Tag Archives: arts

Silence is Violence

22 Nov

One of the things I do with my time is to work with prisoners on performing Shakespeare. In the project I direct, this leads up to the prisoners at Southern Queensland Correctional Centre performing a Shakespeare play for audiences of other inmates, families, staff and invited guests from the community. At the moment I’m travelling in the United States and Italy, exploring and working with a few similar projects. I spent a month in Michigan working with Shakespeare Behind Bars on both an adult men’s and a juveniles’ (mixed) project led by Curt Tofteland (his TEDx talk is here). After that, I took part in the first Shakespeare in Prisons Conference at the University of Notre Dame. For the last handful of days I’ve been in Kentucky with the original Shakespeare Behind Bars project that Tofteland founded, now run by Matt Wallace.

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As a result of this, I have made valuable connections with many other Prison Shakespeare practitioners, as this can be fairly isolated work. The QSE project is the only Prison Shakespeare project in Australia, and one of only two in the southern hemisphere (the other being by the Independent Theatre Movement of South Africa). I’ve been steeped in the practice and philosophies of this kind of work (and pretty much nothing else except beer and bourbon) for the last five weeks.

I’m not going to write about the details of the process night about the benefits and challenges. You can read all about that in the final chapter of Teaching Shakespeare Beyond the Centre. Instead I want to explore here why arts work of any kind is important for marginalised populations. This is basically the written version of a short talk I gave at Women in Transition‘s open mike poetry night,  ‘Silence is Violence‘ held at the Rudyard Kipling bar in Louisville on November 21, 2013.

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“Tough on Crime” works, just like the Sun goes around the Earth

22 Oct

Whenever I hear the phrase “name and shame” these days I get furious. Seriously punch-the-person-in-the-mouth furious. I have never punched anyone, yet, but the current Premier and Attorney General of Queensland are testing the limits of my pacifism. I guess that proves my point that getting tough on crime just produces more crime. Before you talk this kind of shit, spend some time studying the psychology of shame and/or the causes of crime.

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The logic behind boot camps for young offenders, naming and shaming kids as young as ten, and the whole ‘tough on crime’ movement is about as sound as the logic that says the sun goes around the earth. It’s a populist argument based on superficial and simplistic reasoning rather than careful and detailed observation. Such claims are invariably made by people who have never picked up a single research paper on what causes crime, particularly violent crime, and what sorts of measures have been shown to be effective. I don’t propose to go into that research here, it’s very easy to get a hold of (ask Uncle Google) if you’re interested. The sad thing is that most people, and especially the current Queensland government, don’t want to know – they want to promulgate simplistic and inaccurate ideas. What I want to do in this post is actually talk about some first-hand experiences of the changes the new government has made, and connect a few hitherto unconnected dots. But I will make the following quick summary of what the research tells us:

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An ‘Industry’ by Any Other Name (would still smell).

17 Mar

The current word of choice among those making theatre, for the theatre workplace, is definitely industry. It has become the default – so widely accepted that young students and not-so-young practitioners just refer to it as ‘the industry,’ dropping any reference to theatre, acting or even performance. In this post, I want to ask what unspoken assumptions go with that word, industry, and what the alternatives might imply.

I’ll admit it up front, I’ve never been a fan of the term industry since the Queensland University of Technology dropped the term art(s) in exchange for Creative Industries. Ultimately, you can of course call it what you want, but I think it’s prudent to be aware that what you call it affects how you perceive it, and how others perceive it, and legitimises a particular view of how theatre does and ought to work.

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