Our August picks for community theatre
John Kachoyan - AustralianPlays.org Literary Manager
I’ve gone fairly political in my choices this month, inspired perhaps by the tsunami of chaos we are all experiencing in the news, both local and international at this time. Both plays I have chosen are in verbatim form – that is, the text has been created from the words of those who have lived or are living the experience. The first is Letters to Lindy by Alana Valentine about Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and the second is MTC Associate Director Dean Bryant’s Gaybies which examines the experience and lives of children raised in same sex households.
Gaybies was first presented at the Southbank Theatre in Melbourne and is the result of a commission from Melbourne’s LGBTQI+ Festival, Midsumma. It was Dean Bryant the festival commissioned (off the back of some seriously awesome Music Theatre and Cabaret projects) and so it was Dean himself who chose the subject matter. He started by chatting with a few friends then asked them to spread the word. As the project developed he put out a call on social media and ended up interviewing over forty kids of same-sex couples. The result is a hilarious and moving account of family. The common theme is, of course, love. I thought this an apropos time to suggest this piece for programming at a wider level. It is so warm and engaging and, in a very simple and non-didactic way, it spreads a message of acceptance that the wider community very much needs to hear in these times.
The name Lindy Chamberlain has not been heard too much in recent years but the allure and emotion of the Azaria Chamberlain case remains potent and evocative. For anyone who remembers it, Letters to Lindy is a fascinating recapitulation of an extraordinary and hysterical episode in Australian life. For those who don’t, this is a fascinating cautionary tale about the ability of the public to influence and distort the judicial process. All South Park fans will recognise the trope of the villagers turning up on the lawn with pitchforks and torches (a vision which moved from the virtual to the all-too-real a couple of weeks ago in Charlottesville) and Letters to Lindy examines this community impulse through the many thousands of letters, both for and against, that Ms Chamberlain-Creighton received between that fateful night in 1980 and the final court hearing in 2012. Alana Valentine has made this form her own, and this piece is delicate and beautifully structured. Every now and then we need as a nation to look back, to examine our collective behaviour and to process our prejudices and assumptions. This is an appropriate time for us to do that I think – the political climate is so reactive and unstable and our record on issues of social justice is, quite rightly, under deep scrutiny. This is a perfect piece to address this zeitgeist in a positive and un-didactic manner. And it has the added attraction of beautiful writing, great characters and an unforgettable historical hook.
Tom Healey, Literary Manager