Wednesday, 25 July 2001
Aus Stage: website for Australian Performing Arts, July 25, 2001
Aus Stage - a website for Australian Performing Arts
July 25, 2001
Article by Kate Herbert
Ever needed to settle a pub bet about Mel Gibson’s early Shakespeare work or Geoffrey Rush’s life before Shine? Now you can check old reviews and prove to your mates that Nicole Kidman could never act.
Aus Stage is a website in development to be launched publicly early 2002. It does what no-one has done before - records all events on the Australian stage. This includes professional and some amateur theatre, musicals, opera, hybrid arts, new circus, dance - everything but pure music which is huge, requiring its own specialised project
“The seed for Aus Stage was sown after the Australian and New Zealand Theatre Record ceased publication in 1986,” says Geoffrey Milne, Chair of Drama and Theatre at Latrobe University .
Milne’s personal archive is the main source of current and recent Victorian data for the website. His office is littered with piles of material. Programmes, reviews and press releases, collected by Milne since the ANZTR ceased, are collated into monthly groups. It is like a huge sandpit for theatre obsessives like me to frolic in.
Joh Hartog was the primary initiator of the project. He is Head of the Drama Department at Flinders University which, with our Latrobe Uni, is one of eight universities in a national Aus Stage consortium.
“Aus Stage came from my post-grad work on the Performing Arts Collection of SA. The actual idea to take it further came from the ADSA (Australian Drama Studies Association) executive.”
It will be “a pathway from event, to potential sources of further information, to the actual source material.,’ says Hartog. It will also link to other performing arts sites. On it, you will find performers, directors, designers, producers, venues, lists of reviews and articles.
"The site can be used as a pub bet settler,” quips Milne. Visitors to the site, according to Hartog will be, “ Researchers, reviewers, students and staff from educational institutions, the General Public.” Milne suggests it has already saved one of his PhD students six months of research.
A partial grant was received in 1999 from DEETYA (Department of Education and Training). “With contributions from individual universities, the total exceeded a quarter of a million dollars over two years, “ says Milne with a gleam in his eye.
,Hartog anticipates the number of individual entries to be “ 5000 from 1/1/01 and a further 20,000 from before 1/1/01, but it is a bit of a guess.”
‘We are in the process of extending the coverage of events into the past ,” he says.
Private collections are gold mines for this project and a recently discovered JC Williamson archive will provide material for decades of shows in Melbourne.
Company archives including those at La Mama, MTC, Playbox, Opera Australia, Australian Ballet will be invaluable. The Wolanski collection in Sydney is enormous. “It fills a room, “ says Milne.
“The website is not merely a duplicate of the ANZTR, says Milne. The record was a monthly publication compiling reviews from 1987 to 1996. From 1988, it included New Zealand.
Noni Bousfield, graduate of Latrobe Drama, is a researcher for Aus Stage. Her task is to log Australian shows reviewed in ANZTR.
“In ‘87,’ she observes, “it had about 50 shows per month. By 1996 it held from 100 to 150.”
According to Milne, “The crucial decision was to aim for comprehensivity - a little information about a lot of events.”
But the plan is to add detail. "We can append sound and video clips,,"Hartog says, "still photographs, reviews, articles, etc. to provide much more comprehensive information on some events.” He describes this as adding “vertical information” to existing “horizontal information.”
According to Bousfield, “ It is fascinating charting the journey across Australia of a play such as Strictly Ballroom which began on stage at NIDA then became a major film.”
So get those trivia quizzes ready and lay down some bets on what Kate Blanchett was doing in April 1980. High School probably.
by Kate Herbert