Yes, I’ve been down under, this past week, enjoying perfect flat whites every morning. I was performing at the annual Melbourne Festival, which brings together diverse arts programming from all over the world. The major Australian cities all have these festivals, usually lasting 2-3 weeks. The Melbourne Festival is highly respected as an informed and innovative overview of the world in arts. They bring in a new Artistic Director every 3-4 years to keep the breadth of different visions and networks of relationships, and this year’s festival, British director Jonathan Holloway’s first, shows his dynamism as a major curator. This guy’s finger is on the pulse!
Although I was busy onstage most of my time there, I did get a chance to check out a couple of things that I thought might be interesting to us, the SFGC Community! Intrigued by the “show” they brought to the festival, I met up with Eva Verity, one of the Artistic Directors of the Mammalian Diving Reflex Theatre in Toronto, which describes its offerings as “ideal entertainment for the end of the world.”
Melbourne marked the 35th city for the touring project “Haircuts by Children.”
Although I myself was not able to sign up for a haircut (the actual haircuts start tomorrow, and I’m already back in the US), I was able to grab a meal with Eva to talk about the workshop process she does with the kids, who are usually 9-10 years old and selected for socioeconomic and ethnic diversity, as defined by the region of the performance. Eva and I shared thoughts about what it really means to empower children, and how to inspire new thinking among adults (who make the laws and rules that govern children’s lives) about what role power plays, should play, or might not need to play, in our interactions with kids.
Would you like to get your hair cut by a child? Would you like your child to cut a stranger’s hair? How does this “show” shed unique light on the particular predicament of children in the world of adults? Does it provide any answers? Does it pose new unanswerable questions? Do you like the hairstyles you see? Does it matter?
Interestingly enough, another offering at the festival explored the issues of power, maturity and youth from a whole other angle: the touring production of “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour,” from the National Theatre of Scotland.
I caught the last half of this riotously funny and shockingly bawdy show, and mused on how the premise – six choir girls from a Catholic school in Western Scotland travel to Edinburgh to participate in a choir competition but end up going completely off-track, partying and spinning out of control instead – asks the audience another set of questions: what are the forces at play in the ‘coming of age’ of teenage girls today? How does it feel as an audience member to see young girls, dressed so primly in their uniforms, show this other rowdy, rude side? How would it feel if they were boys instead of girls?
Because of the mature subject matter, these roles were played by young adults, of course (the youngest among them is 23, I learned from Festival staff). So while in Haircuts by Children I saw 9-10 year olds functioning like adults, in “Our Ladies” I saw adults playing the roles of teenagers. I spent the long flight back musing on how we view our youngest citizens, in our society at large, and how that affects the way they view themselves. How would you describe most adults’ views of children as a social unit? Do you agree or disagree with them?