AusStage Symposium 2011

The 2011 AusStage Symposium is for artists, scholars and students researching live performance in Australia. The symposium aims to demonstrate how we are using AusStage in research and foster new ideas for future development.

Artists, scholars and students researching live performance in Australia are invited to attend the AusStage Symposium. The symposium will be held in Melbourne, at the Deakin City Campus, over two days in September. 

Thu 29 September 2011 - Open Day - 11:00am - 5:00pm

The open day features presentations, demonstrations and work-in-progress from people using AusStage for research. Attendance on this day is open to the public. Presentations include:

Fri 30 September 2011 - Planning Day - 9:00am - 3:00pm

Discussion at the planning day will shape directions for AusStage in the future and develop plans for the next round of funding. This is an in-house round-table meeting for AusStage partners and associates. Future partners are welcome to attend by invitation.


Register your interest in attending the AusStage Symposium by contacting Jenny Fewster by email or telephone 08 8201 5654. Attendance at the symposium is free, but registration is required by Wednesday 21 September 2011.


Bill Dunstone (Murdoch) e-Maps, archival research, and the societal relations of live performance

Cartographer J. B. Harley asks: 'How can we make maps "speak" to us about the social world of the past?' The study of maps and the study of live performances intersect where each visualises and spatialises conditions of production and consumption, perceptions of those processes, and transactions of power within them in a socially constructed world. With Harley's question in mind, this paper asks how archival research into the societal relations of live performance events might be visualised to add value to the next phase of the AusStage Mapping and Networks Services. The WA Goldfields project (which at this stage maps live performance events at Coolgardie from 1892 to 1899) is one of several AusStage datasets that lend themselves to visualisation of the societal production and consumption of live events, and the transactions of power that traversed them during the formative years of a colonial Australian community. The mapping of archival information about Goldfields performances that, for example, responded to local disasters, supported local institutions and sporting organisations, or were dedicated to (or presented by) national and ethnic groups, could enhance analysis of live performance as an agent for societal inclusion, exclusion, and spectatorial surveillance. Mapping of support for performances on the part of regional commerce and industry, press, and transport and communications infrastructure could similarly enhance our understanding of the economic embedment of performance within a local community—and beyond it. The technical challenges of storing, managing, retrieving, and visualising performance-related archival material are matters for further discussion.

Dr Bill Dunstone works as a Research Assistant with Dr Helena Grehan on the Mapping and Audience Response projects at Murdoch University. Bill has taught at universities in Western Australia and Singapore, and has performed and directed in Perth and South-East Asia. His publications include chapters and journal articles on Australian live performance history; his current research interrelates live performance with collective remembering in WA settler society.

Paul Makham and Joon Kwok (QUT) Mapping Queensland Theatre

This presentation continues Makeham and Kwok's research in using Aus-e-stage technology to develop maps of Queensland's theatre sector. It introduces concepts relating to the emergence of the ecological metaphor and its adaptation to the arts. The presentation highlights recent trends in sector (ecosystem) mapping, and includes a demonstration of Aus-e-stage mapping and network technologies, with a particular focus on independent theatre in Queensland.

Professor Paul Makeham is a Head of School in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology. He has been QUT's representative on the AusStage project for eight years, focussing particularly on regional theatre activity and mapping. He is Chair of the Board of La Boite Theatre; and a former President of ADSA, the Australasian Association for Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies.

Joon Kwok is a researcher in the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT. She recently completed an evaluation of the SPARK National Young Artist Mentoring Program in fulfilment of a Master of Arts (Research). She also teaches into QUT's Master of Creative Industries program in the area of Creative Production and Arts Management.

Rosemary Farrell and Peta Tait (La Trobe) Producing Family Business: Edgley International

'Producing Family Business: Edgley International' identifies and discusses the role of women in the Edgley family business. Edgely International is famous for touring the Great Moscow Circus in Australasia from the 1960s. It began as a small family firm of performers creating work opportunities for themselves in the theatre in England and then Australasia from the 1920s. The history of the Edgley family business is indicative of an Australian circus family business. It has parallels with Ashton's, Wirth's, and Fitzgerald's circuses that were actor/performer manager business models. Similarly family businesses involved both the men and the women; blurred the public private division of work and home; and it could be said owes its longevity to the continual support from 'Ma White' and 'Mrs E', the mothers and female spouses of the family over two generations. Michael Edgley retired in 2007, this is the story of where his family's international business began and the presence of matriarchal figures in its success. The AusStage data base lists almost three hundred shows directly connected to the Edgley family business since 1920.

Dr Rosemary Farrell is a freelance researcher, lecturer and academic. She has several articles published in national and international journals on Chinese acrobatics and Australian circus.

Professor Peta Tait is Chair in Theatre and Drama at La Trobe University, and publishes on the practice and theory of theatre, drama, circus performance and gender identity and social languages of emotion. She is a playwright and her most recent books are Circus Bodies: Cultural Identity in Aerial Performance (Routledge 2005) and Wild and Dangerous Performances: Animals, Emotions, Circus (Forthcoming Palgrave Macmillan).

Kim Baston (RMIT University / La Trobe) and David Carlin (RMIT University) Using the SAMMA system to digitize performance collections: The AusStage Mobile Digitization Lab

Theatre companies, large and small, have extensive video and film documentation of their activities, but are now facing the problem of the preservation of such materials, as it becomes increasingly difficult to source the playback engines for obsolete tape formats, and the tape materials themselves demonstrate ongoing deterioration. The SAMMA system, developed by Front Porch Digital, is designed to provide migration of film and videotape content to multiple digital file formats in a single operation, producing, from one real-time pass, files ranging from the lossless recommended archive quality JPEG 2000 files, to files suitable for internet streaming. In conjunction with AusStage, two of these systems have been purchased by a consortium of six Australian universities, providing a mobile digitization unit, in which this process can be carried out at the physical location of an archive. Three digitization projects have recently been completed using the mobile lab: The Circus Oz Living Archive (Circus Oz/ RMIT); The Michael Edgley Archive (La Trobe University) and Melbourne Worker's Theatre (Deakin University). This paper will provide a report on the practical requirements for undertaking projects of this nature, and a consideration of the challenges and opportunities that arose during the course of the process.

Kim Baston completed her doctorate on the function of music in theatre and circus at La Trobe University. She currently works as a researcher at RMIT on the Circus Oz Living Archive, and is a lecturer in circus history and culture at the National Institute of Circus Arts. She also works as a musician, performer and theatre director.

David Carlin is a writer, director and Program Director of Media within the RMIT School of Media and Communication. David's research interests include nonfiction writing, intersections of memory studies with film documentary and drama practice, digital archiving, cross-platform production, and trauma theory. David's documentaries, short films and plays have been performed/screened internationally. His first book of creative non-fiction, Our father who wasn't there, is published by Scribe in February 2010, and available on David is Lead Chief Investigator on the ARC Linkage project (2010-13), The Circus Oz Living Archive: developing a model of online digital engagement for the
performing arts (

Glen McGillivray and Chris Hay (UWS) Picturing Success: Imaging Collaborative Networks Amongst NIDA Directing Graduates

In this presentation we intend to model several graphic examples of collaborative networks amongst a selection of NIDA directing graduates listed in Ausstage. We have selected in our sample, graduates who have produced work in the last five years which includes directors who are recent graduates through to someone who graduated thirty years ago. One of the key drivers of our networks research has been the question: 'Who works with whom?' Anecdotally we know that who artists train, research and work with is key to understanding what kind of artists they are and the kind of work that they make. These networks are also important in determining the potential sustainability of professional careers. Using the NIDA sample, we have been interested to explore the networks directors establish through their work that enable them to work more; in theory, directors with large and complex networks should be the ones who have managed to build sustainable careers. Through the networks visualisation technology we have been developing it is now possible for us to take data in Ausstage and turn it into graphs of collaborative networks therefore enabling us to picture directors' networks.

Glen McGillivray lectures in the Department of Performance Studies at the University of Sydney and in the School of Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney. He is currently writing a book on the cultural transformation of the theatrical metaphor from the 16th to the 21st Century, tentatively entitled: The Idea of Theatre: From Shakespeare to Facebook. Recent publications include 'The Picturesque World Stage' in Performance Research (2008), 'The Discursive Formation of Theatricality as a Critical Concept' in (2009) and 'King/Cate: Stardom, Aura, and the Stage Figure in the Sydney Theatre Company's Production of Richard II' in TDR. His edited collection, Scrapbooks, Snapshots and Memorabilia: Hidden Archives of Performance, was published this year by Peter Lang.

Christopher Hay is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, and a casual tutor at that University as well as in the Directing program at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). His research is investigating the educational sociology of director training in Australia, and the impact of this evolving model of training on the field. 

Corinna Di Niro (UniSA) The starting point - Commedia dell'Arte meets AusStage

This paper seeks to explore the future benefits of AusStage from the perspective of a PhD candidate in their early stages. What is AusStage and how can it benefit my research in the Commedia dell'Arte? This question will be addressed through investigating the strengths and weaknesses of AusStage for an art form considered somewhat obscure in the Australian context. My postgraduate research is heavily embedded in the education and practice of the Commedia dell'Arte in Australia with a particular focus in South Australia. To fully understand this, I am attempting to create a time line of events that tracks the original Commedia dell'Arte and its influences and spin-offs over 400 years, how it came that the Commedia dell'Arte arrived on Australian shores, and in what form. From there, the subsequent Australian influence on the art form and reinterpretation of the authentic form will be researched. This will flow into how, why and when the Commedia dell'Arte appeared in the Australian school curriculum and will take a closer look at the level of Commedia dell'Arte taught today. AusStage's event mapping and archiving program shows potential to assist in the compiling of such a long and dense time line; noting though that most of the information on Commedia dell'Arte is currently foreign to AusStage and will need to be traced, recorded and categorised. However, once imputed, it will highlight performance histories and international links, leaving a legacy of documentation for the benefit of other researchers.

Corinna Di Niro is a PhD Candidate at the University of South Australia researching Commedia dell'Arte within pedagogy and performance. Having trained with maestro Antonio Fava in Italy in 2004 and continuing on as an Artist in many schools, Corinna has performed and taught this art form across Australia and in other parts of the world. Corinna has been a guest speaker for a number of local and national conferences including Re-Imagining the Italian Language 2011, VI Convegno Nazionale delle Società Dante Alighieri 2010, X Settimana di Lingua 2010 and the Inaugural Commedia dell'Arte Festival with Antonio Fava in Brisbane 2010.

Maryrose Casey (Monash University) BlakStages: A Resource for practitioners, students and researchers

More and more institutions and libraries across the country are digitalizing their collections. However in order to access material researchers and interested community members are limited by access to collections and the capacities of search engines. The aim of this project, in collaboration with collection holders, is to create a user friendly end system that identifies and provides links to relevant digital material in multiple collections as well as collecting and digitalising material that is currently outside library collections. Following such projects as the National Library Wiki development, the aim is to develop agreements and protocols to harvest data from digitalized collections. The initial pilot project BlakStages aims to provide information about productions, published and unpublished performance texts, articles, reviews and performance reviews related to Indigenous Australian performances. The information base will cover a diverse range of performance texts from the earliest documented performances to the current broad range of performances. BlakStages is a work in progress towards creating an interactive openly accessible digitalised archive of information and resources about Indigenous Australian Theatre and Performance. Currently the work in progress consists of an extensive chronology of Indigenous Australian theatre productions performed publicly since the 1940s, a list of nearly 300 productions including details such as creative personnel etc. In addition there is an extended bibliography of text and audiovisual works about or by Indigenous performance and practitioners and a list of useful sites for further information. Based on a chronological series of entries the aim is to create a site where a researcher can look up a show and within a cultural permission protocol find links to programs, scripts, photos, reviews and any other digitalized material held in collections across Australia as well as digitalized items held in private collections.

Maryrose Casey is Director of the Performance Research Unit in the Centre for Theatre and Performance at Monash University. Her major publications include Creating Frames; Contemporary Indigenous Theatre (UQP 2004), Transnational Whiteness Matters (Rowan Littlefield 2008) co-edited with Aileen Moreton-Robinson and Fiona Nicoll and Telling Stories Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre Practices (2011 ASP).

Glenn D'Cruz (Deakin) Letter to a Dead Playwright: Daily Grind, Vicki Reynolds and Archive Fever, part 2

'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) the Melbourne Workers Theatre archive, which is part of the ARC funded AusStage project. It does so with reference to Derrida's account of archive fever, which he characterises as an 'irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement' (91). In short, the paper uses Derrida's commentary on questions of memory, authority, inscription, hauntology and heritage to identify some of the philosophical and ethical aporias I have enountered while working on the AusStage project. The paper pays particular attention to what Derrida calls the spectral structure of the archive, and stages a conversation with the ghosts that haunt the digitised Melbourne Workers Theatre documents. It 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.

Glenn D'Cruz teaches Drama, Media and Communication studies at Deakin University. He is the author of Midnight's Orphans: Anglo-Indians in Post/Colonial Literature (Peter Lang, 2007) and editor of Class Act: Melbourne Workers Theatre 1987-2007 (Vulgar Press, 2008).

Jonathan Bollen and Jenny Fewster (Flinders) AusStage by numbers: visualising the dataset

Researchers working with AusStage have been collecting and curating information on live performance in Australia for over ten years. The resulting dataset is unprecedented, both in scale and scope. By sharing this knowledge through AusStage, we now know more about live performance in Australia than we ever have known before. But how can we make sense of so much information?Visualisation affords new ways of comprehending large datasets. Zooming out from the detail of individual records entails a degree of abstraction. But what we gain is the capacity to observe large-scale patterns which are less visible at close range. As literary historian Franco Moretti puts it in Graphs, Maps and Trees, when we visualise data there are 'fewer elements' in view and 'hence a sharper sense of their overall interconnection' (2005: 1). This illustrated paper presents a series of visualisations from the AusStage dataset. It aims to reveal aspects of the dataset not previously apparent and to provoke discussion about data curation and research directions.

Jonathan Bollen is Senior Lecturer in Drama at Flinders University, Australia. He coordinates research for the AusStage project and teaches theatre history, performance theory and Australian drama. He co-wrote Men at Play: Masculinities in Australian Theatre since the 1950s (Rodopi 2008) with Adrian Kiernander and Bruce Parr. His recent research on popular entertainment in mid-twentieth century Australia has been published in the Journal of Australian Studies and Media International Australia.

Jenny Fewster joined AusStage at Flinders University when the project began in 2000 and was appointed Project Manager in 2003. During her time with AusStage the project has been successful in gaining over $3 million in funding from the ARC, ANDS, NeAT, eRSA and the AAF.