Ray Goodlass

Rays peace activism

Month: July, 2018

A great day for ‘As it happened’, but a bad day for Palestine

Unfortunately the day was overshadowed by the new law just passed by the Israeli Knesset (Parliament), known as the Nation State Law. It defines Israel as an exclusively Jewish State, downgrades Arabic from being the country’s second official language, and stipulates that Israel is the Jewish nation’s historic homeland and that the nation has the singular right to national self-determination. It also affirms (Greater) Jerusalem as Israel’s exclusive capital, and provides for the building of Jewish only communities (which is pretty much what is happening in the Settlements in the West Bank). It blatantly discriminates against the 20% of Israel (on the 1948-67 boundaries) who are Muslim Arabs, and bodes very badly for the West Bank. A very sad day indeed.

 

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Rehearsals for ‘As it happened …’ and some political news

A couple of productive days rehearsing, with Ismael’s play finally sorted, thankfully before Sara arrives on Thursday to begin filming her documentary.

Ismael had to pull out of the project a few days ago because he needs to study to re-sit an exam and though I re-cast his role because of some n-shows from the student body it didn’t look as though this play would be a goer. We talked of abandoning it but today all the actors we needed were there, so I went ahead with a rehearsal which also turned into something of a re-write that made for a much better play.

I also turned my attention to Australian politics today. In Wagga we had been preparing to preselect our candidate for the state seat of Wagga for next year’s NSW general election. There was no rush as Greens NSW aren’t asking for Local Groups to have their preselection resolved until the end of September.

However, given the corruption finding against our sitting member Daryl Maguire by ICAC the possibility of a by-election is now in the offing. Even though Maguire has only resigned from the Liberal Party but not the seat, meaning no by-election, we thought we’d better bed prepared just in case, so I put my nomination in today.

I’ve been partly motivated to stand as a candidate because of David Shoebridge’s ‘Manifesto’, which has put some much needed progressive energy back into the party.

PS I imagine Maguire is hanging onto his seat because if he resigned it would mean a contest between the Libs and the Nationals, as it will be an ‘Open Seat’. However, as he’s said he won’t recontest it at the 2019 election the same situation will apply, won’t it?

My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 17 July 2018

Abbott channelling Trump a real worry for us all

Last week a new ACCC report showed that treating electricity like a stock market has failed, but in a recommendation that made no sense it called for more of the same, in the vain hope of a different outcome. It also proposed to axe support for rooftop solar and to provide new public funds to gas- and coal-fired power stations.

“The Government must immediately rule out this Trump-like proposal to cut support for rooftop solar and provide new subsidies for gas- and coal-fired power stations. To bring down power bills and cut pollution, we need more renewable energy, not less” said Greens climate change and energy spokesperson Adam Bandt MP.

In even more disturbing news over recent weeks we have seen former PM Tony Abbott, who promised to go quietly to the back bench and not wreck Malcolm Turnbull’s government, doing exactly the opposite by calling for the government to abandon the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Mr Abbott of course, perish the thought, is also channelling US President Donald Trump who disappointed all sensible people by pulling out of the Paris Agreement several months ago. Mr Abbott tells us he would not have signed up to the Paris treaty had he known the US would withdraw from it.

As reported in The Guardian Australia Mr Abbott now claims that “he didn’t anticipate, as prime minister, “how the aspirational targets we agreed to at Paris would, in different hands, become binding commitments.”

His speech was the culmination of months of campaigning against first the clean energy target recommended by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel, and then the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), which would impose emissions reduction and reliability obligations of energy retailers from 2020.

His campaign is also an effort to exploit divisions within the government on the NEG, with some Nationals demanding a transitional fix on coal-fired power as the price of supporting it; and also an effort to rally the Liberal party’s conservative base.

Abbott framed his contribution not as a deliberate wrecking exercise but as an effort to “save” the government. Of course he would.

Thank goodness some in politics can call Mr Abbott out on his wrecking tactics. Adam Bandt, for example, slammed Mr Abbott for calling on the government to abandon the Paris Agreement. Bandt said that Abbott’s comments coincide with a push from the coal-hugging National party to establish a $5 billion coal fund, both of which are designed to sabotage the NEG. Bandt is demanding that Josh Frydenberg provide all details of the government’s energy package before the upcoming COAG meeting in August.

“Tony Abbott will only be satisfied when a verse about coal-fired power stations is inserted into our national anthem,” said Mr Bandt.

Abbott and the Nationals are working together to try and water down the already inadequate NEG and sabotage effective action to combat dangerous global warming.

As Mr Bandt pointed out, “Since this government came to power, we’ve gone from world leading climate change legislation to rising pollution and a touted $5 billion coal fund.”

Indeed, it as clear as daylight that any push to subsidise coal will affect how the NEG works. Full transparency is essential so that states and territories know exactly what they’re being asked to sign up to, and for us to know what to expect.

Today’s rehearsal for ‘As it happened …’

Productive rehearsal today working on the Given Circumstances of each play (What, Where, When, Who and Why), Characterisation and never breaking character.

That one is hard very work as my actors are very sociable and giggly, so had to stop every time they broke character. One scene took seven attempts before they could stay in character, but eventually they did manage it – and felt very good about themselves for having done so.

As well as their infectious sociability contributing to their not being able to stay in character, another factor is I think their Dabka dance background, in which they are usually smiling.

Whilst I’ve ben here I’ve been discussing with the Centre’s Director, Dr Abdelfattah Abusrour directing a scripted play. Though I’ve come up with several possible short and royalty free plays, and some that aren’t, there’s not one play that entirely suits or is affordable.

But yesterday Abdelfattah give me a script, ’21 Positions’ he co-wrote with a couple of Americans and asked if I’d be interested in directing it. Would I ever! It is very, very good. Abdelfattah is a playwright of some renown and also an actor, so I was very flattered. It is partly Brechtian in style, but also has a lot of humour. It also has great parts for women.

It is partly set in Bethlehem, is basically about the Occupation, has a surreal element, and the 21 positions refer to Israel firing positions but also to love making (Kama Sutra)

Today I told him I’d be happy to do it and he responded that he might be in it too! It will most likely be age appropriate actors, so some of my young people are possibilities.

A good day all round, were it not for this weekend’s news about the IDF shooting dead two young Palestinian demonstrators in the Gaza Strip.

 

Rehearsals for ‘As it happened …’

Had as couple of productive day’s rehearsal. Further developed Fatima’s play yesterday, but the real focus was on re-casting Ismael in his play as he had to drop out because he needs to study in order to pass an exam he has just failed. Fortunately I’d been looking for a decent role for Haitham, who is such a diligent student, so I was able to give the part to him.

Today I had quite a few absences (which is par for the course) so I introduced character exercises. They found the exercises hard work, as they are not at all used to playing someone other than themselves, but we made great progress, so it was time very well spent. I’ll be focusing a lot on this sort of work in the near future.

Today’s rehearsal for ‘As it happened …’

Something of a mixed bag today as two students had hurt their legs and some others didn’t show. However, we were able to do good work, nonetheless.

The chants and stone throwing had been a bit of a dog’s breakfast, but today we were able to thoroughly sort it out, organise it, choreograph it and rehearse it to something resembling what it could really be.

There were two keys to making it work. One was to give the actors short, potent chant lines that had a really punchy rhythm:

Break the Wall!

We want peace!

With a lot of focussed energy they really got it! Strangely, though perhaps not, one of the breakthroughs was to give them the chants in English rather than Arabic.

The key to improving the stone throwing was simply to insist on them all doing very specific, but flowing, actions in unison.

The other thing I was able to do today was script the draft dialogue for the opening and closing of Ismael’s play. It’s going to work well.

So despite all the problems, a good day’s work,

 

‘As it happened …’ rehearsal for today

We dramatised Ismael’s story today, and, like in last year’s story telling production, will form the final one for the play. The students came up with some good improvisations, such as the Israeli attack on the second village, and I think Ahmed’s idea of Granny giving Ismael a large (symbolic) Key of Return will be a an excellent cue for him to launch into his ‘We are a resilient speech’. Good work!

I also taught them to play ‘Space Jump’ today, as a teaching awareness, cooperation, giving and improvisation learning tool, but there was no time to do anything else as they had to go off to Alrowwad training in what would have been my final half hour.

Tuesday 10 July 2018: my Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for today

Failures on hate crime show urgent need for immediate reform of police oversight

This week I will focus my column on something that may well have slipped under the radar for many, the NSW Police Force’s Strike Force Parrabell releasing its findings after an internal three-year review of 88 deaths of gay men or transgender people between 1976 and 2000. These 88 deaths are only a portion of a much larger victim pool.

However, while the NSW Police Force acknowledges that Sydney’s LGBTIQ community was a target for bashings and murders, the Parrabell report itself is not enough. We need a parliamentary inquiry into gay hate crimes in this state, with Greens MP David Shoebridge saying “There needs to be a more open, independent and accountable way of holding police to account for past and present failures”.

Nicholas Stewart LGBTQI co-chair at Australian Lawyers for Human Rights explained that “Gay bashing in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s was a national sport.”

Groups of youths saw gay men and transgender people as weak victims who they could target without fear of a fight and who could be bashed and killed without a thorough investigation by police. At the time, gay men and transgender people were often and mistakenly thought of as AIDS-carrying aberrations, members of an unnatural sexual minority who did not deserve equal treatment.

So at the time Sydney’s spate of gay hate crimes was being perpetrated, the homophobic bias within parts of the NSW Police Force meant matters weren’t adequately investigated. Evidence was misplaced or recklessly stored or lost, witnesses weren’t interviewed, family members of victims were ignored, and leads were not followed up.

The report from NSW Police Force Strike Force Parrabell highlighting these systemic failings by the police in responding to gay hate murders. It found that one third of the deaths considered were likely gay hate killings.

There is a strong need now to both implement the recommendations of the report, and to take bold steps to ensure that community concerns about policing are addressed.

Recommendations of the report include the need for the police to foster reciprocal relationships of trust with organisations and the broader GLBTIQ community, better community engagement, more comprehensive and sensitive training for police officers, and the need to be vigilant about emerging categories of hate crime.

The report also found that “The NSWPF should remain vigilant to the complexities and nuance of bias as it relates to sexuality and/or gender identity (including violence directed at transgender people)”

David Shoebridge said, “It is a significant step forward that police have undertaken this review and taken responsibility for past mistakes.”

As Jenny Leong, MP for Newtown and Greens NSW Spokesperson on Sex, Sexuality and Gender Identity pointed out, “It has long been the position of the Greens that police investigating their own actions, particularly in relation to matters as serious as gay, transgender and lesbian hate crimes, is problematic.”

Indeed, the LGBTI community, and our First Nations and Australia’s multicultural population need a strong voice within the police to ensure that this kind of bias in policing does not continue.

A good start would be a statutory community oversight board with the ability to directly raise community issues with the most senior police and demand responses

Monday 9 July rehearsal for ‘As it happened …’

A bit of a curate’s egg at rehearsal today, as my student actors were very skittish at the beginning. During break time in the afternoon two of the boys told me they had passed the equivalent of their HSC exams and had only just found out,, so perhaps that explains things. In the second half we did good work, so it was pleasing to be able to tell them they had redeemed themselves, as they really had. Both boys plan to go to uni, and one of them hopes to study abroad. Best of luck to them both.

I think I also came up with a good ending for Motasem’s play today. When he told his story in last year’s verbatim theatre production it was incredibly moving, but when acted out by the cast (including himself) this year that emotion was carried by other actors, leaving Motasem with no opportunity to emote. So I asked the student playing his nursing assistant (Motasem’s the ER nurse in the story and an actual one in real life) to ask him why he is feeling so sad, and he breaks down and tells her – a nifty excuse to put some of his words from last year’s story into this year’s play,

Saturday 7 July rehearsal for ‘As it happened’

Today we roughed out the third of the ‘As it happened’ verbatim theatre Nakba plays, Motasem’s ‘The Angel’. Good work all round. The students are now getting the hang of improvisation and spontaneously come up with good ideas for segments of scenes, and are also becoming adept at whatever they can find to use for sets and props.  A massive improvement.

I also had a very positive and productive meeting with the Director of the Alrowwad Centre, Dr Abdelfattah Abusrour. He is pleased with the work we are doing and the progress his students are making.

I also discussed with him my production ideas for sets, lighting, sound, costumes and props, and he is happy with us using projections (videos and stills) and makeshift sets. I also raised my idea of staging it in the evening in an amphitheatre like space (actually built for a Papal visit) next to The Wall. It’s as very ambitious idea but Abdelfattah likes it, though Ahmed, my interpreter and general all round Mr Fixit, blanched at the idea. I certainly won’t push it, having sown the seed will see what becomes of it.

I also raised with Abdelfattah my hope to direct a scripted play here next year. Another ambitious idea, as I won’t really be able to follow the actors’ Arabic (my own is very limited), but I reckon it could be a goer. There are half a dozen of the students I am working with on this project who certainly can act, and I have ample ‘spear carriers’ for crowd scenes. I always like to plan ahead!