Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Language in historical novels - Paradiso, Paradìxo, Paradise

Language in historical novels.

What possessed me to include Italian language dialogue in my novel? Authenticity? A fascination with language? Embedding the story in a culture other than my own? 

All true and manageable until I realised that the characters would not have spoken Italian but Venetian in 1879/80. More to the point they would have spoken a regional dialect of Venetian. How was I to respond to that challenge?

Three ways
1. I discovered an Italian/Venetian/English dictionary on-line which I used to do a rough version.
2. I asked Claire Kennedy and the Brisbane Dante Alighieri Society for assistance.
3. I sent a call for help to Marina Battistuzzi in Orsago (my great g'mothers village) in Veneto, Italy (I first met Marina in 1988 - a remarkable tale of three meetings over 28 years). Marina informed me that Orsago and the surrounding villages speak a
Trevigiano dialect (Treviso is the capital of this province) rather than a Venice based dialect. She offered to help.Today I received back six pages of translation and notes from her (I had sent her a cut and past version of all the Venetian passages in the novel - more than she expected I suspect). 

There are some subtle differences: papa is Italian pupa is
Trevigiano; thank-you is gràsie not grazie; Paradiso is Paradìxo etc Some words have clear roots common to English 'commode' is 'còmoda' for example and some words are spelt quite differently. Imbecile is 'inbezhilàt' in Trevigiano and 'imbecille' in Italian etc etc.I also discovered that the Italians and Venetians have a fabulous range of insults in their languages.

It has been a rewarding but tedious word by word process.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Brisbane’s Radical Theatre History 1965-1985

In 2006 I was involved in a project with the Museum of Brisbane (MoB) where I was asked to develop material for the exhibition "Taking to the Streets - Two decades that changed Brisbane 1965-1985." I found this on my computer and as there is a growing interest in local arts history below are my notes from that time. Apologies for any omissions or inaccuracies. I acknowledge Deanna Borland-Sentinella for her work in helping compile this material.

Chronology of Brisbane’s Radical Theatre History 1965-1985

1967       Yeti Theatre group formed from the Kedron State High past pupils association, with Paul Richards as the driving force behind the collective, with other members including the former Qld Premier Wayne Goss. The group were not in theatre to be professionals, but rather to express themselves and make social and political commentary.

University of Queensland Architecture Student Revues, with involvement of William Yang, Ralph Tyrrell, Max Bannah and others, were first performed at the Avalon Theatre, Sir Fred Schonell Drive. They created original sketches that reflected suburban life, content was comical, satirical and often political.

1968    Foco Club (1968/69) was a short lived but seminal initiative which brought political activists together with trade unionists and artists (musicians, theatre performers, visual artists...) to create a memorable period of political and cultural expression in this performance venue. Paralleling the turbulent student uprisings which erupted across the western world at this time it was subsequently dubbed 'Brisbane's 1968' by some. It was located on the third floor of the old Trades Hall (a magnificant building since demolished) at the corner of Turbot and Edward Street.
            The alternative theatre collective group called "Tribe" performed fringe theatre at the Foco Club as an attempt to link student theatre to Trades Hall.

Doug Anders' production of Van Italie's "Motel" (the last part of "America Hurrah") was presented by Dramsoc, the UQ student drama group, in what was then the relaxation block on the St Lucia campus (now where student support services is).  In "Motel" the word "Fuck" was written on the motel wall - causing the police to move in with the intention of arresting the actors but the audience through passive resistance allowed them time to escape.

1969       Twelfth Night Theatre at Gowrie Hall staged Norm and Ahmed, a performance which had police dragging actor, Norman Staines off the stage to arrest him for saying ‘Fuckin Boong’. “Boong” apparently was fine with the arresting officers but “Fuckin” remained an intolerable public obscenity.

1970       The Yeti Theatre group moved into a house at 146 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington.  The Aboriginal Tribal Council moved in next door and the young indigenous kids started to do theatre with Paul Richards about their own stories and suffering.  This prompted Paul Richards to work to establish the Aboriginal Legal Service in 1971.

As part of the Architecture Reviews, a sketch called ‘Zelmo’ was developed around the then vice-chancellor of UQ Zelman Cowen (who went on to become Govenor General of Qld), which played on the Hollywood icon Zorro.  After seeing this performance Errol O’Neil produced a comic strip with the same character of ‘Zelmo’ for almost three years for the student magazine Semper.

1971          Queensland Theatre Company staged the political theatre shows Oh What a Lovely War (an anti-war satire developed by Joan Littlewood and her Theatre Workshop company in the UK in 1963) and Legend of King O’Malley by Australian playrights Michael Boddy and Bob Ellis.

Paul Richards set up the Black Theatre for indigenous people and their stories, performed at a church hall in Leichhart St, Spring Hill.

Ian Reece and CAG (Children’s Activity Group – subsequently Hands on Art) began the earliest form of community art in Brisbane when his band of artsworkers took to the streets and parks to offer ‘art’ to everyone.  Many community arts activists were formed through their link to this work.

1972       The international rock musical “Hair” was performed at Her Majesties Theatre after being refused by QPAC because of its nudity and progressive ideas.

1973       Establishment of a team who worked on the 1974 Queensland Festival of the Arts - a fringe arts component of the highly commercialised Warana Festival. Lesley Gotto, invited Albert Hunt out from the Bradford College of Art to assemble a team (including Richard Fotheringham), which later became the Popular Theatre Troupe.

1974          The first Festival of the Arts was held. Two plays written by Richard Fotheringham that commented on the federal election, “Startrick” and for children “The Clean Air Factory,” were performed as part of the event.  There was also an evening event held in King George Square with outdoor performances of these shows and a guided tour of the then ASIO offices in the Commonwealth Bank building opposite.

The Yeti Theatre group was asked by the event organisers to do some kind of performance to ‘cause an interval’ for the rock concert of iconic early Brisbane band Railroad Gin at Mayne Hall, UQ.  The group staged a mock police scene where they interrupted the concert to arrest  planted actors in the audience without laying any charges or giving their identity to see what people’s reactions would be.  The incident made the newspapers reporting that  the Special Branch of the Qld police had caused the disturbance and the actors never told the newspapers otherwise!

1975          Popular Theatre Troupe became formally established emerging from the Festival of the Arts initiative.  In its first year the PTT performed the shows Puny Little Life Show, Red Cross followed by The White Man’s Mission written by Richard Fotheringham and Yorkshire writer/director Albert Hunt . The National Times compared the show to the best work of the country’s leading alternative theatre group, the Pram Factory,.  In this year the troupe received funding from the Community Arts and Theatre Boards of Australia Council.  Unlike theatre groups from other states the PTT did not receive joint funding from State Government. Far from supporting the troupe, the Qld Cabinet of the time (lead by Joh Bjelke-Petersen) directed the Division of Cultural Activities to never fund the group.  The Queensland Police Force, Special Branch, also kept surveillance on the activities of the company and its members.

8 December 1975: 4ZZZ goes to air. Brings together an impresive array of creative artists and presenters including the individuals who later went on to form ToadShow, a company who produced a series of memorable musical political satires.

1976          During a La Boite Theatre performance of Nick Enright’s production of Edward Bond’s Saved, about 150 people walked out during a violent scene in the play in which a baby in a pram is stoned by a group of youths. The walkout was led by a group of fifty Lions Club members who had a group booking for that performance. The play set in London in the 1960s is about cultural poverty and disenfranchised youth. Around this time La Boite earned a reputation for being alternative, left-wing and, in theatre critic Katharine Brisbane’s words, “the place to go to see the red meat of theatre”.

1977       La Boite Theatre’s production of  Happy Birthday East Timor was instigated by La Boite’s artistic director Rick Billinghurst as a documentary theatre project. John O’Toole co-scripted and co-directed Happy Birthday East Timor with Richard Fotheringham, John Bradley and Lorna Bol. Its dramatic content included a highly critical interpretation of Indonesia’s recent invasion of East Timor plus television footage shot by the group of Australian journalists who were later murdered.

1978    The Popular Theatre Troupe found a permanent home in the hall attached to St Barnabas’ Church at 60 Waterworks Rd, Red Hill which became known as the Community Arts Centre.  Prior to this the troupe had rehearsed at various halls and stored sets, props and costumes across different member’s homes.

1979       Happy Birthday East Timor was re-written and developed by Richard Fotheringham and the PTT under the (ironic) title of Viva Indonesia, a show which the PTT toured nationally.

1980    La Boite’s artistic director Malcolm Blaylock favoured Australian plays with strong political messages. Over a two year period productions such as Stephen Sewell’s Traitors, David Allen’s Dickinson, and Graznya Monvid’s The Enemy Within attracted the attention of the Queensland Police Force Special Branch who attended performances but took no action.

1981    Crook Shop by the Popular Theatre Troupe was banned and declared unfit to tour government schools. The Queensland Education Department said it “did not encourage respect for law and order” 
Mad Hatters (1981-1984) collective is formed by. John Haag, Peter Callinan, Mufrida Hayes, Janelle Skinner, Chris Anderson, Michael Golick, Allison……). This collective of musicians and theatre artists based themselves in Spring Hill and created street theatre often focussed on environmental issues.  The core group also lived together and converted under their house into a local cabaret and children’s activity venue.

The Queensland Community Arts Network was founded and acted as an important advocate for community arts.

1982          Street Arts Community Theatre Company was formed by Pauline and Denis Peel, Steve Capelin and Andrea Lynch. The company operated from 1982 - 1995 and was involved in 28 projects, including short residencies, company shows, Theatre-in-Education pieces and large-scale community productions. Political theatre for Street Arts was based on community participation. They established a venue, The Paint Factory (1987-1991), in a warehouse at Donkin Street West End. It hosted a diverse range of events including theatre, music, circus, dance parties, benefit concerts and community events. It became the defacto Community Centre for West End and attracted alternative arts practitioners from across the city and from interstate.

Queensland’s first Multicultural Fiesta was held in Musgrave Park, South Brisbane.

A second Popular Theatre Troupe show, The State We’re In (A Revue of the Commonwealth Games), was banned from government schools, also for the reason that it “did not encourage respect for law and order”. .   

1983          The Popular Theatre Troupe lost funding for this year and soldiered on with four shows: Limited Life written by Kerry O’Rourke, Wage Invaders, As The Crow Flies written by Michael Cummings and Glenn Perry and There’s More to Life than Snogging Barry directed by Dee Martin and written by Hugh Watson and cast.  After trying to live off door-takings for a year the troupe disbanded due to the lack of core funding after producing 25 shows over their 10 years.

Queensland’s first Community Circus Festival held in Musgrave Park as a culmination of Street Arts’ inaugural community project, funded by the Community Arts Board of the Australia Council.  Emerging from this was the Thrills’n’Spills Community Circus troupe, which lasted for 3 years and devised 5 shows. This troupe finally transformed itself into the Rock N Roll Circus Troupe in 1987.Its legacy lives on in the form of Brisbane based international touring circus company Circa.

 Street Arts also ran a major project in Inala, a Housing Commission suburb, called Inala In Cabaret in this year.  The project included  the community in the development and performance of the work and, following a larger community production, Once Upon Inala, staged in 1984 and follow-up work by members of the company, a number of women from Inala founded Icy Tea (ICT – Inala Community Theatre), a professional women’s Community Theatre Company.
Once Upon Inala was embraced by the Australia Council’s Community Arts Board as a model of community participation and was influential in shifting  Community Theatre practitioners and Australia Council funding guidelines in this direction.

            Errol O’Neill’s new political work Faces in the Street directed by Andrew Ross (Artistic Director) at La Boite and commissioned by the Warana Festival, dramatised the Brisbane General Strike of 1912 and featured Matt Foley as Harry Coyne, MLA, leader of the strike committee. 

1984    Her Majesty’s Theatre was demolished. The last show was a 4ZZZ promotion organised by David Pyle. It featured Norman Gunston and the Fabulous Dingo Family – a precursor to ToadShow bands.

1985       The Queensland Performing Arts Complex, was officially opened by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Kent in 1985.

         Unemployed People’s Umbrella (UP. U. 1985 - 1987). Ironically, in a very conservative political   environment a team of artists (Vicki Stark, Donna Graham, ………..) was  funded through the  Arts Office within the Bjelke-Petersen Government to work with a group of unemployed young people to produce a performance to coincide with the opening of QPAC. The resulting show, “Crystal Gutters” caused a degree of discomfort for the conservative politicians.

Order By Numbers, a collective of theatre workers (many from the Popular Theatre Troupe), founded by Dee Martin, Penny Glass, Gavan Fenelon and Nat Trimarchi staged and toured three shows to the end of 1986: A Few Short Wicks in Paradise, Tall Tales From the Altered State and Casualties.  The style was a cross between theatre and political cabaret.

ToadShow’s The Paisley Pirates of Penzance plays @ LaBoite Theatre in protest to (& at the same time as) QPAC’s first musical theatre production Pirates of Penzance - an interstate production. The ToadShow production satirised Queensland politics with the Major-General played by Gerry Connolly in caricature as Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The show also satirised corrupt Queensland police.  The second production by Toadshow this year was Conway Christ: Redneck Superstar @ LaBoite Theatre, a satirised story of Jesus.

Bannah, M. (2005) Personal contributions
Batchelor, D. ed. (1986) Twelfth Night The Morning After, Boolarong Publications, p.21.
Capelin, S. (2005) Personal contributions
Capelin, S. ed. (1995) Challenging the Centre: Two Decades of Political Theatre, Playlab Press: Brisbane.
Comans, C. (2005) Personal contributions on LaBoite
Evans, R. and Ferrier, C. eds. (2004) Radical Brisbane: An Unruly History, Vulgar Press: Victoria.
Fotheringham, R. (2005) Personal contributions
Jones, A. (2005) Personal contributions on ToadShow
O’Neil, E. (2005) Personal contributions
Richards, P. (2005) Personal contributions