Lunch in the Scarth Room. Company Skylark at University House.Australian National University, October 18, 1996. Very professional. Co-ordination by Mark Soulsby and Rae Teasdale.
This was a low-key high-powered performance, starring Skylark Patron Bob McMullan with Chairperson Judy Tier, Artistic Director Peter Wilson and well-known playwright John Romeril, touching base over lasagne with Colin Mackenzie (EPVAT from DEFAT), David Williams (ACDU), Cathy Winters (Canberra Festival Director), Rob Brookman (Festival of Australian Theatre Director), Boris Kelly (freelance theatre and film maker, currently with projects in Belgium and Ireland) and, last but certainly not least, with their major sponsors Ansett Australia and Ten Capital Television.
Acronyms are apocryphal, but EPVAT is about the performing and visual arts touring overseas, with a special emphasis on our Asian region. The program aims to make Australia synonymous with high quality productions in Asian nations, building up a regular clientele for our touring companies. ACDU is our local government Arts and Cultural Development Unit: between EPVAT and ACDU lies the field of action for Company Skylark.
If you are a company with an audience base here in Canberra and touring Australia and overseas, what better sponsors than an airline for travel deals and local television for advertising support. Puppets may seem like playthings on stage, but behind the scenes Max Mercer at Ansett has kept them on the move since 1995, while Ten Capital's Bronwyn Barrett will be highlighting three Skylark shows as well as giving overall support through 1997. Cathy Winters suggested that corporations are beginning to realise the benefits, to themselves and the arts companies, of long term (3 or 5 year) sponsorships - maybe Ansett has already set the mood for Skylark.
Bob McMullan spoke - sitting down informally in contrast to the stance required in the House - about the role of government in the arts. As an ex-Minister for the Arts, he felt satisfied that governments should not be involved in what people create and perform, but should provide the infrastructure for supply, helping create demand and systems for distribution of the arts. He saw Playing Australia as crucial to the interchange of the arts among the cities and country areas of Australia - a two-way approach which, for example, saw Dance North assisted to perform in Sydney before Sydney productions toured to the regions. He believed Australia needs a strong intra-national arts culture - only on this basis can we succeed internationally. For this reason, he supports the proper maintenance of the ABC, the source of cultural leadership, and the systematic funding of the film industry (not the simplistic tax-break system which created films like Coolangatta Gold) because the broad-range attraction of film creates spin-offs for the rest of the performing arts. Shine, only one example, has engendered a series of popular concert performances by David Helfgott.
The program of new work and old favourites for 1997 is exciting, particularly because John Romeril's new work, Love's Suicide, derived from 18th Century Japanese theatre, is a co-operative effort between Skylark and Playbox in Melbourne, with a 6 week season planned in November/December. Rich fare at lunch, indeed.© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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