Theatre and Performance Studies Seminar: Festivals and Performance – School of Literature, Art and Media Theatre and Performance Studies Seminar: Festivals and Performance – School of Literature, Art and Media

Theatre and Performance Studies Seminar: Festivals and Performance

Peta Downes and Amanda Card: “Festivals and Performance

Peta’s paper focuses on the opportunities that a festival can offer for independent theatre-makers to raise their profile, gain legitimacy and get ahead in the field of cultural production, with important consequences for the overall ecology of theatre in Australia. Meanwhile Amanda is looking at how a single event—the programming of Pina Bausch at the Adelaide Festival in 1982—can have a formative influence on local performance-makers that is still felt decades afterwards. Abstracts and bios for both speakers appear below. Please join us.


From fringe to mainstage: How festivals enable independent theatre
Peta Downes, Head of Dramatic Arts, Australian Institute of Music, and PhD Candidate Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Sydney

Acknowledged as the seed bed of new theatre, independent theatre has flourished in recent years with the development of key companies in every state and the production of ground-breaking new work. This grass-roots sector is recognised as being a vital part of the Australian theatre industry ecology, with groups of artists working together to make theatre against the prevailing streams of their cities ‘cultures’. (Milne, 2004). This paper will survey how different major festivals such as Brisbane and Darwin, fringe festivals such as Sydney, Adelaide and Perth and festival platforms such as Melbourne Theatre Company’s NEON Festival have worked historically to develop and promote independent theatre. Using archival research and interviews with three independent theatre companies, Elbow Room (Melbourne), Matrix Theatre and Belloo Creative (Brisbane), the paper will analyse how the inclusion of the work of these independent companies in festivals has enabled their longevity and legitimacy in the Australian theatre field.

Peta Downes is a theatre director, producer and arts educator of twenty-seven years experience. She is a PhD candidate with the University of Sydney and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Directing (QUT), a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Directing and Educational Drama (QUT) and a Graduate Diploma in Arts Management (UTS). She has developed and produced new theatre works with the Brisbane Powerhouse, Metro Arts (Brisbane), Darlinghurst Theatre and the Seymour Centre (Sydney), and worked as a director for theatre companies La Boite Theatre Company, the Queensland Theatre Company and the Bell Shakespeare Company.

Pina Bausch, festival culture and the impact of 1980 in 1982
Dr Amanda Card, Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Sydney

“It was a hot night in Adelaide in 1982 and I was sitting in a ramshackle town hall about to watch a dance piece, Kontakthof, created by a German choreographer I had barely heard of, Pina Bausch. The hall was so stifling that people were fanning themselves with their programs. A few minutes into the show I forgot the heat and the rough seats. At the end I couldn’t move for some time. I was dazed, elated, awed and moved as never before.” (Louis Nowra, 2011. The Monthly). Following Nowra’s reflection, this paper will explore the reception of Bausch’s company at the 1982 Adelaide Festival, where the company presented not only Kontakhof, but also Bluebeard and 1980. As others have explained, an arts festival can be an “open social space” where an “otherwise socially and culturally marginalized people or cultural form” can be seen; impacting on audiences and artists alike (Bennett and Woodward 2014, p. 17). The Adelaide Festival in 1982 was a place where a community of artists gathered – where people and practices from a multitude of places found themselves in close proximity. This paper will explore how the experience of seeing Bausch in the context of a national/international festival in Australia in the 1980s, impacted on the Australian artists who were there. It will ask: what did they see; how did the festival context enhance their experience; and how did the experience of seeing Bausch impact on their approach to performance-making across the decade(s) that followed?

Amanda Card is a Senior Lecturer with Theatre & Performance Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research is in movement studies, dance history, and the application of theories of embodiment to performance analysis. Her latest writing is on modernism, transnationalism and women in Australian dance (1920s-1950s), “Embodiment/Body” for a book on Re-enactment (Routledge); and “Dancing Sydney : mapping movements : performing histories”, a new research project which explores dance archives and their activation with partners Erin Brannigan (UNSW), Julie-Anne Long (Macquarie University) and the dance research organisation Critical Path.

Department of Theatre and Performance Studies
AV Room (S113) Woolley Building, Manning Road
University of Sydney


May 31 2019


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm



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