Here at The Blue Room Theatre we are dedicated to the sharing of stories, including the sharing of how our members and industry think and act in relation to sustainability and diversity. Throughout the year you will hear from various artists, producers, activists, academics and community members about their feelings on art and sustainability. Today we hear from Clare Watson, Artistic Director of Black Swan State Theatre Company.
From your perspective, what is diversity in the arts and why is it important?
I think that if the faces, voices, genders and perspectives that we witness on stage and screen reflect back the society in which we live then the work will resonate. Our cultural fodder has definitely been dominated by white, ableist, masculine voices and it’s exciting to be living in a time when art is catching up with lived experience. We’re still a long way off but by centralising the marginalised perspectives we offer audiences the opportunity to have an exponential growth in empathy and understanding. Listening to the less dominant voices we find new ways of seeing the world and better ways of being in the world together.
Do you think there are links between sustainability and diversity?
Absolutely, if we keep doing and saying the same things in the same way over and over we’ll run dry.
What role did diversity play in programming BSSTC’s 2018 season? And what was it like implementing this (were there particular challenges or opportunities that emerged)?
The 2018 season at Black Swan State Theatre Company, The Conversations, could be considered diverse. We have a work commissioned by the Perth Festival by Julia Hales – an actor with Down Syndrome, we’re working with Yirra Yaakin on Skylab – written, directed and performed by brilliant Aboriginal artists, in HIR we are working with a transgender actor for the first time and we have achieved gender parity across our full season – directors, writers, designers and actors. This diversity is deliberate but it was easy, probably because it is the work that most interests me. I’m always interested in finding ways of shifting and nudging the existing hierarchy.
What effect do you think an increase in diversity in the theatre and the arts has on changing people’s attitudes, understandings, or behaviour?
Quite simply, I think it makes the art better. I’m of the firm belief that we won’t ever reach a point where we’ll be able to pat ourselves on the back, dust off our hands and say ‘Great, diversity done. Nailed it’. Our world is constantly evolving and culture will need to continue to evolve right along with it.
Where do you see yourself in twenty years? What do you think society will look like then?
I’m not great at projecting myself into the future, I’m very much a here and now kind of thinker but I have spent a huge amount of my life with people a generation younger than me and I am consistently admiring of the way in which children move through their lives without judging others. The children that I know are sensitive, smart and curious, so I am definitely hopeful that we will live in a kinder, more open minded society than the one we currently inhabit.
I could never have predicted the life I’ve been lucky to live for the past 20 years and I couldn’t imagine where I might be in another 20. I hope I’m still feeling passionate and curious. I hope that I continue to be sustained by the art that I make and the love of the people that I get to share my days with.