Alex - tell me about the Subversive season, what it’s about and how it spins off Short and Sweet?
Subversive is the latest offering by Defector Art, a Melbourne Independent Theatre group run by a very talented local writer and director Frank Otis. Frank has been working in the ten-minute form for a number of years and Subversive is his latest offering of ten-minute plays with a Subversive theme. Frank's also decided to include a couple of my plays in the selection with a Subversive theme.
Defector Art are one of three independent Melbourne Theatre companies that the Arts Centre is engaging with through the Short & Sweet programme. The other two are the Melbourne Writer's Theatre and Crash Test Drama. All three companies are working in the ten-minute form and thus the connection with Short & Sweet, the world's largest ten-minute theatre festival, which has been running in Melbourne since 2005.
During the year Short & Sweet will be giving these three companies administrative and artistic support (where possible and appropriate) to help them develop works which may then be included in the Short & Sweet Festival at the end of the year. Melbourne has an incredibly vibrant independent theatre scene and through our collaboration with these companies Short & Sweet is hoping to further develop and enrich the programme for the Short & Sweet Melbourne festival for 2007. As Artistic co-ordinator of Short & Sweet Melbourne since 2005, I'll be playing a role in that collaboration and development of work with the three companies.
Gun Laws, a drama about two very different cops. Tell me about this play.
Gun Laws explores the climate of fear that is ever present, building in our society and how that pressure effects two female cops called into a tense position while searching for a suspect sought in relation to the death of a policeman. The pressure society is under as a whole is forever threatening to buckle the whole structure of Western Society and for those charged with upholding the "law" the pressure is even greater. Cops are human too - though I know it's hard to believe that when you see what some cops do, especially to protestors!
When the chinks in one young constable start to show how will the other react? Support her or will her own fear cause her to turn on her partner. The fact that the cops are women, in a male dominated environment, playing essentially male roles add another interesting element to the play - I hope.
The Choice, in which one simple act forever changes a man's life and the lives of those around him.
The Choice is about addiction. A recovering addict has been clean for some time. He has a young son and is trying to pull his life together. Something goes wrong and he considers throwing it all away. "Picking up”, which is a recovering addicts term for starting to use drugs again. His sponsor, a friend who helped him when he was first recovering, flies in to talk some sense into him. The recovering addict’s decision has been made. Or has it? Can his friend talk him around? This play is kind of a double "subversion". Drug taking is a subversive act in society but here a character is trying to subvert another characters' desire to use drugs. And the reason he is doing this are not what you may expect.
How would you describe the works by Otis?
Frank likes to tackle difficult issues - straight on. He runs towards the bon fire, rather than backs away. He likes to put characters in high-pressure situations then stands back and watches them explode. He documents the personal destruction of our times. The mini-explosions. There is a real danger to his work. There's often sex and violence as well - which could make them crowd pleasers.
How did you two become collaborators?
I saw Defector Art's Box-a-shorts last year during the Melbourne Fringe at Gasworks - which was an impressive season, with some great writing and acting. Many of those involved went on to be involved in Short & Sweet 2006. After that I met up with Frank to see how we could help to perhaps bring a Defector Art production into Short & Sweet. That process continues!
What is the prevailing mood for the Subversive season?
The prevailing mood for Subversive I think is edge, danger - with the ever-present threat of an explosion looming above all the plays. I think audiences should expect to be confronted and provoked - have some pre-conceptions challenged. It promises to be a thrilling night of theatre with some good writing and some fine performances.
Where can audiences find out a little more about Defector and indeed Short and Sweet 2007?
Frank you are an actor, playwright and director. Which of these roles do you find yourself enjoying the most?
I like writing the best. You can say what you want, what you need to say as an artist, and I still get a big buzz about other people performing my work. I love watching my story develop sometimes in ways I never dreamed of when I started the real writing. Then the actors do something with it again. It's great! It can be hair pulling but that's part of the process. Acting would come next. I love being on stage and getting that instant audience reaction. There is nothing like it.
Last year your short play; 9/10ths of the Law was a part of the successful 2006 short and sweet season?
Yes. Getting a play performed at the Victorian Art Centre was a challenge and just the whole buzz of Short and Sweet - it was great! The difficult part was that we had only 12 days notice when the others had months. That was another real challenge, but we did it, we had just missed out on the wild card section, someone pulled out, so we were put in.
How did Defector Art theatre begin?
I formed the company with my brother Paul and we adopted the slogan 'anything but safe'. It is something the company still lives by - I'm loving it!
Some of my plays have been called subversive and it is now illegal to be subversive so it seemed like a good idea. I think the plays that are controversial are plays they either question long held beliefs or talk about issues that society doesn't want to talk about. 'The devil you know' deals with the churches attitude towards gays and other issues about religion. In this play the devil is the goodie and god is the baddie. It is a comedy but it attacks everything the church has told us about Christianity. I have had actors refuse to do this play because they don't like what it says.
Fuck you, is a play about two drunk Aussies who finally explore their repressed sexuality.
What who or when inspired this particular play?
I saw two drink guys at a pub, they almost got into a blue. But just when it seemed like they were going to hit each other, they hugged. The sad thing is that I think they only hug each other when they’re pissed. I also started to think about how sportsmen are allowed to hug and pat each other’s bums on the field. But do this off the field or when your sober you are accused of being a 'poof' so I decided to write about it.
Is A Dish Best Served Cold a revenge play?
Yes, It’s about rape. This play will hopefully cause a stir because it deals with things about rape we still don't talk about. It also deals with a way of getting back at a rapist that is ugly and dangerous. Dangerous to the victims. So dangerous that actual rape survivors, find this revenge fantasy hard to talk about. Harder to act out. But these women are going to have a good go at it.
And Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep?
The play starts out about a woman who is having nightmares. Through therapy she remembers that her father raped her when she was a child. Her father is very rich but she bravely decides to take her father to court.
Truth or fiction - it’s the age-old question - do you write about your own life?
I make up most of my stories. I also stretch the truth to come up with a story but the emotions in those stories I have mostly felt. I do not believe in the bullshit of get something good out of everything that happens to you but my life has given me some insights into the bad and good of humanity and isn't that what art is about?