Polyglot Spot – edition #4

Curious creative community during COVID-19

A Separation Street production photo. A performer wearing a white boiler suit stands on the top three rungs of a silver ladder in a blue-lit tent. They are leaning over the top of the ladder, their arms outstretched, holding white glowing balls in each hand. Adult audience members are visible below them, wearing dark colours and holding white glowing balls.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

“…these times of confinement can also be a period of openness to others and to culture, to strengthen the links between artistic creation and society. This crisis reminds us… how much art and culture are vital needs for humanity, how much they are the ferment of our unity and resilience.“ Audrey Azoulay, Director-General UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) on the occasion of World Art Day, 15 April 2020

Read the full message here.

In this week’s edition of Polyglot Spot, Sue examines her relevance as a theatre maker in Business As Unusual, artist Tirese Ballard shares three reasons she works in the arts in Brain Food, we discover more about artist Tamara Rewse in Meet Polyglot, and Executive Director Viv Rosman offers an unexpected working-from-home tip. 


Business as unusual

Governing a theatre company through a moment in history when theatre as we know it is impossible

A woman and a group of children stand on a grassy oval on a sunny day. They are wearing red t-shirts with red, black and yellow handprints. They are waving handmade flags painted in the Aboriginal flag colours - red, black and yellow.

Sue Giles AM, Artistic Director

Being an Artistic Director when all the Art is at a distance… This is a serious challenge to my feeling of relevance as a theatre maker and has been the hardest feeling to combat in these strange times. My driver is creating works with artists and children that fully engage the senses and physically immerse people in intense, fun participation. So how can I still ‘make things happen’ when what I make is not allowed?

Polyglot has an extraordinary group of staff and core artists and it’s these people that have made the difference in framing what we can make happen. Our daily staff meetings are the rope we all cling to – they’re fun, informative and democratic and we have all grown to know each other’s strengths and frailties in a way that has never been possible before. We meet with our artists regularly – at first to catch up and share, so that we know how to support them in the best possible way – and now, doing deep dives into provocations and questions that are rising every day as we all try to keep afloat artistically as well as in our lives. So often in our arts community the difference between art and life cannot be easily distinguished – we are our work in ways that we don’t realise until our work is taken away from us.

The urge to ‘make things happen’ is at the heart of artists’ lives and gradually we are seeing how this can be possible again. At first, we resisted the urge to put stuff online; deeply aware of the conflict within us all because of what we believe to be important to children. But the positives in this form have becomes clear and the fun is able to re-emerge, and the invention sparking not only our artists but the kids we reach out to.

I think one of the most interesting challenges is to imagine who is there receiving what we are offering. How do we identify our audiences and our community and who is actually listening or engaging? One of our most satisfying experiments is reaching our PIPS group (Polyglot’s Inspiring People Society – our children’s consultation group) through a different portal, while isolation has been a thing. Now PIPS is embedded in our structures and communications in a way we haven’t achieved before. Gift of the virus!


Brain Food

Considered commentary – Polyglot and beyond

Two adults wearing yellow raincoats, beanies, puffer vests and white tennis shoes stand facing away from each other, excitedly looking out and waving. They are standing in/holding handmade boats. A child is jumping into the air between them, holding a black and yellow flag and an orange life-ring. They are all on a grassy lawn at Abbotsford Convent, in front of trees and old buildings.

Three reasons I work in the arts

Tirese Ballard, Polyglot artist

I recall as a child noting in whatever way I might have been able to then, that creative-based ‘play’ meant everything. When I was older, I fiercely attached to the word ‘imagination’. The importance of these words and what they mean to me have never waned. I recognised they are critical to everything I have ever done and do, arts related or not. However, the arts industry is a place where play and imagination have a home and has the best opportunities to thrive.

Arts and creativity play an important part of culture and the heart and soul of communities and a society, and people’s everyday lives. I find it is a place where I can be connected and make meaning, be of use and access my strengthens, work with and encourage others, and enjoy life all through the making of art.

When I have been pushed toward feeling like I ‘should’ give it up because it would be the most practical, easiest or sensible thing to do; I become acutely aware that actually there are other costs to myself that would be far greater if I did.


Meet Polyglot

Meet the team that powers Polyglot. CEOS, creatives, production, admin, board. We work together to keep the colourful cogs turning!

Name: Tamara Rewse
Title: Artist
Years with Polyglot: 11

Two small children wearing red, black and yellow clothing stand at a chain link fence, weaving blue fabric through the links. A woman with light brown hair in a ponytail and a grey shirt sits on the ground behind them. She is talking to them. Brown grass, trees and white overcast sky are visible in the background.

What is the ‘elevator pitch’ description of your role at Polyglot?
Working as a performer, puppeteer and a maker, I create stories with community and theatre folk. I want to bring our perspectives together in imaginative, interactive and respectful ways. I work hard to listen and respond honestly to the people I work with. I have had the great fortune of working with many kids over the years, as well as having my own, and they are the best barometers of sincerity. This has contributed so much to the way I choose to work.

What is something about being a Polyglot artist that would surprise someone who doesn’t work in the arts?
It may surprise people who don’t work in the arts that the team at Polyglot and other companies like us are bloody hard workers. It’s no bludge. To remain in the arts, you have to work hard and there are rarely any second chances. Mostly, work is about relationships and less about the individual. I always feel that every job is your next job interview in this game. I constantly observe how we all work so hard to achieve the outcomes we do.

What part of your work with Polyglot do you most look forward to?
We work with such incredible folks, it is always so great to see your fellow workmates at a job or an event. The next bit is knowing that every one of them will jump at the new task openly. The creative journey on each new project is exciting.

What and where did you study?
I first studied a double degree of a Bachelor of Teaching, Secondary, and a Bachelor of Arts in drama and dance at Deakin University. I taught drama and dance for a few years which was great, then went back to the Victorian College of the Arts in 2004 to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Puppetry.

What are you missing about the Polyglot office?
I miss seeing everyone’s faces!


Working with restrictions

Achieving and retaining clarity and focus while working from home

Quiet time

Viv Rosman, Executive Director

There’s a huge need to stay connected at this time, and a temptation to pack each day with Zoom meetings and phone calls to fill the void left by social distancing. But spending all day online saps productivity in exactly the same way that a day of face-to-face meetings does. Our team tries to schedule meetings in the mornings, keeping afternoons free for solo working and thinking. Quiet time is vital for productivity, and strange as it may seem, it’s more important than ever when you’re working alone at home.


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