May 2008

& I @ PACE: day 9, SORT OF, very, via for today, Monday May 19

SORT OF, precisely, a Snapshot Of Real Theatre On the Fly, taken from, for Auckland, Monday May 19.1.The Honouring Theatre Festival of indigenous plays presents three plays, Sun 22 Jun 08 – Fri 27 Jun 08, at TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre, Manukau. Honouring Theatre provides a unique opportunity for New Zealand audiences to engage in indigenous issues through story-telling. It is also an opportunity to present high-quality New Zealand work alongside some of the best theatre in the world.

2.The Threepenny Opera: Silo Theatre combines with The Large Group for their second production of 2008 with a cast of 27, Fri 30 May 08 – Sat 21 Jun 08, at Auckland’s Maidment Theatre. Admission from $50-$20, plus booking fees.

3.The Auckland Theatre Company presents Blackbird, by David Harrower. Thu 04 Sep 08 – Sat 27 Sep 08, on Thu, Fri, 8:00pm; Thu 04 Sep 08 – Sat 27 Sep 08, on Tue, Wed, 6:30pm; Mon 08 Sep 08, 6:30pm; Sun 14 Sep 08, 4:00pm; Sun 21 Sep 08, 4:00pm. Maidment Theatre. Adults: from $54 – $49, Seniors: from $49 – $45, Concession $35 – $30 plus booking fees.

4.Auckland Theatre Company presents The Female Of The Species, by Germaine Greer. Thu 01 May 08 – Sat 24 May 08, on Thu, Fri, Sat, 8:00pm; Thu 01 May 08 – Sat 24 May 08, on Tue, Wed, 6:30pm; Mon 05 May 08, 6:30pm; Sun 11 May 08, 4:00pm; Sat 17 May 08, 2:00pm; Sun 18 May 08, 4:00pm. Maidment Theatre. Adults: from $54 – $49, Seniors: from $49 – $45, Concession: from $35 – $30.

5.University of Auckland’s Stage2 Productions present Suburbia, by Eric Bogosian. Wed 21 May 08 – Sat 31 May 08, on Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, 8:00pm; Wed 21 May 08 – Sat 31 May 08, on Sun, 6:30pm. Maidment Theatre. $18 Waged, $15 unwaged.

6.Niu Sila, Kightley and Armstrong comedy. Sat 10 May 08, 8:00pm; Wed 14 May 08 – Sat 17 May 08, every day, 8:00pm; Sat 17 May 08, 2:00pm; Wed 21 May 08 – Sat 24 May 08, every day, 8:00pm. Glen Eden Playhouse Theatre. Adults $22, Students/seniors $18 plus booking fees.

7.Les Miserables. Sat 03 May 08 – Sat 24 May 08, on Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, 8:00pm; Sat 03 May 08 – Sat 24 May 08, on Sun, 2:00pm. Hawkins Theatre, Papakura. Adult $39, Child $32, Senior $32.

8.Auckland Theatre Company present Who Needs Sleep Anyway? by Roger and Pip Hall. Thu 05 Jun 08 – Sat 28 Jun 08, on Mon, Tue, Wed, 6:30pm; Thu 05 Jun 08 – Sat 28 Jun 08, on Thu, Fri, Sat, 8:00pm; Thu 05 Jun 08 – Sat 28 Jun 08, on Sun, 4:00pm; Sat 21 Jun 08, 2:00pm; Thu 26 Jun 08, 11:00am. SkyCity Theatre. $40 – $30.

9.The Edge presents Steven Berkoff in One Man, as part of its International Arts Season. Fri 17 Oct 08 – Sat 18 Oct 08, every day, 8:00pm – 9:30pm. ASB Theatre. $69, concession $65, groups 8+ $59.

10.Auckland City Council presents Stephen Bain’s My Heart is a Beast. Wed 07 May 08 – Sat 24 May 08, every day, All day event. Various locations, K’Rd. & CBD. Free.

11.Auckland Theatre Company presents Ship Songs, actor/writer Ian Hughes’ homage to his parents. Fri 12 Sep 08 – Sun 14 Sep 08, on Fri, Sat, 8:00pm; Fri 12 Sep 08 – Sun 14 Sep 08, on Sun, 4:00pm. Glen Eden Playhouse Theatre. $49-$30. Wed 06 Aug 08 – Thu 07 Aug 08, every day, 6:30pm; Fri 08 Aug 08 – Sat 09 Aug 08, every day, 8:00pm; Fri 08 Aug 08, 11:00am; Sat 09 Aug 08, 2:00pm; Sun 10 Aug 08, 4:00pm. The Pumphouse, Takapuna. $40 – $30. Wed 17 Sep 08 – Sun 21 Sep 08, on Thu, Fri, Sat, 8:00pm; Wed 17 Sep 08 – Sun 21 Sep 08, on Wed, 6:30pm; Wed 17 Sep 08 – Sun 21 Sep 08, on Sun, 4:00pm; Thu 18 Sep 08, 11:00am; Sat 20 Sep 08, 2:00pm. Howick Little Theatre. $49 – $30. Thu 14 Aug 08 – Sun 07 Sep 08, on Thu, Fri, Sat, 8:00pm; Thu 14 Aug 08 – Sun 07 Sep 08, on Mon, Tue, Wed, 6:30pm; Thu 14 Aug 08 – Sun 07 Sep 08, on Tue, Sun, 4:00pm; Sat 23 Aug 08, 2:00pm. Herald Theatre. $54 – $30.

12.The Auckland Playwrights Collective presents Read Raw, rehearsed readings of the latest work from Auckland’s emerging playwrights. Mon 21 Apr 08 – Mon 20 Oct 08, on the 3rd Monday of every month, 7:00pm. Herald Theatre. Free.

13.Comedy at The Classic: May 19 – May 24. $10 – $20. May 26-31. $10 – $20.

14.The NBR New Zealand Opera presents the Genesis Energy Spring Season of Janáček’s Jenůfa. Sat 20 Sep 08, 7:30pm; Tue 23 Sep 08, 6:30pm; Thu 25 Sep 08, 7:30pm; Sat 27 Sep 08, 7:30pm. ASB Theatre. $159.50; $124.50; $99.50; $84.50; $69.50; $49.50.

La Boheme, Phantom of the Opera and Cinderella on Ice were left out. Not because they are not competing for the same change in the same pockets, they are. But that they are is already exactly what’s wrong with the picture above as it stands, without adding these three shows. as the source for this sampling of what’s available in the performing arts to audiences in Auckland was recommended by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

There are several points of interest. Firstly, Auckland Theatre Company dominates, with three productions, including Ian Hughes’s tour of Auckland’s satellite theatres; secondly, the domination of the Maidment Theatre as the preferred venue, a product of the removal of the Silo from the picture, and an aspect of the broader issue of theatre’s identification with the building rather than the art-form; that is, nothing sticks out as being specifically theatre: whether it’s Stephen Bain’s free Council dance on K’Rd. or Berkoff’s return in his one man show, called, with trenchant let’s-just-get-the-f**king-job-done style, One Man, there appears to me to be very little differentiating the shows on offer; thirdly, price-structure: it seems that the key variable determining whether or not and how much one pays is snobbery, Eric Bogosian over “Auckland’s emerging playwrights,” CBD over Howick Little, the opera over Dreigroschenoper.


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– video still from “superman, you’re crying,” SJD

Thursday I saw my brother off at the airport, with his lovely family, Liliele, and Iris, their one-year-old, on their adventure: Seoul, Istanbul, the Balkans, taking in Montenegro, to Berlin; there to lay by at a reasonable rent while on a recce of the job prospects, training prospects, potentially at the old UFA. So it’s into a holding-pattern for our collaboration. But to find out what that might have meant, click on the still of Sean standing in his little car and you’ll be swizzle-whizzled to Darkroasted Studio, online.

Scroll down through the videos to reel cut, which cuts together, and rhymes to Dom’s beats, recent work, a bit of award-winning work, something which didn’t make it through the first round of Filmaka but that Filmaka have since asked to use to advertise the success [sic] of their competition, SJD videos, high physics, hard camp, a nice explosion of ideas that we didn’t have the resources, and, or, the faith shown in us, to fully develop, to further develop and explore, to carry on doing, here, here, then … then.

I regret that we didn’t discover a sustainable source of energy for our projects together. The absurdity of even attempting them in a vacuum – the vacuum of arts production in NZ is still crucially a critical reality, since its lack of integration into the broader cultural life of these islands precludes its reaching a critical momentum, a stage of acceptance and clear, however indistinct, importance – this sense of absurdity can keep a low-input solo unit getting on with its self-generated output but sooner or later, even for the independent artist alone in her studio or garret or bach or barn or council flat, further and other input will be required, unless the artist in question is not only self-generating but also self-destroying.

To use oneself as fuel is an obvious option and has clear precedents in the green ghetto of our dreaming islands: first, of course, you have either to heat up or dissolve the self from which you mean to extract the energy; alcohol, Malcolm Lowry’s universal solvent, alkahest, is preferred by artistic New Zealanders who mean to stay within the law.

We are ardent image consumers in our desperation to keep up with what’s going on in the world, a desperation that metabolises influence in us faster than in those creative types closer to the cultural centres. However an image-enriched diet can eventually jade the palate, thicken the arteries and clog the heart’s sensitivity; the opposite extreme goes the same green way, in pounamu-ising parochialism and kitsch.

The clean carbon-expending way to go is travel; this is why I’m delighted my brother’s left, the collaboration’s suspended its latterly anyway sluggish animation: which is not to say I neither regret, nor blame the place in space I’m here occupying, elaborating, looking for the entrances into as much as the exits from, and wondering at the consumption necessary just to stay alive and the waste and expense involved: like the gospel sample goes, on that Pay it All Back, the volume number eludes me, I’m so glad I’m not dead… I mean spirtually dead… and glad that the souldeath hasn’t taken those I love best.


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Semele in Olympus ; the Jupiter and Semele of Gustave Moreau; & SOME INITIAL NOTES & IDEAS TOWARDS A WORK: groundwork for and parts of a new factory to produce an organ for the love project, envisaged to require divers organs of varying sizes, shapes and functions, and to take a good deal of time, as a milieu for a small theatre group called T-Cell to experiment on, exploit and explore

Even to the height of mighty Olympus (or Όλυμπος), reports of the exceptional beauty of the child had reached. The king of all the gods, who has his throne upon that mountain, Zeus (or Ζεύς), heard them. He watched and waited.The child’s mother, Harmonia (or Αρμονία), was born of the unlikely union between love and war, Aphrodite (or Ἀφροδίτη) and Ares (or Ἄρης), making her uncles, on her mother’s side, fear and panic, Deimos (or Δεῖμος) and Phobos ( or Φόβος). Her father, the hero Cadmus (or Κάδμος), was founder of the city of Thebes; he’d brought his immortal bride, Harmonia, to the city, where she’d given him three daughters, Ino, Agave, Autonoë, and a son, Polydoros, before the fourth daughter, whom it pleased Zeus to look on from afar, who was called Semele (or Σεμέλη).

The child flourished in the well-appointed city of Thebes, a city happy to have as wise and just a sovereign as Semele’s father, Cadmus. Her mother bestowed on her an harmonious disposition, to add to the almost-divine radiance of her limbs and features, a beauty of mind or soul, and balance in all her inward and outward attributes and virtues. So she grew to womanhood; for an immortal eye, this happened in an instant.

When she was ready enough, Zeus one night alighted on the flat roof of the palace. He swung himself down into her bedchamber, silencing the young woman’s nurse, Beroe, who still slept in her room, with a whiff of sevoflurane, a drug the god had stolen from his wife, Hera; since Hera kept a veritable pharmacy of ethers and barbiturates, haloalkanes and opioids.

From the awesome majesty of his divine body, Zeus changed to mortal form, wherein he was yet a paragon of physical strength and male beauty. Approaching her bed and for the first time within arm’s reach of Semele, Zeus comprehended the distance by which her pulchritude outstripped her years and knew that it was this gift of the gods, even as an infant swaddled in the lap of her nurse, Beroe, had drawn his attention to her.

But Semele was born mortal and for her Zeus had prepared and brought with him a draft made from pieces of the heart of Zagreus, his son, whom he had off his daughter, Persephone, when he went to her and lay with her in the shape of a serpent. His son’s heart had been all that was left to Zeus after the Titans, acting on the orders of his wife, Hera, found Zagreus in the care of the dancing Curetes (or Κορύβαντες) and pulled him to bits and devoured him, half raw, half cooked.

Zeus had had a son to rule Olympus after him, had lost him to Hera’s jealousy, and had contrived a plan to bring him back. He would feed Semele the pieces of the heart, which, when incorporated into her body, although she was human and would be a mortal mother, would mingle with Zeus’s seed when he impregnated her, to give forth a god. Semele, the ruler of all the gods thus reasoned, would bear him his son, named Zagreus, anew.

Semele woke up to utter darkness and felt not seeing the presence of the god in her room, before she heard him. Artemis (or Ἄρτεμις), the eternal virgin, another of Zeus’s daughters, over whom he had exercised his influence, had in turn used hers, so that she need not bear witness to her father sleeping with the mortal, Semele, to steal the moon’s light away, while she hunted in other quarters.

Zeus then spoke to Semele and she immediately knew him, for his voice was deep and rolled like thunder, pressing her down onto the bed, making her whole body quake. He told her to drink the draft and standing beside her bed even brought it to her lips and held her shoulders so that the warmth of the heart of Zagreus going down her throat into her belly was nothing compared to that passing through his arm and from the nearness of his chest to her: she felt his breath on her face and smelt in it the charge in the air that precedes a summer storm.

Semele emptied the cup down to the final drop without a thought as to what it might have been, too distracted was she, excited by the bedside manner of the king of all the gods. But as soon as she was finished, Zeus lay down with her on the bed and saying not one word further, he had intercourse with her.

The next morning, Semele was ashamed: even if it was a god, even if it was that god, how could she prove it? and, what had she done? She prevailed on her nurse, Beroe, who had awoken none the wiser, to burn her sheets and to destroy any evidence she might find of a man having been there.

In this way, neither her father, Cadmus, nor mother, Harmonia, found out a thing. The very absence of the moon, on that occasion and on all subsequent visits by the god, they rationalised away and thought no more of than it were a season of cloudy nights and stormy presages, which never seemed to amount to the promised thunderstorm and did not achieve that relief, which is availed when the weather finally breaks.

For Semele, also, the nightly visits brought no relief: through the days she couldn’t wait for her lover’s touch and by night all she yearned for besides his touch was the light to see him by, to look into his eyes, and the sound of his voice, because he never again spoke to her as he did the first time, asking her to drink the heart-seeds of his son.

Semele gradually lost confidence that the god loved her, because he gave her none that he did; and without his reassurance, she began to suppose that he might, in fact, despise her: to all her requests to look on him, to hear him speak a single word, whether of love or despite, he remained dumb. He made love to her silently and, as she had from the first taken care that their love-making stayed secret, secretly.

The darkness, the silence and the secrecy took their toll on Semele. That she had fallen pregnant and that her efforts at secrecy could no longer claim to be rewarded, the secret being out, did not at all lessen or mitigate but rather increased the weight and strain under which the god’s love placed her. Hera, meanwhile, on high Olympus, heard and soon saw for herself, in Semele’s burgeoning belly, the extent of her husband’s betrayal.

One morning, disguised as Beroe, her nurse, Hera appeared to Semele and while the latter wept with frustration at being so used by the god, Zeus, she told her exactly what she wanted to hear. She consoled her by encouraging her indignation at her lover’s offhand treatment and persuading her she ought by rights to demand Zeus come to her, not like a thief, silently stealing in under cover of darkness, but in all the splendour and majesty with which he visited his wife.

“Ask Zeus to come to you as he comes to Hera, so you may know what pleasure it is to sleep with a god.”

To which end, Hera, as Beroe, gave Semele to know an oath even a god would not dare break, that by the river Styx (or Στυξ) Zeus should swear to grant whatever she asked of him.

The same night, rather than, as she was wont to do, asking for a light to see his eyes, a word to know his heart, Semele put aside all caution and presented her case: since Zeus had not answered her constant badgering or met any of her demands, she from henceforth promised never again to question his silence or the need for darkness, if he would, instead of granting all, fulfil but a single one of her desires.

Semele refused to let him near her till he spoke. Unwilling to force the issue with a mortal woman bearing his divine progeny, Zeus gave his assent. When they’d made love, Semele had him swear the oath by the river Styx and after he’d sworn it, she told him her one and only desire, which he was now bound to serve: that Zeus come to her in all his power and glory that she may know what pleasure it is to sleep with a god.

Regardful of the consequences, since for a god to lose his immortality is of greater consequence that for a mortal to lose her life, Zeus could not break his oath, could not resist Semele’s demand and did not prevaricate longer than the intervening day. Although he was reluctant, the following night he came to her as a god.

She lay bathed in moonlight waiting for him on her bed, until the refulgence of his awesome and immortal form cast that pale fire in the shade, and Semele felt the divine heat of Zeus, king of the gods.

The heat burnt Semele and the storm presaged in a season of cloudy nights broke with lightning and thunderbolts on her bed.

The splendour and majesty of Zeus consumed Semele and in love, by love was she immolated; and not silently, neither secretly, nor in darkness, as Semele burst out screaming and from her body came the immortal infant she’d carried for six long months.

Zeus wrested the baby from the flames, from the mother and from the thunder, and, slicing open his thigh in a long and deep wound, he placed it there, sewing the skin shut and enclosing it in this makeshift womb.

Three months later, the motherless child was born a second time; he was called Dionysus (or Διόνυσος), the twice-born, and the only god of the pantheon who, like Christ, dies.

This is not, however, the end of Semele’s story. Dionysus was given to Semele’s sister Ino and her husband, Althamus, to raise; and then, when Hera wreaked her terrible vengeance on these two foster parents as well, to the nymphs of Nysa.

Eventually, the child born by Semele and Zeus returned to Thebes; and, where “the chamber of Semele, still breathing sparks, was shaded by self-growing bunches of green leaves, which intoxicated the place with sweet odours,” Dionysus, the god, founded his rights.

As an adult, the divine Dionysus went looking for his mortal mother, Semele. He descended to Hades (or Ἅιδης) and retrieved her, and redeemed her, and himself, in the eyes of both Hera and of Zeus. Thus, in apotheosis, was Semele elevated to Olympus where she was made a goddess, Thyone; to whom Zeus addressed himself, saying,

“You have conceived a son who will make mortals forget their troubles.”

For in the mysteries of Dionysus are found the two linked and unequal intoxications, of duplicity, disguise and theatre, in which mortals, like the god himself, are born and die twice, and, of wine, in which they are said to forget, but, by this lesser truth, are led to remember a greater, which is freedom (or ελευθερία). The drunkenness of the latter leads inevitably to the former’s stage of all souls, of gods and men and fools; so mortals forgetting of their troubles may as well forget their mortality, and act out of, as much as in, character.

Thyone, then, the goddess, forever presides over the freedom of Dionysus (or Eleuthyrios), over the bacchanalia and mysteries, and over the Dionysian frenzies, which ensue as the rights of her son, the god.

Jupiter and Semele, by Gustave Moreau, 1894-5

The Symbolist painter, Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) wrote of his final masterpiece, Jupiter and Semele:

In the midst of colossal aerial buildings, with neither foundations nor roof-tops, covered with teeming, quivering vegetation, this sacred flora standing out against the dark blues of the starry vaults and the deserts of the sky, the God so often invoked appears in his still veiled splendour…At the foot of the throne, Death and Sorrow form the tragic basis of Human Life, and not far from them, under the aegis of the eagle of Jupiter, the great Pan, symbol of Earth, bows his sorrowful brow, mourning his slavery and exile, while at his feet is piled the sombre phalanx of the monsters of Erebus and Night..


Jupiter is the romanised form of Zeus as Symbolism is a somewhat christianised paganism.

Moreau’s Jupiter and Semele has been called the nearest painting’s come to depicting orgasm, or depicting’s orgasm in painting’s come. This would then be the Symbolism I’m interested in here, as incarnate.

Recall, also, Georg Frideric Handel’s opera, Semele. He wrote it for William Congreve’s libretto (for, in fact, John Ecccles’s 1707 opera of the same name) in answer to the fashion moving away from Italian opera, wanting English. Handel’s Semele is usually considered a dramatic oratorio but, as either opera or oratorio, what distinguishes the work is the carnality of Handel’s choice of subject-matter. It is therefore properly carnal as opposed to either sacred or secular, and perhaps it is this very savouriness marking the work out as English.

Hence, then, Symbolism incarnate, carnal opera and Semele, immolated for love, by love, achieving her apotheosis in Olympus, presiding over the Eleutheria (or ελευθερία) … we’ll see how what kind of meaty, gamey constellation, or carnival, will come from these notes and ideas…

point to point

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yurodovie, & thereof the confirmation, from time to time: July 20 1942 / October 27 1986


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T-Cell & I @ PACE: day 8, SWOT – back in the corner where the literal truth becomes a downright lie & who is helped?


3 strengths:

passion for and commitment to artistic excellence

to promote this strength:

work with others who share the same passion and commitment

to retain this strength:

secure financial side of the venture: pay

write challenging scripts/performance pieces

to promote this strength:

approach without compromise; proceed without fear

to retain this strength:

continue learning: feed it

works engage audience

to promote this strength:

get them talking

to retain this strength:

build audiences

3 weaknesses:

lack of financial nous: no money muscle

to reduce weakness:

find producer/manager

“theatre is a big black hole into which money is thrown”

to reduce weakness:

find sustainable business model, e.g. charity

by past failures held fast, in a cage of misprision

to reduce weakness:

do new things

3 opportunities:

art & intellect to the fore

to take advantage:

market and make available to the art & intellect hungry

guerrilla style; cell-based; small & mobile

to take advantage:

travel to audience; use element of surprise

low running-costs translate into $ & low cost tickets

to take advantage:

promote savings to potential audience

3 threats:

too much competition for the arts dollar

to reduce threat:

find alternative income streams: private/pre-sales

“I didn’t get it” – you must please media first!

to reduce threat:

become a moving target: don’t apologise; don’t exaggerate

niche market not big enough to sustain production

to reduce threat:

be stupid as well as smart: move laterally


contact public funding agencies, local & central

contact other companies & individuals already in the field
(don’t expect them to come to me)

add useless and irrelevant ideas to useful and relevant ideas, stir


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Note on a parenthetical in previous post: day 7

The notion that the sheer expense of rebranding the QEII Arts Council was the point above divesting the arts in NZ of their patron in Queen Elizabeth II requires a further note. The gesture is, on the face of it, with the glove of it, a political one: it intends to communicate that we are nationalising the arts; that, even if it was only nominally so, the arts are now no longer by appointment to Her Majesty, rather they are by appointment to a new authority, a notional one; that, while remaining within its purview, the Arts Council will now come under the power of patronage of the New Zealand government.

The Arts Council is made a tool of nation-building and, while we don’t have much idea as to what nation we’re building, we guess that ‘moving forward’ on this virtuous path (we guess it’s bicultural and postcolonial) requires a creative New Zealand; possibly because to reconcile the contradictions even between these two new civic virtues, biculturalism and postcolonialism, would seem to demand creativity; however, nation-building and national-identity-building exclude the possibility of creative identity by claiming the end in, and as, their means: the tool annexes the (creative) field.

Although a gesture of creative independence, and well-intended, however infantile, unintended consequences of removing the Royal Patron have brought both a crisis in representation – who do we now patronise? and what praise? our own creativity? (O, creative Tool!) – and increasingly successful and destructive attempts to manage that crisis through organisational intercessions, i.e. councils, Councils, bodies corporate (O, Tool of Tools, Thou art a Field Creative unto Thyself!).

No. The political gesture of renaming The Queen Elizabeth the Second Arts Council CNZ – the latter, I’m informed, and it serves my point, is called by the former name in statute – is just that, a gesture. Money had to be seen to be spent because what was at stake was precisely a ‘rebranding.’ The expense incurred in the rebranding marks, testifies to, celebrates, indeed, glorifies, the emergence inside governmental organisations of corporation envy. The costliness of the gesture not the gesture actualised a real movement of corporatisation of a government department. It, if you like, accounts for it.

The erstwhile weakness of organisations within the NZ government superstructure for accounting for themselves as (if they were) private corporations, in terms of transparency, accountability, to stake- and share-holders, but, above all, in their expense to run, signified and signifies not only private or personal or departmental greed but is and was also signal of an underlying communitarian or communal impulse, that desiring fairness among offices and social equality inside the thick walls of the department. It resembles sovietization, except that it costs more, and reminds us of the strong internal torsion and organic connection between Real Existing Socialism and Capitalism. I suspect, like many other such hierarchical social formations that choose to devolve in order to gain the advantage of speed (of flows of capital), corporatised government departments/bodies are subject to a bunker-mentality and act to preserve the various milieux on which they depend for justification by rather preserving their constitutive particles, the elementary individuals locked in proximity, and nearest, dearest.

Collateral by Laurie Lipton

I have just now at last received in the mail Herbert Blau’s The Impossible Theatre: A Manifesto and this on the front flap:

In this ringing manifesto, the co-founder of The Actor’s Workshop of San Francisco directs himself to what he declares the most evaded cause of the much-lamented sickness of the American theatre – “the timorousness and self-deceit of people in the theatre” who spend their careers blaming everything else. Surveying the scene with an augur eye, writing with an anger which is contagious, he issues a call for the re-creation of the theatre as “the Public Art of Crisis.”

– The Macmillan Company, New York, 1964

Where I’ve been arguing that CNZ tries to manage such Crisis and Public Art out of existence in the name of national identity, for the sake nation-building, with the government’s patronage of it as the end of these two conjoined projects.


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T-Cell & I @ PACE: day 6 – SWOT, O!?


Statistics New Zealand, ten years after the Cultural Statistics Programme was established in 1993, pegged theatre attendance at approximately 27% in its 2003 report, entitled, A Measure for Culture. [] Attendance rates were highest for women (59%), for those aged between 35 and 64 (66%) – although for 15 to 34 year-olds it rested at a quarter (25%) – and for those with a tertiary qualification (58%).

More European or Pakeha went to shows than any other ethnicity (84%). People living in the main urban centres were best represented, making up almost three-quarters of audiences throughout NZ (74%). 29% of the overall figure, however, lived in the Auckland region. A slightly higher figure, over a third, received annual incomes of less than $15 K.

Survey questions covered the 12 month period prior to the report. So the stats are going on six years old. Asked what was the greatest obstacle to their attendance, our potential audience answered cost, of tickets, transport, and associated costs. It’s interesting, then, to observe that a third of actual attendees earnt bugger all, that although cost was cited as the biggest obstacle to attendance, a third of the national audience for theatre could still afford to attend on the pittance they received from employment.

The report states that, on the basis of ‘multivariate analysis,’ the key variable in deciding who went to the theatre that year was not its cost or their gender but whether they possessed an educational qualification. The qualified outnumbered the unqualified in the audience by almost two to one. For both groups, the next most important variable was gender, with women more likely to attend. The next down the scale of importance was income.

The report adds a further interesting note as regards ethnicity: of women without tertiary qualifications, ethnicity featured, insofar as women “who were European/Pakeha, or of ‘other‘ ethnic affiliation, were more likely to attend a performance than women of Maori or Pacific peoples ethnicity [sic].” [Italics mine. loc.cit.] Of the group who attended, then, there was a notable preponderance of women who stated their ethnicity as ‘other,’ who were reluctant to identify themselves as either European or Pakeha, albeit in a survey for the Department of Statisitics, where their reluctance to divulge information of the slightest importance is understandable. There also appears to be a marked poverty of options as to what ‘other’ is other to: European, Pakeha, or Maori or Pacific peoples’ ethnicity, which is surely ethnicities. And to be pedantic, ‘ethnic affiliation’ is the preserve of sons, not daughters.

Lynn at PACE asked a question which surprised me, in view of the collapse of the community theatre network. Up until the early eighties, there existed seven professional community theatres: The Fortune, The Court, Downstage, Centrepoint, The Four Seasons, The Mercury, Theatre Corporate.

Not only has the Auckland contingent, of the old school, completely disappeared, the very idea of there being professional community theatres has in the meanwhile been anathematised. Or, to be clear, to be sure, the idea dropped from favour with our noble Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, God save us, before the institutions were lost. Lynn’s question: Was there a general colonial feeling, a sympathy, in those days, which sustained theatrical institutions, and which, given our much touted ‘growing up,’ suddenly meant that support for theatre was withdrawn? Was theatre a colonial institution? And, by implication, is theatre a colonial institution?

The rebranding, I began, of QEII, as costly a publicity exercise as it was (which is the point), to CNZ, occurred after the real damage had been done to Real Existing Theatres – and, you might say, to Real Existing Socialism in the soft form it took in NZ. I look at CNZ as less a move towards a postcolonial understanding of NZ’s, sorry, Aotearoa’s, place in the world, sorry, the blood-eyed West, than as a facet of the 1984 Rogernomical ‘revolution’ of the Fourth Labour Government. However it’s dressed up as politically correct or as a coming-out from under the skirts of Empire, that’s all dress-ups and a drag.

QE II suffered, along with the idea and the ideal – and in certain cases the fact – of there being professional community theatre (there is, after all, some small justice), from the complete overthrow of a political and socio-cultural reality by an economic ideology. The theatres went first, being more economically, financially vulnerable, institutions.

CNZ is no longer even a government funding body: were there professional community theatres, it would not fund them; it is “this country’s leading arts development organisation.” [] It follows that an artistic institution, a theatre, for example, constitutes a developed form, one which may be construed as too developed to warrant further and future development by NZ’s leading organisation in the field of arts development. The latter must mean in this context, development unto not requiring such services as CNZ had erstwhile been put there, by an erstwhile colonial government, to provide, funding, for example.

Our current understanding of the arts, of the place of the arts in our place, at our place, is not postcolonial. The process of postcolonisation or the adaptation of cultural institutions to a postcolonial dispensation was shortcircuited: our present understanding of the arts and theatre – which I contend is barely holding on to its integrity as a form of the arts – is neoliberal. And, insofar as we are yet undergoing recolonisation processes and procedures of an economic nature, we are neocolonials.

There exists an opportunity for a theatre to take up these problems, because there exists an educated audience whose right to consider them, to problematise them, as a cultural undertaking, as a part of civic life, has been largely abrogated, or obscured by the answers of biculturalism, political correction, postcolonialism, economic realism.

– Milton Friedman (1912-2006): “the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century … possibly of all of it.” [The Economist]


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T-Cell & I @ PACE, SORT OF: day 5

I’ve sent the following, under various guises and permutations, to:;;;


I’m soliciting for information, on the fly (immediate and informal) to provide a snapshot of what’s going on out in the general field of New Zealand theatre, a Snapshot Of Real Theatre On the Fly (SORT OF, the acronym). I say New Zealand but input, links, comments and suggestions from elsewhere are welcome.

Based in Auckland, I’ve recently been accepted for PACE on the pretext of a proposal to establish a small, mobile theatre group – called T-Cell – with an honed theoretical edge. Hence, I’m signed up for an UB at WINZ: you can read of my travails at

PACE suggested I do a bit of research in the field – through which those Pathways to Artistic & Cultural Employment, of their acronym, are said to cut.

I’m interested in your narratives as theatre people. There follow some deliberately loose questions around which I encourage you to improvise:


Where do you situate your activity in the broad field of the performing arts (or theatre practice, or simply arts practice)? (Where concretely, place, area; and notionally, interest, e.g. educational, psychodramatic, & c.)


What are you doing right now?

When and where?

Are you in production, performance, touring, in house? For what period?

How often do you do what you’re doing right now?


How do you operate, in terms of organisational model?

How long have you been working in this field? and how long employed?

Do you employ? How many?

To whom:

Do you have a recognisable audience? Where? Who are they?

Anything you can tell me that you consider may be of use – like are you getting paid for it and where does the money come from? – would also clearly be greatly appreciated. I look forward to your contribution.

point to point

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& I @ WINZ: day 4

My charming trainee case manager at WINZ experiences some difficulty in explaining to me why I am eligible for an UB of no more than $36.21 per week. She tries to create a diversion by bringing up on her screen various conversion charts and highlighting irrelevant figures. Acknowledging her difficulty, she suggests that perhaps her trainer might be able better to explain my assessment, my predicament.

She crosses to the far side of the open office with my file and proceeds to go through it with the trainer, in sight but out of earshot. I get up and approach the happy little party, trainer and trainee, going through my personal information. Charlene spots me and meets me halfway across the office. She says the trainer will be joining us.

We return to her desk. She escorts me back to her desk. We wait. Smoking woman, the trainer, takes her time. She arrives and sits between Charlene and I on the upholstered chair Charlene has thoughtfully provided. There’s gravel in her lungs and she gives a small cough after each sentence but is pleasant enough, listens and does her best to direct me on how to extract enough money from WINZ to go on living. Which means, of course, the usual white lies.

Who are you? I ask.


I’d missed the name-tag with the ugly logo which it appears even trainers have to wear.

We agree, eventually, that I will provide more information and that WINZ will, for its part, neither confirm, nor deny, it can do anything to help me.

Sharon does, however, note down IRD’s number to chase up some family assistance tax credits that I might be owed. I ring the number, listen to IRD selling its online services, provided, presumably, to minimise the workload on its staff and displace it onto its clients (shifting, at the same time, any responsibility for error), and eventually reach Anna, at the call centre.

Anna immediately finds a problem: if I’m receiving a benefit, even of thirty-or-so dollars, the government will decrease the amount I’m eligible for, as a parent with two dependants, by double that amount, by sixty-or-so dollars. Get off the benefit, she says. It seems that WINZ has competition, since IRD want to give me more.

Anna apologises for swearing about the inadequacies of the system, saying it reflects on the quality of her service, that her manager will be upset. I tell her to inform her manager that I’m delighted to be talking with a person, since persons are rare events at call centres for IRD. She will look into my past files and ring me later.

It’s going to be scary, I say.

We can’t think like that, she answers. We just can’t.

Ring me later? I don’t hold up much hope for this. It’s four o’clock on a Friday afternoon. But ring she does. I love Anna, the only person who’s ever worked for IRD.

Tacere, painting by Dino Valls, 1992

Let’s rally together and reach out and touch her as she’s touched us. Just make a small donation via the relevant pages, to the left.


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T-Cell & I @ PACE: day 3 – SWOT on track despite setback – deeper rabbit-hole found: notes on Strengths and Weaknesses internal to the project of establishing a theatre group called T-Cell


In the past I’ve relied on a producer, manager or collaborative partner. Not that I don’t know how to hold purse-strings, I can spend and be thrifty, but as for putting the money in the purse: I can hold down money; I lack the muscle for bringing in money.

I lack it to the point that money actually crosses to the other side of the street at my approach; to the point that money conspires against me and that it leads me to suspect fate is involved. The problem with this line of reasoning is that if fate is colluding with money, then I can do nothing about it. Except, with the Stoics, perfect my amor fati to become worthy of a fatal wound in my business proposal. This would also include setting my worth at whatever WINZ will hand out. Is it to be $36.21 per week?

The error in the previous post lay in not lending sufficient weight to the betrayal of a fragile, because barely renewed, optimism, to the feeling of a tropic despondence in the face of money’s flight, which latter removes any hope I may have kindled for the enterprise, a theatre group called T-Cell, makes, it could be said, the idea, the venture a bad object. So that, as the Liverpudlian band Clinic sing, “I want this out, not in me…” (“Distortions” on their first album Internal Wrangler, 2000).

Then I would be in the very theatre of terror I’ve discussed in earlier posts. Money’s conspiracy with fate gives me a terror of theatre; I’ve only, ingenuously, been translating this into a ‘theatre of terror’ to hide this fact. Clinic, in the same beautiful song, sing, asking that they be remade, …”free of distortions”…


My business venture relies on the sadistic rage I feel against theatre, the tit I sucked on: I want to destroy it. Me and theatre, we are locked in a feedback loop, which vicedicts the first law of thermodynamics. My energy, my passion, my love for… displaced from anal and urethral sadism; I’m a monster just like theatre is monster mama. And I’ve monstrous energy, passion, and so on, for a task with which I’m always already engaged, at risk and risking.


Of course fate and money conspire against me: I’ve nothing positive to offer. Therefore my personal terror/theatre bears significantly on my position, director & writer, not performer/actor & manager/director, as is more common, as is more economic, more feasible.

To delegate first to a bunch or group of actors is to retain that slight but important, critical, I guess, distance between myself and the organum, theatre, I desire to destroy (albeit that I rely on it and seek constantly its approval in terms of remuneration for my psychological investment (and woundedness)). To delegate second to a partner who has financial nous makes the management suddenly top heavy but is a way to bait money: my sacrifice in propitiation of the financial markets; I dangle a virgin producer in front of me, to front for me and intercede on my behalf, with the gods, the dragons – who fill purses.


I don’t perform, won’t, in the theatre I make and want to make (destroying) but they are to be my words, my pieces (note my preference for this term over ‘plays’), my works ( note, again, and think: workings, inners) the actors and actresses say, howl, cry, intone, whisper, mumble, sing, by which their characters on stage live, and die. Every word in the actor’s mouth is a challenge, thrown in the face of theatre, for the sake of the audience and therefore, spectacle.

The distinction is important: the audience will be challenged by the spectacle of theatre itself being challenged. I would make bold enough to say that this is what it means to regard theatre as an art-form.


It follows that it is neither a physical theatre I’m positing, nor an intellectual or academic theatre, nor an épatant theatre, an audience-insulting theatre, nor is it an audience-patronising theatre, definitely a theatrical theatre, but the desired mood, the mood one would want to experience in the audience is more reflective than defensive or degraded. I owe Dorothea Olkowski’s work for this, and much else here, for this notion of representation’s degrading effects:

the public is given stale models of resemblance, identity, analogy, and opposition; the public is given representations of violent acts, representations of vicious acts, representations of sexual acts, representations of courageous acts, representations of virtuous acts, actualizations that by definition exclude the possibility of what Deleuze has called humour. And so people … act out or represent to themselves degraded copies of these acts. …

– Dorothea Olkowski, Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation, op. cit. pp. 187-8


Dorothea Olkowski is helpful even in the context of a SWOT, since another idea catches my eye here: humour. There is indeed humour in the ‘theatre of terror,’ an unconscionable comedy.

point to point

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