South Australian Star Posts Facebook Rant Calling Out Industry

South Australian Star Posts Facebook Rant Calling Out Industry

Adelaide fiercely claims, and protects its own, so when a woman who is highly regarded both here, interstate and overseas decided to post an epic rant on Facebook yesterday, we stopped everything and took notice.

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Adelaide fiercely claims, and protects its own, so when a woman who is highly regarded both here, interstate and overseas decided to post an epic rant on Facebook yesterday, we stopped everything and took notice.
Over the span of her successful career, Amity Dry has made a name for herself as a singer,songwriter, reality star (after showing us her practical skills on The Block alongside husband Phil), cabaret performer, and musical theatre creator. Her ability to write, create and produce her own hit stage shows is noteworthy. And they’re bloody fantastic. The list of her achievements and her contribution to the arts scene is quite long, and impressive. She’s also an incredibly inspiration person to be around, and we’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with Amity and her beautiful family over the years. The thing is, Amity is just one of those super talented, super nice people who everybody loves. And she doesn’t mouth off about people and things. So to see her post, we know it wasn’t just ‘another rant’. It was one to pay notice to.
She posted:
Epic Rant Warning: This week I have watched with interest as industry commentators bemoaned the lack of new Australian musical theatre, after the Helpmann Award Musical Theatre nominations failed to include any locally created shows. But this exclusion did not surprise me at all, because I have experienced first hand what it’s like to create a new Australian musical and have it completely ignored by the industry it is supposed to be a part of. I wrote the original musical Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life – The Musical in 2010 and over the last 7 years have doggedly persisted in developing, producing and promoting a show that is much loved by audiences but completely invisible within the Australian theatre industry. During this time my show has been seen by thousands of paying audience members, been an invited show in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, received a standing ovation at 54 Below New York and been staged at the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women Conference, in the United Nations Headquarters. It has been translated into Norwegian to perform a three-week season at the Kilden Theatre in Norway, where it received the kind of budget and marketing support I could only dream of at home. And it has performed over 90 shows in theatres across Australia, often selling out 500 seat theatres and receiving 5 star reviews from the few newspapers and theatre websites who bothered to come and review it. It’s funny how theatre reviewers lose interest when they hear it’s about marriage and motherhood, as though that’s not important enough to be reviewed. Over many years this little show of mine has grown from an idea to a cabaret show to a main stage show that’s done numerous seasons and tours and I have witnessed how it has moved audiences to laughter and tears. I’ve been approached by women after the show thanking me for making them feel ‘normal’ and I have received emails from women with post natal depression who have sought help after seeing it. This show has encouraged people who don’t typically attend theatre shows to buy a ticket, has built a loyal following of supporters who attend every season and I have received enquiries about licensing it from all over the world. I could not be more proud of it.
However, during this same time I have had numerous funding applications to help develop and stage the show rejected and countless emails to production companies, theatres, arts organisations and festivals seeking support, staging opportunities (or just a reply at all) for either this show or my second musical ‘Famous’ go unanswered. Mother, Wife has existed on the fringe of the industry it is supposed to be supported by, for reasons I am yet to understand. I have stopped trying to work out whether it’s because a musical featuring women in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s discussing relationships and motherhood isn’t high brow enough to be considered art, or whether our commercial success has deemed us undeserving of funding support – because selling tickets is a bad thing?! I have stopped questioning whether it’s a cultural cringe about Australian stories, or whether a female musical theatre writer and composer can ever be accepted in the insiders club that runs this business, or whether it’s just that a former pop singer/reality TV star show could never be considered credible, no matter what she achieves. And finally, after years of being hurt and frustrated by this lack of support, I have stopped caring. Because ultimately it doesn’t matter if I’m accepted by the industry, it matters that I’m accepted by the audience members who put down their hard earned money to buy a ticket – and in that regard I am already winning.
Much to my excitement in a few weeks time I am heading to London to workshop the show again and stage a showcase for West End theatre programmers. This process is being managed by an Olivier award winning Producer who thinks my show is good enough to be on the West End. And because of that, and because of my stubbornly optimistic nature, I thought I would make one more attempt to secure arts funding – because if I couldn’t get it for this opportunity I couldn’t get it for anything. But this time I enlisted the help of someone who has written many successful grant applications before, to ensure it was presented in a way that removed any potential for error. It was almost a test, to see if it truly didn’t matter how good the application was. And it was good. Actually, it was amazing. It ticked every box. It had glowing references. It had a detailed budget. It listed the amount of our own money my husband and I have put into the show over the years and how I self produced an 11-week tour and paid 10 tour members equity wages and still made a profit. It quoted the 5 star reviews we’ve received and the UK producer who thinks this Australian musical is good enough to be on the international stage. And it only asked for 20% of the overall cost of the workshop and showcase, stating that we would fund the rest. We went low in order to remove the final potential barrier of success. And last night I received an email informing me that ‘the peer assessors have not recommended funding towards your project this round.’
I give up.
But then I can’t. Because if I do, another Australian musical will die and all its potential will fade from memory. And audiences will miss out on another opportunity to hear our voices and see our stories on stage. So I won’t stop. I believe in this show and the way it impacts audiences too much to do that. And I believe in the countless other Australian musicals out there that are trying to find their way to audiences and coming up against brick walls. So I will continue to back myself and put my life into this show and appreciate the people both in this industry and out of it (you know who you are) who have championed it along the way. And I will keep on being stubbornly optimistic and use this frustration to fuel my determination to make it happen anyway. And I will watch as people write articles bemoaning the lack of new Australian musical theatre and wonder what can be done about it.
*I wrote this post on my private FB page and received many request from colleagues in the industry to share it so am posting it here so people can do that. We are all so frustrated by the lack of support for Australian musicals and believe that audiences want to see our stories on stage as much as we want to create them. I’m sure those of you who have seen Mother, Wife will appreciate the context of where I am coming from, however you probably don’t realise how hard it’s been (and continues to be) to produce an Australian musical, so this will give you an idea. I am endlessly appreciative and thankful to those of you who support my work and buy tickets to my shows and I will keep on working hard to produce content that reflects your lives and entertains you. Amity xx
It’s an incredibly revealing insight into the industry in which Amity flourishes despite the hurdles she faces, and it isn’t just her facing these challenges. While there is no easy solution to this, we spoke to Amity about what we could do to help.
She said:
Go and see local shows! I love that the big shows like Matilda and Aladdin are coming to Australia (and especially when they come to Adelaide) but it would make such a difference if for every ticket you bought to a big name international show you bought one to a local act too. Producers think Australians don’t want to see local shows and that they’ll lose too much money on them, so they don’t take the risk. But you can prove them wrong by buying tickets! South Australia has such a strong ethos of supporting local produce when it comes to food and I’d love to see that mentality with our arts scene. Developing and producing a show takes an incredible amount of money and I know of artists and writers who are ending up in massive debt in order to stage shows they believe audiences would love, but it shouldn’t be that way. 
So what are you waiting for? This weekend the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Cabaret Fringe Festival wrap up, and there’s plenty of local acts involved. Other than that, our Arts section is constantly reviewing local shows for you to check out, and Adelaide has a solid, ongoing arts scene. All it needs is for you to shelve your plans to Netflix and chill, and find out what’s happening on your doorstep.

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