• Dr Margi Brown Ash

Independent. Graceful. Honest.

I can remember the joy I felt when I stood at the QT launch and Sam Strong announced that Belloo Creative was going to be a resident theatre company within QT for two years. You see, Belloo was not just a resident theatre company. Belloo was representing the whole of the independent theatre industry of Brisbane. They were us, and we were them. The news that we have heard recently, that their promised season of Phaedra has been canceled, not just postponed, because of COVID19, comes as a huge shock. Surely not I ask myself, surely I have got this wrong. Phaedra is not just a play, it is a representation of our community, filled with local artists, written by a local playwright and directed by a local director. What has gone wrong here? This question sits inside my head…did I get this wrong? Over and over. It sits there. Doesn’t budge. I want to understand, the voice continues, so that I do not misinterpret. Is it what I think it is? Is it yet again the business model nudging the arts model out in the cold? An interesting thing has happened over this COVID19 experience. We seemed to have reached an edge. A sticky and rather uncomfortable edge. Where do we go from here? How do we make things clearer, for next time (because I believe there will be a next time)? How do we clearly express and support (with enormous grace) our independent theatre companies, especially when good things come their way? As well as the bad? How do we stand up for each other, so that those who make the big decisions not only know how serious they are (I absolutely believe they do and it must have been a horrid choice to have to make), but also take into account the far-reaching ramifications that this decision inflicts upon an entire community? I am mortified that this season has been canceled. Not because of the play. I look around Australia and I see many plays canceled. Just like that. And I am sure, as Sam (Strong) so clearly states in his recent post “These are no doubt incredibly difficult decisions for companies and my heart goes out to anyone forced by circumstance to make them. But even more heartbreaking is the effect of such decisions on the artists who were to create the shows”. In this case, it is far more than heartbreak. It is a symbol of the independent artist in Brisbane. Our independent artists consistently are given the short straw, and this has been made extremely clear during this time. And here we have a situation where, on a symbolic level, we have been literally been screwed again. Artists of Brisbane. It is time we no longer feared speaking out. We are in the enviable position, yes, enviable, that there is no work: so there is no one to offend. Let's speak out. And do it with grace and understanding. I believe that Queensland Theatre has excellent intentions. I actually love this organization. But I also believe that they may not have realized the significance of this particular action. We need to change the current system. As Lucas Stibbard said in a comment: “we need to re-organize”. The only way we can do this. Is. Together. And the only way we can recover is to speak our truth. With grace and integrity.