Paper Presentations # 4 – Session 4C

NZ – 1.30pm | VIC/NSW/TAS – 11.30am | SA – 11am | QLD – 10.30am | NT – 10am
WA – 8.30am

Chaired by Chris Hay

Links to join all conference sessions can be accessed via the program page of the ADSA conference website

Tristan Niemi – Steering Clear of the Wallowing Place: A Dramaturgy of Queer Tragedy

Queer art is mired in trauma and tragedy (Campbell and Farrier 14; Lovelock 555). While trauma is undoubtedly a key part of the Queer experience, but this does not mean the art made about Queerness must be traumatic (Haughton 19). Cultural material being produced recently seeks to walk this line but often fall into homonormative cultural scripts that demand Queer people be happy (Campbell and Farrier 13; Lovelock 550). The question then becomes: how can stories of the trauma Queer persons and communities experience be ethically created and produced in the theatre?

This paper will propose that a reclamation of the association of Queerness with tragedy via a Queering of Aristotle’s Poetics will provide a new way forward for the depiction of traumas endured by Queer persons and communities onstage. It will outline a set of conditions playwrights and dramaturgs can use to measure the potential harm their work may cause Queer audiences. Queerness as an orientation is deeply intersectional and so this paper will also avoid focussing exclusively on plays about cisgender homosexual men. They are not the only people who are Queer and so their plays cannot be regarded as the only Queer ones. Expanding the field’s view of Queerness in this manner allows for an intersectional critique of Queer representation rather than one that only benefits one facet of the community. In order to avoid what I call “the wallowing place” – a space wherein Queerness is pain and can lead only to tragedy – the tool that is used to dig our graves must become the one we use to escape them.

Campbell, Alyson., and Stephen. Farrier, eds. Queer Dramaturgies International:Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Haughton, Miriam. Staging Trauma: Bodies in Shadow. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Lovelock, Michael. “Gay and Happy: (Proto-)Homonormativity, Emotion and Popular
Culture.” Sexualities, vol. 22, no. 4, 2019, pp. 549–565.

Tristan Niemi (they/she) is a multidisciplinary artist and activist with backgrounds in writing, theatre, dance, and music working on the unceded lands of the Jaggera and Turrabul people. They have produced poetry and prose for QUT Glass, PASTEL Magazine, the QUT Literary Salon as well as their self-published zine High Priestess Monthly. Theatrically they have worked as a writer, director, and performer for Wallflower Theatre and Milne Productions. They have also worked as an assistant director and script assistant under Daniel Evans and Kat Henry respectively. Tristan is currently an Honours student at the University of Queensland; their research asks questions about the ethical responsibilities writers and dramaturgs have to Queer persons and communities when writing stories about their suffering. Tristan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drama) from the Queensland University of Technology and an Associates Diploma from the Trinity College of London.

Matthew Bapty – A Rock and a Queer Place: Re-Visioning Australian History through Adaptation

The opening stage direction of Tom Wright’s Picnic at Hanging Rock specifies “a girl in school uniform, with hat. As you would see on a Melbourne tram. Or a Blackman painting” (9). A temporal link is established here between the 2016 Malthouse adaptation, the 1950’s context of the novel’s production, and the narrative’s 1900 setting. All characters are figured by five female presenting bodies against a largely symbolic backdrop that conflates the interior of the school with the vastness and mystic potential of the natural world. As a result, a geographically and temporally ambiguous liminal space is created that foregrounds the oppressive regime of the colonial educational institution. While the production is limited by not directly addressing the histories of Indigenous dispossession at Ngannelong, or Hanging Rock, it reveals the violence inherent in Miss Appleyard’s attempt to replicate British institutional discipline on unceded land.

Similarly charged adaptations of literary texts have populated Australian stages over the last decade. In Adrienne Rich’s terms, they seek to “re-vision” Australian history and liberate otherwise silenced voices by approaching existing narratives “from a new critical direction” (18). Such a re-visioning of the national imaginary exposes what has been excluded by the canon, thus queering the accepted historical narrative. This paper argues that the ambiguity of time and gender performativity in Picnic at Hanging Rock disrupts the constraints of realist adaptation to undermine and decentre the authority of colonial institutions in the present day. I contribute here to a much wider conversation about the position of adaptation in the Australian theatrical landscape, suggesting that adaptations hold the potential to queer historical narratives and provide new ways of generating knowledge.

Rich, Adrienne. “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision.” College English, vol. 34, no. 1, 1972, pp. 18-30.
Wright, Tom. Picnic at Hanging Rock, Nick Hern Books, 2017.

Matthew Bapty (he/him) is a young actor and director based in Meanjin/Brisbane. He is a recent graduate of UQ’s Advanced Humanities (Hons.) program, having completed an honours thesis on the adaptation of Australian literature for the stage, as well as additional research work on 20th century Australian drama and contemporary Queer theatre. As a creative, he has worked with several independent theatre organisations across South-East Queensland as an actor and director, most frequently in the fields of cabaret and contemporary drama, and has facilitated in-school workshops for young performers and performers with disabilities across the Moreton Bay region.

Alyson Campbell and Jonathan Graffam – Baking Cake Daddy: transforming fat-phobia to fat-positivity with a pantry-full of fat-queer subversive pedagogies

This paper examines the genesis, making processes and performance choices of Cake Daddy, a queer and fat-positive live performance work (Belfast, Melbourne, Sydney, 2018-19). The show was made in response to performer-creator Ross Anderson-Doherty’s experience of shock and fatphobia in the audience’s reaction to his naked fat body in a previous production. This experience —and the unpacking of it— proved a catalyst for Anderson-Doherty to respond in the best way he knows: through performance and his own form of queer performance pedagogy.

We trace the queer and ‘fat’ dramaturgical choices within the creation and staging of this fat-positive and celebratory production. This includes the hybrid cabaret-theatre form of the production, its (at times) conversational/dialogic mode, the visibility and participation of audiences, the virtuosity of Anderson-Doherty’s singing and hosting, the sharing of deeply personal material, the flaunting of fat/ness and fat sexuality onstage and the shared act of committing to a fat-positive community pledge: all of these, we assert, lead to a fat-queer utopian performative moment (Dolan, 2005). Borrowing from queer theory’s move to see queer as a verb, rather than a noun, Anderson-Doherty’s appropriation of fat as a verb has brought this forth: Anderson-Doherty ‘fattens’ the space—and in the performance’s final moments he teaches audiences to conjugate that verb together as a temporary community.

Dolan, Jill. Utopia in Performance: Finding Hope at the Theater. Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Alyson Campbell is a freelance director and dramaturg whose work spans a broad range of companies and venues in Australia, the UK and the US over the last 30 years.She has collaborated closely with Sydney playwright Lachlan Philpott since their production of his play Bison in 2000, creating queer assemblage wreckedAllprods with him in 2001. Alyson is an Associate Professor in Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. Her research, artistic practice as a director, teaching and activism converge around gender and sexuality, particularly queer performance and dramaturgies and contemporary representations of HIV and AIDS. She has written widely on these areas, most notably co-editing the collections Queer Dramaturgies: International Perspectives on Where Performance Leads Queer (with Stephen Farrier, Palgrave, 2015) and Viral Dramaturgies: HIV and AIDS in Performance in the 21st Century (with Dirk Gindt, Palgrave, 2018). She now likes to write about feral pedagogies and is passionate about Feral Queer Camping.

Jonathan (Jonno) Graffam (he/him) is a Melbourne-based dramaturg and performer who works mostly with emerging queer Australian artists. He is a Tutor and Research Assistant at the VCA, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, UoM. Jonno recently completed a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre (VCA, UoM), examining the dramaturgical strategies used in staging Cake Daddy(Belfast, Melbourne, Sydney; 2018/19), a fat-positive and queer performance work. Jonno is currently completing his PhD at Monash University with a project titled: “Fat Dramaturgies: queer strategies and methodologies for making fat activist performance”.