Saturday, 20 December 2014

Where do good ideas come from?

"Chance favours the connected mind"

"Collisons between smaller hunches that come together to make something bigger than themselves."

"Good ideas need time to incubate."

"We have to create systems that allow the hunches to come together and turn into something bigger than the sum of their parts."

"So many new ways to connect and so many new ways to reach out and find other people who have that missing piece that will complete the idea we're working, or to stumble serendipitously across some amazing new piece of information that we can use to build and improve our own ideas."

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Digital Theatre

Digital Theatre has grown to become the world's biggest on demand platform specializing in delivering arts content. With a simple and straightforward objective to make arts accessible regardless of geographical, social or economic boundaries, the team at Digital Theatre have filmed, acquired and distributed the very best in captured live entertainment.
Finding the 'right' show for a class to experience can be a difficult undertaking at times. Theatre companies are going out of their way to make the process of selecting a suitable show as easy as possible, generally extending their production information to include content advice, suitability and connections to the curriculum. You can go to shows, shows can come to you, there are plenty of options available. Sometimes, however, the right show just isn't programmed or isn't available or the timing isn't right or you're unable to make a booking or it is too expensive.

This year I had an opportunity to try out Digital Theatre, a British-based service providing on-demand arts content. With an ever-expanding library covering Shakespeare, Classics, New Writing, Musicals, Ballet, Opera and Documentary, there is plenty of shows to choose from.

My experience of recorded live performance is limited to deBASE productions' the Clown from Snowy River and The Escapists' Boy Girl Wall, with both packages including educational resources as part of the package. Both are excellent and I would highly recommend them, however, neither of these productions were suitable for my requirements so I turned to Digital Theatre, a site that I discovered via in 2011.

The most striking thing about the recorded productions I have viewed, The Container and Lovesong, is how the energy of the live performance is captured and communicated. These are unquestionably live performances - you can occasionally hear or see the audience - but the quality of the recording, camera placement, editing and other elements associated with reproducing the experience for the screen have been given their due consideration. The result is that the recorded production becomes a work of art in its own right, carefully crafted to provide maximum engagement.

From a teaching perspective, the opportunity to preview a show is invaluable. Many theatre companies offer complimentary tickets for teachers prior to their group bookings so they may see the show in advance. If a show turns out to be unsuitable, however, it could be very difficult to make alternative arrangements. Digital Theatre provides teacher with an opportunity to preview a show at their leisure, potentially in the comfort of their own home or over the course of several days. While Digital Theatre has basic production information and reviews for each listing, some of the original production companies maintain extensive resources and education packs.

With the option to rent or buy it is a very affordable method of experiencing some of the best that theatre has to offer without leaving home (or your classroom). Far from replacing the live experience, it may just inspire you to get out there and see it in the flesh. It certainly has for me.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Something to celebrate

As a Drama teacher, I am fortunate to work with imaginative, intuitive and creative student artists who share their skills in a variety of fields. Each student will have their own reasons for wanting to be involved in a production or ensemble, but I'm sure most of them share the view of Australian writer and comedian Dan Ilic that being "lit and amplified" can be quite addictive. I know what he means.

Tonight’s awards celebrate the achievements of several students across the middle and senior schools. Most of the awards recognise outstanding skill within a particular field associated with each discipline, however, the drive, determination and character of each recipient is also considered as part of the selection process. Thousands of decisions are made when a performance is being crafted. Crucially, as is the case for all of our performers and crew, at some point each student had to make the decision to be involved in the first place. Then they have to do the work. Because creating a performance takes time and effort. It often evolves slowly, almost indiscernible from one rehearsal to the next, until suddenly you realise that there is this thing you said you would be doing at a certain time on a particular day and there will be hundreds of people watching and waiting. Most will be there to cheer you on, but human nature has revealed that there are at least a few who would be just as happy to watch it all go wrong. Every person who creates something enters into this environment.

A number of students have been involved in productions for the first time this year, and it is fair to say that they, along with the more experienced hands, have flourished in the creative and supportive environment created by the casts and performance teams. Any good artistic endeavour at this level generally requires plenty of support from home too. Sometimes you don’t make your entrance until it is time to be in the audience, but that alone can make all the difference to the confidence of our young performers, so thank you for supporting our students, your children, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, family and friends in their pursuit of excellence. The arts are fantastic environment to learn skills associated with taking risks, pushing boundaries and generally having a go, and given the vulnerability that is often required to produce quality work, the support of parents and family is vital.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Osher Günsberg Podcast Highlights
Episode 25: Charlie Pickering

Episode 25: Charlie Pickering

When you separate someone's words from the context in which they were spoken there is potential for the original meaning to be lost or distorted. This is especially so when the words are expressed and captured in a moment of conversation, a forum where ideas are created and explored but not always refined. The episode is well worth a listen in its entirety. The ideas expressed below are simply those that resonated with me at the time of listening. I've reflected further on some of the quotes but left most of the others to speak for themselves.


I just grew up with the understanding that the best opportunities were gonna come with the most education and that was just simple and clear to me when I was really young. And I still believe most of the problems of the world can be cured if we start with education...however that education comes.
Charlie Pickering
This is an idea that should be expressed as often as possible from a variety of sources. Even if you start your education seeking personal growth and opportunities, you will hopefully / eventually appreciate that it can have a meaningful social benefit.

What a lot of people don't get about comedy is almost every comedian is a student of comedy, like they study and they go, "Alright, I get that, I know that."
Charlie Pickering

Every musician's a student. This is the thing. You go to music school, you learn how build the base, you sit there in the woodshed for hours, you learn your chops, you learn your skills, you do your scales, you learn your rudiments, you play standards. There's rudiments you have to learn and then, on top of that, is where you build your own style.
Osher Günsberg

You can spot someone a mile off when they come through a comedy university 'cause you can't see them at all. They come on stage and do their stuff and you know nothing about them, you do not hear their voice. You never get a se...what you're seeing is someone doing what they think a comedian's meant to be like. Which, essentially, is what all comedians do when they start out.
Charlie Pickering

I've gotta go and figure out what doing Charlie Pickering is. The thing is, you can study and you can learn, and you go, "I love this because..., that works because..., that structure is brilliant because..." You learn that by listening. But you can't be taught it in the way that music is taught because comedy is essentially about finding your voice and you can't find your voice if you're always trying to replicate other things and trying to work within structures that everyone else has. It's the toughest thing, but it's what all comics have to do.
Charlie Pickering

The good gigs and the bad gigs are equally important, it's like the rule of stand-up, it's the rule of life, it's the rule of working in entertainment. When it goes horribly wrong you learn a lot more than when it goes horribly right. There are very few lessons to learn when everything goes right.
Charlie Pickering


Through life and through my career...fear is the thing I think about the most. And I think that's life and creativity and all of those things. When you give in to fear you lower your expectations and when you let fear guide what you do too much what you end up doing is more compromised and it's less appealing and it's less satisfying.
Charlie Pickering
I was at a skatepark recently and found myself totally enthralled by the level of calculated risk-taking going on, often by kids on scooters who were barely as tall as the handlebars. There was a notable absence of fear as they assessed the situation, gave it a crack and learnt from the experience.

My mediation teacher tells me that when we live in fear...we leave ourselves with extreme polarized choices, that's it. Fight or flight. If we can release ourselves from fear there's an enormous range of options available to us.
Osher Günsberg

The amazing thing is, the more you go through life you realise that all decisions are nowhere near as binary as you first think they are.
Charlie Pickering

The world is a grey area, everything is a grey area. If it was that simple, governments would be perfect and we'd have no deficits and there'd be no war.
Charlie Pickering

And within that grey area, you try to pick which things you are resolute about. Which are the things that are so important that you go, "Do you know what, I want to lift that up out of the grey area and put that somewhere special, I want to elevate that." And you gotta pick those things rather than always making this binary choice.
Charlie Pickering
One of the reasons I enjoy listening to this podcast is that it often highlights learning as an ongoing process - you're never really finished. Even after an experience or stage of your life is over, reflecting on that experience can yield greater understanding.

People need to know, when you're 22...23, you've got plenty of time. You're made to feel when you're finishing uni that, "Pressures on to become partner straight away." It's all fear again.
Charlie Pickering


I think I was fortunate that...I always had a certain confidence that would mean that the bullying never really got through to me, I'd kind of see it for what it was. But even that was a conscious choice. I've just always felt like everyone's kind of more in control than they think they are, a lot of the time.
Charlie Pickering


The one thing everyone that succeeds has in common is they work harder than everyone else.
Charlie Pickering

You'll never achieve everything if you don't believe you can, like if you don't believe it's possible at least, or that you could do it. Everyone that does something good believed they could do it, or believed in it enough to try.
Charlie Pickering

Never be intimidated by anyone. Because what good comes from being intimidated. How can you properly deal with difficult situations if you're overwhelmed by them.
Charlie Pickering

What I was doing was filtering out the things that I like and am passionate about from the things that I'm not. And it turns out that if I can get rid of more of the things that I'm not passionate about and focus on the things that I am passionate about, things tend to go a lot better.
Charlie Pickering

What does success look like in this environment?
Charlie Pickering

Why work up to anything if you're going to work those hours and hate it. Money can't be that great. And it's not. Nothing is worth that, I genuinely feel that. If you love it, fine. You can work around the clock doing it, that's your prerogative. I was sitting there going, "Do you know what? I know that this is never going to make me happy." I just had this really clear moment on the Friday, I just said, "This is never going to make me happy." So then I thought, "Well, I've got to go. The logical next step is, if this is never going to make me happy, it is foolish to remain another minute."
Charlie Pickering

It does take a lot to quit something. You really have to sit around and really think, "No, this is not for me." And that it's okay, that if it's not for you, to say no to it. You don't have to do stuff.
Osher Günsberg

If you just sign up for open mic nights, you might get a gig about every three months. So somehow you're meant to improve what you're doing between one open mic gig and another one three months later. ... We need to do a gig every week. That's how you improve. No-one would give us a gig every week so we started our own comedy room.
Charlie Pickering

My rule is you have to start with a group of people who want to work together and then do the show.
Charlie Pickering

When it comes to broadcasting, radio is the "Wax on, wax off" of all television.
Osher Günsberg

Australia has, in my opinion, a very immature showbusiness. Compared to the States, compared to the UK, which has a highly evolved industry where there is a path for growth... If you're a young kid and you want to be the next Will Ferrell, what's your career path? That isn't spelt out?
Charlie Pickering
Pathways are really important. Wesley Enoch, currently the artistic director at the Queensland Theatre Company, outlined this point with great clarity several years ago at a Drama Queensland conference. His argument was that sport is very good at pathways - each representative level is connected with the one before and the one that follows and a person who wants to succeed in a particular sport has a path laid out for them to follow. The Arts, and based on Pickering's observations, showbusiness and the creative industries could do better in this area.

The other message for me was that if the pathway doesn't exist, don't be afraid to create one.

Flying hours on radio and flying hours in general, off-broadway, are where careers are built.
Charlie Pickering

I was never meant to be the host of The Project....I had the job of a daily correspondent who'd come and do a segment. I helped out with the other auditions and then there was one day where we had ten minutes of studio time left and the just said, "Oh, Charlie, do you want to have a go?" And the moment I put the earpiece in I was like, "This is your shot." But the interesting thing was, all of the hours on Triple J, doing weekend breakfast on Triple M, all of the stand-up gigs to get an idea of who I was and how to communicate it, it was that Eminem moment...
Charlie Pickering

I'd rather not have the job than have to go and say things I don't believe and sell something I don't...
Charlie Pickering

If this is how it's going to be I'd rather be somewhere else.
Osher Günsberg

You've got to know yourself, you've got to back yourself in and go, "There's a right way to do it and if we're not going to do it the right way then it's not worth doing." You just have to accept that.
Charlie Pickering

You can find both Günsberg and Pickering on Twitter.

Friday, 26 September 2014

A Shiny Surface

When was the last time you connected with someone you find truly inspiring?

Earlier this year I stumbled upon The Osher Günsberg Podcast and it has really got me thinking about the link between reflection and what it means to be inspired.

Hosted by the aforementioned Osher Günsberg, the podcast follows the same basic format for each episode: Introduction by Günsberg detailing his week, perhaps a personal anecdote, a plug to share the podcast and a brief introduction to his guest and occasionally the manner in which the conversation was recorded. This is followed by the conversation with the guest. The episode then concludes with closing remarks from Günsberg reflecting briefly on the conversation, his upcoming plans and other personal anecdotes.

Listening to the podcast is a thoroughly engaging experience. The tone of the conversation is relaxed enough to make you feel like a silent participant, with the potential to lean over at any point, introduce yourself and join in. It is a testament to Günsberg's preparation and skill as an interviewer and broadcaster that he makes something that both he and the guest know is going to be published worldwide feel so intimate.

I haven't listened to all of the episodes, but that is one of the great things about this type of format in a podcast; you can choose whose stories you want to listen to. Having said that, I have found myself just as engaged by the names previously unknown to me (but who are often very well-known in their field) as those who are a household names.

As I've been listening to the conversations and how they unfold I have been struck by the level of introspection Günsberg is able to facilitate in his guests and also his openness to reflect on his own understanding and experience of the world, both during and after the recording.

At the start of most of the episodes I've listened to, Günsberg opens with:
"This is a weekly conversation with someone that I find truly inspiring and it'll hopefully leave you truly inspired as well. My goal on this show is to talk with guests that have a great story to tell or who have achieved something remarkable in their lives, through their story hopefully get inspired myself and perhaps inspire you too."
Osher Günsberg

Great stories, remarkable achievement and inspiration.

The concept that has crystallised in my mind since I began listening to this podcast is the importance of 'shiny surfaces' in our lives. People or processes that facilitate reflection. This provides an opportunity to look deeper within ourselves and be inspired.

Over the coming weeks I will be publishing a series of posts exploring some of my highlights from selected episodes of The Osher Günsberg Podcast. My intention is to simply explore why certain quotes from the conversations resonate with me and, in some cases, how I think they might link to teaching.

If you've made it this far, thank you for your time. If you feel so inclined, it would be great to find out what or who you are inspired by and why.