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17 August 11:01 am

A Note from Lee, 17 August

Marriage equality and the postal vote. If Griffin was a person, they would vote yes…oh wait…Griffin is people…a lot of people…a small number of people here in the office, and a lot of people receiving this email and coming to our shows each night. And it would be awesome if all of these people who love the art and artists on the Griffin stage could vote yes.

Make sure you register to vote, or update your details by Thursday 24 August. You can do that here

The same sex marriage survey forms will be mailed out on Tuesday 12 September.

You are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to return forms by Friday 27 October.

The ABS will not accept your vote if it arrives with them after 6pm on Tuesday 7 November.

If you want to do more go to: http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/

More dates. You have until August 26th to see Rice. Our first-ever captioned performance is on August 22nd. We are launching our 2018 season on August 28th. You have 130 days until Christmas. Get cracking people. There’s a lot to do before then, including making Australia a place where everyone has the right to marry the person they love. I know there’s a lot more on the list to make this country fairer but let’s take care of this now.

With love from the whole Griffin team,
and Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director 

10 August 1:11 pm

In Conversation with Sofya Gollan (Part One)

In this blog series, theatre maker Sofya Gollan offers an insightful commentary on the Disability Arts community and her experience as a 2016 Griffin Studio Artist.

Disability Arts: it is a sector of the art world that takes on Disability as its theme. It represents work that explores the conceptual ideas and physical realities of what it is like to be disabled, or concepts relating to the word ‘disabled.’

My relationship with the Disability Arts sector has never been straightforward even though I have identified as having a disability (as a professional creator) for many years now, being deaf, while also being an actor, playwright, screenwriter and filmmaker. I used to say, “I am a deaf actor, deaf writer, deaf filmmaker,” but now I don’t see the necessity to link what I am to what I do. It isn’t the identity I have to cleave to in order to create my work. Disability is one strand that weaves into the other identities of mother, mediocre cook, book reader, filmmaker, seamstress, VR and science enthusiast, and with sneaky appreciation, cats taking down toddlers on the interwebs.

The cultural context when I started out was if you had a disability and wanted a serious career in the arts it was essential to prove it would not impact on the work (or collaboration) and was irrelevant. The common opinion was if you had a disability, artistic practice was seen as a therapeutic activity that alleviated the frustrations and limitations of a small and diminished life. Not a career or a calling to express a unique viewpoint or opinion of the world. It was expected that you not mention it, not let it impact on your collaborations with others, but rather insist: “Look what I made in spite of, I am just like you”.

I understood you were allowed to have every point of view except that of Disability as a valuable and essential contribution to the arts culture. Depicting a life lived with disability was not a world-view that was sought out, cultivated, or more importantly, bought. So I made work that did not directly allude to disability, even though being deaf I identify as disabled because it has prevented me many times from participating fully in society and the opportunities that are contained therein.

But now, ironically, on a professional level, identifying with the Disability Arts movement in recent years has been the re-ignition of my career.

It’s often possible to have a disability (as an artist) and not be part of the Disability Arts scene. But it’s nearly impossible to create art without the disability shaping and informing the work. Disability Art, with its unique perspective has the potential to startle and poke the audience into seeing the world not only differently, but with awe and wonder, as all good art does.

For many it might be a surprising concept that in art, disability is to be celebrated as a new addition to the culture especially when created by those with an insider view i.e. people with disability or lived experience. In 2007, British artist Yinka Shonibare (a Turner Prize Nominee) stated the now famous quote: “Disability Arts can be seen as the last remaining avant-guarde movement”; much like feminism, LBTQ, and indigenous movements once were. Avant-garde is an admittedly over-used term, that is often taken up to describe work by young (energetic) people who believe they are reinventing the world one distressed-white-room at a time. But its simple and original meaning is: ‘the advance guard of people or works that are experimental, radical, unorthodox with respect to culture, art and society.’ I believe artists with disability are occupying that space, living and depicting their lives and experiences. They provide a fresh unique perspective on the fragility of bodies, boundaries and inclusion. Or often, exclusion.

11:34 am

Lee Lewis in response to Kevin Jackson critique

This blog post is written is response to this critique on Kevin Jackson Theatre Diary

Dear Kevin,

Traditionally artists stay silent in the face of published criticism. However the media landscape is changing rapidly and significantly, and in this age of disinformation and fake news there is an increasing need for fact checking. Normally I’d pick up the phone and call you to organise a coffee and a chat about some of the misconceived notions you have about programming at Griffin, and in the past I have enjoyed our discussions about the challenges of selection and production of new Australian plays. 

Today though, I am worried that my more personal approach might, in the past, have contributed to the impression of the silence and silencing of artists and artistic directors in this country. I find myself in an age and a country where it is necessary to analyse my ‘traditional’ responses in an effort to understand whether they are ‘right’ or lazy, or the product of an institutional structure created to support the cultural status quo, or the product of an inherently patriarchal, white dominant education system within the British empire, or the product of the nuns impressing on me that good girls are quiet. I am also worried that a lack of response posted publicly will add to a spread of cynicism about our funding structures, the likes of which exposed the arts to damage of the Brandis debacle. 

So. A response. Posted for the record on your website. If you choose not to post it as is your right as a moderator, I’ll also post it on the Griffin blog. I will attempt to limit my conversation to what I will term paragraph five of your blog post, beginning (ironically from my point of view) with the word ‘Certainly’.  I will not engage in any response to your critiques of the play or the performances. We have a long history of acknowledging our different tastes in writing, production and performance styles, and I will always support your right to your opinion of my work. 

“Certainly, then, in the present political environment of our Performing Arts industry this play ticks many of the boxes that will take it into serious consideration for actual production from Main Stream companies.”

To be clear, there are no boxes to tick. Neither the Australia Council for the Arts nor Create NSW put any restrictions on our programming decisions. As a company we create our own Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure and acquit our success at achieving the goals of the company. Our acquittals are publicly available in our Annual General Report which is on our website. Our main KPI is to produce three new Australian works every year. That is it. There are no restrictions on that. I have enormous freedom as an Artistic Director to distribute the company resources to meet that KPI.

There are goals within this company that publicly state that we are committed to creating productions which reflect the diversity of the city and country in which we are privileged to work. We create our own KPIs to track our strategies and successes in meeting those goals. None of those KPIs necessarily impact on the straightforward mission of the company to produce at least three new works every year. Note that even while absorbing the Brandis cuts we are producing three new works and one revival this year, and that over the next three years the Girgensohn Foundation is supporting the fifth play in our season.

The goals of the company to reflect the diversity of our population reflect the values of the people working in the company, and I would say the values of many people working in the arts in Australia today. Often we do not reach those goals in our programming. More often than not in the history of this company, the seasons are dominated with plays written by men; the plays are written by white playwrights; and the stories told are dominated by white male protagonists. Historically, educationally and institutionally, the scales are still tipped in favour of the white male playwright and the white male hero, even at Griffin. I don’t deny the excellence of the plays programmed even as I admit the absences their presence perpetuates. 

Every time there is a lack of gender equity in the season, the production or the story, I feel it personally. Every time there is an all white cast onstage, I feel it as a failure keenly. I believe every play is an opportunity to move the Australian cultural identity towards a new normal that includes every citizen in our storytelling traditions. Those are my own values, which are publicly known, and were known at the time I was hired to lead this company. Yes I try to separate my values from the company goals because it is not ‘my company’ but a company belonging to the audience of Sydney and Australia. But of course my values influence the conversations within the company and thus the formation of the goals. They are connected. Inevitably. But to be clear, those values are in no way boxes to be ticked by playwrights desiring production at Griffin. There are no boxes. And for you to perpetuate that language or that myth is incorrect, irresponsible and damaging. 

“A writer of the female sex (tick) from a minority Asian culture (tick), with two roles for women (tick) that will demand cultural diversity in casting (tick) dealing with contemporary issues (tick).”

Let’s leave aside your glib tone that ripples with colours of condescending, patronising and offensive. Let’s instead celebrate all those qualities about this play. Unfortunately Rice is still extraordinary for these reasons. I hope within my lifetime these qualities will become unremarkable. Rice was not programmed for any of these reasons. It was programmed because it is an excellent piece of writing from an emerging playwright that reflects the people and politics of our time. It was programmed because I believed it would speak to our audiences in ways and words they needed to hear. And the reactions from most of our audiences are ratifying that instinct. This is a critically and financially successful production of a new Australian play from a playwright who I believe will be one of the most significant voices in the transformation of the cultural identity of this nation. But the success or not of this production does not fall within the framework of this conversation. Again your opinion is your own.

I am not the only person in the artistic community that has this faith in the potential of this play and this playwright. Michele Lee’s potential as a playwright was identified years ago. She has had a number of plays in development at different companies. Playwriting Australia developed this work. Rice won the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award 2016-17 and received further development at Queensland Theatre. There has been the freedom in these processes for her as the playwright to experiment with how to tell the story in the way she wanted. Which brings me to your third sentence:

“Plus, the offer by the writer that the two actors, who play Nisha and Yvette will, also, play an extra four characters each, of various sex and ages, thus ensuring that the Producing companies, need only employ two actors – a budgetary consideration of often irresistible attraction (tick) to get one’s work produced by the Professional Company in Australia.”

Yes, importantly, the playing of multiple roles was an offer by the playwright. This was not a directorial idea, or a producer intervention. Griffin is a playwrights’ theatre and as such we strive to present the first productions of plays as imagined by the playwright. Michele Lee’s reasons for asking two actors to play multiple roles included, but are not limited to, an acknowledgement that there is not, in this country, much opportunity for the transformational performances by diverse women. As such, she has genuine interest in exploring the boundaries and possibilities of this challenge in her play. It was my duty as first director of the work to give her the opportunity to see her ideas in front of an audience. 

“(A strategic gesture by Ms Lee?)”

If it was, it was a dangerous strategy. The two-hander is an exceptionally difficult form of storytelling. The first one I worked on was Caryl Churchill’s A Number, which was possibly the most perfect meeting of form and content I have ever had the privilege to direct. It also made me very wary of the pressures of that formal choice. In fact, seeing that a play is a two-hander sets off all sorts of resistances in me. Michele Lee’s work convinced me that the two-hander is ultimately the right form for the telling of this story. There is a philosophical offer inside the form that recognises that power is one person feeling entitled to value themselves above another, and that racism is built and deconstructed between two people. These thoughts are not overt but they are being tested by the play. Again, the success or not of the production in realising these philosophical enquiries is not important right now.

I would note that the only other two-handers we have produced in my time as Artistic Director here at Griffin were Aidan Fennessy’s The House On The Lake, and Declan Greene’s 8 Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography. Prior to that, under Sam Strong’s leadership, I directed Van Badham’s The Bull, The Moon and The Coronet of Stars in 2013. So, in no way could it be said that we look to produce two-handers. Indeed the entire theatre community is aware of the need to keep the numbers of actors onstage as high as possible. Last year Griffin had an average of 5 in cast size. This year, in absorbing the Brandis cuts we have dropped to an average of 4. Next year we will be up to an average of 4.6, again with no two-handers. We do have some physical limitations at Griffin. The eight in the dressing room for Gloria did rely on certain graciousness from the acting company in sharing a tiny space. But I digress.

“In this case the Producing companies, the Arts Funded Queensland Company and the Griffin Company (of NSW origin) need only pay one actor each for this three month rehearsal/performance season (tick tick).” 

This seems like a good opportunity to correct the false impression that co-producing saves companies money. The cost of safely and responsibly supporting a play and its team across companies and states outweighs any ‘savings’ you are implying. One of the reasons companies invest in the extra work and cost of a co-production is the genuine desire to share a story across geographic boundaries. I believe that this benefits both the playwrights and the audiences of different cities. In the quest for a national conversation, co-production is one of the creative tools the arts community has to bring audiences together around a contemporary narrative. The costs are large and that often stops more co-productions from happening, but the benefits to this country are significant in the long term. No company co-produces to save money. Cue laughter from every general manager across the country.

That was my best attempt to contain the anger your paragraph provoked. I hope I have dealt with the parts of your statements reasonably and factually. What I have yet to address is the despair provoked at the sum of the parts of that paragraph. That you would attack the programming of a play for the very qualities which represent the ambitions of the theatre community to be inclusive and representative of the audience it works to serve is devastating. The suggestion that all the work, intuition, craft and creative energy over the years it has taken to bring this work to the stage was expended cynically in the pursuit of political correctness is deeply offensive. At a time when our values as a nation are under attack, this play is programmed with an eye to the best version of the future of this country. That is not a box, it is a belief that our artists will lead us when our politicians fail to.

Lee Lewis

3 August 2:33 pm

A Note from Karen, 3 August

In the Griffin office this week we can’t wait for you to…

…See Rice

Michele Lee’s new play Rice opened last week after a sold-out season in Brisbane. It has been fantastic to receive such great feedback from audiences throughout the previews and first week after the move from Queensland Theatre to our intimate Stables stage. It is terrific having Kristy Best back with us in such a dynamic role—the last time you would have seen Kristy here was in Gloria—and I am excited that we can introduce you to the beautiful Brisbane-based actor Hsiao-Ling Tang. Tickets are selling quickly. Book now and witness the amazing stage chemistry between these two actors.

…Experience 2018!

There is much excitement in the office this week as we sign off on the 2018 Season brochure. This is my third season launch at Griffin and once again I look forward to Lee unveiling what we have in store for you next year. It’s another season of bold Australian work that the Griffin team are eager to sink their teeth into. We’ll launch the season on Monday 28 August and I can’t wait to share this one with you.

… Meet the Diving For Pearls Company

Katherine Thomson’s beautifully rich play, Diving For Pearls, goes into rehearsal on Monday. We are thrilled to have Katherine, Darren Yap and the rest of the company on board. I loved this play when I first saw it in the ’90s and it is a story that is still sharply relevant to us today. I’m looking forward to seeing what Darren and his amazing team will do with this poignant, heartfelt work.

….Read

This fantastic review for the next work coming up as part of Griffin Independent, Merciless Gods. From this it looks like this show will be another one not be missed.

…Watch

Our Griffin Up Late Video. Who knew that so many of the Griffin staff could double as comedians? Join us for the next Griffin Up Late. If it’s as good as the others have been this year —and from the line up it sure looks that way—it will be a corker of a night! See you there.

Cheers,
Karen

Karen Rodgers 
General Manager

20 July 1:48 pm

A Note from Lee, 20 July

There is an extraordinary opportunity in Sydney right now. Tomorrow night is the first preview of Rice…and then for the next couple of weeks across the mainstages in this city you will be able to experience for yourself the writing of women across centuries. Aphra Behn at Belvoir, Caryl Churchill at STC and Michele Lee at Griffin. They have nothing in common as writers apart from their gender, so probably should not be compared at all—apart from the fact that this week on Broadway there is only one play by a female playwright running.

That play is Paula Vogel’s Indecent, produced by female producer Daryl Roth.

So very rarely will you have the chance to hear the voices of women, written by women, across the 17th, 20th and 21st centuries, and decide for yourself what remains relevant, what is slowly evolving and what if anything has changed in the way we create female characters.

Rice is our coproduction with Queensland Theatre and comes to Griffin after a sold out season in Brisbane in the Bille Brown Studio. Brisbane wrapped its huge heart around this play and I think you will too when you spend time with the wonderful characters created by Michele. This play reminds us why we must keep writing and producing new Australian plays because there is nothing like the feeling of a story written for us right now that goes straight to the heart of how we are trying to grow as a country right now.

At the opening night of Cloud Nine, Artistic Director of STC Kip Williams asserted that Caryl Churchill is the world’s greatest living playwright. Now that may be so, but coming from the little theatre on the hill dedicated to the work of Australian playwrights, I can honestly say that I wrestled with the relevance of that play to what matters in Australia at the moment. It is a great play, a British critique of colonialism that in its time was a powerful voice for change. But we must find our own voices and plays to speak back to the Empire in ways they cannot imagine, otherwise we remain as bound as we always have been. It is not enough to champion Caryl Churchill, we must search for, support and produce our Australian playwrights so that we have a voice on the world stage speaking from the Republic we can only imagine at the moment.

Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

 

14 July 11:22 am

A note from Michele Lee

In the lead-up to the Sydney premiere of her award-winning play RICE, Michele Lee shares her thoughts on writing, identity, work and growing up in 1990s Canberra.

In June, in the balmy Brisbane winter, I watched the opening night of Rice without much expectation. I was distracted. Will, my partner, had missed the flight so he wasn’t joining me and the babysitters were in the apartment with the baby. I had only just put on lipstick and scrambled downstairs to the Billy Brown Studio. Lee Lewis was a little excited, and she bought me a wine.

It is a Very Important Thing to win an award. Winning the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award guarantees a production and that makes it a unique award in Australia. That means I get my first mainstage production, a world premiere.

As the lights went down, I thought “Holy shit. My play is all grown up.” I’ve been so inside of this play since I began workshopping it. It has been thoroughly dramaturgically thrashed by now. And I think it’s a stronger piece for it. But I’m so inside it, it’s going to be hard to sit back like a regular audience member and let it wash over me. Maybe it’s the wine, and the fact I haven’t really been drinking because I’m breastfeeding. But I relax, and the play—for the most part—washes over me. Kristy and Hsiao-Ling are fantastic.

***

The Tuggeranong Valley newspaper once ran a story about how multicultural my high school was. They snapped a picture of sample students outside the staff lunchroom. There were representatives from the various nationalities that made our high school worthy of such a story. I was in the picture (for those who don’t know anything about me, I’m Asian. Specifically, Hmong. Think South East Asian golden skin and thick black hair). For some reason the number 72 pops up. 72 nationalities, if I recall.

Outside of this photo op, I didn’t hang out with the other ethnics. Not really. They were clean cut, they played soccer or volleyball. On the other hand, I had a thing for drama. At lunch and recess, I’d keep myself busy volunteering at the canteen or running (badly) the lunchtime radio. Or I’d float between different groups within the high school jungle. But I never hung out with the Asian girls. They knew it. There was an unsaid acknowledgement of my snubbing them.

***

And so some of my early plays and early prose writing deliberately avoided anything to do with race and identity. You could say that this was for the usual reason of assimilation—daughter of migrant parents wants to fit in, all her life, through school and beyond, and just maybe she’ll erase her otherness completely. I wrote a memoir a few years ago. I didn’t focus on being Asian. I wrote about being 29-going-on-30, living in Melbourne, having casual sex. Friends, readers, reviewers all wondered why I didn’t focus more on my ‘culture’. Meaning, why didn’t I focus on my family and my ancestry? Why was I being so white?

Or you could say that I am a bunch of labels. I’m Hmong, yes. But I also grew up in Canberra, in the 80s and 90s. I went to a shitty public school. I didn’t quite fit in anywhere. I am what I am.

Aren’t we beyond seeing an Asian woman and expecting that if she opens her mouth, the only thing she’ll do is tell her ‘Asian’ story?

***

Oh, it’s complicated. I see younger Asian people and think that they’re articulating it more neatly than I do. Being Asian, being Australian, being of a certain generation, of a certain point in time. It’s all about intersectionality. I actually began memoir-writing in high school, and it was about my family. But I was only 15. I had less to write about.

Mrs Swift, my teacher, was moved by a piece I wrote, something about playing in the front yard in the commission house I’d grown up in. She urged me to consider writing as an actual career. In another breath, perhaps as an awkward apology, she also explained that her teenage daughter was terribly racist. It’s complicated, the times I grew up in. Canberra in the 1990s. The waves of South East Asian immigration were evident but were now slowing. My high school was multicultural. Pauline Hansen was about to make her maiden speech. Rachelle Gray sat beside me in English and she must have been seething with her confused anger. All these immigrant children in her country, and yet she had grown to like me. She cornered me one day. “Every time I see a gook, I just want to stab them with a machete and put them back into the boat they came from. But I like you, Michele.” You can imagine, I didn’t quite know what to say. I thought we were friends.

There was a general level of aggression at my high school. Battered sports equipment, teachers fleeing the classroom in tears because of agro students, smokers on the soccer field with their obvious plumes of cigarette smoke. Macho delinquents. Pointless detention rooms—as if the students at my high school cared.

With education like this, what would I be when I grew up? I had a thing for drama, like I said. I wrote that piece about my family that Mrs Swift liked. But I didn’t know any writers, any playwrights, any artists. No, not in the Tuggeranong Valley.

***

My first play was workshopped by the local youth theatre company in Canberra. I think I’d been reading Absurdist plays at the time, the few available at the library (no internet back then) and I fancied a bit of breaking the fourth wall. I didn’t think my perfect play needed any more help, such was the certainty of my teenage arrogance. I didn’t participate in the workshopping and only came along at the very end to see what they’d done with it. Meanwhile, in my first year of uni studying Comms, I hung out with the student theatre crowd. We put on American plays. We had house parties. There was even a girl from America in a lead role. In fact, there were students from all around the world. And me from the valley, feeling as if the edges of my world were creeping further and further open. Eventually I broke up with my high school sweetheart, worked in the public service, fell into a post-uni malaise, missed doing theatre, felt an existential ennui. I was 22. I moved to Melbourne.

***

Oh, being a woman. Being an Asian woman. Being a female Asian Australian playwright. It’s taken me a long time to say it with confidence, with a self-assured meaning.

What do you write about? And there is still that little moment of cringe…That Mrs Swift-style awkward and unnecessary apology. I say: “I write about women. About women like me.”

And the reviewers and the readers and the audiences might tell me that I’m not doing this at all, that I could be writing a more authentic version of me.

I did write a piece about Hmong people. It was a dream play that grew into a radio play. At some point, in my later 20s, I became very interested in writing about race and identity and including it in my work. A few of my works are exactly about this. But not all of my work.

I somehow avoided student politics at uni while in Canberra. It was in Melbourne that I had a Marxist awakening. I became very interested in workers’ rights. And all those things, those things embedded from an early age—the commission house, the single income household, the shitty public school, the bogan called Rachelle who held back her machete, the tiny sphere that was my childhood—they boiled up. And a woman like me is someone obviously Asian, someone who worked from age 11, someone who spent her first Austudy payment giving her little sister her first birthday party.

Sometimes I write about women and labour. Production is creative. I’ve always felt that. I’ve always been busy, the girl serving in the canteen and running the student radio (badly).

In this capitalist (post-capitalist?) world, I’ve always been busy at work.

***

A mother now. It took me 36 years. But there is a baby boy in this house. The baby is sleeping. He’s onto his second sleep cycle. And so I write this post, trying to clear my mind of baby-ness and conjure up my writing bones. Really, the last time I did any writing was probably on Rice, for the final week of the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award development. That was mid-2016. I’d begun researching Rice in late 2013, and workshopped it throughout 2015 through The Street Theatre and through Playwriting Australia, before entering into the Award. Now that I’m older, I relish workshopping.

Pre-baby, Will and I went to India. This was part of my research. I joked with people that I was going on a grant-funded junket. Will had been before to India; I’d never been. But researching and writing Rice, where one of the characters is Indian, was a very compelling reason to do a little research trip.

The obvious things about India: it was very hot and humid at that time of year. We had a steriliser pen for drinking water. Poverty is obvious. But so is wealth. Kolkata may be quiet in some neighbourhoods at 2am but other than that, like other Indian cities, there are people everywhere. And of course, the infamous head wobble that may mean yes, no or maybe.

Other things I observed: people who do construction work often wear thongs as safety footwear, as in South East Asia. Hard-working manual labourers are darker-skinned. You don’t have to walk far for street samosas and street chai. There is a ratio of about five staff to one passenger at airport security.

The other part of our short trip was spent down south in Kerala. The waves at Verkala Beach tore through the ocean and I found them frightening and refreshing in equal measure. One day I trained-it to Trivandrum to meet with a worker in an NGO advocating for rights with farmers. The other meetings I’d set up didn’t eventuate. See—this wasn’t just a sham junket. I was researching.

***

Women and work. India and China. Big economies. Rice consumption and rice production. I grew up eating rice everyday. My mum had a big plastic tub, probably 200 litres big, and she filled it with short grain rice. And everyday she’d go to it, scoop raw rice, and then cook it in the rice cooker. We always had rice.

Of course there is a little part of me in Rice. But for this play I wanted to play with characters that weren’t autobiographical but were still women of colour. Intersectional folk. This is the times we live in. A young woman of Indian background, in corporate Australia, with her nose pressed at the glass ceiling.

She could have gone to my high school.

And an older woman, maybe much like my mother, thrifty with her vats of rice, cleaning the shit off the toilets of corporate Australia.

Michele’s play RICE starts previews Friday 21 July and runs until 26 August at the SBW Stables Theatre. Book tickets. 

6 July 2:34 pm

A Note from Lee, 6 July

Enchantment. That’s what great talent offers us. That is what is in the Stables this week as one of the world’s great talents Robyn Archer performs at Griffin. With Dr Michael Morley on piano and George Butrumlis on piano accordion the space is filled with magic. I am so sorry that more people will not have the chance to spend a night in the Stables with Robyn as she takes us on a journey through the French, German and American songbooks. Fiercely intelligent, deeply moving and unashamedly Australian in her worldview, she may not be offering the typical new play you would expect to see on our stage, but Robyn Archer is a great Australian story and so the Stables is her natural home. And that voice. That’s what enchantment sounds like.
 
More Stables magic — last Thursday night Michele Lee’s Rice opened in Brisbane at Queensland Theatre, Suzie Miller’s Sunset Strip was on the Stables stage as part of Griffin Independent, The Witches was playing in Ararat in Victoria and the extraordinary Paul Capsis was performing Angela’s Kitchen (from 2010!!!) in Malta!!! Go Griffin! Go Australian plays! Go Australian talent! Go sun-shiny Sydney blue-sky day! Go all you wonderful people who contributed to our 2017 End of Financial Year Campaign — we hope you can see all your support spreading out through our artists around the country and the world!
 
Thank you to everyone who plays a part in making all this possible. Are we doing too much? Possibly. Are we going to stop? No! Not as long as you keep coming to see the work.
 
Love,
Lee

Lee Lewis
Artistic Director

22 June 1:24 pm

A Note from Lee, 22 June

It’s the end of the financial year. Please donate to Griffin. Help us make new Australian plays. Help us find new classics that speak to us now, in our own voice, about things that matter to us all deeply.
 
There, I’ve said it. It’s really hard to ask you for more money. You all support us so much, and we pride ourselves in being a really lean company that puts most of our money into artists. We are small but we do huge things. We pride ourselves on continuing to punch above our weight. But all that fight means it’s hard to admit how vulnerable we are financially. Donations make a huge difference at Griffin. A small amount is significant to us and a large amount is significant to the history of Australian playwriting.
 
There is an independent show on at Griffin at the moment called Sunset Strip written by Suzie Miller. It could have been in our Main Season but with the Brandis cuts, we were only able to produce four plays not five. Fortunately for Suzie, the team have been willing to produce it independently so she can see the work onstage speaking to an audience. These artists are doing it because of the power of Suzie’s writing and because they believe in the work. Please help us to ensure that plays like this don’t slip through the cracks. Please help us to ensure we support more playwrights, more actors, more directors, designers and stage managers.
 
Because Australian voices matter. Australian plays matter to you — you tell me that in your letters, your emails and our foyer conversations. The plays matter to the whole country. And I believe they matter to the whole world. There are plays being written in Australia right now that will offer a uniquely Australian perspective on the chaos of our current world. There is a great play about the medication of children that we urgently need to see; there is a heartbreaking work about the housing crisis; there is an extraordinary work about Australian soldiers fighting in overseas conflicts that has the potential to really question our narratives around the armed forces. There are many more. None of them will change the world unless we get them on to the stage. Help us do that.

8 June 1:10 pm

ATYP @ Griffin

Griffin Theatre Company will open its Stable doors to Australia’s national youth theatre company Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) to be the host venue for ATYP’s 2018 performance season in Sydney.

Both Griffin and ATYP share a commitment to nurturing new Australian work and introducing new voices and performers to the stage, making this partnership an exciting opportunity for both companies to work together and see how the other develops, produces and presents work. It will also be a unique opportunity for the audiences to experience the work of both theatres in the one venue.

The residency has come about due to the rejuvenation of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct commencing late 2017, which will see ATYP gain a new state-of-the-art venue on Pier 2/3 in 2019. However, while renovations take place, ATYP must close its current theatre at the end of the year.

Griffin Theatre Company is committed to creating an avenue for the work of this dynamic youth company to continue uninterrupted and is delighted to announce this eight-week residency at the SBW Stables theatre across 2018 ensuring ATYP can produce its Sydney performance season.

ATYP exists to connect young people with the professional theatre industry. For Griffin’s Artistic Director, Lee Lewis, “the young artists of today will be the national storytellers of tomorrow.” She adds “this new collaboration ensures that we continue to nurture the next generation of Australian voices while providing these artists with the opportunity to present work in a professional environment.”

Fraser Corfield, ATYP’s Artistic Director has enormous respect for Griffin Theatre Company and looks forward to the residency. “Griffin is Australia’s home of new playwriting. It’s a company and space that specialises in nurturing new ideas and the artists that generate them. ATYP is very excited to be able to connect our young artists with this inspiring company as we transition to our new home. It is the most natural partnership and meeting of minds.”

ATYP @ GRIFFIN comprises eight weeks across 2018: three weeks in January and February; three weeks in May; and two weeks in October. This residency will replace Griffin’s Independent season in 2018. The Company will, however, continue to provide opportunities and access for artists through its Main Season, Special Events, commissions and several new artist initiatives to be announced in late 2017.

Tickets to ATYP performances at Griffin will go on sale when Griffin launches its full 2018 season on 28 August 2017.

Griffin acknowledges the generosity of the Seaborn, Broughton and Walford Foundation in allowing it the use of the SBW Stables Theatre rent free, less outgoings, since 1986.

Griffin Theatre Company and ATYP are assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; and the NSW Government through Create NSW.

Download the Media Release here

 

11:52 am

A Note from Lee, 8 June

Partnerships and possibilities. That’s where my brain is this week.
 
- I am watching a great partnership develop in the rehearsal room between Kristy Best and Hsiao-Ling Tang as we work on Michele Lee’s play Rice under the Queensland Theatre roof. When you only have two actors on stage, their creative relationship is incredibly important for the health of the play. Cross your fingers…things are going really well so far!
 
- Griffin and ATYP will be under the same SBW Stables roof next year! ATYP theatre at Wharf 4 is shutdown for construction next year so the ATYP young artists will have a performance home with us.
 
- The winner of the 2017 Griffin Award was announced to a full house of new-play lovers on Sunday afternoon. It is the 20th year of the award. And it is the most important event in our year. It is the way we find the best new plays in the country. The award is supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund. BUT do you believe we do not have a major sponsor for the award? I am looking for a person or a company to name the award. Friends, I need your help. Think. Who would be a great sponsor for the Griffin Award? Who would like to see their name, their family name or their company name on this prestigious prize? We need $20,000 a year to secure the future of the award. That will mean the winning playwright will receive a prize of $15,000. That’s the help we need to keep encouraging playwrights to send us their best new plays. Every person who reads to the end of my newsletters is a partner in the enterprise of making new Australian plays. So, partners — think of the possibilities, and help me find a sponsor. In all your spare time! If you are interested in knowing more or have some ideas give us a call at the Griffin office — we would love to talk to you.
 
I look forward to seeing you in the foyer soon.

Love,
Lee

Artistic Director
Lee Lewis

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