared a backyard with a great band called Liberty. They'd previously been known as Porcelain, and had come down to Melbourne after winning some kind of JJJ competition. For about six months they had a film crew occasionally turn up to do a story on them for that ABC show hosted by Dylan Lewis (what was that called again?). They played night and day. Most of all, night.

That means a lot when the only thing separating you from the music is a thin wall. And when the music is of a face-melting power chord variety of tonsil-rattling intensity, you take time to reflect. At the time, my bedroom was painted red which, despite what intuition might tell you, is a beautiful and restive colour for a bedroom. It's womblike. Assuming the womb in question belongs to a mother who loves to ROCK.

I can still recall in vivid detail the exact melodies and lyrics of their best songs, since they lulled me to sleep nightly for about a year. Of course, it went both ways. When my housemates and I moved in, the place was a bit of a dump, so we tore up the carpets, rented a sanding machine and a gathered a bunch of tools in order to strip the place back to its bare bones and make it all nice and liveable. They gave us a tape of music once which included a song whose only lyrics were "Tools/And Sandpaper/Make My Life A Misery". I still hum it to myself sometimes.

Anyway, they were truly, authentically into the lifestyle. They lived communally, breathed music, one had gone nearly deaf from sitting too close to his speaker during a marathon session one night, and every so often they would decide that material things were a distraction from the real life of the artist. It was during these periods that they would give us stuff they no longer had any need for, which is how I came into possession of about three crates of superb vinyl. They'd also give us about three or four TVs each time, but over the coming weeks one or another would come sliding by to quietly ask if they could have their television back.

So, the short of it is that this band, made up of people who I can without reservation say were some of the best and most committed musicians I've ever met, imploded. That's how it is. That's music. I never found out the real reason, but a few years ago I was standing at the tramstop and I saw a poster for a band touring down from Sydney. I thought to myself: hello, what have we here? That looks uncannily like the childlike drawings which used to promote Liberty. And so I found The Hauntingly Beautiful Mousemoon, who tour the country regularly and are a lot like Liberty, although only Liberty's singer, Zack, is a member.

Mousemoon are a lot of fun, and are the only band who could ever get shy old me to engage in a group hug featuring every single audience member attending a crowded Duke of Windsor gig. They're also unashamedly hippy in philosophy and talk to their audiences like close friends.

A little after that, I came across two other former members of Liberty, now making up four sixths of Neon.

Neon are Liberty's polar opposite, but they make good music too. They were signed to Graham Coxon's label really quickly, if I remember correctly. Anyway, the point is that even though the old band fell apart, good things happened.

When we went to NZ recently, we went as a band. It didn't matter that we had no songs, most of us had no talent, we'd never had a gig, etc. We had a story, which while fictional, was perfectly believable. And so it was that we have a lot of kiwis hanging to get their hands on one of the many albums by the five-piece Sex Piece.

Which is why, tonight, we shall record our first. The studio is set
up and I AM READY TO ROCK. A karaoke Certificate of Rock-God-Ness is my only qualification, but we don't need no stinkin' certificate to prove to us the Power of Sex Piece. Prepare to bask in the glory.


Ancient Secrets of the Arts - REVEALED! (I mean) UNVEILED! Part 3

As promised, the controversial revelation of arts-related mysteries continues...


There are no myths surrounding the world of dance. It's all pretty straightforward.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Ancient Secrets of the Arts - UNVEILED! Part 2

I'm really very excited about this whole Ancient Secrets of the Arts thing and have been for the entire four or five hours since I came up with the concept. By my reckoning, I will remain excited for about another hour and then will not be excited, but will be disappointed that I lost that initial enthusiasm and will be disappointed in myself for not following through with it, instead putting it on the pile of things which I had hoped would continue to bring me delight but now, alas, are just glaring reminders of all my failings. In this, like all things, I respond like any other would: I try to find a better track than the one now playing.

The better track is: there is no better track.


Many people hold illusory beliefs about The Theatre: this is made even more mind-boggling by the fact that the theatre is all about illusion anyway. Can you be wrong about something which is itself inherently untruthful? Philosophers call a logical contradiction like this a "paradox" or a "paycheck".

It's all too much!

Another philosophical mental utensil is the law of inverse relations, which may or may not exist. But in the World of the Theatre, said law goes thusly:

Your DESIRE to foist badly acted, ill-conceived and poorly rendered theatre on the innocent public will exist in inverse proportions to your ABILITY.

This should never stop someone from wanting to put on shows. But it should stop them from actually doing so.

If you do still want to mount your silly show, here's how to do it. I will use as an example an infamous theatre production I co-wrote/directed many, many, many years ago. Ten years ago.

It had forty actors/crew and went for about three hours I think, and was held in the derelict basement of a building on Swanston Street. We had costumes from the ABC and Opera Australia, and also some homeless men tried to urinate on the audience from above. And about fifty drunken guys from the pub up the road tried to storm the place with bottles and rocks and seething scorn.

It cost $10,000 and we came in $500 short. While this sounds successful, here's the key: We never had more than a handful of audience members, because we didn't know anything about advertising, publicity, promotion, etc. We truly were - LIVIN' ON A PRAYER (and no money).

How was that accomplished? I'm glad you asked at this specific moment in time, because it leads neatly into what I was about to write anyway.

Firstly - I mentioned the 40 or so cast & crew, right? Yes, I did. Go back and read it if you don't believe me.

Forty people means lots of friends and family. Now, if pressed, a lot of those friends and family would like to go support their loved one's stupid uni student theatre endeavour, but more than that - they'd like to SHOW their support. Especially if that doesn't actually mean having to see the show. The answer?

PRE-SALES. If you make all of the cast/crew sell ten tickets each for a show that won't be on for over a month, you reap the moulah and don't actually make the friends/family have to see the show. A lot of them "forgot" that they'd bought tickets. It's WIN-WIN.

Step two is Sponsorship. The myth is that it's difficult to get sponsorship for a crappy little show. The reality is that if you find someone who knows lots of accountants/lawyers/doctors, these people can write off their entire sponsorship donation as a tax break, and they're hungry for it. They love it. They don't even care what the show is, as long as it can be entered on the books.

Step three is selling drinks before the show. This should be obvious anyway, as your poor audience will be grabbing the nearest alcoholic beverage as soon as they see your crummy set and the half-rate spruiker you've positioned outside.

That's actually about it.
It should now be clear that the theatre is a chump's game, fit only for the desperate and mad, those clutching at straws and fraying at the edges. It's a dizzy whirlpool of misfits who think they're trying to create art, but are more often just trying to find a mate. And when you see that loneliness in the eyes of said mate, you will know the hollowness that is the World of the Theatre.

And you will see why the theatre is, in this regard, both a reflection of life and its opposite.


Ancient Secrets of the Arts - UNVEILED!

There are many myths surrounding the arts and entertainment industry; myths which confuse and stymie the outsider and cause head-scratching and the occasional teeth-grinding. As a public service to patrons and dentists alike, AHFLV will now embark on a short series entitled ANCIENT SECRETS OF THE ARTS - UNVEILED!


I thought as much.
The myths in question circulate like silver balloons at a children's party, and it is time to burst said balloons like a naughty kid/clumsy clown. This bursting, perhaps, will cause (in equal proportions) gleeful howls of delight from some children and miserable squeals of dismay from others, especially from those who had grown attached to a particular balloon and had hoped to take it home when the party is done. These children should leave now.


The first thing to say (by which I mean write) is that there are any number of fallacies perpetrated by the arcane publishing industry in order to keep common folk away. "Any number" is not quite accurate, I suppose, since the number in question is EXACTLY 5.

FALLACY: You need talent to be published.
FACT: "Talent" is one of those words which doesn't really refer to anything but is bandied about in the place of real, meaningful terms. Talent is like Narnia: you think that it is only accessible through a hidden, magical doorway available to those with just the right combination of fortunes (orphans, greedy children, lovers of Turkish delight and talking lions). But like Narnia, the simple fact is that TALENT DOES NOT EXIST (outside of the wonderful world of the imagination).

FALLACY: You need connections to be published.
FACT: Connections can, in fact, be an obstacle to your writing career. The more people you know, the more expectations will be placed on you. If a 'connection' provides you with a way of being printed, that 'connection' will probably read what you write, and THAT WAY LEADS TO JUDGEMENT.

FALLACY: You need readers to be published.
FACT: What is really needed, in fact, is the appearance of readers. This is why people write reviews of their own works under an assumed name; why they artificially boost the hit counters on their website; why they create controversies over their works in major national broadsheets; why they buy up massive quantities of their own books and keep them in mouldy garages. As an example, Bryce Courtenay, one of Australia's most "well loved" authors, has in fact only sold EIGHTEEN NOVELS to people besides himself and his agents. This is why he has managed to produce the same novel not less than six times, simply altering the title and cover image.

FALLACY: You need perserverance to be published.
FACT: Like anything worth doing in this life, if you can't do it quickly and without even properly waking up to do it, it's probably not worth your time. Many journalists file copy from the safety of their own bed, their eyes half-lidded and bleary from the tears they shed every morning as they awake to find that yes, their life is still a sham from which escape seems impossible.

FALLACY: You need a basic level of literacy to be published.
FACT: I have, under my own name, had printed several pieces written by one of my ghost writers/cats, Molly.

Here is a true story: for nearly two years, I penned a column for one of Melbourne's premier newspapers despite the fact that I had no journalistic training, was not a member of MEAA, was not employed by the editorial department and did not even know anyone who was. How is this so, you ask, or pretend to ask in my imagination (aka Narnia)?

Simple: I wrote in unused advertising space. Noticing that there was a regular spot which was never filled in a certain section of the newspaper, and which only contained house ads (ads for the paper itself), I made a deal with my manager/certain layout staff to write stuff relating to the arts industry on that page. This made sense - it was filling in dead space with relevant info on the areas which readers wanted from that section. But since it wasn't edited, I had carte blanche to write whatever I wanted. I didn't abuse that (much) but the strange thing is that in the entire time (repeat: nearly two years), no one from editorial ever asked what this column by [insert real name here] was doing appearing every week.

Here is a randomly selected extract from one column:

"Few realise that I was not always a reclusive yet handsomely-attired Arts Sleuth living on a healthy stipend from mysterious benefactors. I once travelled amongst the people, too. These were hard nights, rough and unpredictable. For several years I was forced to make a living the only way I knew how: balancing complimentary glasses of cheap vodka on my forehead while Russian-dancing to the Genghis Kahn disco hit “Moskau”. But even as I frolicked under the evil Cheshire Cat grin of my nemesis and dancing instructor, Dr Tobermory (AKA The Strongman) I knew that there was hope. It was an exciting time to be alive."

HOW COULD THIS GUFF GO UNNOTICED? [This column was not written by Molly (though she was paid a consultation fee).]

But that was then and this is now (or shortly thereafter) and I do actually write properly for things and stuff and whatnot.

Another example: as a young lad in his late teens, I travelled to London with a friend under the pretense that we were international music journalists. In three weeks, we managed to score interviews with nearly all of our favourite bands, and it got to the point where we would call them up to ask if we could sleep on their floors, since there was no room at the crummy hostel we were using. The answer was usually yes. Which goes to show: musicians are often very nice people, especially if they are only on the cusp of success and may be gullible enough to believe the improbable claims of two fresh-faced boys from a far-off land. This is not a story of getting published, per se, but a story of pretending to get published and reaping the rewards that accompany getting published, without having to do all the actual writing/submitting/revising etc.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

White Noise

Hot diggity dog!

What a turnout at tonight's launch of the White Noise exhibition at ACMI!

In a word: very big! In two words: also very big!

Ah, my enthusiasm is spent. But the launch was very good. And by "very", I mean "quite" (English for "rather").

To describe it, I will have to enlist the help of our old friends, Antony and Cleopatra.

Antony: Hi.
Cleopatra: Big up yo bad self.
A: Huh?
C: You heard.

Atmospheric Harmonies for Lone Voice: So, what are your impressions of the new show?
A: Well, from the outset I was skeptical. I mean: white noise? As a title, you're offering us nothing. A show about nothing. A show the curator describes as "a show about nothing". We're in Seinfeld territory here. And good as Seinfeld was, ACMI just doesn't have the pulling power of a Kramer or a George. Am I right or am I right? You're with me down front, see that guy is with me!
C: Cram a sock in your spit faucet, Ant.
A: Huh?
C: You heard.

AHFLV: Did you get a chance to look at the various pieces on offer?
C: Hell yeah. I came, I saw, I conquered their sorry asses. And let me tell you straight up - ain't no multimedia exhibition ever been one up on Cleopatra. You heard.
A: You're just stealing lines from Jules.
C: Come here and say that, "Antony".
A: Huh?
C: And what's with that 'huh' thing? You want some new material, child.
A: I'm not your child. I'm Antony.
C: No, you "Antony". I've seen your birth records,.
A: What are you talking about?
C: I'm talking about your real name, "Antony".
A: Quit it with the quotation marks. I'm Antony.
C: Sure you are, Fraggle Rock.
A: What?
C: I've seen 'em. I know Antony is just a pseudonym. An alias, a nom de plume, if you will.
A: What the freakin' hell are you talking about, Cle?
C: Your birthname, child. Fraggle Rock. Don't tell me you don't know that?

A: Huh?

AHFLV: People. Can we get back to the subject at hand? White Noise. Abstract moving images. Intermedia. The launch tonight.
C: Yeah. Sure. Long as you're paying me.

AHFLV: ....
A: I enjoyed the fact that most of the exhibition is in utmost darkness. Nothing vitalises me like the imminent threat of walking into a wall/glass siding.
C: I concur.

AHFLV: I, too, concur.
A: The works selected are certainly abstract, but we've surely reached a point where such modes of expression have become archaic, a throwback to pre 9/11 ennui.
C: Speak for yourself. I like an artwork that doesn't get caught up in the fashionable topics of the day.
A: Yes, but don't you see these works as meaningless simulacra? The media which becomes the message? Pop eating itself?
C: Sure! You got a problem with that?
Don Delillo: Squeeze me, but I'm just gonna have to weigh in on this bantam weight prize fight, kids.
C: Aw Don, give it a rest.
D: No, I think I have a right. White Noise and all.
C: No, Don, you ain't got no right. Antony?
A: Huh?
D: I'm just saying -
D: ....

AHFLV: Ooooookay, so that's that, and I'm glad we managed to nab the input of Don Delillo, considering the, you know, title of the show and-
C: And will you quit it with the pensive expression?!? Stop touching your face!!!

D: ....

AHFLV: I'm going to bed.