Troy Dodds of AussieTheatre.com writes:
You’ve got to love that the term ‘political turmoil’ in Australia simply means uncertainty over the prime minister and negotiations with independent and Green MPs, as opposed to fighting in the streets, roadside bombs and political assassinations. You’ve also got to love that polling day doesn’t mean heavily armed security, but instead means a sausage sizzle and a cake stall.
The political dramas in Australia over the last couple of days is probably indicative of a government that has lost its way, and an opposition with no real direction on how to get it all back on track. The coming days will indeed be interesting.
Governments — both state and federally — play a vital role in theatre, particularly in regional areas and for smaller theatre organisations, who rely on various forms of funding to ensure they stay alive. The anxious wait for results on funding applications can often determine whether or not a theatre company will present a certain show, or go in a certain direction. It’s a shame it comes down to that.
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Reality is that theatre, like most industries, is about the almighty dollar. Sure, it’s about artistic merit as well, but nobody can deny the importance of cash and the fact that all companies live and die by their box office results. Some obviously have bigger cushions to take falls than others.
On a mainstream commercial level, there is obviously an interest from the corporate sector as shows get promotion through the mainstream media, through billboards and through other marketing techniques. Hence, partnering with a show like Wicked or Jersey Boys is indeed a smart idea. That said, I am sure some in the commercial sector would argue that private funding and support could be greatly enhanced.
On smaller levels, the problem in attaining sponsorship is that the potential sponsor gets little return for their dollar, except for the good will that may come with it. It’s just like any industry — in sport, a major company would be more likely to sponsor a rugby league, soccer or AFL team than they would a junior netball team, or a badminton club.
So how can we increase private support for the theatre sector?
Take away government funding for a moment and constant arguing on if funding is going to the right places, and indeed which state is getting the best share. Let’s consider government funding a bonus.
Truth is what theatre needs in this country is a true governing body, particularly for second and third tier theatre. Live Performance Australia does a wonderful job but obviously it encompasses a large number of performing arts disciplines and has strong interest in the bigger shows.
Independent shows, often rehearsed in lounge rooms with cast parties at the local pub, struggle to survive yet are vitally important for the Australian theatre landscape. Some sort of governing body, which could actively search for collective private funding, would surely assist in ensuring that this form grows.
I am sure somebody will probably write to me and say there is some sort of association out there for independent theatre. Maybe there is, but I have decided not to use ‘Google’ and plead ignorance — because so many people keep bringing up this issue, hence any organisation that does exist is perhaps not reaching its potential.
Creating a governing body, particularly an effective one, would be difficult, as would trying to get all independent creators and producers to be part of it. But it may just be a saving grace.
To this end, congratulations to all involved in the Sydney Fringe Festival — it is wonderful to see an organised collection of independent, fringe shows that we can throw ourselves into.
*This article first appeared on AussieTheatre.com