DWeek89 Development Week with Griffin at the Stables

During the 1980s I directed some of Tobsha Learner’s early short plays with StraightFace Productions in Melbourne. The ANTHILL season of Puppy Love for Sydney Theatre Company had brought me to settle in Sydney for a while; factors like Rosalba about to graduate came into play; I wrote Ssh! Unicorn for Rosalba and produced it at The Stables as DT2 Company with some support from Griffin (DT2 stood for David Paul Jobling and Tobsha Learner to the power of two, it was a mathematical equation we made up together).

I’d been a member of the Griffin Theatre Company for a few years, and in 1989 for a brief period I was on the Management Committee. Penny Cook called me in to help.  I’d been touring with Brown’s Lane Theatre, performing Onkaparinga River in-schools in regional New South Wales.

Onkaparinga River toured through the schools in Tamworth, Harrington, Moree, Wallangulla, Bourke, Coonamble, Wee Waa; two or three shows a day. Those were days dedicated to theatre-in-education just as theatre-in-education was starting to be reduced dramatically. I had created Onkaparinga River with bits and bobs of funding I could draw together and done as much as I could to improve it as a piece investing my own time and money as you do. It was going well in schools, kids were enjoying it but the production wasn’t going to be sustainable forever. Schools were already cutting back the amount of bookings they were making for shows because of financial hard times.

Penny had seen a presentation of Gary Aaron Cooks street opera On This Kings Cross that I directed for D Week 1988 and she was very moved by it. I think she had seen all my work; bringing a friend or relative’s child to my kid’s shows.

At an awkward financial moment the Griffin Management Committee placed accountant Simon Weaving and I into the office to look after everything, venue, admin, accounts; interim placements to keep things running while ‘we’ raised money to pay off creditors and keep the theatre company alive.

Simon looked after the accounts while I took care of the venue; generally setting up as much activity for the oncoming D = Development Week as I possibly could.

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Every year Griffin kept the Stables Theatre free and open for Development Week or D Week as it was known. It was very much a member driven company; D Week provided members and their colleagues an opportunity to test new work out. When I say the company was member driven I think of great long meetings we would all have, just about every actor in town sitting in the foyer to discuss the progress of the company.

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It was a passionate environment. The members always there at those meetings would also be the ones volunteering, keeping the venue happening. This was why Griffin was and ever is so important, it gave voice to the members back in the day before memberships  morphed into subscribers as a focus– one way I look at this period of time in my life is the Post 1984 Blues period. The decades were bringing a lot of change as they passed and this shift from the 80s into the 90s was difficult for so many reasons.

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Anyone involved in creating performance work would agree that a great deal can be gained from presenting a work in progress, be it a first reading of a new script or a presentation of some developed ideas.

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Keeping Griffin on the map and opening the venue to provide as many opportunities as possible was my objective for D Week so I did my best to organise as many readings as possible and threw in a couple of special events as well.

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I had spent some time asking local writers if they would agree to read scripts for me. I visited Dorothy Hewett, reached out to Michael Gow, Louis Nowra and others who literally lived in the area asking them all to be part of a creative group whom I could leave scripts with for feedback, and I encouraged them to provide works of their own for Griffin to include in #DWeek89.

I have noticed the paper scraps and newspaper clippings getting a little yellow now twenty something years later; before they decompose completely I thought it would be a good time to photograph them, put them on display.

The great personal horror for me towards the last days of D Week 1989 was the share house I was living in burning down.

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Arrived home just before sunrise to find it gutted. Within days I moved back to Adelaide for a raft of very personal reasons. Years later, I bumped into an old colleague of the time who was disgruntled with me for not opening up the Stables for a play-reading; had not heard of my house fire (and this was the first I was hearing that the person meant to open up the venue for her had missed her).

She had been under the impression I walked away from Griffin. I didn’t walk away from Griffin, I still love The Stables and Griffin very much and have always felt a very loyal connection to them; when I was there back in the day Penny Cook was the person who encouraged me most; she was my champion, called me ‘Guru Paul Jobling’ for a bit of a laugh. They were difficult times for arts funding and we did as much as we could to stop the company from going under.

For a long time I have kept the clippings and posters and programs from those days because I am proud of my contribution. These material things fade. We are all mortal. It is great now to be able to take some pictures and put the material in a place it can sit.

To have been in there pitching for Griffin among politicians who were all larger than life characters in their own right; Bob Carr, Graham Richardson, Peter Collins, and the folk from the Australia Council was not simple or easy work to do at that time; I suspect it is no simpler today in 2015.

The Griffin Theatre Company was originally created by peers from the ground up. The Stables was the venue the company eventually arrived at once Nimrod had moved to Belvoir St; theatre venues along with theatre companies always need support.

We must lobby for the arts all the time.

All through our lives for the lives that come after us.

The only way we could free the arts was to be the arts; for we were young and free.

The only way we could free the arts was to be the arts; for we were young and free.

This was our DWeek89 program at The Stables. People payed $3 to see each playreading or forum they attended and were able to make donations if they wished.

13th November
Forum: A Living Guide to Live Theatre
Playreading:  Passage of the Orb by Anon
Playreading:  Marlene by Virginia Jane Rose
Playreading:  Brief Periods on Distant Planets by David Paul Jobling
Comedy Forum:  Funny Gurls
Screening:  Homage

14th
Playreading: Leonello and Teresa by Brendan Doyle
Playreading: Mack the sunglass king by Peter Lavelle
Playreading: Clay Soldiers by Manuel Aston
Playreading: The 18 Wheels of Salvation by Duncan Fine and Alex Cramb
Playreading: Companion Piece by Lesley Carberry
Screening: Metro TV
15th
Playreading: Antibodies by Tom Pitsis
Playreading: The Art of Being Still by Steven Dawson
Playreading: The Boys by Gordon Graham
Playreading: Crosswords by Kim Booker
Screening: Soft Targets by the Soft Targets Collective

16th
Playreading: Desire by Alex Broun
Playreading: Cage by Jane Bradhurst
Playreading: His Way by Grace Barnes
Playreading: Thieving Boy by Timothy Conigrave
17th
Playreading: Beat of a different drum by Judith Curran
Playreading: The Realm of the Wasps by Steven Dawson
Playreading: Foreign Devils by Tony Strachan
Playreading: Tootsie by Mark McCann
18th
Playreading: Gypsy Dance by Elanor Olding
Playreading: Glory by Tony Katsigiannis
Playreading: Death of Joe Orton by Louis Nowra
Playreading: Tic Tac by Martin Wetherill

19th
Playreading: I Am The Unicorn by Norman Coburn
Playreading: Leichardt in Love by Andrew Delbosco

There’s an old ABC REVIEW Video on YouTube HERE

GRIFFIN THEATRE COMPANY is alive and well and living today HERE

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