Sarah Goodes is MTC's Associate Artistic Director. In 2018, she won the Helpmann Award for Best Direction of a Play for her work on Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children, which opened at MTC before transferring to Sydney Theatre Company. Other productions she has directed for the Company include the Australian premiere of Laura Wade's Home, I’m Darling, the world premiere of Anchuli Felicia King’s Golden Shield – our first NEXT STAGE production – and audience favourite A Doll’s House, Part 2.
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann has been sitting patiently beside my bed, waiting to be read for a couple of years now. I came across it when I was directing Annie Baker’s play John for MTC (it’s one of her favourite books). It is such a terrific book for right now, as it plays with time in an extraordinary way. I don’t know if any of you have had this experience during this lockdown, but time is doing strange things! When this novel begins a day goes forever but by the end years are flying by like minutes. Set high in the snowbound Swiss Alps in a Tuberculosis sanatorium during the years prior to the Great War, it examines illness as a state of mind as well as of body. A visit to see a cousin in the hospital for a couple of weeks turns into years. It offers a wonderful immersion into the slippery nature of time and the human psyche.
Cruising Paradise and Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard (short-story collections): both of these books contain stunning examples of Sam Shepard’s writing. You get a real sense of the soil that his plays grow from. Motel Chronicles is the book that filmmaker Wim Wenders and Sam based the film Paris Texas on. Treat yourself. A lot of people I have spoken to say they are finding it hard to concentrate on reading at the moment. I highly suggest short stories – just one at bedtime!
Plays for next year: theatre has always marched bravely ahead in times of uncertainty. Reading some of the new work by emerging and established Australian playwrights is always hugely rewarding.
I have long been a fan of Kris Kristofferson but watching the SBS Ken Burns documentary Country Music reminded me just how much I love him. So as a treat I ordered his album from Dutch Vinyl and am loving a late-night listen to his smooth tones. If you haven’t seen the interview that Andrew Denton did with Kris Kristofferson on Enough Rope a few years ago, have a watch (if you can find it) – it’s one of the great interviews.
I often lament the days when a friend would send you a mixtape to cheer you up. I have had the pleasure of a musician friend of mine who runs Tactile Music, who has been putting together weekly Isolation Mixtapes on Spotify, which have very beautifully mapped my general mood week by week. Check them out if you can; there are five of them now and they are all great. Again, they map my internal mode of starting off quite still and quiet and ending up louder and faster.
All of the incredibly talented and excellent actors and creatives I have worked with over the years are all now out of work. Shows cancelled just before opening, or closing just after opening, sometimes years of work suddenly suspended or cancelled forever. As artists, you get used to the fragile nature of our industry but this has been a cruel blow. As an attempt to keep the community of actors and creatives connected, actor Diana Glenn and myself started a Salon of sorts called A Light in the Dark. You can follow us on @alightinthedark2020. We have asked actors / creatives to record themselves reading a favourite poem / chapter from a book – with one single light source at night. Capturing the feeling of reading under a blanket with a torch, the site keeps the flame of storytelling alight. Virginia Gay reading Virginia Woolf, Toby Truslove reading Winnie-the-Pooh! Check us out. I suggest putting your earphones on and just listening to them while going on a nighttime walk.
Stateless on ABC is an extraordinary piece of Australian television, with some of the best actors this country has to offer. We need more shows like this produced here in Australia – our own stories in our own voice.
In preparation for True West, I had been watching the films of Sam Shepard. As well as being an incredible writer and musician, he was also an actor. Days of Heaven by Terrence Malick, stars Shepard alongside a very young Richard Gere. The cinematography is stunning. Also if you haven’t watched Bloodline on Netflix, starring Ben Mendelsohn, it is so worth it. It also stars Sam Shepard in his final role, and he also wrote some of the script. The themes and tensions of this series speak very strongly to True West. It’s fascinating to see how the themes of one play can be expanded in a way into a whole TV series.
The main thing I have been trying to do is get out into nature as much as I can. Catching that last bit of magical afternoon light. Walking at night time. Sitting under an impressive tree on the weekend. Feeling the sun on your face. The small things.
Published on 21 April 2020