Sandbox Land: Once Upon a Time…

Posted on 18 June 2015 | No responses

Okay, I’m not certain how to say this, so that it’s clear this isn’t just marketing speak. Our next Sandbox Land is going to be exceptional. I mean kick yourself exceptional, if you don’t come along. I of course think all my shows are wonderful. I have to: that’s what makes it possible for me to continue creating. The quality of the performers this time is particularly high.

We will be focussing on fairytales and myths.


Storyteller: Roslyn Quin
Poet: Joel McKerrow
Storyteller: Niki na Meadhra
Puppeteer: Melissa Jade Edwards
Interpretive Performer: Victoria Haslam

Tzup Wuff
Katherine Phelps

When: 7pm Saturday 27 June
Where: 14 Raglan Street, North Melbourne
Family and child discounts!
Discounts if you come dressed in fairytale costumes!


Dressing for Stage
(a guide even blokes will understand)

Posted on 3 June 2015 | No responses

People don’t often understand how to dress for stage. Even actors may lack this skill, because for big shows an art director and a costume designer will determine what is worn. However for small shows without an artistic director, actors may want to take more control of their wardrobe. This idea doesn’t even pass through the heads of most comedians. Performance is about standing in front of a mic isn’t it? Anything else is sometimes seen as extraneous.

The fact of the matter is you don’t have to be about fashion for costume selection to be important. The issue isn’t always about looking “good”. It’s also about being seen, heard, and free to move. That funny little gesture you do with your hand will in no way add to your joke if people can’t see it. That tight corset that gives you an hour glass figure may keep you from projecting and therefore keep you from being heard. Your ability to move around and create a rapport with the audience may be cut short, if you are wearing restrictive clothes.

I will be focusing on the visuals in this article. If you are planning on being in front of people, then you have to learn to let yourself be visible. Hiding will keep your career from achieving lift-off. Here are my easy to understand pointers about this.

The Worst

Dressing entirely in black. I call black the coward’s colour. Yes, predators, cat burglars, and ninjas wear black. However, they do so in order to not be seen before pouncing. Are you planning on pouncing your audience? You know who else comes in black? Mice. They don’t want to be seen, so they aren’t pounced upon.


Some people will have a wardrobe entirely filled with black, because “it all matches”. Other neutrals do exist like white, tan, brown, etc. On the business end of town all the business people wear black suits, with black shoes, and black brief cases. They all look (to them) comfortingly alike. Standing out by choosing to wear purple for instance, is seen as a “career limiting move”. They are hiding.


Film will use black because the “cool kids” wear it. However, they have to work hard, using all sorts of cinematic tricks, to make characters in black visible. Even then, they may be visible on the big screen, but once you are watching the film on your TV at home, it’s difficult to tell what’s going on. The best example of this is Batman.

Below is a picture of Michael Keaton and Adam West both dressed as Batman. Notice how shiny they have made Keaton’s costume and how they have lit his figure, so that you get white reflections to give him definition. Even so, he is disappearing into the background. Adam West is wearing gray as well as black and so is more readily seen, though his head tends to disappear into shadows.


For live performance if you are going to wear black make sure you have a brightly coloured background and that you are standing in the light. Any interest you can give that black such as coloured stripes or patterns will be of help.


White is generally better. It’s easy enough to wear black or blue jeans and a white t-shirt. Most backgrounds are dark, so it’s usually a good choice. However, upon occasion you do get a white background and this is what happens.


Notice how I have disappeared? Clearly I’m a snow ninja. White can cause problems for photography where the shot is “blown out”. Basically, everything turns to a detail-less white.

White can be very dramatic and eye popping which is why so many singers use it for Eurovision. But it is also a neutral and needs extra detail or colour touches to keep it from getting equally as bland as black.



Colour is good. Colour is very good. It makes you interesting. It defines you as a performer: what sort of colours do you wear and why? Vivid colours will get you noticed. Look who’s upstaging Batman in this Mardi Gras photo.


Just remember that most theatres use red curtains. If you wear red you are in danger of becoming a red ninja in the same way I was a white ninja the other day. Blue and green will help you to stand out from the curtains. A bright yellow will make you pop! Check in advance what colours will be visible behind you and choose one that isn’t being used.


Other issues to do with colour are coordinating colours whenever you have more than one person on stage, and making sure you wear colours that help your skin to look vibrant and healthy. Orange does a great job of making people look healthy. Not everyone likes wearing that colour. Black gives many people sallow skin, but even the wrong shade of red can do that. An art director or a stylist can help with these concerns. But any colour is better than no colour, if you want to stand out.

Now go have fun making yourself more interesting!


Peace and kindness,



Posted on 27 May 2015 | No responses

  • Some feminists are extremist, so we don’t have to stop being sexist.
  • Some religionists are extremist, so we can demand the elimination of their religion.
  • Some atheists are misogynistic, so we can ignore all their ideas.
  • Some animals have been known to be harmful, so it’s all right to wipe them all out.
  • Some cities don’t sensibly recycle the rubbish people have carefully sorted, so there’s no sense in us bothering with the extra effort.
  • Some unions have abused their power, so we shouldn’t bother with worker’s rights.
  • Some organics are still damaging the environment, so we can keep buying fruit and vegetables that are raised in an even more damaging manner cheaply at corporate supermarkets.

Black and white perfectionism is a flight from reason and responsibility. Grown ups accept that we live in an imperfect and nuanced world that doesn’t always have ready answers. Sometimes making things better is a long term process and you have to accept baby steps. But those baby steps must be made.

Judgemental cynicism is an issue, not the answer. It brings with it the excuses for apathy. It’s well worth remembering the adage, “If you aren’t part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.”

Let me see people get out of their cushy armchairs, out from behind their TVs and computers, and do something then tell me, “It’s all too hard.” And I want to see people stick with it for a few years, rather than turning up to one protest in the entirety of their lives then saying, “I protested for one hour of one day and nothing changed.”

And complaining it’s because everyone else is so awful is the height of narcissism. If you start talking with people, spending time with people, caring about people, things will change. But not when someone makes the choice to keep themselves in angry fearful isolation.

Become a bright light of kindness, gentleness, concern, and activism. Do not worry so much about how others are getting it wrong. Just focus on doing the best you know how. Time will demonstrate this is the most worthwhile path.

Peace and kindness,


Sandbox Land: SUPER Heroes!

Posted on 21 May 2015 | No responses

Sandbox Land is going to be HOT this Saturday! So, if you want performance that will warm you up, come along!

The night’s performers:

Comedian: Dilruk Jayasinha!
Poet: Lana Woolf
Storyteller: Ian McNally
Singer: Yasemin Arifoglu
Singer/Musician: Chris Southall
Cosplayer: Sam Dowling
Sketch Performers:
Gabe Hogan
Kaska Harvey Zielinski

Katherine Phelps
Morgan Phillips

When: 7pm Saturday 23 May
Where: 14 Raglan Street, North Melbourne
Family and child discounts!


Peace and kindness,


Hating Things

Posted on 20 May 2015 | No responses

I have been frequently seeing and hearing people use the word “hate”. A lot of it trivial like, “I hate banana yoghurt”. Some more significant like, “I hate climate-deniers”. I wish people would think about what they are doing when they hate something.

Here is a list of things people hate:

Banana yoghurt

I’ve heard people go into great details as to why they hate a food and put on a great show of various “yuck” faces. They will ask you how you can posssibly eat that stuff. I wonder if this bit of theatre is really about hating a food or rallying for personal support. If they can get you to hate a thing, then it justifies their hating it. They don’t feel like an outsider for not enjoying something that others are. All of this is done with musical taste as well. Perhaps they need the personal strength to accept difference: their own and others.

Wesley Crusher

Wesley Crusher is a character from Star Trek: The Next Generation. This character was largely hated by Star Trek fandom. He was put in to be the bridging character for a young audience. The problem was his portrayal seemed patronising. Other characters in media will be hated because they are feminist or anti-feminist portrayals, they represent politics we don’t like, they are unpleasant and flawed.

Stories best serve their purposes when they honestly portray human emotion and human behaviour. Anything less becomes manipulative. Therefore, you should expect characters to be flawed. Hating them for this flaw when it is crucial to good storytelling is nonsensical. You need to look at the bigger picture. Sometimes a character is badly conceived and written, like perhaps Wesley Crusher. Hating Wesley Crusher is a waste of effort. You should be annoyed with the writers, directors, and producers. Wesley is a fiction, hating him achieves nothing whereas writing an email to the people who created him, explaining why you have problems with how this character is portrayed, is a more meaningful act. Otherwise, if you really hate these characters that much, stop watching the show or reading the book. It’s that simple.


Some of this goes back to banana yoghurt: a person will hate cats for preference reasons and wants others to conform to their viewpoint for validation. It’s understandable if someone does not wish to be in the proximity of a cat because of allergies. The dislike arises because of the discomfort it brings. However, this is not a personal act perpetrated by the cat upon the person. The same would be true for dog, horse, or gerbil allergies.

One of the more revealing things you can do is ask someone why they hate cats. You will get reasons like: they are unpredictable, they don’t do as they are told, they don’t give me unconditional love. The reasons are often the same as ones given as to why some men hate women. Sometimes it’s because cats don’t lend themselves to being dominated. What kind of person needs that sort of validation? The unconditional love one always has me scratching my head. If you want unconditional love, why aren’t you giving it?

The most justifiable reason for hating cats is the destruction they can inflict upon the environment. However that isn’t the cat’s fault, they are an animal like any other animal, and behave as they biologically need to. That’s a human problem. We need to better manage our pets. Hating an animal is nonsensical. What are you going to do? Make all of one species extinct? I can understand when people feel that way about large predators like sharks, but killing off all of a species may very well damage our capacity to survive, as it damages the ecosystem.


Smoking is a destructive activity. Smoking is killing the person indulging in it. The butts kill animals who accidently eat them and puts poisons into the soil. The smoke is killing friends, family, and strangers who have to inhale its poisons due to proximity. Smoking is incredibly antisocial.

The people who smoke began due to a possible combination of peer pressure and rebellion. They may have wanted to belong to a group representing the type of person they would like to be: tough guys, artists, comedians, intellectual sophisticates, the wealthy smoking on expensive cigars. You would think that alternative peer pressure might reverse that, but cigarettes are an addictive drug. You put the hate on a smoker, they try to stop due to the pressure, find it difficult, then discover they don’t have the personal wherewithal to get past the addiction because you have added to their low self esteem. Those who smoke as a form of rebellion, if you use hatred to stop them, they are just going to smoke harder and in your face.


Once experience passes out of recent affairs and especially when it passes out of living memory, it becomes unreal to many people. I am just old enough to have experienced other children being crippled and put into iron-lungs from polio. I remember how terrified everyone was of this illness. I understand the necessity of vaccination. Even if some risk may be attached, it’s still less of an issue than the physical devastation that comes with the illness. Jonas Salk, the man who developed the polio vaccine, worked for a federally funded university. When asked if he would patent his cure he said, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

If all our medicines were created with this sort of spirit, I would feel more comfortable about the prescriptions I am given. However, these days the water has become muddied. Large corporations interested in profit rather than your well-being are churning out symptom relievers that may be more dangerous than the symptom they are relieving. I’ve had my own experience with being given a drug for a minor complaint and ending up with a life-threatening side-effect.

So, it’s not surprising that people are angry and concerned about anti-vaxxers threatening our collective health. It’s not surprising that people are angry and distrustful of pharmaceuticals.

When you hate an anti-vaxxer, remember that these are often people who vote for gay rights, are concerned about the climate, want more money going to schools and less to the military industrial complex. In short these are people who are your supporters in many other areas. Why are you alienating them with hatred? How about creating a system whereby they are reassured that you are working in their best interests? How about putting systems in place that better monitor the integrity of research?


Hatred of climate-deniers is pretty much what has helped to create a growing rift in our populations.

People at the top of our cultures may well believe the environment is in danger. However, dealing with the issue will cause them to lose power and status. How many oil corporations do you really expect to honestly look at the problem? Maybe money doesn’t trickle down as per the “trickle down” theory, but fear certainly does. To take care of the environment we will have to use less fossil fuels. Using less fossil fuels means fewer jobs in the oil industry. This means fewer jobs in the car industry and many other industries that rely on oil products. That’s an immediate danger. Whereas climate change will be affecting the grandkids and maybe someone will find a cure in that time without us having to change anything. This is crazy thinking, but it is going through people’s minds.

Frightened people, no matter how smart, are irrational people. You hate them and they just get more frightened, because the threats are mounting. Frightened people aren’t going to change their mind. They are just going to crawl deeper into their holes, quaking in fear.

Domineering egotistical eggheads/Emotionally manipulative egotistical gurus

I can get so mad at both of these sorts that I want to spit tacks. They are both out for power.

Certain eggheads want theirs to be the voice of authority regardless of the subject. They will speak outside of their expertise and expect people to fall down at their feet in agreement. They then get huffy when you question them. They are right in telling you to question the world, but that includes them. They are not magically above reproach, especially when their work is funded by corporate grants. Their behaviour can muddy the waters when it comes to convincing people about real dangers.

Hating these people isn’t helpful because they are capable of useful research. However, we should be expecting more honesty, integrity, and humility from our scientists. Theirs is not the highest calling on the planet. If you want to worship at someone’s feet for the importance of their calling, make sure to send your mom a nice card on Mother’s Day.

We find gurus in business as well as religion and spirituality. They can take something genuinely worth knowing and convince people to come on board to learn more. They can give lonely people a sense of community and a sense of purpose. Once they have you hooked, like some sort of social drug, you are then used to forward their status and agenda.

Negative attention gives these people more power. How big is Westboro Baptist really? How many people are involved with that group? However every time they do something shocking, it makes international news. This makes them feel important. News stations are told not to pump up stories about suicides and mass killers, because it encourages others to do the same. Do what you can to curb these people. Hold out a hand of compassion to the people trapped inside, so they have some hope of getting out.

The sin (but not the sinner)

I can see the point in “hating the sin, but not the sinner”. I dislike smoking, but I don’t dislike the people who are doing the smoking. However, hatred is the wrong word and the aphorism is applied indiscriminately. Do you hate left-handedness, but love the person? Hating something a person is born with is cruel and nonsensical: whether it be skin colour, gender, body-shape, ability, etc. This aphorism is a whitewashed excuse for hatred. It’s smiling with a weapon hidden behind your back. “See! I’m a good person because I am smiling…just remember I have a weapon.”

Hatred is a waste of your energy. You will never be able to use it to make a better world. You will just make your own life darker. If you use hatred to topple a destructive regime, it will be replaced with another destructive regime. Just look at any number of countries who have been in a cycle of violence for generations. Have your preferences: recognise toxic activities but just move away from them and be yourself. You change things by imagining better, by demonstrating better, by finding peace and joy inside yourself and sharing it. Then when you knock over a wall of darkness, you aren’t even looking at it…you are still moving ahead toward that brighter world because it is already in your hands.

Peace and kindness,


Finding The Correct Problem

Posted on 15 May 2015 | No responses

When I was growing up my family frequently moved from one small town to another. As anyone who has been in that position can tell you, being the new kid at a school is a misery, doubly so when it’s in a small town. My response to the teasing and bullying was that I just wanted to be left to myself. It was fine as long as I had a couple friends. I didn’t want to be like the “popular” kids in order to fit in. The “popular” kids were horrible. I work hard to be the sort of person I want to know (doesn’t mean I always get it right).

We were close to another family who also frequently moved. Their kids used different tactics. “If only we were like the popular kids, we would fit in and be happy,” seemed to be their outlook. The girls worked hard to become cheerleaders, fashion leaders, and young business leaders. Their brother got into vicious dogs and guns. We played together when we were little, I find it disturbing interacting with some of them now.

I don’t believe the problem was that we didn’t fit in. I believe the problem was that we had moved into insular cultures with people who had never had the opportunity to learn how to accept diversity. It’s a tricky thing trying to determine how much of a situation is your problem and you need to learn, and how much of it is someone else’s problem. Of course if it’s someone else’s problem, but you have to live with the results, then it becomes your problem again.

People are notoriously bad at risk assessment. They are often equally bad at recognising the core of a serious issue. As such they end up fighting the wrong end of the stick and are surprised when that doesn’t resolve things. People want clear black and white situations. They want leaders who can figure out all the hard stuff for them. They want a simple world with simple solutions, so they can get on with things. They want easy targets for relieving their fear, anger, and anxiety. Don’t talk to them about complexity and longterm solutions. Don’t talk to them about justice, when swift vengence seems so much more satisfying.

When you try to enforce people into a gated community of simplistic living, the results aren’t satisfying. That’s because the results sought are unrealistic. People don’t realise that the way they are biting others in order to make their lives manageable is the way in which they will be bitten as well.

This happens in both the right and the left of politics. You have people on the left who are terrified of those who they see as holding “irrational beliefs”. For some it seems the irrational beliefs are what is causing all the world’s problems and anything that has an association with irrational beliefs should be mocked, banished, and hated. Personally, I find fear and hatred as a basis for how people treat others irrational. You need to be looking deeper. You need the patience to understand and address core issues. If you have an axe murderer who believes in the toothfairy, do you blame his belief in the toothfairy for his murdering ways? I don’t recall anything about the toothfairy that should instigate axe wielding. Now he may be crazy enough to claim it does. However, if you subsequently forbid anyone from believing in the toothfairy as a way to stop axe murdering, don’t be surprised if nothing changes. The focus has gone to the wrong problem.

Alternatively, you have people who focus on ensuring they are associated with the “right sort”. They assume the “right sort” have all the answers, own all the goodness, and can be trusted. Therefore, they seem to be a world of safety. People assume that when they have joined the “right sort” that they have achieved a state of knowingness and goodness, and others should take it for granted that they are people you can trust. Their membership is a sort of talisman that represents who they want others to believe they are, whether or not they have taken the time to earn that representation. “I am a good person because I am wearing a badge with a symbol” rather than “I am a good person because I care, I’m willing to take the time to figure out what is fair, and I do good things.” These are the people who cover up a situation whenever a member strays, because it besmirches their very identity. They lose their “get out of jail free” card. If they weren’t looking for shortcuts for their own behaviour, they might take the time to protect other members in their community. This happens among middle class communities, religious communities, intellectual communities, and more.

All groups are made of people and people are flawed. All writings were written by people and therefore carry their flaws. You cannot judge the entirety of an institution based on the behavior of some members. You cannot judge the entire membership of an institution, because you don’t like the institution. Should we do away with democracy because some politicians are bad? Maybe educating the populace to want better would work better in the long run.

The answer is, as always, there are no easy answers. You will always have to learn how to think for yourself. You can’t rely on shortcuts. You have to have good internal measuring sticks based on life-affirming values, which you regularly apply every time you meet a new person, deal with a new group, or face a tricky situation. Be the person you want to see in the world. Model the behaviour you want others to take up, demonstrating its value. Fear is chewing humanity into pieces. That is the problem which most needs addressing. The solution is learning how to feel strong enough in yourself to wish others well, finding the patience to cooperate, and the kindness to do genuine good in the world.

Peace and kindness,


Reminder: Tuesday 12 May is
George Carlin Memorial Freedom of Comic Speech Day!

Posted on 8 May 2015 | No responses

Track down your nearest comedy venue and read out “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” routine!

More details here.

Peace and kindness,


Basic Income Day

Posted on 1 May 2015 | No responses


As automation of the workplace continues to the tune of possibly eliminating half of all current jobs in the next 20 years, unconditional basic income represents the ability to empower labor on an individual basis. A newly gained ability to say “No” to employers, would have an undeniable effect on the sharing of profits through better wages, job conditions, benefits, etc.

The achievement of basic income would be the achievement of a new contract between employer and employee, including the empowerment of the employee to become their own employer. It would mean a new age of innovation and entrepreneurship, where all are free to pursue the goals they wish to pursue, and all work could be recognized for its societal value, instead of only paid work as it stands now.

~Basic Income Day website,

Peace and kindness,


Joan Baez – The Road to Woodstock: The Road to Peace

Posted on 29 April 2015 | No responses

With the executions of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan—Joan Baez, a figure for activism and the power of song, is as relevant today as she was in the 1960s-70s. She worked tirelessly to help secure civil liberties for Americans of African descent and to stop the Vietnam war. She also campaigns to halt the execution of prisoners. In 1992 she held vigil outside of San Quentin State prison when Robert Alton Harris was to be the first person executed in California after the death penalty was reinstated. She held vigil again in December 2005 to stop the execution of Tookie Williams.

Joan Baez popularised the song that typified the era of peaceful protest, “We Shall Overcome“. Listening to Baez sing that song sends shivers down most anyone’s spine. However, her presence is a testimony to the fact that we all need to find the resilience and concern to continue working toward peace and justice throughout our lifetimes, not just for a brief moment in our youth. Noam Chomsky has said, “One of the problems with organising…is that people tend to think—even the activists—that instant gratification is required. You constantly hear: ‘Look, I went to a demonstration and we didn’t stop the war so what’s the use of doing it again?'”

Neil Cole has chosen powerful material for the times in writing Joan Baez – The Road to Woodstock, a cabaret production currently showing at Chapel Off Chapel. Petra Elliott plays ongoing hero Joan Baez. Baez’s vibrato became stylish in her opening era with others bringing that sweet trill to their music as well, notably Buffy Sainte-Marie. Elliott chose not to use that accent, but nevertheless brought a similar strength and honesty to her performance. The show as a whole is about bringing the spirit of Baez to Australia and making it live. Elliott understands this and weaves together an important performance that speaks to us today. The audience appreciated the gentle command she brought to the role and roundly applauded her efforts with calls of “Brava!”.

Supporting the show are Bekkie O’Connor as Janis Joplin and Paul Watson as Bob Dylan. O’Connor is an exceptional singer. I feel the advertising for the show did both Elliott and O’Connor a disservice. The show follows the Joan Baez story, but the advertising seems to imply that you probably don’t know Baez—but come along because it also has Joplin and we all know how cool she is. The image on the Chapel Off Chapel site compounds the problem by making it look like the show is equally about Baez and Joplin, it is not. Expectations are seriously skewed, and all the women deserve better. Watson brought a solid rock and roll quality to his character. It would have been fun to see a touch more interaction between he and Elliott.

Joan Baez – The Road to Woodstock is a good show with great music and some significant insights. The sixties were a time when strong women had strong voices and made a difference. We can have that again: if we choose to speak out with our hearts as well as our minds, if we find it within ourselves to be dedicated to a better world as a way of being not just a moment of passion. I am so pleased Petra Elliott had a chance to stand in such big shoes and bring this woman to our current generation.

Tickets can be purchased through the Chapel Off Chapel website.

Peace and kindness,


Television and Sketch Comedy

Posted on 28 April 2015 | No responses

I remember the first time I went to San Diego Comic Con. Everyone was talking about how the previous year the two major comic book companies, DC and Marvel, were predicting the death of the comic book. They had all but pulled out of that year’s convention. Instead we had a great flowering of independent comic books companies. Their message was that life was never better for their industry.

Fortunes have changed yet again for people in comics. However, I would like to point out that big companies have a tendency to see themselves as the whole of the world. How they are doing is clearly “the universal state of affairs”. When people take advantage of their hubris, the world has a chance to move forward in marvellous and innovative ways. Television and publishing are both facing this issue and are doing a fabulous job of shooting their own feet.

Opportunities are still to be had online. Trade paradigms need to shift and people need to learn how to cooperate more in order to see a further flowering of online creativity. Sketch comedy is an example of where online is trumping television in a big way. Television execs could be harvesting loads of online talent. Instead they disparage sketch comedy and refuse to compete. Either they dominate or nothing seems to be their policy. This is also your entry point, provided you are willing to work with other sketch comedians and video makers.

TV executives are increasingly under pressure to keep viewers on screen rather than online as they defend the bastion of terrestrial broadcast, from the scourge of digital innovation. And to do that they need big names and convoluted contracts and licensing to ‘give you something that nobody else will’. Being funny doesn’t just cut it anymore; you’ve got to have commercial value.
~Adam Dahrouge, “Where has all the TV sketch comedy gone?

Peace and kindness,


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