Sunday, July 11, 2010
Sydney biennale and laying to rest the past.
Today has been a wonderful day, filled with sadness and extreme happiness. The day began with a sweet/sour goodbye to my dear friend N in Sydney as i boarded a plane to make it back to another dear friend's big day. My friend Kerry was to perform her one -woman show at a local theatre in front of selected guests and a camera crew from the ABC's Australian story. For Kerry, a great stand-up but no trained actor this was a major event, despite it being somefour months prior to her scheduled opening at a Melbourne Fringe venue. To have a film crew in the audience was something a seasoned pro would find daunting, especially given the script was still in workshop stage.
I am proud to say she nailed it. The material is so strong. Everyone is caught up in the moment; a friend doing the extraordinary. I am proud of her, just conquering the nerves and having the strength to face her demons publicly, especially considering her nearest and dearest were hearing events from her perspective for the very first time. Emotionally this was a momentous occasion for Kerry, her daughters and her ex-husband. There were tears shed in the auditorium as complete strangers were given a privileged insight into the Victorian justice system.
Even Kerry and her director, underestimate the potential power of this piece. As my friends know only too well, the acting teacher/director/performer and professional theatre reviewer still cannot sit inside a theatre auditorium and shut down the critics voice. Yet, today I became the dramaturg... another role I am comfortable in. However, this was not the role expected of me. I was to be the friend, caterer and general support crew.
I just find this impossible to do. I cannot switch off the producer/marketing head space. I know Kerry is sitting on a hit. Big time! It could do a national run easily.
But how do you speak to people so invested in a project? My dear friend asked my opinion as everyone (and that is literally everyone... oh yes except one regular theatre goer) gave Kerry such glowing feed back. We were all caught up in the emotion and success of the achievement.
Stupid me. I managed to avoid giving feedback at the venue when I discovered her director had very set opinions about the style the piece should take. In one sense she is correct, especially if Kerry is the 'talent'. However, I know this is bigger than that and needs a professional hand guiding the tiller. How can you discuss a project objectively when everybody ibvolved is too invested (and amateur).
Later when all the 'normal' people, the non-theatre people had returned home to their comfy suburban existence, Kerry and I sat together toasting a successful event.
I state again here that I am so proud of her accomplishement.
But then I made the mistake of being honest when she asked for my input. I was very cautious, trying to explain my point of view, but the moment I even hinted that the piece needed a dramaturg and professional actor.... well I lost my friend. The whole ownership issue and creative products is a fraught issue. Only the most successful palywrights (like Joanne Murray-Smith) know that for the piece to 'fly' the mother has to let go.
Only then in workshop can the writer see just what a gem she has created. How many great works falter at this first hurdle because writers/performers think that they alone can make the work 'fly'. I would say this is true at every level of the Industry, from Melbourne fringe to Hollywood blockbusters.
I guess this is why I no longer work as a theatre critic. I have made too many enemies by trying to be faithful to the potential of the work rather than the individuals involved.
I learned many years ago that no matter how good I thought I was, there was always someone better than me.... even with my own stories. I have learned the skill of letting go. It is painful but a necessary severing for the art to happen.
I want this piece to make its presence felt nationally, but I do not want my friend hurt or feeling inadequate. I am so conflicted. It really is none of my business... but basically I am still the woman prepared to mortgage her house to option a script, as I did in the eighties. I was defeated then... (Neil Armfield did the film, and unsuccessfully in box-office terms) but am too timid to take on the heartache again.
I guess I value my friendship with Kerry more... does that mean I am finally growing up?