songrites: the songs of tomorrow
The Songs of Tomorrow
…Songlines is a route through the landscape which is travelled during the Dreamtime (or Alcheringa) and which features a series of landmarks that relate to events that happened during this time…
Songrites is an intensive playwriting workshop project, the product of a necessary and compelling conversation about the lack of a support infrastructure for mid-career indigenous artists, one that Playwriting Australia and The Sydney Opera House have together been engaged in since 2013.
On November 19th, we embarked once again on this project, beginning the journey with 3 new artists. Whereas the first incarnation of Songriteswas an engagement with the Indigenous music industry, this time we have decided to focus our investment in the acting world. It was a major coup for us to have on board Billy McPherson (Battle Of Waterloo), Shari Lee Sebbens (The Bleeding Tree) and Rurriwuy Hick (Cleverman) as our participants, three actors of high calibre, each with an extensive body of work. When you are in front of artists that have an abundance of cultural content, it is unquestionable they would have material aplenty for story. These 3 were no exception in this regard, each putting forward very profound and complex dilemmas that can provide riveting and urgent commentaries to enlighten us all if able to be crafted into play form.
We invited and were very honoured to have Rachael Maza along to conduct the room. It is not just important but compulsory that we give weight and validation to the cultural processes belonging to the content. That cultural process is the instrument that shapes the lives of the indigenous and the elder is the central chord with which all others will find their note. Rachael struck a solid figure in the room that week. She not only brought her wisdom as an elder, she also came with her visual understanding as a Director and her infectious curiosity as a fan of Theatre and storytelling. Alongside her we were excited and equally grateful to have Duncan Graham as our mentor, providing acute and incisive learning around the craft of playwriting. He is an experienced playwright who was kind enough to bring his working process into the room, which Billy, Shari and Rurriwuy benefitted from immensely.
The week was a cacophony of ideas, themes, perspectives and commentaries that moulded and blended together. We asked them to arrive with nothing more than a few ideas they wanted to explore. Billy arrived with a three plays he wanted to work on, which had varying degrees of form. It became quite clear to him quite quickly, that the story of self-discovery was the song he most wanted to score, a tune he started humming more than 25 years ago that he needed to complete. Rurriwuy arrived with some ideas but with a very strong and clear objective; to honour her mother. Shari came, not with ideas but with dilemmas and questions she holds about the world that she inhabits. The week provided specific learning to each one, suggesting beginning points for them as storytellers, as writers. Where they place the first note of their theatrical song is a consideration for Billy, Shari and Rurriwuy to decide on. Where the melody travels and in what vessel these notes are housed in, we are strongly supporting and eagerly anticipating. So, watch this space, as you are witnessing an evolution of artists, the likes of Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
Diversity Programs Co-ordinator
Image by Andre Vasquez