09 December 2013

We loved NEON!

The What Melbourne Loveds are past the halfway mark, but today's favourites aren't up because I'm reading a lot of responses to an article based on Wesley Enoch's 2013 NSW Philip Parsons Memorial Lecture.

From the Sisters Grimm's The Sovereign Wife.
Here's the article. It was written before Enoch's gave his speech yesterday.

The article focuses on Enoch's criticism of funded companies like the MTC for not paying performers in their independent company programs, like the NEON festival.

The same NEON that is already being mentioned as something that Melbourne theatre makers loved a lot this year.

I'm with them. NEON was brilliant.

From the Daniel Schlusser Ensemble's Menagerie

Here's Enoch's full speech: "I don't do it for the money". Please don't comment on the newspaper piece without reading the full speech.

This is the quote that's causing the most comment: "I think it is immoral for people on full time salaries in companies and venues with multi-million dollar turnovers to be asking artists to do work for free or less than the agreed award."

The MTC responded to the newspaper story immediately with a media release. Executive Director Virginia Lovett said, "Wesley Enoch's ill-informed  comments  and  media  stunts  do  not  add to  the  debate.  They  divide.  Wesley  at  no  stage  approached  MTC  to  discuss  or  understand  the  NEON  model,  its  long-­term structure or the positive impact it has had on artists in the Victorian community."

If I believe Facebook, Enoch's criticism is being supported.

I want to support NEON.

The MTC isn't the bravest of programmers. If a new David Williamson play sells well, why not keep programming him?

NEON is risk.

The MTC found a way to support independent companies to create whatever they wanted to without the worry about venue, marketing and opening night drink costs: all those costs that wipe out the profit in most profit-share shows. They had a $7500 budget to use how they liked and they got the box office.

That's the best deal in town.

From Fraught Outfit's On the bodily education of young girls

But the actors weren't paid MEAA award rates. Enoch says that's immoral.

Let's imagine a NEON season that's based on paying the creators as they do in a mainstage show. Each show would have 1 director, 1 designer, maybe 5 actors, perhaps 10 days rehearsal and a small design budget. They wouldn't get their box office.

Would MenagerieOn the bodily education of young girls, By their own handsStory of O or The Sovereign Wife ever have existed in this constrained model?

I don't want an arts world without The Sovereign Wife. I don't a world without The Sovereign Wife.

And what about the forums and workshops that were part of the festival?

From The Rabble's Story of O

MTC's Artistic Director Brett Sheehy said "NEON was deliberately set up so that the artists involved were free to present whatever they pleased and that every Box Office dollar would go directly to these independent companies. We wanted to support the authentic expression of astonishing art being created by Melbourne’s independent theatre scene, rather than just present five smaller scale MTC productions."

Let's criticise the MTC for being boring and supporting dull art, but let's cheer and love them for taking a risk and doing something positive to support independent companies.

Yes, artists are undervalued in society. We regularly don't get paid for what we do. (Ever wondered if the arts writer you're talking to or asking to review your show gets paid?). This sucks. This sucks a lot. And we have to continue to fight for our value.

But is it immoral? If I start listing what I think is immoral, I'll be writing a lot before I get to "paying artists award rates".

Criticising NEON is shooting ourselves in the foot.

If NEON gets dropped because it doesn't pay, we're back to David Williamson plays, expensive tickets and complaining that we don't see diversity or independent artists on the MTC stage.

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