Friday, April 01, 2011

Responsibility for performance

As I've said, I'm doing research on an Australian theatre director and acting teacher, Lindy Davies. This is what she teaches (from her website):

The Autonomous Actor

An actor who is self governing, an actor who has a unique vision of performance; a strong sense of responsibility; an actor who questions and gives suggestions; an actor in pursuit of virtuosity: working rigorously, imaginatively, conceptually and physically.

An actor who is prepared to take responsibility for the material they choose to work with, by challenging writers if there is a lack of quality, by challenging content that is racist, sexist or ageist.

An actor who is prepared to look at the implications of what something does, rather than only looking at what something says.

An actor who is willing to look at the political implications of belonging to a profession which is shaping the perception of following generations.

You can see why I love her.

With this in mind I watched Tim Minchen perform with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra last week. I was wondering if some members of the orchestra were uncomfortable with the content of the material and would rather not be associated with the work. Fortunately, I know someone in the orchestra, so I asked. The answer is that the members of the orchestra are given the opportunity to step away from a performance they feel uncomfortable playing in. Good news.

I wonder, then, about the chain of responsibility for all sorts of work that becomes part of the media or part of our culture. For example, the content of magazines. The issue of French Vogue, for example, which contained a photo story of female children heavily made up and dressed in adult type clothing and jewellery. From the idea being put forward at a meeting, all the people who helped organise the shoot, the children themselves and their parents, the photographers and stylists, the printers, the newsagents. Did nobody along that chain ask any questions about whether maybe it isn't a good idea afterall? The same can be applied to a range of advertisements, songs, music videos - the list could go on.

My niece is now looking into gaining a cadetship with Pacific Magazines. She could be writing content for Who, or Total Girl. I wonder if she will have any real input in questioning the messages to women and girls about themselves. We'll see. Maybe she'll get to be editor and have some power, but, in the meantime, just learn the ropes and do as she's told. Like everyone else along those chains.

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