SCENE BY JAMES: 2023 – A Theatrical Year in Review [Part 1: The Issues]

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The Savage Coloniser Show, AAF 2023. Photography by Raymond Sagapolutele

The excellent news: For the primary time in 4 years, 2023 was marked by the absence of widespread disruption and cancellations of performing arts occasions attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic. Buoyed by Government funding, festivals have been again in pressure up and down the nation. There have been loads of bought out exhibits. Theatre is again, child!

The not-so-good information: Extreme climate occasions changed Covid as a significant disruptor. Short-term funding injections have failed (shock, shock) to result in long-term sustainability, and public funding is contracting. Some treasured establishments closed this yr, whereas others are hanging on by the pores and skin of their tooth. There’s been a change of Government, led by a significant celebration missing an arts and tradition coverage. Everything prices extra, and plenty of exhibits struggled to seek out their viewers. Theatre is in a holding sample.

Yes, 2023 was a glass half-empty/half-full form of yr for Aotearoa’s theatre and performing arts. While we may be grateful that Covid-19 didn’t take out exhibits in the best way that it did between 2020-2023 (however some cancellations and delays because of sickness, together with the first week of Basement’s Christmas Show), the various challenges exacerbated by the pandemic nonetheless loom over the sector. 

Aotearoa’s theatre sector has its personal form of Long Covid: normal exhaustion, a sluggish restoration, ongoing points with out a right away repair or help plan. And a fear that we would not ever correctly recuperate. (And let’s additionally recognise these within the arts neighborhood who’ve been largely invisibly negotiating their very own Long Covid, and its impression on their lives and inventive follow – I’m considered one of them). 

There’s a lot angst within the US and UK in regards to the well being of the performing arts trade. In an article headlined, ‘A Crisis in America’s Theatres Leaves Prestigious Stages Dark’, The NY Times reported that “there is less theatre in America these days.” Regional theatres are “staging fewer shows, giving fewer performances, laying off staff and, in some cases, closing”. The LA Times baldly acknowledged “the theatregoing habit is broken”. In the UK, The Guardian reported that “theatres face closures and staff shortages” and “bosses of smaller UK theatres quit in droves”. A former CEO of Arts Council England warned “we are approaching a doom loop where less money, less certainty in future funding and a hostile environment to inquiring ideas leads to less risk-taking and new work. That in turn leads to declining new audiences, smaller box-office receipts and a less compelling cultural economy.” Lyn Gardner wrote for The Stage that ‘Theatre needs a long-term strategy if it is to survive these crisis years’. Reporting from Scotland, the Financial Times requested ‘Fringe theatre is in crisis. Can anything be done?’. New Zealand’s headlines aren’t as unhealthy as all that – but. We can’t be complacent.

Let’s do one other one. 

The excellent news: In November, Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage highlighted that Aotearoa’s arts and inventive sector contributes $14.9 billion to the nation’s GDP, making up 4.2% of the entire financial system. Despite pandemic challenges, the inventive sector grew by double the speed of the financial system as a complete (10% to March 2022 in contrast with the entire financial system’s 5.3%).  

The not-so-good information: In May, Creative New Zealand and NZ on Air launched a report confirming that incomes for inventive professionals have barely moved over the previous 4 years. The median revenue for salaried/waged NZers elevated by $10,000 from $51,800 to $61,800 between 2019-2024. Meanwhile the TOTAL median revenue (together with revenue from different jobs) for inventive professionals went from $35,800 to $37,000. The median revenue for inventive work alone is simply $19,500. In the performing arts, median revenue per hour was $21.40 (in contrast with $29.67 for working New Zealanders), with a complete median revenue of $36,500. 

Source; Profile of Creation Professionals 2022, Kantar Media

Dig additional, and we discover that there’s a 32% gender pay hole, with feminine inventive professionals incomes “significantly less than their male peers – $16,500 a year from creative income alone”, whereas “Deaf or disabled artists earn on average $15,000 a year from creative income alone.”  

Also troubling: 1 in 2 inventive professionals reported experiencing burnout over the previous yr (while 79% reported both experiencing burnout or coming near burnout). 

There is a stark disconnect between the worth created by arts and tradition, and the way the folks that create arts and tradition are valued. 

Why? After all, there’s a transparent financial return for supporting performing arts, which in flip stimulates the hospitality sector and different companies. This yr’s pro-amateur manufacturing of Wicked in Pōneke was credited for driving enterprise within the metropolis. The Post reported (ninth Sept, print) “After FIFA’s women’s world cup failed to score with some of Wellington’s hospitality outlets, the witches of Oz have brought in the crowds,” boosting “Wellington tourism, with people coming into his bars before and after the show, ordering cocktails and sharing plates.” One resort proprietor stated, “It was better than that soccer thing.” (A disgrace then that pro-amateur productions like Wicked don’t adequately compensate most of their firm.)

Even extra necessary than the financial is the social return, with performing arts boosting wellbeing and connecting neighborhood. 

We’ve bought the information – the nice and not-so-good. We have to hold appearing on it. 

Now, let’s check out among the main moments in Aotearoa’s theatre and performing arts over 2023:

THE CURRENT CLIMATE

2023 started with excessive climate occasions together with Cyclone Gabrielle and main flooding, inflicting fatalities and large injury. The storms had huge impacts on arts occasions, notably in Te Tairāwhiti and Te Mātau-a-Māui (Napier’s Art Deco Festival was cancelled solely). 

In Tāmaki Makaurau, quite a few occasions throughout Auckland Pride have been disrupted, together with Festival of Live Art (F.O.L.A), following an influence outage at Basement Theatre attributable to the cyclone. As Erin O’Flaherty famous:

this was the third time F.O.L.A suffered from disruptions, with the earlier two instances seeing the pageant cancelled all collectively because of Covid. The forces of nature proceed to be relentless, an ever-evolving wave of small apocalypses, and the humanities aren’t the one trade to endure because of this. We have seen numerous postponements and cancellations, and it’s certainly been a disheartening time for a lot of – to not point out, a surreal and scary time for some.

Erin was comfortable to report the ultimate and solely evening of F.O.L.A. which went forward was “buzzing with bodies and music and visuals.”

CLOSING NIGHT

Wellington’s Summer Shakespeare manufacturing of The Tempest lived an excessive amount of as much as its title, with a number of climate cancellations over its season. Tragically, this eco-minded manufacturing would develop into the ultimate ever Summer Shakespeare. “After four decades of enchanting audiences with captivating performances of Shakespearean plays, the Wellington Summer Shakespeare Trust has made the difficult decision to close its doors. This closure marks the end of an era for one of New Zealand’s most beloved theatrical traditions” got here the announcement in June. Specific causes weren’t forthcoming – “careful consideration of various factors… changing circumstances and shifting priorities have made it increasingly challenging to sustain the organisation” – though The Tempest’s expertise definitely highlights the challenges of holding out of doors occasions in our local weather change period. Miranda Harcourt informed The Post that the closure of Wellington Summer Shakespeare was a “great tragedy” – “productions kick-started so many Kiwis’ careers in the arts – from actors to producers to directors to designers.” 

It appeared like the same destiny was to befall Manawatū’s Summer Shakespeare, after Massey University pulled help. But in contrast to Wellington’s Shakespeare, there was a chance to rally council and neighborhood help. RNZ reported, ‘Summer Shakespeare saved, for now, as Massey University stops funding’.

When even organisations that cater to considered one of Aotearoa’s hottest playwrights (sorry Roger Hall) discover themselves in hassle, these are signs of a deeper malaise. University of Auckland’s Summer Shakespeare ended pre-Covid, outdated by the then Pop-up Globe juggernaut. Speaking of, like Sebastian in Twelfth Night, the Pop-up Globe appeared again from the lifeless this yr. This was courtesy of receivers who ordered the resurrection of its buying and selling title to pay again collectors, following Pop-up’s liquidation in 2021. While the scaffolded Globe venue didn’t return (for now), a profitable prolonged season at Q Theatre mirrored the corporate’s enduring attraction to most of the people. Not everybody welcomed Pop-up Globe’s return, which had come as a shock to some collectors, overlooked of pocket and nonetheless with none assure of being paid again. A creditor informed The Spinoff, “many of us extended a huge amount of goodwill towards Pop Up Globe… It doesn’t feel that goodwill has been honoured in the way this has played out.” More seasons are coming in 2024 – let’s hope Pop-up Globe heeds Shakespeare’s recommendation: “Words pay no debts, give her deeds.” While a outstanding 90% of labor on our skilled phases is of New Zealand scripts, New Zealanders aren’t finished but with Shakespeare it appears, additional proved by the nimble Barden Party, touring the nation with backyard performances of Shakespeare’s performs. 

Theatre for younger folks additionally skilled vital blows. Following final yr’s closure of Young & Hungry, 2023 noticed the surprising closure of the National Theatre for Children after 25 years, “the latest gut punch for underserved children’s art in New Zealand.” The determination was notable for the dearth of advance public discover or effort to try to save the organisation, with poor transparency across the causes for its closure. City council managed Experience Wellington, which is able to proceed the Capital E model and house with out the National Theatre, informed The Post that “it was stepping away from delivering the theatre’s programme to ‘better focus on delivering remarkable experiences for the people of Pōneke’.” 

After 25 years, the humanities neighborhood deserves a correct clarification and accountability. Whilst the organisation had an working deficit, funding from Creative New Zealand was safe. As Performing Arts and Young People (PAYPA)’s Dr Kerryn Palmer informed The Post, “to not have a national theatre for children puts us behind other countries a millionfold. … It’s really dire and disastrous.” Former Capital E director Stephen Blackburn shared with The Big Idea a priority that “the funding will not be ring-fenced for new work for young audiences, an audience already badly underserved in the arts ecosystem. I have always advocated for a sports-like approach to arts funding. Invest in the young teams that build the future elite athletes or passionate sports attendees. Same with the arts.” With the lack of the National Theatre for Children, a brand new nationwide method and dedication for supporting theatre for tamariki and rangatahi is vital: the longer term is at stake. 

A protracted-brewing disaster at our nation’s largest skilled theatre, Court Theatre, exploded in 2023 with revelations of sustained office bullying by its Chief Executive Barbara George and a monetary disaster. A outstanding 22 present and former employees talked to The Press, with 20 saying George “had to go.” More than 30 Court Staff stop throughout George’s 5 yr tenure. “The Court Theatre is the most toxic environment that I’ve worked in, and it’s painful to see how many people are being damaged and hurt,” stated one former worker. The Press additionally reported that Court was “running out of cash” and in deficit, with ticket gross sales down a 3rd in contrast with the earlier yr. The final present to have made cash for the theatre was the 2020/21 summer time season of Jersey Boys.  

Reviewing Dance Nation, Josiah Morgan took the chance to replicate on Court Theatre’s position within the wider arts ecology of Ōtautahi Christchurch:

I can’t assist however word that there should have been lower than 100 folks in my viewers – and plenty of of them left at half time. This signifies that the advertising and marketing for this present has been misdirected, and maybe that the viewers had no concept what they have been moving into. The Court Theatre are persevering with to take daring steps of their position as taste-makers with this yr’s programme. They want to carry the road going ahead: be courageous, and the viewers for this work will step up. At the identical time, Court Theatre have to help the broader arts ecology in Ōtautahi – the humanities ecology that primes audiences to count on, respect, and wish to see work like this. I’ll say it once more: it’s the strongest work staged at Court Theatre this season. It’s only a disgrace there have been so few folks there.

Court Theatre’s Dance Nation

After a turbulent and traumatic yr, therapeutic is required beneath a brand new Chief Executive because the Court continues to prepared itself for a transfer into its new CBD theatre. Meanwhile Little Andromeda, a significant venue for Ōtautahi’s unbiased performing arts, secured a “last-minute reprieve” from closure after receiving Ministry funding – the final of the Covid restoration help. Whilst short-term Covid help ensured arts organisations have been capable of get by way of the primary years of the pandemic, now this funding has ended, there’s a actual threat that we may see extra organisations fold over the approaching years.

Arts on Tour took a decreased performing arts programme to New Zealand’s rural areas, after loosing out final yr on multi-year funding from Creative New Zealand. In the lead as much as an important funding determination, TVNZ Sunday ran a narrative on Arts on Tour’s work, focussing on Jackie Clarke’s tour to Waikaia in Southland. “I couldn’t do this without this scheme. I couldn’t take this risk or come to these places” stated Clarke. Sunday positioned Arts on Tour within the context of wider cuts to rural companies that glued communities collectively, like banks and outlets, with cuts working “pretty deep in rural communities.” Southland sheep farmer Bevan Hopcroft spoke up for the significance of rural excursions: “You take the wife along, and it’s date night. You have a glass of red, talk to the neighbours, you haven’t seen the neighbour for a couple of weeks.” Asked how necessary exhibits like Clarke’s have been to binding the neighborhood collectively, Hopcroft replied, “I reckon that’s a real important one. To get a show like that turn up, absolutely brilliant”. Arts on Tour acquired the short-term funding, however a long-term plan for supporting rural arts is required. 

Arts have been additionally on the road in our greatest metropolis, with a coalition of arts and neighborhood organisations banding collectively to ‘Stop the Cuts’ and reverse Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown’s proposal for $20million+ cuts to the council’s arts, tradition and neighborhood funding. Following an inflow of public submissions, Brown conceded that “there is just about a consensus that Auckland Council should not proceed with all the cuts to social and cultural spending.” There have been vital wins, with virtually all the Council’s arts and neighborhood companies funding reinstated. However, Tataki Auckland Unlimited, which brings huge occasions to the town and umbrellas Auckland Live (which runs the Council’s performing arts venue), has confronted spending cuts and job losses, limiting its capability to help the broader Auckland’s arts ecology.  Meanwhile, Rotorua City Council additionally proposed a “pull-back on arts and creative communities funding”. With native council prices persevering with to rise throughout the nation, native communities have to be prepared to make sure elected councillors shield arts and tradition funding. 

I discovered myself campaigning to cease proposed cuts to my very own office at Te Herenga Waka–Victoria University of Wellington, with theatre considered one of many programmes focused for cuts. The proposals would have wound again 50+ years of progress for New Zealand’s oldest college theatre programme (you possibly can learn in regards to the #SaveVUWTheatre marketing campaign on The Big Idea). While we have been profitable in saving the programme, it illustrated the vulnerability of inventive arts in our tertiary system. And there are pressing questions on safeguarding the position of arts in our schooling system, with the brand new Government’s emphasis on an hour of studying, writing and maths per day. The arts needs to be a part of this equation – for instance, kids do higher at maths when music is a part of the lesson. Why not an hour every of studying, writing and maths, and humanities each day? 

So, loads of not-so-goods right here: threats to arts schooling, younger and rural audiences underserved, monetary challenges. We’ve made it by way of the pandemic, however with decreased funding and sources we’re at actual threat of weakening or shedding extra of our key arts infrastructure. It’s virtually as if we want a nationwide arts and tradition technique, to assist us prioritise sources and “boost access and participation in arts, culture and creativity for the benefit of all New Zealanders.”

THE ART OF POLITICS

Australia confirmed us how it may be finished, releasing the Revive National Cultural coverage. Budgeted for A$286 million (NZ$315 million) over 4 years, Prime Minister Albanese promised to “put the arts back […] at the heart of our national life.” This was a significant nationwide arts and tradition coverage with widespread public help – a win for the Government, a win for the inventive sector, and a win for the nation. “Arts job are real jobs” stated the PM; “You are essential workers” added the Arts Minister. 

I argued on The Conversation that:

Revive’s 5 coverage pillars present a helpful place to begin for a dialog on what a nationwide tradition coverage may appear like in New Zealand: First Nations first; a spot for each story; the centrality of the artist; sturdy establishments; reaching the viewers.

A nationwide technique for Aotearoa may direct sources in the direction of the place they may have essentially the most impression and harness the wellbeing advantages of ngā toi, or artwork and inventive expression… Arts and tradition aren’t a pleasant to have: they’re important to who we’re as people and as a neighborhood. Government funding in arts and tradition can also be an funding in schooling, well being and employment. We have to make breaking the cycle of disaster in Aotearoa’s arts and tradition ecology an election situation. 

But arts, tradition and creativity barely featured in New Zealand’s election marketing campaign. Labour launched an arts coverage on the tail finish of the marketing campaign, belatedly pledging to “explore an Aotearoa Arts Strategy.” The Greens wished to unlink arts funding from playing income. Act wished to defund the Film Commission. National didn’t have an arts coverage in any respect. It is shameful {that a} main political celebration may go to the election with out one. As a sector, we can’t enable this to occur once more.

Why did it occur? There’s a protracted historical past of undervaluing the humanities on this nation. We’ve additionally seen a big erosion of arts and tradition media. As Rosabel Tan and I discovered in our report ‘New Mirrors: Strengthening Arts and culture media for Aotearoa New Zealand’, commissioned by Creative New Zealand, “we are seeing a loss of specialist arts reporting and reviewing roles, as well as a reduction in capacity and confidence among other journalists to focus on this type of coverage.” 

The most in-depth political arts protection could possibly be discovered on neighborhood radio station Wellington Access Radio through Austin Harrison’s Election Murmurs, that includes substantial interviews with the Minister and celebration spokespeople, and evaluation from invited arts leaders. But with out extra arts reporting, arts and tradition will stay absent from necessary political and nationwide conversations. The Post’s André Chumko (who single-handedly produces a lot of New Zealand’s arts reporting), displays in New Mirrors that stronger arts media:

would imply many extra units of eyes annual stories, extra mouths and folks firing questions as much as press secretaries and asking ministers, what are you doing about artist pay? What are you doing about these points that artists are dealing with? It would imply larger scrutiny on the humanities, which might enhance transparency and accountability.

Labour’s greatest arts transfer this time period was to considerably enhance Te Matatini’s funding by $34 million over two years to develop Kapa Haka nationally (additionally a giant win for Te Pāti Māori, who had pushed for equitable funding). It was nice to see the championing of this widespread coverage, which adopted a extremely profitable competitors in Tāmaki Makaurau.  While there was no Budget enhance for Creative New Zealand, the final of the Government’s Covid restoration cash for the humanities sector ($22million that needed to be spent up this yr) was funnelled by way of CNZ to help festivals and artists. 

Having acknowledged final yr that Creative New Zealand’s arts funding methods weren’t working for the sector, CNZ undertook session and in November introduced a radical shakeup of lots of its funding programmes. “We’ve moved from a focus on investing in projects to investing in people”, signalled Gretchen La Roche, Arts Development Services Senior Manager. While the main points of the brand new programmes are promising, meaningfully responding to artist wants and totally different profession phases, in the interim it’s a totally different method of distributing a diminishing pot of cash.

There’s an enormous demand for arts funding, reflecting an enormous ammount of creativity exercise taking place in Aotearoa. CNZ’s remaining ever arts grants spherical had a hit fee of twenty-two%, with 193 initiatives receiving $7.8m out of a complete 846 eligible purposes requesting $36m. CNZ has warned that “there will be less pūtea to support the sector next financial year and beyond than in recent years.” The funding CNZ will get from the New Zealand Lotteries Grants Board can also be altering – from a proportion of Lotto gross sales to a set quantity, which is predicted to end in a $9million discount in comparison with the earlier two years of funding. Reducing reliance on lotteries can be a great factor, however solely in tandem with elevated public funding.

CNZ’s new programmes supply a constructive long run route of journey (if it’s folks we’re investing in, then the long-term purpose should certainly be an artist’s wage). With an emphasis on outcomes, the programmes are designed to gather proof for the worth of investing within the arts. But till such a time as there is ample funding, the humanities sector stays trapped within the present cycle of disaster

It is price remembering that extra New Zealanders than ever perceive and help public funding within the arts. It can also be price remembering that Creative New Zealand is fingers off from the Government by design, making its funding choices with out political affect. I point out this as a result of this yr we’ve once more seen makes an attempt to politicise funding choices and stoke tradition wars. 

Act Leader David Seymour and proper wing media led deeply cynical assaults on poet and playwright Tusiata Avia and Creative New Zealand’s funding of Auckland Arts Festival’s The Savage Coloniser Show. Avia recounted what occurred on her Substack in ‘David Seymour and Me’ (Part 1 and 2): after Stuff revealed a video of Avia studying her 2019 poem ‘The 250th Anniversary of James Cook’s Arrival in New Zealand’ (revealed in 2020’s The Savage Coloniser Book, the idea of the stage adaptation), Seymour stated the Government ought to “declare it will give nothing to racism, and withdraw the funding”. “Hang on a minute,” writes Avia, “how does a show about racism become accused of being racist?” Seymour outrageously in contrast the poem to the 2019 Christchurch Terror assault. The Platform’s Sean Plunket additionally went on the assault. Avia acquired horrific abuse and a demise risk from a white supremacist.

There’s a lot shameless hypocrisy right here in fact. Seymour, the defender of free speech, attempting to close down an artist’s freedom of expression (and willfully deceptive the general public across the Government’s position in arts funding). Seymour, who informed others to loosen up after joking about blowing up the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. Complaints to the media council arguing the unique poem incites racial hatred have been rejected: “The poem is undoubtedly a work of art and should be treated as such, it’s not a manifesto or plea for real-life violence.”

Anjula Prakash’s evaluation of The Savage Coloniser Show affirmed that the present’s poetry “is generous and offers insights, often opening a door into the writer’s personal realm, though it is still a place that reflects ourselves back to us.” Anjula’s evaluation is price studying for its passionate defence of the manufacturing towards the spurious political assaults: 

It got here to my consideration earlier than the present that the contents of the poem ‘250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in New Zealand’ induced a stir amongst some politicians like ACT celebration chief David Seymour who took a literal studying of the poem and claimed it’d incite violence. If you so select, you possibly can look into the main points of the incident. And though I don’t assume a lot time or consideration needs to be spent on this situation, I nonetheless really feel that some dialogue ought to happen as a result of it’s a mirrored image of the issues we nonetheless face in our daily lives. No, brown ladies driving round in SUVs and beating up folks isn’t a factor. It won’t ever be a factor. And possibly if examined extra carefully, one may see what truly fuels hate crimes, and why it’s not a poem, or a play, and received’t ever be racially disgruntled brown ladies cruising round in a giant automobile. At least the humour within the poem was apparent in efficiency because it bought laughs from the viewers on the punchlines. 

The Savage Coloniser Show is sincere, disruptive, and empowering as we’re taken on a journey, by way of a panorama, and a number of other views. Painful and buried racism in our historical past is dug up, displayed, and pulled aside. The results of colonisation are delivered to the fore and set alongside our dysfunctional current in order that we might draw traces between them. The reward for an unapologetic method to the topic is catharsis for the viewers, or unprecedented perception. Anyone who resides on this nation is certain to see part of themselves within the present.

The Savage Coloniser Show, AAF 2023. Photo: Raymond Sagapolutele

The Savage Coloniser Show is in-demand on Aotearoa’s Festival circuit, touring to Wanaka Festival of Colour, Nelson Arts Festival and Tauranga Arts Festival. I can’t wait to see it on the Aotearoa Festival of the Arts in Wellington within the new yr! 

The ACT Party, now in Government, attacked Avia and Creative New Zealand once more after Avia turned the primary Pasifika girl to obtain the poetry award within the 2023 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement (administered by CNZ). Act’s arts spokesperson darkly warned, “With a new Government looking to make spending cuts at low-value departments, Creative NZ is tempting fate.” So, we’ve a celebration within the Coalition Government (and a future Deputy PM-in-waiting) trolling a revered artist and threatening the independence of CNZ. 

Mercifully maybe, arts coverage was absent from National’s respective coalition agreements with Act and New Zealand First. But with out an arts coverage from National, it’s unclear the place precisely the Government stands on key points. Finance Minister Nicola Willis has dedicated to Te Matatini’s $28 million funding enhance, however will she prolong it past the preliminary two yr funding interval? And what in regards to the restoration of Auckland’s St James, a coverage dedication from Labour

We have a brand new Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Paul Goldsmith. Goldsmith informed The Post that “there are no large sums of money waiting to be doled out.” Asked in regards to the prospect of a nationwide arts technique, “Goldsmith says he’s in two minds on the matter; he doesn’t think the sector lends itself to “some mastermind in Wellington” deciding its future. “I’m more of the ‘let a thousand flowers bloom wherever it goes’ and concentrate on how government can make that work. But I’ve got an open mind.”

VALUES INACTION

As we shut 2023, the plight of the Palestinian folks weighs closely on the world’s conscience. Following Hamas’ devastating assault on Israeli civilians in October, Israel responded with a army and bombing marketing campaign described by the UN Secretary General as making a “graveyard for children”. 

Hossam Madhoun, co-founder of Gaza’s Theatre for Everybody, has been sharing his account of the Genocide in Gaza. From his entry on 18 December: 

Writing this piece, round me intense bombing and shelling didn’t cease in any respect. Hundreds of persons are being killed at the moment. Maybe me and my household shall be amongst them, who is aware of? All those that have been killed, greater than 22,000 human beings who’ve been killed over the past 55 days, didn’t know that they have been going to be killed on this brutal method.

As a theatre particular person, I consider Rashed Al-Shawa, “the largest and most important theater and cultural center in the Gaza Strip”. Described as a “beacon of cultural vibrancy for over two decades, a place of performance, poetry, music, art and local engagement” it had been a significant neighborhood hub, a “welcoming space for all groups of people to rehearse, perform, and exhibit.” The constructing has been “completely destroyed”, so too, a inventive neighborhood.

This month, Israeli forces raided the Freedom Theatre within the occupied West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp and detained artists, critics calling it “part of an effort to destroy Palestinian cultureAl Jazera reported that “the raid and ransacking of the Jenin Theatre have come as a huge blow to the community and the people who work there who viewed it as a safe place.”

What is the position of Aotearoa’s inventive neighborhood in responding to those atrocities? 

Over 1000 signed Artists of Aotearoa’s letter in solidarity with Palestine and calling for a ceasefire. Signatories included Jane Campion, Chelsea Winstanley, Tayi Tibble, Nigel Borell, Rachel House, and Chris Tse and “Muslim, Arab, Māori, Jewish, Indigenous, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, non-religious, Queer, People of Colour and Tāngata Tiriti artists, writers, researchers and cultural workers from across the motu.” 

A collective of artists and activists took up the decision from Palestine’s ASHTAR theatre to current the The Gaza Monologues, with Tigalau Ness, Moana Maniapoto, Kate Prior, Liv Tennet, Reb Fountain, Dominic Hoey, Tali, Chlöe Swarbrick, Julia Deans, Alison Bruce, Arahi and others performing reflections of Gazan Youth on the University of Auckland on twenty ninth November. 

An open letter to Aotearoa’s cultural establishments from cultural employees, requested arts organisations “to stand by your values and publicly demand that our government call for a ceasefire.” It defined:

As artists we really feel ashamed that just about all the museums, galleries, theatres, orchestras, festivals, publications, regional arts trusts, guilds and different arts corporations throughout Aotearoa that signify, home, help and fund our work haven’t made any public statements that clearly and immediately stress our authorities to name for a right away ceasefire on the very minimal, and standing in solidarity with the Palestinian folks. When it involves being vital and brave for human rights, why does your bravery have boundaries?

… Our movies, galleries, books and theatres are crammed with historic tales of New Zealand resisting highly effective worldwide political methods within the title of justice, peace and freedom. Indeed, it is a cornerstone of our cultural identification on the world stage. We consider each cultural institution in Aotearoa that protects this proud historical past needs to be contemplating how they utilise their title to proceed that legacy and apply political stress in the direction of ceasefire.

Equity New Zealand’s board handed a resolution calling for a right away and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza and Israel. Before the letter’s launch, Basement Theatre posted “the suffering and loss of civilian life that we are witnessing on Gaza whenua in real-time is unfathomable. We want it to be known buy our communities that Basement Theatre strongly supports an immediate ceasefire, and we align ourselves with Aotearoa’s whakapapa of standing up for peace on the world stage.”

Our cultural establishments could possibly be taking a management position in resisting injustice, utilizing the facility of the humanities to unfold consciousness and help social and political change. But few have taken public motion on Gaza. 


While a vastly totally different situation, the removing of arts patron James Wallace’s title suppression additionally revealed a scarcity of management from arts organisations. Convicted of indecent assault for incidents spanning over 15 years, public dialogue of Wallace’s offending – and the way it had gone on for therefore lengthy – had been a very long time coming. In my 2018 Year in Review I wrote, “a wider reckoning is perhaps yet to come….  the theatre and the arts community in general need to make a difficult examination of culpability with patronage.” In 2023, the reckoning lastly arrived. 

Dudley Benson, who was assaulted by Wallace, known as out the complicity of the humanities world in enabling Wallace’s offending:

Despite James Wallace being discovered responsible of indecent or sexual assault towards myself and two different males, I nonetheless hear claims that his “minor indiscretions” needs to be shrugged off. That we are able to let these things slide, since he’s given a lot cash to artists and humanities organisations through the years. I’ve additionally heard the view, usually from the higher echelons of the humanities world, that “we knew what we were in for” once we selected to fulfill with James Wallace. And I suppose that subsequently, we deserved what we bought. This twisted perspective suggests to me that these victim-blamers knew who Wallace actually was, and what he was as much as. They had the information for years that this man was a creep at greatest, and super- predator at worst, and but they selected to do nothing apart from bask in a little bit of gossip.

What ought to have been a chance for arts organisations who had benefited from Wallace’s patronage to take a robust stand for artist security and towards sexual violence was missed. As I wrote for The Pantograph Punch:

The muted response from arts leaders thus far has been telling; most are ducking to say they’re not funded by Wallace. Jonathan Bielski of Auckland Theatre Company is likely one of the few leaders to supply a full-throated repudiation: “Wallace’s crimes are appalling, and I condemn them in the strongest terms.” Why aren’t extra arts leaders stepping up? It isn’t acceptable for arts organisations to attend it out till the media protection falls away, quietly take away his title, and make embarrassing weblinks go lifeless. Nor is it sufficient merely to denounce the demon, and say that you just stopped accepting his patronage.

I instructed it needs to be straightforward to seek out anti-bullying and harassment insurance policies on web sites and skim clear statements affirming zero tolerance for dangerous behaviour. There’s a chance to maneuver to extra lively hurt prevention throughout the artwork sector. But we want our arts leaders to step up. 

In rigidity is the up to date neighborhood and shopper expectation that organisations needs to be values-led in phrases and motion, and organisations’ self-preserving risk-aversion. An atmosphere of monetary precarity breeds a tradition of timidity. As these points display, bolder management is required. 


We’re not finished but! This yr’s commentary is cut up into two components. CLICK HERE for 2023 – A Theatrical Year in Review [Part 2 – The Shows].

SEE ALSO:

Theatre Scenes Theatrical Year in Reviews: 2022; 2021; 2020201920182017 ; 20162015 ; 2014 ; 2013 ; 2012 ; 2011 ; 2010



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