Wendy Blaxland's blog

Wendy Blaxland's blog

Grant proposals...

Part of being a writer is finding funds to support yourself, particularly when your writing tastes run to expensive forms such as theatre.  At the moment I am orchestrating three such applications to different Councils to help fund Blaxland and Daughter's current show CROSSING, written to commemorate the early crossings of the Blue Mountains. A lively interactive show with three actors taking over forty characters to bring history alive, CROSSING will play in primary schools and public performances throughout Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Bathurst and even Orange in Term 3 2014 and Term 2 2015. Want to find out more? Visit www.blaxlandanddaughter.com .


Writing processes blog tour


What am I working on?

I am working from historical material at the moment. My first project, Pioneers in Petticoats, is a play about Australian women in colonial times. It follows from last year’s successful play CROSSING, a play written for the Bicentenary of the crossings of the Blue Mountains, in one of which my ancestor Gregory Blaxland took part. Like CROSSING, Pioneers in Petticoats will have a short version for primary schools and a longer one for families in public performances, which will include more material. Pioneers will bring to life a number of feisty, extraordinary women from Australia’s past, such as Mary Bryant, a convict who stole a small open boat with her husband and others and escaped in it, with her two young children, all the way to Batavia (Indonesia). Then there’s eleven-year-old Eliza Hawkins, who travelled with her family on a bullock dray to Bathurst, painter and scientist Fanny Macleay who kept busy looking after her eight younger siblings while helping her father with his insect, shell and plant collection, Matilda Fish who owned one of the early land grants on Sydney’s North Shore and was robbed (twice) by bushranger William Geary, and much-married exotic dancer Lola Montez, whose exploits (including horse-whipping critics she didn’t like) fascinated the Victorian press from Bavaria to Ballarat.

I’m also gestating a novel for young people about Eliza Hawkins, based on her mother’s vivid account of the crossing of the Blue Mountains and other family documents. Oh, and a Babies Proms play for the Opera House this Christmas.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Very few other people are producing plays for young audiences based on historical characters; yet this is such a vivid way of engaging them with the history of their own country. It takes both wide and deep research (and generous historical consultants to check my script) to give an authentic idea of what life used to be like, especially for women.

Why do I write what I do?

I write about topics that fascinate me: real life events that still give me space to create my own characters and voices; but I also write about topics that producers or publishers suggest. Anything can be wonderful if you have the right attitude. I love creating.

How does my writing process work?

With my historical work, I look first for riveting stories that make me want to find out more. That’s my next task: finding out as much as I can about the real story and characters, their society and others like them. Then I have to leave my source material behind and create a play or novel that has its own structure, rhythms and characters, so that it lives. Now I know the process I can feel when the characters begin to stir inside me, and speak with their own voices.

Then I need to write and discover the form that best fits the material – poems and songs are also part of my plays - and read it out loud again and again to find out whether it works. Next I test it with colleagues like my co-producer daughter, the director and actors, before a final script emerges. I work with composers and designers to bring in the elements of music, set and costumes. Theatre is a very collaborative process – and so is writing a novel, where a good editor is a huge help as they query, support and suggest.


Space Symphony!

Gorgeous photos of my very first Babies' Proms show at the Sydney Opera House: 'Space Symphony'. See them at http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/whatson/kath/space_symphony.aspx?gclid=CPWIpfjGor0CFQdepQodwDoAIA  


Happy International Poetry Day!

Here's a poem for you!
photo by David Hill BMLOT

To celebrate International Poetry Day, I'm sharing part of the CROSSING play: a poem called 'Build a Road', commemorating William Cox and his party of 30 convicts who constructed the first road across the Blue Mountains in six months during 2013 and 2014: what a feat!



by Wendy Blaxland


How do you build, do you build d a road? Build a road to last?

Step by step, you build a road, build a road so fast.


How long does it take to build a road? Six months for men like us.

Mr Cox to lead and a good square feed, it’s enough for men like us.


How many men to build a road? Thirty men like us.

We’re fit and strong, it won’t take long, we’ll work without a fuss.


Out in the bush in good clean air it’s grand to work at last.

I break the stones, I may crack my bones, but the road is moving fast.


And we’re the men who fell the trees, fence off the drop with rails

For William Cox, I blast the rocks, I beat the iron nails.


And we’re the ones who stir the pots, who fill the bellies up,

You work real well if you know the bell means good grub coming up.


You don’t look up, you don’t look down, you work and you never stop

And then one day you look round and say, ‘Hey men, we’re at the top’.


So why do we work to build the road? To build this road so fast?

Cos when we’ve done, we’ll tell our sons we built this road to last.

Yes, when we’re done, we’ll tell our sons we built this road to last.



As an extra celebration, we're also giving schools which book a CROSSING performance before Thursday 27th March a free signed copy of my children's book The Princess and the Unicorn. Booking details at http://blaxlandanddaughter.com/schools-bookings/ .


Enjoy the day!

'Brief Encounter' at the Concourse - great theatre

Saw the fabulous show Brief Encounter by the British Kneehigh Theatre at the Chatswood Concourse this evening: wonderful, heartwarming, funny, musical - devised after the story and film by Noel Coward. Some fantastic moments - and such good actors/singers/musicians/dancers.

My son Tom and I absolutely loved Brief Encounter. It combinsd an awareness of the essential advantage of live theatre (the presence of an audience) by deliberate interaction with the audience, with ways of using other media such as film to enhance the live action. I also admired the clever way actors stepped from one medium into the other. I enjoyed the use of music, both well-known songs and purpose written ones, and was in awe of actors who could act, sing, dance AND play musical instruments. Loved the humour, the counterpoint of three stories on the one theme, the use of actors playing a number of roles, the dance sequences, the clever use of props, puppets, even circus effects, the characterisations, the switch of pace and use of movement and image to show emotional impact. Adored the train, of course, and the dogs; these were highlights. Makes me proud and glad to work in theatre – and I learnt a lot as well as just simply enjoying myself thoroughly.

Just go see it, please!




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