Monday, September 27, 2010

Has Facebook overtaken Starbucks as the "third space"?

OUT --------> IN

Chief revenue officer for US-based casual games developer and distributor GameHouse, Matt Huttlett, made the point in passing at the Casual Gaming Association's annual conference Casual Connect in July that Facebook has overtaken Starbucks as the "third space".

He was joking, but I think his assertion can be taken seriously on a number of levels.

There is much discussion about how social or anti-social we're becoming because of social media and how our methods of communication have transformed from literal to virtual catch-ups.

Also, we have seen strong trends over the last few years track the rapid rise of social utilities like Facebook that correlate directly to how people spend their free time to relax and unwind.

This graph displays the exponential-like growth of users on Facebook since its launch in 2004:

For so many people to direct significant amounts of time towards this internet site, something (or rather many things) have to give.

In a fast-paced society where time is money it may seem more 'economical' to send a friend a quick shout out on Facebook or chat with them online for 5-10 minutes while on a lunch break, rather than physically catching-up over coffee.

Chances are, you're drinking coffee while you're on Facebook anyway. Starbucks coffee even? So both boxes are ticked, right?

Without getting into details about the psychological and cultural effects of a reliance on Facebook as a substitute for social activity, I think the point can be made that the "third space" is changing.

That place away from home and work where you can relax and while away your free time no longer involves getting in your car or walking down the street to a rendezvous. It can be as easy as getting out your iPhone or Blackberry, or jumping into an internet cafe.

What do you think? Has Facebook overtaken Starbucks (or Gloria Jeans for a more fitting Australian equivalent) as the "third space"? If not Facebook, what?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What is Facebook for?

Facebook has revolutionised communication. People can now 'catch up' on the web and virtually 'keep-in-touch'. Just like phones, social networking sites are a blessing and a curse. They give us easy access to people around the world but make us increasingly impersonal.

As with the introduction of any new piece of technological communication it leads one to ask what it is for and how it should and shouldn't be used.

There is no simple answer, if there is an answer at all, and perhaps possible answers will change over time.

To use myself as a case study, I use Facebook for networking (such as building media and musical theatre contacts as part of my work and social life) and as a convenient way to keep in touch with friends, particularly those interstate and overseas. I can alert friends and professionals to what's happening in my life and vice versa. Facebook, among other things, also provides an easy and efficient way to organise events.

For me, my profile is private and I hardly broadcast personal details that could compromise my safety but I don't see Facebook as the place you congregate only your 'closest' friends (those you'd send a Christmas card to, per say).

On the other hand, some hold their Facebook page sacred for various reasons; I know some who keep a tight lid on their friends because they feel the personal views they express and photos they post may taint their 'professional' image or reputation.

People's profiles function within both extremes of maximum and minimum security, and Facebook fortunately enables each individual to make that choice.

If Facebook is a different utility for different people what can we learn from this?

Perhaps that if you broadcast your personal life for all the world to see you're essentially inviting all sorts of peeping toms, but, also that Facebook doesn't need to be the place to only keep your bosom body lifelong friends.

Then what is the 'socially acceptable' way to use Facebook? How do you negotiate who you accept and decline? Where are the barriers and what determines them?

Because of these many unanswered question it's probably best to respect that people can and do use Facebook in different ways which may not be compatible with our own.

Where do you draw the line for Facebook 'friends'? What motivates you to accept or decline a request?

What is Facebook for?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CityRail investing in free WiFi hotspots instead of the things that "really" matter

My first reaction to the news that CityRail is trialling free WiFi hotspots at Sydney's Circular Quay train station was: 'Yay, now I can surf the web as I wait for my train that usually comes at half-hour intervals after dance class.'

A split second later I re-evaluated my judgment and realised I'd much prefer to only wait 15 minutes for a train than have free access to the Internet.

Once the novelty of having access to a perk for being a CityRail customer wore off the trial brought up past and present grievances I've had with CityRail's appalling train service.

Rather than providing new services, why don't CityRail work on improving the services they already provide like making trains run on time, providing clean toilet facilities at stations, replacing old un-airconditioned trains with new ones, installing more ticket booths to ease peak-hour queues? The list goes on.

As the old saying goes: if it ain't broke, don't fix it but if it is broke, fix it before you move on to bigger and better things.

So why is a WiFi hotspot being trialled by CityRail? The site says in its FAQ section:

"CityRail's free WiFi hotspot is a value-added service for customers. We will use the next three months of this limited offer to get your feedback and explore opportunities to expand this service."

While free WiFi hotspots is a "value-added service" and may improve CityRail's likability, the fail-safe way to keep NSW's train provider in everyone's good books is to simply provide an efficient, reliable and cost-effective train service.

When you can get people from A to B without dropping the F-bomb or tweeting their frustrations on the way to and from work then you know you can start "value-adding." Otherwise, there will be no value to add to in the first place.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Why Sydney's musical theatre scene needs more government funding

By day I go to university and study how to be a journalist. On the days I'm not at university I work as a journalist at By night I am a performer.

For the last 10 years I have saved all my pennies and invested them in singing, dancing and acting classes. Why? Because I love musical theatre; it's my 'passion' in life (or "purpose" as one would say in Avenue Q). I love watching it, I love writing about it, I love performing in it.

Realistically, though, musical theatre in Sydney and Australia at large is a struggling art. The country is full of talented performers who usually go offshore to get work and make a living from their craft. They train here then ship off to Broadway or West End and end up calling those places home because that's where they are appreciated as the talented performers they are.

The Arts community in Sydney is so small and Elisa Blake in her article for SMH (27/03/2010) which can be viewed here summarises why Sydney's performing arts scene is dying a slow death. Her story focuses on why Melbourne has developed the reputation as the Arts capital of Australia and offers realistic ways Sydney can re-claim the title.

What is the overarching verdict, though, when everything boils down? The need for more government funding. The need for the government to realise that every now and then $2.8 billion reserved for stadium upgrades should Australia win its bid to host the 2018 World Cup could be better spent on helping those struggling theatre companies that work tirelessly to create a culturally vibrant Sydney Arts scene.

Sport seems to be the theatre's main competitor for funding but the mind boggles at why the government isn't placing more value on the Arts.

I could ramble on for hours...

BUT I decided, on reading Elisa Blake's article in April, that I had to voice my concern. The Keneally government is in such a state of disarray as it is, it seemed harmless to suggest that her government could get a bit of positive press for doing something good for the community- ie. investing in more infrastructure for the Arts, increasing community theatre grants, the list goes on.

Wicked's phenomenal takings at the boxoffice proves that there are people out there who are willing and able to go see theatre. We need to harness the energy of the thousands of passionate Wicked fans and followers and direct it towards achieving sustainable long-term goals.

My letter was only one drop in the ocean but I encourage more people who are passionate about the arts to take a stand and fight for the future of the musical theatre industry in Sydney and throughout Australia.

Below documents my progress to date:

11 APRIL 2010
Initial email to Premier Kristina Keneally

"Mrs Keneally,

As the political race ensures, a suggestion of mine would be 'do something' about Sydney's musical theatre scene. I know not every person watches musicals, but there is a significant number who would feel pride at getting 'one up' over Melbourne if nothing else.

Elissa Blake wrote a fantastic, well researched article about this concern for Sydney in SMH's Spectrum (March 27-28), called "Culture Shock".

The article can be viewed here:;jsessionid=AC11794F07117A61F04BECBB3F7AEC1C?sy=nstore&pb=all_ffx&dt=selectRange&dr=1month&so=relevance&sf=text&sf=headline&rc=10&rm=200&sp=brs&cls=11&clsPage=1&docID=SMH10032720IM33D9K9E

To direct you the the crux of the problem, I quote directly from Elissa's article (bold is my emphasis):

The producer John Frost, who opened the hit musicals Wicked and Chicago in Melbourne and will soon open Fame there, says Sydney is heading towards a crisis of venues in the next two years with the Capitol and Lyric theatres (both 2000 seats) and the Theatre Royal (deemed too small for most musicals at 1200 seats) expected to be fully booked.

"New shows won't be able to come into Sydney at all and when the Opera House does get around to refurbishing and the opera and ballet companies need new homes, it will be absolutely impossible to bring a new musical to Sydney," he says. "It will stop productions of shows altogether because you can't bring a show to Australia and not include Sydney."

Frost says the city urgently needs another 1600-seat theatre - and not one "that sticks out like a pimple with nothing around it. It will need to be surrounded by apartments, hotels, restaurants and bars. The public has a ferocious appetite for big musicals and they need to be fed.

"But the government will fart around forever ... you and I will be retired before they approve a new building. The bureaucracy will drive you nuts."

The director Neil Armfield says politicians in this city seem to "run a mile" when it comes to the arts. "[Victorian premier] John Brumby turns up to a lot of opening nights. He's a physical presence in the scene and there's great political pride in the achievements of Melbourne's artists," he says. "After Bob Carr, we've seen a procession of premiers who seem to be trying to distance themselves from the arts."


It's not just a matter of civic pride. Big new shows bring in big money. When Wicked opened in Melbourne and played for 13 months, it injected about $125 million dollars into the local economy. "That's a big chunk of money for any state to lose," Frost says. "Sydney should be the arts hub and not playing second fiddle."

Commercial theatre is attracted to Melbourne because Victorian tourism and events bodies are offering large, undisclosed amounts of money to producers on the understanding the show opens in Melbourne and everyone keeps mum about it moving to Sydney 18 months later. The private sector chips in so the hotels and restaurants can hoover up visitors from New Zealand and Queensland before the show opens in Sydney.


Reading the article in whole would give a much better indication of where the problem lies and effective ways to fix it.

I highly recommend reading the article if you have time, and I would love (not only as a musical consumer but a performer myself) to see Sydney back on top.

We have lost Hairspray, Rock of Ages and Lloyd Webber's Phantom sequel, Love Never Dies; lets give Sydney something other than the Sydney Festival to feel proud of when it comes to promotion of the arts.


Maryann Wright"

27 APRIL 2010

Response from the 'Director General' of the NSW Premier and Cabinet

Today (6 SEPTEMBER 2010) I received this letter in the post
Direct response from the 'Director-General' of Communities NSW (under which coordination of the arts falls)

While it is nice that my letter was actually read and responded to in a more personalised fashion (why, Carol Mills even signed the actual piece of paper) it is one thing to write nice rhetoric and conduct an "audit of cultural facilities" and another to actually build a decent theatre and re-distribute money away from the land of men with too much testosterone kicking balls around on a grassy field in short-shorts and towards the Arts.

What do you think? Am I expecting too much? Does anyone think the Arts get enough funding as it is and we are crazy to think we deserve more money?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Curtains, the musical (BTS)

A little plug for the upcoming musical I'm in.

Curtains is a musical send-up of backstage murder mystery plots. Set in the 1950s in Boston, when the (supremely untalented) leading lady drops dead on opening night the whole company is at the mercy of a police detective who must save the show, solve the case, and maybe even find love before the show reopens- all without getting killed himself.

Written by lyric and songwriting team Kander and Ebb who brought you the hits Cabaret and Chicago, the show is funny, witty and just a whole lot of fun!

I play one of the principals/leads, Niki Harris, who is the understudy of the now-dead leading lady and love interest of the charming detective. I'll add a pic when I get one.

EDIT: This pic will suffice for now:

If you've got some time, check the show out.

EDIT: In preparation for an interview with the local paper I answered these questions which may help fill a few of you in on more details about the show.

1. About my role
"I play Niki Harris who is the understudy of the actress who gets murdered at the start of the play within the play. She becomes the love interest of the detective who is brought in to solve the murder. Niki is very bright-eyed and innocent, she is thrilled to be working in a big musical and fights for the musical to continue its run in Boston in the hopes it'll get to Broadway."

2. What I'm enjoying about being in the show
"I love musical theatre and this show is very much a homage to musicals and why we do them. We are just like the main character, Cioffi, in the show; we both go around doing our day jobs but really long to be performing on stage. The whole cast is also great fun to be around and work with so the past three months have been a ball!"

3. Why should people come see the show
"First of all, the show is funny. It covers all types of humor (from dry to slap-stick to wit) and is bound to have you laughing at some stage, if not all the time. Secondly, the show was written by songwriting and lyricist pair Kander and Ebb who wrote the much loved musicals, Chicago and Cabaret, so its music is beautiful. Finally, because the cast is full of talented people on and off stage who just want to provide people with an entertaining night out at the theatre."

4. What is the show about
"Curtains is a musical who-dunnit comedy which somewhat parodies backstage murder mystery plots. When the leading lady is murdered on opening night, the cast are thrown into turmoil trying to deal with what they will do to keep the show running while also having a detective closely following their every move as he tries to solve the murder. Eventually the detective finds himself intricately involved in the mystery and the musical in more ways than one."

5. What is my previous stage experience
"I have sung for over 10 years and over the past few years have performed in shows like Fame as Serena (Stagetek productions) and Cosi as Julie (Liverpool Performing Arts Ensemble). At the moment I'm studying a Bachelor of Arts in media and communications at the University of Sydney and am majoring in performance studies which allows me to set myself up with a career path but also indulge my love of the arts at the same time."

EDIT: Here's a publicity pic we took. Hair and make-up not done but should have some proper dress rehearsal photos soon.
Rehearsal pic:
A gallery of professional shots can be found in a later blog post.

Full details:

(from the creators of Cabaret and Chicago)


Book by Rupert Holmes
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb

Original Book and Concept by Peter Stone
Additional Lyrics by John Kander and Rupert Holmes

BOOKINGS (02) 9676 1191


What happens when the star of a new Broadway show, Robbin' Hood of the Old West is murdered during her opening night curtain call?

Can a police detective who moonlights as a musical theatre fan save the show, solve the case, and maybe even find love before the show reopens, without getting killed himself?

Full of toe-tapping broadway style numbers.. this broadway smash hit from the creators of ‘Chicago’ and ‘Cabaret’ is a show not to be missed.

Directed by

Musical Direction by

Choreography by

Cast Featuring
Detective Frank Cioffi MICHAEL LEWIS
Carmen Bernstein JULIA BROVEDANI
Georgia Hendricks CHAPIN AYRES
Christopher Belling GRAHAM EGAN
Bambi Bernet NICOLE HUNT
Daryl Grady RAY BASHA
Johnny Harmon JAWAD BEEDAR
Jessica Cranshaw/ Monica Page KATIE YOUNG
Randy Dextor DAVID CHOI
Arlene Barucca GRACE LIZZIO
Connie Subbotin REBECCA KENSEY
Det. O'Farrell/ Ronnis Driscoll BEN DODD


(Cnr Rickard & Chapel Roads Bankstown – on site secure parking available)

Tickets Prices:
Adults $35; Concessions & Groups 10+ $30

BOOKINGS (02) 9676 1191

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