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    Austral + Asia: Cultural Space, Theatricality and the Performance of Asia in Australasia

    boy's face with australia, new zealand and asia painted on
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    Date(s) - 15 Nov 2012 until 16 Nov 2012
    12:00 AM - 12:00 AM

    Performing Arts Centre, Monash University


    boy's face with australia, new zealand and asia painted onA postgraduate conference supported by:


    This conference, the inaugural event of the Asian Performance Research Cluster,and the first annual themed conference sponsored by the Monash Asia Institute, seeks to define theatre, performance, and cultural spaces in Australasia.

    We would like participants in this event to engage with the theatricals and performatives that situate Australasia in Asia and Asian theatre and cultural performance in Australia. We recognise that in Australia and Asia, with their complex multi-ethnic and multicultural communities, contested histories and sites of shifting power or influence, it is a challenge to establish equal opportunities for cultural expression through theatre and performance.

    Moreover, Asians who find themselves practising and performing in these “third cultural spaces” are also faced with the challenge of creating a framework for both theory and practice that responds to questions of identity, tradition, cultural change (innovation) and preservation, especially in a country such as Australia. This space is also what theorists and cultural activists like Homi K. Bhabha and Gloria Anzaldúa consider as borderlands.

    It is where individuals and groups may examine hybridity (of culture, language, races, ethnicities) to understand their origins, the present remaking of their culture, the future direction of their lives, and to deconstruct dominant ideologies that shape all of these.

    Thus, we propose a dialogue between Australian and Asian performers, scholars, and audiences (including policy makers) about issues of cultural identity, community building and changes that occur in this “land down under (Asia)” as seen, practiced and received through theatre and performance-making.

    We propose the following discussion points in this conference:

    1. Theatricality and performance of Asian cultures, traditions, or the everyday life in multi-cultural/ethnic spaces, such as Australia and Asia
    2. Asian folk theatres, community drama, musical and indigenous performances in Australia
    3. Adaptation, transformation, translation, recreation, re/invention in the practices and performances of Asian cultures for Australian and multi-ethnic audiences
    4. Policies, support, community and national frameworks in recognising Asian cultures in Australia and beyond
    5. Asian diaspora and the transformation or preservation (re-negotiation) of such inherited cultures or “traditions” with “new” and emerging ones
    6. Audience reception of these Asian theatre traditions, especially in folk or community settings
    7. Austral + Asian philosophies, methods, processes and organising theatre and performance practice or research in the community or academic settings
    8. The present and future of Asian-Australians as artists, researchers, audience and global citizens

    Submission Process

    Submissions are now closed.

    Keynote Speakers

    Dr. Paul Rae

    Paul Rae teaches in the Theatre Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore, and is co-director, with Kaylene Tan, of spell#7 performance ( ). He is the author of Theatre & Human Rights (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Associate Editor of the journal Theatre Research International, and has published on contemporary theatre and performance in Theatre Journal, The Drama Review, Performance Research, Contemporary Theatre Review and Theatre Research International. Recent book chapters appear in Translation in Asia (St Jerome, 2011),The Rise of Performance Studies (Palgrave, 2011), Contemporary Southeast Asian Performance (Cambridge Scholars, 2011), Performance and the Contemporary City (Palgrave, 2010), and Contesting Performance (Palgrave, 2010). His current projects include a monograph entitled Real Theatre, a co-authored book, Traveling Performance: Suggested Itineraries (with Martin Welton) and a co-edited volume, It Starts Now: Performance Avant-Gardes in East and Southeast Asia (with Peter Eckersall).

    Teachable Moments: Intercultural Pedagogies in Performance

    The idea that theatre can be an effective vehicle for instruction has been recognized in a wide range of historical and cultural circumstances. Indeed, wherever theatre is presumed to be a social good – or a public threat – certain assumptions about the pedagogical effects of either making or watching it can be discerned. Conversely, teachers of all stripes will be aware of the performative and sometimes theatrical dimension of the pedagogical encounter, and indeed numerous educational philosophies and approaches have sought to make a virtue of this fact.

    In this paper, I focus on the intersections of theatre and teaching to help us understand some of the practical challenges of cultural exchange at issue in the themes of the ‘Austral + Asia’ conference. I identify the emergence of what might be described as a pedagogical aesthetic in recent intercultural performance, and ask what it can teach us about the nature of the new in the theatrical event. In order to do this, I focus on recent performances from the East and Southeast Asian regions. Of particular interest will be the various ways in which artists have responded to the cross-cultural encounter with a performed pedagogy: a simultaneous process of instruction and discovery where, under pressure of the event, they challenge themselves to teach what they don’t know.

    The means by which they achieve this, I propose, rehearses the interpretive process that engaged audience members and critics will ultimately reproduce as they seek to absorb the event into their (now changed) worldview. The challenge in more formal pedagogical contexts (such as universities) now becomes to find ways of extending, rather than duplicating, that dimension of the performance.

    Paschal Daantos Berry

    Paschal Daantos Berry is an independent Filipino-Australian writer and dramaturge whose practice is focused on interdisciplinary, cross cultural and collaborative processes. As a writer/dramaturge, he has contributed works for Urban Theatre Projects, Radio National (ABC), Griffin Theatre, The Australian Choreographic Centre, Belvoir Asian Theatre Festival, The Performance Space, ATYP, Multicultural Theatre Alliance, Platform 27, Canberra Youth Theatre and Tuggeranong Arts Centre. In 2005, he received an Asialink Residency to work with the Anino Shadowplay Collective. From 2003 to 2005 he was resident dramaturge at The Australian Choreographic Centre, developing projects for Quantum Leap with artistic director Ruth Osborne as well as dramaturging various dance works including Tanja Liedtke’s Twelfth Floor. He wrote the critically acclaimed The Folding Wife which was produced by Urban Theatre Projects and Blacktown Arts Centre (2007) and toured by Mobile States (2010).

    Probing Cultural Representation Through An Intercultural and Interdisciplinary Arts Practice

    Paschal Daantos Berry will discuss his practice as a performance maker and dance/theatre dramaturg, focusing particularly on his collaborations with Manila based Anino Shadowplay Collective, Sydney performer Valerie Berry and Australian artist Deborah Pollard. His presentation will be a personal account on navigating and surviving a performance landscape that is still trying to discover more complex dialogues about cultural representation and diversity.

    Late Afternoon Performances

    As we explore theatre and performance culture in this conference, we would also like to engage the participants in the afternoon or post-discussion performances or full-workshop sessions. This event will be facilitated by artists or scholars dealing with the actual practice-led inquiry or by performers involved with the community. We hope that this becomes a social event as well as an extension of any discussion as seen or experienced through a performance.

    Day One:

    The first work of poetry: a performance based on the Sanskrit text of the Indian epic, the Ramayana. A Storytelling Session with Ananth Rao (Visiting Research Fellow, Australian National University)

    Purana pravacana and harikatha are two prominent performing arts which rely on textual material from the epic, and classical literature of India. Purana means an ancient story. In the purana pravacana, the performer is usually a Sanskrit scholar and the performance consists of reciting the actual text and then interpreting it, usually in the local language. The source of the text may be the Ramayana or the Mahabharata or one of the eighteen puranas. The harikatha relies usually on the material from the same textual sources as purana pravacana but the narration has more musical content than purana pravacana since it primarily relies on songs from the devotional literature in the local languages.

    About the performance: The Ramayana is regarded as the adi kavya or first work of poetry. Its legendary composer Valmiki is regarded as the adi kavi or first poet. Valmiki’s Ramayana consists of seven kandas (books). The performance is based on balakanda (Book One), the first four sargas (chapters) of which describe the circumstances that lead to the poet’s creation of a new sloka (verse form) and how he is thereby inspired to write the epic. This story is outlined with the help of the original verses from the first four chapters. The performance is primarily in the purana pravacana style but uses aspects of harikatha in that the Sanskrit texts are rendered in classical Indian ragas. An Australian context is provided by using some writings by the late Noonuccal Odgeroo (Kath Walker) in the performance.

    Day Two:

    ReDEFIANT Theatre Forum Project by RISE: Refugee, Survivors and Ex-Detainees (

    RISE is a not-for-profit incorporated organisation founded and overseen by refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees with members representing over 30 migrant communities. RISE is the first refugee and asylum seeker aid and advocacy organisation in Australia run largely by refugees and asylum seekers. RISE covers 3 main portfolios: advocacy, settlement assistance and music and arts program. RISE uses the arts as an important advocacy tool for refugee rights. Our current project, ReDEFIANT, is a fresh, innovative, and energetic multilingual performance using spoken word to explore and challenge minority stereotypes. The participants will look at how political rhetoric encourages division not understanding and they will be encouraged to explore the possibilities of taking ownership of their cultural identities.

    The project will use Forum Theatre techniques developed by Augusto Boal, a Brazilian Community Artist, to address discrimination, strengthen cultural understanding and build stronger and more inclusive communities. These community theatre development techniques share, discuss and identify the oppressor-oppressed dynamics within society by actively involving both participants and audience members. The scenes created and developed during the workshop process are presented to the audience, who initially watch the action on stage but are then given the opportunity to become part of the scene. Audience members are invited by the facilitator to take the place of the protagonist and/or other characters to play out their thoughts and ideas in solving the conflict on stage. The scene is then run again, with the audience member becoming an integral part of the action.


    In this conference, we are also providing a space for theatre-practitioners or research scholars who are investigating a topic or making a creative inquiry through the practice-led/based approach. Therefore, we are also engaging the participants to some workshop demonstration that demonstrate or show a particular aspect or a work in progress being developed by an artist/performer and researcher. We call this workshop-demonstration sessions that aims to let the audience participate or witness the performers action/enactment or embodiment of a particular concept through a performance or demonstration, then followed by a further discussion by both the performer and the audience.

    Workshop-Demonstrations by:

    • Sarasa Krishnan (visual artist, choreographer/dancer, PhD student): Beyond the architecture of sensing
    • Kusumsiri Liyanaarachchi and Yashodhara S. Liyanaarachchi (theatre practitioners): A New Perspective on Children’s Theatre Transmitting traditional Asian Theatre forms to 2nd generation migrants in Australia
    • Norzizi Zulkafli (postgraduate student, theatre director, lecturer): A Glance at Mak Yong, exploring the dance of ‘Mengadap Rebab’
    • A possible workshop-demonstration on butoh and bodyweather.

    Special Plenary Sessions

    The conference also features special plenary sessions or roundtable discussions aimed at discussing the issue of multiculturalism and performance of Asia in Australasia and how researchers or academics may respond to the question raised in this event.

    Day One plenary is moderated by Dr. William Peterson (Director and Senior Lecturer, Centre for Theatre and Performance, Monash University), and includes:

    • Dr. Chandrabhanu (Professional Dancer, Teacher and Scholar of Dance in Australia)
    • Tony Yap (Founding Artistic Director of Tony Yap Company)
    • Chidambaram Srinivasan (Commissioner for the Victorian Multicultural Commission)

    Day Two plenary is chaired by Associate Professor Maryrose Casey (Director Performance Research Unit and Theatre and Music HDR Program, Monash University)
    and includes:

    • Dr. William Peterson (Monash U)
    • Dr. Paul Rae (National University of Singapore)
    • Dr. Barbara Hatley (U of Tasmania)
    • Dr. Peter Eckersall (Melbourne U)
    • Dr. Julian Millie (Monash U)
    • Dr. Stuart Grant (Monash U)


    You can download the draft program here.


    Participating individuals must register to attend the conference (AU$60). Registration includes lunch, morning and afternoon tea on both days, as well as a conference kit. Pre-registration is done online as there will be no handling of cash on the days of the conference, and the event will be catered. Online registration is available here.

    The Deadline for registration is November 10, 2012.


    Current negotiations are underway for a possible publication of high standard papers in an online refereed journal based on the School of English, Communication and Performance Studies at Monash University, especially those from postgraduate researchers. We will be in contact with all participants regarding this matter after the conference.

    Further Information

    For more information for delegates, including guidelines, travel and accommodation, please see this page.