Arts, sport and pushing back against fear

1-hakawati-team-and-ntopI could kick myself that I’m too late to get a seat for Hakawati, right, National Theatre of Parramatta’s show currently part of Sydney Festival. On the other hand who could begrudge NTofP‘s sold-out success at El Phoenician Restaurant-Bar and the enthusiastic reviews? Hakawati draws on ancient Arabic traditions of entertaining through story telling while sharing a meal, at the same time offering insight into contemporary issues with a powerful western Sydney twist. The show has proved so popular that a return season is planned for later in the year. Click on this link for notification of dates when they are advised..

I was more successful in booking for Champions, at Carriageworks, this week, where the skills of contemporary dance and soccer collide. Directed by Martin del Amo, assisted by Miranda Wheen, Champions tells the story of an all female soccer team and their preparation and performance in a drama filled match. Blurring the boundaries between the elite skills of 1-1-champions-form-dance-projects-photo-by-heidrun-l_hr-webdance and sport, the team worked with coaches and athletes from Western Sydney Wanderers. Channel Seven sports presenter Mel McLaughlin provides analysis and commentary in the show. If Champions, left, has anything like the qualities of previous Form Dance Project productions, including the linked Dance Makers Collective’s Dads, last November, it will be enthralling, thought provoking and highly entertaining.

Providing background to my thoughts about these and many other productions engaging western Sydney artists are the heartfelt observations of two such creatives shortly before Christmas. The first is Aanisa Vylet (below right preparing for Daisy Moon Was Born This Way to be produced by The Q at The Joan, Penrith in 2017, photo by Alana Dimou) – gifted actor, director, adventurous and generous spirit. That’s also Aanisa in the bottom right hand corner of the Hakawati photo above, where she has been dramaturge to the production. On December 21, she posted on her blog Secrets : From one artist to another. Do read it.

aanisa-daisy-moon-q-2017-photo-alana-dimou“I feel like we are living in a very unpredictable and frightening political landscape. I have had this idea sitting in my chest: to write a blog of secrets and tips that I would whisper to a fellow artist…to offer support. So these are some values and strategies that have kept me going as an actress, artist and outsider for the last 11 years . . .”

I’ll leave you to read the 10 points for yourself, but her final note is illuminating. “I will share one last secret…at the beginning of this year, I told myself – “Ok, so this is your last chance to be an actress/artist, you need to give it your best shot and if you don’t land something and if your play turns to shit – you need to find another career and accept it. This is your last shot. NO HOLDING BACK.

“I have not had the time to write a blog this year because I have been overwhelmed by the abundance of what I have experienced. I still had moments where I was  afraid, mistrustful of myself and of the the world at large. What if I eliminate all fear?”

1-natalie-dec-2016On a related theme are the writings of passionate community activist and creative entrepreneur, Natalie Wadwell, left. Natalie is concerned that the arts are not valued in the community in the same way as sport and yet their contributions to physical and mental skills, imagination, social cohesion and much more have many features in common. She wants to see more artists of all disciplines engage directly with communities, take courage in forging their own pathways and enlarge our understandings of our shared humanity.

She is continually putting her words into action. With her colleague Lucinda Davison, they have established a website State of the Arts. It has a big vision – “It aims to bring together creatives, art writers, performers, musicians and art organisations to investigate, engage and promote the diversity of creative initiatives and cultures. From the northern plains to the southern basin of NSW, including Greater Western Sydney and the ACT, State of the Arts will be a guide from country to coast.” Now they are advertising for help in developing their website.

natalie-web-developerState of the Arts web developer [PAID OPPORTUNITY]
Help State of the Arts refine our platform and shape new features to be launched in April 2017. Live, work or playing across Western Sydney or Regional NSW is not essential, but desirable (we want to support local).
If you or a mate you would highly recommend is interested send us an email with the subject line ‘I can web, mate,’ and three samples of recent work.”

Like so many others, Aanisa and Natalie are determined to push back agains the clouds of fear constantly under discussion in mainstream and social media. Working collaboratively, talking openly and honestly about concerns and sharing explorations towards better understanding are just some of their tools. Fear can engender more fear which just ends in paralysis. I love the Bernard Shaw line famously only half quoted by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in the 1970s, “Life wasn’t meant to be easy . . .  my child, but take courage: it can be delightful.”

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Dedicated individuals work with local focus, but global influence

Randa SayedAround the region, inspired individuals commit themselves to improving their skills, deepening their understanding of their art and sharing their observations and experiences. It’s a major challenge where distance isolates people from face to face contact with each other. One of those who has been on this trajectory for more than a decade is Aanisa Vylet, left. Finding herself in the last intake of students for Theatre Nepean (University of Western Sydney) in 2006, her initial disappointment became the tool that turned frustration into determination that she was going to pursue an acting career, no matter what.

Aanisa has become an independent actor, writer, director and filmmaker. She is passionate about creating new Australian work and draws extensively on her own experience and observations. After an initial foray in 2011, she undertook the professional course at the Jacques Lecoq School Of Movement and Theatre in Paris in 2014. Most recently, she has created Experience and The Girl and has performed it with Brigitta Brown. It has received rave reviews at Adelaide Fringe Festival, where it continues until February 28. Simultaneous to developing her solo careeer, Aanisa maintains a special commitment to Western Sydney where she has worked on several projects.

At Penrith, it is a similar story for Ian Zammit, below – of pursuing international training and a professional career, while maintaining a commitment to his home town. Ian established Theatre Links in the West, two years ago, with the aim of bringing together professionally-minded theatre arts practitioners and supporters of all levels of experience in western Sydney. After co-founding and operating Emu Heights Theatre Company for five years, directing a Ian Zammitseries of well reviewed productions and working with local schools, he was forced to acknowledge that to continue independently needed greater structural support. Theatre Links is the first step in that process and recent meetings have led to constructive discussions about issues that affect small productions, and the need for readings and critical support for new play writing. Ian is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Music and has a BA Hons in Drama and Theatre Studies from Middlesex University in the UK. Once he returned from the UK, he spent more than five years working at Carriageworks, Redfern, while he and his wife Michelle worked with others to establish Emu Heights Theatre Company.

Natalie Wadwell - with-roy-jacksons-blocking-out-west 1975At Campbelltown, in the south west, another person with a deep commitment to her neighbourhood and a passion for meaningful creative activity is Natalie Wadwell, right, (in front of Roy Jackson’s Blocking Out West, 1975). In growing up in the Campbelltown area, she experienced the difficulties common to many young people with limited access to entertainment and opportunities in the region’s sprawling suburbs. Once she reached the age of 18, there were not the local venues and events attractive to her age group and access to others further afield was restrictive. Natalie took a pro-active approach and began volunteering and seeking mentorship opportunities with creative venues like Campbelltown Arts Centre, 107 Projects in Redfern and Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art to analyse and develop some alternative approaches. This led her to undertake a BA Hons in art theory and history at UNSW, which earned her first class honours last year.

Wadwell Initiatives logoThrough all this, she has become a cultural researcher and critic, a project director and a passionate advocate for creative initiatives that emerge from within communities. Natalie has developed the Wadwell Initiatives website to promote her ideas and community partnerships, and a blog which discusses many of these. Recently she posted: “For all the times I have written about or spoken on panels about the need to make participation more accessible, it is both exciting and overwhelming to see it finally coming to fruition. If anything meaningful is going to happen, it needs to come from small businesses and entrepreneurs operating independent of cultural policy and in tune to local relevance.”

Among other things, Natalie was referring to Live‘n’Lounging, a not–for-profit house/garden gig series supporting Australian singer-songwriters and bands. The shows have been running in a private home in the Macarthur region (an area which includes Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly Councils) for four and a half years, with opportunities to expand the popular program emerging. She also said, “Campbelltown is gearing up for its first independent Wadwell - Creative Arts Festivalcreative arts festival. Organised by Brian Laul of the Wizard of Oz Playland (Leumeah) this festival seeks to create an opportunity for Campbelltown’s creative community to have a presence. Laul has experience working in journalism, music and theatre. He is currently taking expressions of interest from creative practitioners – be that dance, theatre, visual arts or film to name but a few – to participate in this independently funded and run event. It is anticipated that the festival will take place in September/October 2016. The only guidelines for EOI are quality and 100% independent. The festival, as I imagine it, will open up opportunities for local creatives to participate in and be more visible in the Campbelltown area. Locals can send their EOI to Brian on info@thewizardofozfunland.com.”

Natalie feels optimistic about the burgeoning independent sector in Macarthur and ends her post by saying, “As always, take the local and make it global.”