Monthly Archives: July 2010


This blog introduces my emerging performance studies theory of Adaptivism; which fosters an ability to respond to life challenges with a fully resourced capacity for creative response; for generating alternatives, solutions, innovations, for taking initiative.  The Theatre of Social Change is a non-critical performing space in which Adaptivism is developed. Working outside; away from the proscenium of aesthetic theatre, we gather in parks, houses, TV studios, offices, on the road, at supermarkets and train stations, actualising an unorthodox, unfunded, inclusive, ethical canvas for dreaming, for thinking and crafting bold gestures of social change.

Adaptivism invites collaboration; stimulating creative practice and collaborative discourse in a world of adversity and opportunity.  The projects aim to engage young adults at the pivotal threshold of the profoundly important stage of initiation into adulthood. Performative objectives seek to develop methods and practices that encourage free thinking and enable confident expressions of selfhood within a creative landscape.

Many of the short performance works on this site have been collaborated, filmed performance projects produced by Teone Reinthal and include a number of talented first year university students of the Introduction to Social Enterprise Course at Griffith University (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014).

Although the course is not a performative subject, I have urged it to become so, with the enthusiastic support of my convenor, Dr Susanna Chamberlain and the unbounded, inspiring courage and talents of my curious and unlimited students.

The blog contains activism links, a small selection of my community films, previous projects relevant to the topic of social enterprise, class power-points and a collection of writings, (some of my own, and some lucid, inspirational works of others). My writing on the blog reflects on past and present community-based arts projects, and seeks to define why and how I teach, offering insight into the motivating forces behind my work, and how I strive to encourage others towards accessing and mobilising their own creative abilities. 


What happens when we allow American culture to overwhelm Australian culture? What can we do to stimulate healthier experiences and excitement in our young people, as alternatives to self-harming and community-harming ways? What social consequences exist for families and communities when substance abuse occurs? What additional support do communities need to help prevent and heal these issues?

How do creative expressions benefit communities?

In 2008 Logan Beaudesert Health Coalition (Queensland Health) commissioned me to provide media training in creative performance and technical facility for Indigenous youth within Beaudesert community. The training project sought to raise stories derived from community consulted dialogues about youth health issues (substance abuse, under-age joy-riding etc).

The project, originally planned as a short-term (6 week) visual arts intervention engagement has since gathered momentum, having now spanned twelve months, and continues to expand. A range of emerging works have been developed to culminate in several outcomes – Rain Painting, a short narrative drama, an exhibition of production stills by Steve Reinthal, KTC (1 & 2), documentaries that make comment on the tough issues of chroming and community-driven response to healing these problems.

For me, as a visual artist,  this Indigenous-specific creative partnership consolidates several years of rewarding professional engagement resulting from an immersion in Queensland Indigenous community arts projects. My projects draw broadly from these fruitful relationships, and examine opportunities for traditional and contemporary culture to support social development through assisted forms of creative expression. Permission has been granted from the Mununjali community and from Queensland Health to utilise the field research in the theoretical reporting, and for these findings to be incorporated into academic documentation which will be given back to the communities for reflection and archiving.

“I want to be clear in my project’s intentions that I am creating an artist’s dialogue that is in no way attempting to rehabilitate or superimpose external values about people’s choices.  It simply serves to open creative platforms for discussion, and stimulate potentially healthier pathways for self-development. The process offers rich learning outcomes about social and personal consequences of substance misuse.”


A really great discussion written by Mike Miller….

“The purpose of drama is not to define thought but to provoke it”

Terence Smith

Mike Miller – Teaching Skills for Actors – September 2002

My first instinct was to respond to this statement as though it addressed the purpose of theatre and to recall the myriad of theatrical projects that have attempted to impact on more than an audience’s thought processes — the labour-enhancing biomechanics of the Soviets, the problem-solving forums of Boal, the community-enhancing dynamics of 7:84 or Welfare State, theatre for development in Asia and Africa, the theatre-as-organ-of-mass-communication in the living newspapers of the Blue Blouse agit-prop performances, or the nation-building celebrations of all kinds of mass spectacles. This, though, would be to evade the object of a response, which I understood to be to consider how theatre impacts on our thought-processes. So I recalled Artaud’s similar-sounding musings in “Oriental and Occidental Theater,” in which he wonders whether the visual, aural and somatogenetic “language” of the mise en scène “can claim the same intellectual efficacy as the spoken language . . . whether it has the power not to define thoughts but to cause thinking.” Following this train of thought through, I wanted to argue that the “definition” of thought that occurs within a work of art is fundamentally different from that which conceptual thinking achieves. The philosopher Theodore Adorno suggests that “[a]esthetic identity . . . assist[s] the non-identical in its struggle against the repressive identification compulsion that rules the outside world.” This means that the “thought” contained within a work of art is of a different kind to the conceptualisations that our reflection on that work may provoke. In defining one kind of thought, theatre may provoke another. Though this is all well and good, it fails to contact my own needs at present, which are not so much concerned with thinking through how theatre works and of what its value might consist, but more to do with how I understand the purpose of teaching others about theatre. Within a critical context, the distinction between drama and theatre is delineated along the lines of the written text on the one hand and performance on the other. Within a pedagogical context, however, “drama” has come to mean the kind of self-expressive and inter-personal, explorative processes of which British compulsory education of the subject largely consists, while “theatre” refers to the study of plays and theatrical technique. It is in this latter sense of the term “drama” that I would like to respond to the statement.

Is it possible to provoke thought without defining it? Such an enterprise would seem to assume that students’ experience of drama and of cultural activity at large prior to undertaking a course of study provides a sufficient framework within which they may contextualise discoveries made during a class. I hear in this an implied desire to avoid imposing limitations–formed through an exposure to definitions that provide a vocabulary for understanding drama, theatre and performance–on the students’ spontaneous, lateral creativity. Perhaps we might detect here the legacy of the attitudes of certain twentieth-century experimental artistic endeavours, in which innovation ‘from scratch’ was valorised over a dialogue with traditional forms of dramatic activity and critical conceptualisation. Of course, in our present context, these attitudes and endeavours themselves are part of the latter. The framework of understanding with which a student begins a course of study, however, is likely to be derived largely from their experience of the mass-media and the predominance of forms of drama utilised by Hollywood cinema and, to a lesser extent, the commercial theatre. I’d suggest that such a framework is likely, therefore, to be stereotypically conventional and packed full of unexamined artistic, cultural and ideological assumptions. While we would undoubtedly wish to provoke students’ thought into considering areas of aesthetic experience outside of this kind of conventional framework, in the absence of a shared, defined vocabulary for contextualising such discoveries, they may have difficulty relating their new-found experience within the workshop to that which they will encounter outside of its walls. I believe that this is particularly true for those students who intend to work within the theatre professionally. It can be difficult to see the relevance of the vast majority of the most interesting and unconventional work encountered within a drama school or university department on leaving it and finding oneself participating in commercial theatre and television. As in the pictures of Gestalt psychology, the figure of an innovative artistic form or process requires the ground of a defined field from which it may emerge (and this is true for the less-than-innovative ones as well). Without this, there is a danger that the discoveries remain isolated dots in a chaotic swirl of unconnected and irrelevant experience.

One way of describing my response, then, would be to say that I would want to insist on a more dialectical understanding of the relationship between defining thought and provoking it — that is, that the terms of the statement’s opposition are implicated within one another without being identical. Marx says somewhere in his Grundrisse (though I can’t find the quote off-hand) something to the effect that one has to draw a line in order to cross it. Providing students with definitions of thought about drama may be a means to the end of provoking it and, conversely, provoking student’s thought should be a means to the end of their arriving at their own definitions and understanding of drama. Edward de Bono, whose work is paradigmatic of a creative approach to thinking, insists that in order to generate thought, we need to direct it in certain ways; one way of doing this, he suggests, is through the adoption of strictly-defined “thinking hats” in a spirit of role-playing. I do not mean to suggest that the purpose of teaching drama should be the communication of a pre-established datum of critical terms. It’s more like that which Brecht describes as the “not … but” element in the actor’s work, where one establishes what something is in relation to and by means of establishing what it is not; or better perhaps is thinking about what is known more generally in actor training as “decidedness”: defining an action does not preclude creative, lateral choices — rather, it is their essential foundation. Without decidedness, an actor’s performance remains disparate and vague.

The resolution of such a dialectic turns on the issue of empowerment within our pedagogical approach. It is entirely possible that defining a field of possibility might limit students’ responses to remaining within the confines of that field — it all depends on the attitude towards the field with which a student is invited to approach it. Again, I think of the dramaturgical technique of Brecht: presenting an action in such a way that one invites the audience to compare it with their own experience outside of the theatre, rather than remaining within the confines of the dramatic reality. A defined dramatic vocabulary may be presented in a manner that is either liturgical (“this is what I think, you must too”) or dialogical (“this is what I think, how about you?”) — it all depends on the how. Perhaps, though, an invitation is not enough — one must discover the tools that will enable students to accept it.”

ON STANISLAVSKYThe actor develops a theatrical sense of self by learning to control the skills of concentration, imagination and communication.

1. Psychophysical concentration begins with sharpening the senses through observation.

2. Further training of concentration through circles of attention that can be small, medium or large. Points of focus on stage (whether animate or inanimate, visible or imagined) are objects of attention. Actors learn to limit their focus to only those objects within defined circles.

3. Training the imagination begins by strengthening inner vision.

4. Imagination trained further by invoking the magic if.

5. To control non-verbal expression, actors taught to recognise and manipulate the rays of energy that carry communication.

6. Non-verbal communication refined by improvising situations that involve naturally-silent moments.

7. Actors incorporate words as elements of communication only after a firm grounding in non-verbal means. Actors asked to improvise familiar situations using their own words.

Carnicke, Sharon Marie. (2000). “Stanislavsky’s System: Pathways for the Actor.” Twentieth-Century Actor Training, ed. Alison Hodge. London: Routledge. 11-36. 8/2/10

The online mission statement of British community development theatre group “Immediate Theatre” describes its cultural and objectives as the creative facilitation of social empowerment.

We work with young people and communities in Hackney and East London to ensure access for all to arts activities that break down barriers and engage people in debate. We work in partnership to develop work that is:

* Inclusive – working at the grass roots and celebrating diversity.

* Interactive – involving communities throughout the creative process.

* Imaginative – finding new ways to engage with vital issues.

We believe in the transformative power of theatre and the arts to all our lives and the importance of giving people a voice.

Our company aims are:

* To work in partnership to support the use of drama and other art forms as a tool for social engagement in all aspects of society.

* To provide programmes that enable people at high risk of exclusion to participate in the arts.

* To develop productions and performed workshops exploring a range of social issues pertinent to the experiences of specific communities that enable people to engage in the process of change.

* To create pathways to employment in the arts industries for those traditionally not accessing these opportunities.

* To produce high quality theatre projects that inspire everyone involved.

We not only give people a stage on which to perform, we give them the confidence to stand on that stage and have their voice heard. Nurturing this new found confidence is important to us. Therefore, we create supported pathways across our projects so participation is not just an isolated experience but an ongoing journey.

Immediate Theatre was established as a charity in 1996 and our offices are based in Hackney. We currently have a staff team of 14 and are governed by a board of trustees.



After a long and sweaty game of social persuasion, I reluctantly climbed into the highly polished four wheel drive that was packed with class two mothers, bound for a Christmas get together at the local Leagues Club.

I was horribly underdressed, under-coiffed and totally unprepared. I was the new girl. Not from  around here……

“Did you see those terrible riots in Seattle? Those hippies should be locked up, it was disgraceful.” a nodding bob recruited.

I cleared my throat nervously from the back seat of the Nissan Patrol. These women were exactly strange to me.

Their clothes and hair reeked of positively-ionised white goods culture, and my blood began thinning and rolling in a slow, bubbling simmer.

“I know”, said another one, “they all need a bloody good hiding” she smugged.

“Those people ahhh, well, they actually represent you.” I said.

Dead silence. Seven blonde bobs turned to me. It wasn’t really a “blonde” thing, it was just their freshly applied holiday highlights glinting.

“Some of those marchers are farmers that are only being paid a few cents for a truck load of the crops that we have to pay twenty dollars a kilo to eat, and some of those people marching are the wives whose farms have been foreclosed on by the banks, people who now have nowhere to go, and some of those marching hippies are just people who want to have a say about how much we can really afford to spend on food, and some of those people marching are small businesses and family companies that have gone broke from multi-national takeovers and enterprise bargaining decisions that are made in WTO board rooms without consultation or care about us, you know, the consumers. Oh yeah, and some of those people marching really want to talk about the diminishing GMO regulations that might jeopardise world food crops everywhere….. Monsanto,  y’know..?.”

Pause…………pause, pause, pause,  pause……

“How’s Simon’s new tennis coach, isn’t he utterly hot?”

“Oh, well actually I’ve started playing comps on Tuesdays….”

I spent the rest of the evening staring into the laminated tabletop of the Arana Leagues Club dining room and continued to breathe in, and breathe out.

I’m a white, middle-aged, middle-class wife and mother, and those women looked at me as if  I was on drugs, recently released from a psychiatric facility and recovering from a long stint within the criminal justice system and all I did was speak up that I think differently from the line they were taking.

Why is it weird to care about horses and forests and oceans and not give a toss about ironing or Tupperware? I don’t know how to launder towels with that fabric stuff that other women just seem to know about. Where did they learn it? Where the hell was I that day? Thank you, my life for letting me be somewhere else (something else, anything else…).

I know everyone’s talking. Their sales-pitched idioms rise in a radioactive steeple of unabated sound, fathomless with need and rampant sanctimony. How can one more human voice be heard, chortling and mashing in the pantheon of all these roaring souls, amassed so awkwardly among the philanthropic jaws of our tenuous and frail anxieties? In how many more complex ways can we say

“Give me your money”?

“Welcome to the Age of Aquarius, the virtual utopia,… take the philosopher’s megaphone. Speak now, or forever…….”

My anger is vast, a tidal expanse, infinitely intimate with the swirling mass of my raging pain and grief, I am, at long, long, last lucidly emerging from a supressed submission, to clear a mist from my mind, a potently hypnotic blue-blanket that has obscured my view of reality. As I stretch, I am reacquainted with socially parasitic complacency and it’s host, the ever-consuming white culture, an obesely subterranean world where the slumbering spirit of pioneering human determination did drown.

I am fiercely awake and haunted now, by all the eyes that ever trusted and were deceived… I  have, it seems, willingly and for centuries, slavishly subscribed into a sanitised, Christianised, raped, broken, battered, burned, veiled, tormented, tortured, stifled and slain game of power-over.

Are we not culturally empowered to assist those that are hungry, helpless and hurt? Have we become spiritual husks, drugged by our own rarefied economic comfort zones and  stupefied by our privileged social self-obsession? Surely the hoarding of so much wealth,  the stockpiling of our multitudinous gifts and resources is literally choking us to death. Physically and figuratively. Certainly our fears have reached a critical mass.

How did our precious planetary resources become such weapons of greed and mass destruction? How has the glossy, fat, white westerner that I’ve become, been so willing to comply with the simplistic media politics that muster us endlessly into even more shallow superficiality? Why have we allowed ourselves to be motivated by self-servitude and low-range thinking?  When did we agree to become a cattle of consumer-producing strategies that cost so many their lives, their freedom, their children and their basic human rights?

“Larry, I’m in desperate need of some chocolate”, (and I’m in desperate need to find my three children who were kidnapped two years ago to pick cocoa beans as slave labourers until they died of starvation, torture and disease).

Where are the compassionate, intelligent leaders of our next revolution for social change?

“I’m sorry ma’am, I can hardly recognise you since your rhinoplasty…”

Where does an unmarried, deaf woman in East Timor learn to give birth safely, or just live simply with dignity and self-sufficiency? How does an orphaned African baby with HIV overcome loneliness?

Sir, where do we stack all the unclaimed, unidentifiable bodies sir?

How can we continue to support our so-called democracy when our elected leaders continue to condone and perpetuate such untold suffering? Surely we are gifted and blessed with the power to reach out and evolve, to unify in kindness now. Are we just-not-quite-yet-privileged and powerful enough in our white, male dominated  cultural wasteland to end starvation, to stop pedophilia and child pornography, to eradicate nuclear arms trade, defy global thuggery or even begin to recognise the futile stupidity and horror of war?

Can we even see our own sightlessness? Our self-serving gluttony? Our emptiness, no matter how much money and luxury we accumulate? Who will acknowledge the toxic implications and look beyond the media distortion and it’s profit-driven party line? This is the time for humanity to rise and claim it’s right to express human goodness, to know our freedoms and exercise dignified choice. Now is the time to awaken from our silence, our ignorance, our backs turned on each other, our unending greed. We must stand up and own the mess we have made now.

Contemporary women’s culture?  I look for signs and in my own hands I find borrowed icons from our destroyed indigenous cultures;  drum, clap stick, feather & smudge. I read the propaganda of the new age “abundance” consciousness & I feel castrated from my truest visceral female instincts, the deep instincts of recognising and flowing with our natural life-cycles, the planting times, the nurturing way, the gathering and celebrating of harvest and the deep wintering to rest and dream.

We have become unreasonably demanding of our planet’s bounty. We have stolen our religious rituals from ancestors who stepped lightly upon the earth, respectfully honouring our earth and we have twisted her gifts until she has all but perished. I smell the stench of artifice from pharmaceutically-controlled advertising monopolies that profit in dictating the one acceptable human shape, age, colour, size and social choices, and I feel trapped and outnumbered by a hostile misogynistica. Nature is an explosion of diversity, and we have shrunk backwards into a fearful duality life. Chicken or Beef? It’s all the same crap.

I choose to spend some time with my exquisite ugliness and it’s child, the angry pain, to draw and paint it,  to write it, sing it, drum it, dance it, wail it, wear it, share it, speak it and spear it into the hearts of all those still standing silently closed, quivering and gutless in infinite greed. I am afraid of the struggle, unnerved by the path I have set for myself and yet I know it to be a freedom path, a path of material challenge and contrary motion.

I know now, that I have always walked this path of difference. I was born to it.