Reconciliation on stage: The politics of Indigenous representation in Brisbane theatre's 1999 'reconciliation plays'

Western, Melissa (2006). Reconciliation on stage: The politics of Indigenous representation in Brisbane theatre's 1999 'reconciliation plays' MPhil Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

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Author Western, Melissa
Thesis Title Reconciliation on stage: The politics of Indigenous representation in Brisbane theatre's 1999 'reconciliation plays'
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2006-11-22
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor A/Prof Joanne Tompkins
Total pages 118
Language eng
Subjects 160803 Race and Ethnic Relations
190401 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Performing Arts
Formatted abstract

In 1999, the Australian nation was charged with debate on reconciliation and questions of how to encourage positive interaction between the Indigenous and non- Indigenous community. Amid this excitement and activity came countless artistic events in support of reconciliation including a swathe of theatre productions, especially in the mainstream. This thesis focuses on four of these productions in 1999 occurring in the Brisbane area. Queensland Theatre Company's The Tempest and The Sunshine Club, Kooemba Jdarra's Goin to the Island and the La Boite Theatre / Kooemba Jdarra co-production of Romeo and Juliet all placed Indigenous identity at the heart of the production. I read these productions as political statements for reconciliation, not just in the theatrical narratives created for performance onstage but also in the practical processes of the production. These plays can be read as models of reconciliation, each contributing significantly to the advancement of Indigenous theatre artists and mobilising debate on reconciliation.

The thesis is separated into two sections with the first half concentrating on establishing the social and analytical frameworks unique to the study. My analytical model is based on the processes of social interaction as well as my methodology of hyper-context, that is viewing the theatre project in its entirety from the concept development phase which may begin years prior to the performance season right through to the post-performance phase which continues ad infinitum after the production season is complete. If we are to consider theatrical practice as politics, it is imperative to use this model of analysis that can account for production processes that affect resulting representation of identity.

In the second phase I apply this analytical framework to the four plays identifying activity that occurred in the overlap between the two distinct worlds of professional theatre and Indigenous community. While it is impossible to measure the 'success' of these politically engaged plays, we can identify countless positive outcomes for reconciliation according to the Council for Australian Reconciliation's 'Roadmap for Reconciliation'. Thematic and practical examples of Indigenous leadership, positive role-models, self-determination, economic power and equality make the Brisbane reconciliation plays of 1999 best-practice examples of how reconciliation can be enacted.

Keyword Ethnicity in the theater
Reconciliation
Aboriginal Australians -- Cultural assimilation
Aboriginal Australians -- Drama
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

 
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