Captivated by Reality. The 2009 Alex Buzo Memorial Lecture

Alana Valentine
10 August, 2009

Watch the lecture on ABC Fora TV


Why you should listen

'The job of the artist is not to speak the truth, ' says one of the characters in Aaron Sorkin's award-winning The West Wing. 'The job of the artist is to captivate you for however long they have asked for your attention. If we stumble upon truth we got lucky'

Stories drawn from 'real life' are appearing in every contemporary form - from dance to drama, to performance hybrids and main-stage community presentations - the verbatim form has reinvigorated global debate about both the shape and content of theatre, its relevance in the 21st Century and the ways in which to approach its assessment as an art form. A new generation of theatre makers are emerging who want the theatre to continue to unnerve and engage in a debate with its society, whether that be nationally or globally, and for whom mere form experiments are insufficient to the enormity of the challenges facing our futures. In this, the second Alex Buzo Memorial lecture, playwright Alana Valentine examines how she continues to want to captivate her audiences with voices drawn from the world around us, challenging old assumptions, rejecting received wisdom, interrogating classical myths and questioning contemporary values. Drawing examples from her numerous interview-based works such as Run Rabbit Run and Parramatta Girls (Both on the NSW drama syllabus 2010-12) and Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah which will be playing in the Seymour Centre to coincide with this lecture, this will be a fascinating provocation about the artistic process of combining artifice with authenticity.

Alana Valentine

Alana Valentine is an Australian playwright. She has been nominated for a Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work, awarded the 2004 Queensland Premier's Award for Best Drama Script, the 2003 NSW Writer's Fellowship, the 2002 Rodney Seaborn Playwright's Award and an International Writing Fellowship at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London. She also received a 2001 commendation for the Louis Esson Prize, a 1999 AWGIE Award, a residency at the Banff Playwrights' Conference in Canada, the ANPC/New Dramatists Award in NYC and A Churchill Fellowship, the NSW Premier's Award and a Centenary Medal. Alana is well known for her excellent use of research within the community she is writing about. This is evident in her popular 2004 play Run Rabbit Run about South Sydney League's Club's fight for survival and 2007's sell-out season of Parramatta Girls at Belvoir Street Theatre about the infamous Girls Training School, Parramatta.

In August 2009 The Alex Buzo Company will stage the premiere of Alana’s new play Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah, as a double bill with Buzo’s iconic Norm and Ahmed. Shafana and Aunt Sarrinah is a contemporary companion for Norm and Ahmed, and is partly a plea for understanding, partly a bellow of rage from Muslim Australian women about the ignorance and misunderstanding that surrounds the wearing of the traditional Muslim headscarf. Based thoroughly on personal interviews and produced with the sustained support of a large number of Muslim women from a diversity of Muslim cultures, the play addresses theatrical and social questions about representation, religious freedom and inter-generational conflict.

Alex Buzo Company