Publications

A selection of publications by AusStage researchers documenting the development of the database and demonstrating data-driven methodologies for researching live performance.

Sex, gender and the industrial: Plays performed by Broken Hill Repertory Society, 1945-1969

Couch, Murray; Bollen, Jonathan, 'Sex, gender and the industrial: Plays performed by Broken Hill Repertory Society, 1945-1969', Australasian Drama Studies, No. 64, Jun 2014: 277-296

The Broken Hill Repertory Society (BHRS) was established in 1944. Sixty-two years earlier, in 1883, the ore body which provided the base for the silver, lead and zinc mining industry in western New South Wales was discovered. The municipality of Broken Hill was incorporated in 1888, and the city developed over the decades with a dense and locally specific political, industrial and cultural fabric. The establishment of BHRS added a new element to that fabric, at a time when the city was experiencing a period of renewed industrial and civic expansion after World War II. In the years 1945 to 1969, the BHRS performed 144 plays. Only two plays were performed twice: Private Lives (1946, 1955) and Outward Bound (1947, 1957). Broken Hill’s repertory, which had a continuous life through these years and beyond, performed mostly British plays, although during two discrete periods (1945-1954 and 1960-1968), a significant number of American plays were staged. Decisions of plays for performance were made in each year, from a pool which included the continuing output of Samuel French scripts, and plays being performed elsewhere in Australia by amateur and professional companies of which the BHRS had connection or knowledge. Curatorial decisions for what was, in most years, a six production season, were made from this knowledge, augmented by local experience: what kinds of plays had been popular in the past with actors and audience; what local resources of producers and actors could manage on the stage; and with an eye to maintaining and growing an audience. A considerable number of the plays performed sat in a chain of adaptation, linked to short stories, novels, and film.

From the silver lining to the roaring days!: Amateur theatre and social class in Broken Hill, 1940s-1960s

Bollen, Jonathan; Couch, Murray, 'From The Silver Lining to The Roaring Days!: Amateur theatre and social class in Broken Hill, 1940s-1960s', Australasian Drama Studies, 64, Jun 2014: 257-276

By the early 1960s, the Broken Hill Repertory Society came to be recognised - alongside the Barrier Industrial Unions' Band, the Philharmonic Society and the Quartette Club - as a pillar of the civic infrastructure, a testament to the vitality of the city's cultural life. Reporting on Broken Hill in 1963 for ABC Television's Four Corners, Frank Bennett profiled the recently constructed Repertory Playhouse as 'Broken Hill's biggest, best and newest cultural landmark' and acknowledged the financial support given by the mining companies, although his story was criticised by locals for not representing Broken Hill as a 'progressive' city and overlooking the range of cultural activities to be found there. With its repertoire of modern drama from London and New York, the Repertory's contributions to Broken Hill were accommodated within a broad mix of live entertainments, some imported, much locally produced, that sustained audiences into the 1960s. From data collated in AusStage on the Broken Hill Repertory Society, 841 people (444 men, 397 women) are credited for their contributions to productions between 1945 and 1969. Who were these people? What practical capacities did they bring to the Repertory? What social values did their productions express? Like amateur theatres elsewhere, the Broken Hill Repertory operated on voluntary labour, but the interests of its contributors were not purely amateur. Repertory activities intersected with the commercial interests of the town employers, the managerial interests of the mining companies, and the interests of those ‘self-employed’ in building local careers in dance, music, radio and theatre.

Mapping tangible and intangible cultural heritage: The Splinters archive project

Findlay, Gavin, 'Mapping tangible and intangible cultural heritage: The Splinters archive project', Australasian Drama Studies, 62, Jun 2013: 113-129.

For a few dazzling years in the early 1990s, many eyes in the Australian theatre world were turning to Canberra The centre of attention was a brash young company called Splinters, recommended to those of us then working at The Performance Space by the late Bruce Keller, who had been working in Canberra with theatre-in-education company Jigsaw. Splinters was arguably the most remarkable and influential, truly home-grown artistic venture that Canberra has produced It grew from the local (counter-) culture, and arose in and around the national government, the cultural institutions and the embassies of many nations that the city was designed to serve The company's meteoric rise to national prominence in the early 1990s has not, to date, been documented and shared with the community that nurtured it, and its astonishing works and techniques deserve to be made available for overdue critical analysis. [...] Making video of theatre performance and process has its limitations, but it is self- evidently still the most practical tool we have for documenting live performance, even if significant parts of the mainstream profession still have strong reservations about its use . The task is not made any easier by the lack of resources for video documentation and archival storage in Australian theatre, the morass that is Australian copyright legislation, or the lack of a national repository for theatre video . In the absence of political will and institutional resources to create one, this project will hopefully point the way to a solution based on the concept of a distributed national collection using digital storage resources being made available through the current digital humanities boom. Ideally, this will lead to a stronger alliance of institutions prepared to dedicate more resources to improving the state of theatre collections and how they are utilised . By using practical, open-source tools like OCCAMS in combination with the AusStage database, any theatre company will be able easily to store material online, index it and make it accessible.

Making maps 'speak': E-mapping performance on Western Australia's Coolgardie Goldfield, 1894-98

Dunstone, Bill; Grehan, Helena, 'Making maps 'speak': E-mapping performance on Western Australia's Coolgardie Goldfield, 1894-98', Australasian Drama Studies, 62, Jun 2013: 89-99.

On the 'calm moonlight night' of 17 March 1897, Italian-born 'barrowman' and diarist James Balzano joined some 300 fellow 'diggers' in a circle around a bonfire near Dick Egan's tent at Red Hill Camp, now Kambalda East, on Western Australia's Coolgardie Goldfield for a St Patrick's Day concert given by residents of the camp. Balzano records that he found the cobbled-together programme of songs, recitations, solo instrumentals, and a 'Step Dance on a meat box' to be 'very good indeed'. [...] This scratch entertainment at Red Hill is of interest as an experience of collective remembering and cultural colonisation among a temporary grouping of people on the move, most of them men. Such events were part of the process of inhabiting remote new goldfields locations in Western Australia that offered little or no built environment, civic infrastructure or cultural heritage to support settler performance, let alone the more basic requirements of life. [...] But if the occasion was one of remembering and community, it also registered a degree of cultural displacement and loss. The Red Hill entertainment can be understood in these ways as a double act of collective remembering and forgetting by culturally uprooted people looking for reassurance to a past now absent from their present, while anticipating the possibilities that had lured them to Red Hill in the first place. [...] Prompted by the doubleness of the Red Hill concert, the Western Australian Goldfields Live Performance Mapping Project, conducted by the authors at Murdoch University in 2010–11, set out to investigate the vigorous live performance culture then developing some fifty-five kilometres away at the equally new but thriving town of Coolgardie. The WA Goldfields Project was designed as part of a larger (Australian national) research project to explore the potential of the new AusStage Mapping Service for research into performance events. The AusStage Mapping Service enables researchers to search, display and visually analyse information about live performance on a map. The task was to build and visually analyse a dataset of live performance events at Coolgardie from 1894, when print records began, to 1898, cross-referenced against information published about them in the Coolgardie Miner newspaper.

University theatre, drama and the community

Dunstone, Bill; Pope, Joan, 'University theatre, drama and the community', In Seeking Wisdom: A Centenary History of the University of Western Australia, edited by Jenny Gregory, pages 287-305. Crawley WA : University of Western Australia Publishing, 2013.

University theatre performance is by nature a highly visible activity that has the capacity to attract audiences from many walks of life. For those immediately involved, the decision to rehearse and perform a play before an audience requires no further justification than the process itself. How have theatre performance and the study of drama helped to shape the University of Western Australia's evolving cultural identity within the state's educational, theatregoing and commercial theatre communities over the past century? This chapter examines UWA's role in theatre arts from its earliest pre-World War I days in Irwin Street, Perth - when WA's population was small and its theatrical resources were limited - through campus theatre after UWA was relocated to Crawley in 1930, to the impact of the 'new' theatre of the 1960s, and the proliferation of sectional groupings - such as Indigenous and ethnic theatre, circus, seniors' theatre, children's and youth theatre - during the 1980s and 1990s. The chapter details the actors, theatres, performances, plays, directors and production staff, playwrights, drama societies and clubs, academic developments in drama education, and the links with the broader arts community from UWA's earliest days to the present.

 

Letter to a dead playwright: Daily Grind, Vicki Reynolds, and archive fever

D'Cruz, Glenn, 'Letter to a dead playwright: Daily Grind, Vicki Reynolds, and archive fever', New Theatre Quarterly, 28, 2, 122-132, 2012.

’Nothing is less reliable, nothing is less clear today than the word “archive”,’ observed Jacques Derrida in his book Archive Fever: a Freudian Impression (1996). This paper reflects on the unsettling process of establishing (or commencing) an archive for the Melbourne Workers Theatre, to form part of the AusStage digital archive which records information on live performance in Australia. Glenn D'Cruz's paper juxtaposes two disparate but connected registers of writing: an open letter to a deceased Australian playwright, Vicki Reynolds, and a critical reflection on the politics of the archive with reference to Derrida's account of archive fever, which he characterizes as an ‘irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement’. Using Derrida's commentary on questions of memory, authority, inscription, hauntology, and heritage to identify some of the philosophical and ethical aporias he encountered while working on the project, D’Cruz pays particular attention to what Derrida calls the spectral structure of the archive, and stages a conversation with the ghosts that haunt the digitized Melbourne Workers Theatre documents. He also unpacks the logic of Derrida's so-called messianic account of the archive, which ‘opens out of the future’, thereby affirming the future-to-come, and unsettling the normative notion of the archive as a repository for what has passed.

Scrapbooks, Snapshots and Memorabilia: Hidden Archives of Performance

McGillivray, Glen (ed.), Scrapbooks, Snapshots and Memorabilia: Hidden Archives of Performance, Bern: Peter Lang, 2011.

Scrapbooks, Snapshots and Memorabilia: Hidden Archives of Performance asks the questions: What constitutes an archive? What is worthy of being archived? And who decides? Performances are ephemeral, so archival questions of selection and appraisal determine which performances will be remembered by history and which will not.The essays in this collection each explore a different facet of the ephemerality of performance, and the traces it leaves behind: from photographic stills of actors or sets; draft scripts and production notes, theatre programs and reviews; the language used to evoke the experience of watching a dance; to the memories contained within a site which has been used for a site-specific performance. Contents: Glen McGillivray: Forward: A brief note on AusStage – Glen McGillivray: The performance archive: Detritus or historical record? – Maryrose Casey: Tales still to be told: Indigenous Australian theatre practice and the archive – Tom Burvill/Mark Seton: The ‘not-yet archive’ of Sidetrack Performance Group – Gillian Arrighi/David Watt: (Re)Constructing the archive: A regional perspective on performance histories – John Bennett: More is less: Public profile and academic representation in contemporary British theatre – Catherine Haill: Accidents of survival: Finding a place in the V&A’s theatre and performance archives – Amanda Card: Feeling for dancing hidden in the archives of the dead – Matthew Reason/Jules Dorey Richmond/Victoria Gray/Nathan Walker: Performance, documentation and the archive within the institution – Glen McGillivray: Still. Not seen: Photography and the archive under the bed – Kim Durban: Buried treasure: The lidded box and its function – Lisa Warrington: Performance as palimpsest: Leaving a trace memory in site-specific performance – Eileen Curley: Recording forbidden careers: Nineteenth-century amateur theatricals.

Hello World!: Promoting the Arts on the Web

Reid, Robert. Hello World!: Promoting the Arts on the Web, Platform Papers, No. 27, Apr 2011, Sydney: Currency House.

The benefits and advantages offered by developments in online-communications technology and the social media such as Internet-based applications that facilitate inclusive social practices such as conversation, group creativity, collaboration and participation in promoting the Arts are discussed. The information environment shared by the performing arts community in Australia is still open to adaptation and re-inscription and must move forward.

Cartographic Revelations in the World of Theatre Studies

Bollen, Jonathan and Julie Holledge, 'Cartographic Revelations in the World of Theatre Studies', The Cartographic Journal, 48, 4, November 2011, 226-236

Et dukkehjem (A Doll’s House) by Henrik Ibsen is one of the most performed modern dramas in the world. Using cartographic and network visualisations, this article divulges a hitherto obscured Nordic history of this play: first, as a product of the cultural and aesthetic blending in the late nineteenth century; then as an icon of nation building in the post- war years; and finally, as a global icon for the Norwegian nation state. While charting this affair between Norway and one of its national cultural treasures, this article also exposes the transmission of an aesthetic heritage. Network visualisations of the Nordic productions of Et dukkehjem reveal an unbroken connection between productions of the play from 1879 to 1991. Oral transmission of production knowledge concerning canonical texts is commonplace in most national theatres, but this is the first study to document the phenomenon within the interpretative history of a single play. By applying time-geography to the production history of a ubiquitous dramatic text, ‘Hidden Dramas’ demonstrates the value of cartographic investigations to the field of theatre historiography.

Access to digitized performance documentation and the AusStage database

Seton, Mark and Tom Burvill, 'Access to digitized performance documentation and the AusStage database', Studies in Theatre and Performance, 30, 3, Nov 2010, 305-321

The digitization of video documentation and other production documentation (photographic images, scripts, programmes, reviews, stage designs and audio recordings) of live performances can be accessed across the world through the Internet. At the same time, protocols requisite for the effective flow of data constrain how digitized artefacts of an innately ephemeral process are "packaged" and linked for appropriate accessibility. Ironically, the digitization of such ephemera by no means guarantees their permanence as digital formats and modes of storage and retrieval are constantly vulnerable to changing industry standards and competitive commercial interests. Burvill and Seton track their experiences and reflections in pursuing the process of preparing an existing physical archive of an Australian, nationally regarded, community theatre company Sidetrack Performance Group (formerly Sidetrack Theatre Company, http://www.sidetrack.com.au) for digitization and archiving into a university E-Repository. This archive is linked to the AusStage database providing an accessible research facility for investigating live performances and, simultaneously, informing histories of theatre and performance in Australia. The dynamic of enabling and constraining, at the same time, is highlighted as guidelines are formulated for the digitization, archiving and linking of performance assets so that the values of respect, integrity, justice and beneficence are applied to all stakeholders in the process. Note: This article refers to records in ResearchOnline included in the Sidetrack Theatre Collection.

AusStage: From Database of Performing Arts to a Performing Database of the Arts

Tompkins, Joanne, Helena Grehan and Neal Harvey, 'AusStage: From Database of Performing Arts to a Performing Database of the Arts', in Resourceful Reading: The New Empiricism, eResearch and Australian Literary Culture, Sydney University Press, Sydney, NSW, 2009, 325-333.

AusStage, the database of Australian performing arts events, has in 2008 seen the beginning of a new phase of development: the integration of external critical resources and databases with event-related data. This paper offers a case study report of the past eighteen months' work by one component of the AusStage team. Via a live Internet connection, this presentation will reveal the new functionality of the AusStage database and discuss the proposed direction that the project will take from this point. AusStage, a freely-accessible national database of Australian performing arts built by a consortium of universities and industry partners, now contains database records on over 47,000 performing arts events, their associated venues along with the organisations and professionals involved. While the long-term goal to index and audit Australia's performing arts history continues, AusStage has now begun to implement the technology that will enable it to create and sustain links with other digital repositories. The first step of this process is to begin associating the data contained in AusStage with presently existing critical resources. The proof-of-concept work for this part of the project was undertaken in three different strands: associating critical literature in the form of books; Australasian Drama Studies articles and RealTime articles. This paper discusses the process of associating each of these different types of resources with existing digital resources to argue that the usefulness of repositories like AusStage can only benefit from increasing accessibility and connectivity with other digital collections and discourses.

AusStage: e-Research in the Performing Arts

Bollen, Jonathan, Neal Harvey, Julie Holledge and Glen McGillivray, 'AusStage: e-Research in the Performing Arts', Australasian Drama Studies, 54, Apr 2009, 178-194

Over the last eight years scholars across Australia have been working to develop an innovative eResearch facility for the performing arts. Now in its third phase of development, AusStage brings together a diverse range of partners including university researchers, industry organisations, government agencies and postgraduate students by providing network infrastructure for storing and exchanging research information. At its core is the AusStage database of the Australian performing arts, which is freely accessible at http://www.ausstage.edu.au. This article reports on a panel session at the eResearch Australasia 2008 conference in Melbourne. It summarises the development of AusStage and explores new eResearch methodologies and their application to performing arts research through three case studies in the areas of time mapping, network visualisation and blogging. To establish the context for this work, we first review the history of the AusStage project, describing the development of the database and its design.

An Enduring Presence: Special Collections of the Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide

Hoskin, Cheryl, 'An Enduring Presence: Special Collections of the Barr Smith Library at the University of Adelaide', The Australian Library Journal, Vol. 58, No. 2, May 2009: 160-172

This paper is a practical and personal perspective on the challenges faced by special collections in an increasingly digital environment, and the strategies employed to promote their unique resources to the academic and wider communities, including the value of promoting heritage through reconstructing collections and the place of expertise in the provision of a high level of service to users. Special collections within research institutions provide enduring value.

Lighthouse: A 'Mainstage' Ensemble Experience

Milne, Geoffrey, 'Lighthouse: A 'Mainstage' Ensemble Experience', Australasian Drama Studies, 53, Oct 2008: 42-57

One of the most desirable attributes of a theatre company has often been an ensemble of actors – or a company of artists, if we include directors, designers and writers. One of the benefits of a permanent or semi-permanent ensemble is that artists who work together over a prolonged period, in works of different styles, can build a degree of individual versatility and develop a kind of ‘chemistry’ between them that enriches the company’s work and is endearing to audiences. [...] However, for subsidised mainstage drama companies in Australia, the desire to maintain permanent companies of actors has mostly long since dissipated. [...] In fact, most Australian state companies during the forty years post-subsidy have employed permanent infrastructural and support staff – administrative, finance, publicity and fund-raising officers as well as artistic directors, designers and the like – and engaged actors only on a show-by-show basis. Nonetheless, some have periodically entertained the idea of developing and maintaining some sort of ensemble. This article focuses on one of them and its attempts to realise a particular kind of ensemble, and how it seeded a number of later relationships of significance.

AusStage: Recording Australian Performing Arts Events

Stone, Richard. 'AusStage: Recording Australian Performing Arts Events', National Library of Australia News, 14, 4, January 2004, 5-7.

Richard Stone describes how the online index to Australia's performing arts history is helping to preserve a snapshot of society that would otherwise be lost forever.

Stages of managing: developments in performing arts resources in Australia and New Zealand

Stone, Richard. 'Stages of managing: developments in performing arts resources in Australia and New Zealand', ARLIS/ANZ Journal 53, July 2002: 21-30.

The inclusion of a paper on perfonning arts resources at the 2002 ARUS/ANZ conference in Auckland continued a tradition of contact between the performing arts resources sector and art librarians. Presentations on the performing arts were given at previous ARLIS/ANZ meetings in Australia. However, the preparation of this paper has been a revealing exercise to see just how much has happened in the performing arts resources field in the last ten years or so.

The computerised gaze and the performing arts

Hartog, Joh. 'The computerised gaze and the performing arts', Australasian Drama Studies, 32, Apr 1998: 109-130.

Since late 1991 we have been engaged upon developing an electronic database to store data relating to events presented by the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust (AFCT). The AFCT is the primary performing arts organisation in South Australia. The database - commonly referred to as TED (The Event Database) - was conceived as a systematic way to evaluate cultural aspects of the performing arts, based on the rationale that if the financial outcomes of cultural institutions are audited, so should their cultural outcomes. This article describes some of the fundamental goals of this research project which inform the structure of the database and highlights some results that may illuminate the usefulness of this tool for the performing arts industry.