Liz Jones AO has been heavily involved with La Mama Theatre for the past 48 years, helping to nurture the careers of a staggering number of Australian artists.
Visit La Mama's website:http://www.lamama.com/
Read her Performer Profile.
While we kindly encourage you to submit your comments, thoughts and experiences below or on our Facebook, we expect that users will not post content that falls into the following categories and reserve the right to remove comments that are:
• off-topic and not appropriate for discussion in this forum
• in violation of another’s privacy
• vexatious, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading
• abusive, defamatory, threatening, harassing, discriminatory or otherwise offensive
• of a political nature or promote particular services, products, or political organisations
• illegal or advocates illegal activity
• in violation of another’s intellectual property or infringe upon copyrights or trademarks.
An online Festival is completely new for us and we hope you enjoy the performances.
Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined 2020
Welcome back to the Victorian Seniors Festival Reimagined in 2020. This week, the theme is renegades and game changers and we’re delighted to welcome Liz Jones. Liz is a bastion of Australian theatre. She’s the Artistic Director and CEO of La Mama in Carlton, Melbourne. Liz is also an officer of the Order of Australia, she’s toured the world as a performer, as a director, as a writer. She’s also a Newport local and Liz is sharing with us some of the game changers and renegades from her life. Hi Liz!
Hi Bec! I started working at La Mama in the early ‘70s. I just came back from England and I was desperate to find some theatre. I’d already met Betty Burstall, who founded the theatre, before that because we were both very committed teachers, working for the Victorian Education Department and we worked together at Brunswick Girls High School in a team. Started working there at front of house, started performing there and, honestly, I just never left. That was ’73 and now I’m 74. So, here we are. La Mama is a tiny theatre that is open to all comers. That openness has been there since its inception in 1967.
Who have been some of the renegades and game changers that you’ve worked with over the years at La Mama?
Well, certainly, my first point of operation was Betty Burstall. She wanted to hear the Australian voice. She didn’t want to hear that drawing room comedy English voice. She wanted to hear the real Australian voice. I think another great inspiration for me has been my husband of 45 years, Lloyd Jones, who has always had this very, very different vision of what theatre could do and how it could be presented. Jack Charles is one that comes to mind. Greg Fryer, another two Aboriginal men that I’ve worked. Inspirational woman directors – the late Margaret Cameron. She was certainly a renegade. She challenged everything and I found her utterly inspirational to work with and then, of course, there’s the wonderful Babarana Popov, whom I’ve just spent 7 years, I think, performing Uncle Vania in decaying old houses in the country, all over the country. Some of the people who’ve come through in time. Cate Blanchett worked at La Mama a number of times in the late ‘80s. As everyone knows, I think, David Williamson and Jack Hibbert had their first plays performed at La Mama. The wonderful Judith Lucy, you know, she was our House Manager for a period of time and always had us in stitches. There are many other people whose names who are not household names but who have been very vital to the fabric of La Mama.
Can you tell us about your most game changing moments at La Mama?
Probably the most game changing moment at La Mama happened in 2018 when La Mama was gutted by fire. It was something that I just never thought would happen. I treasured it, I looked after it and then, in 2018, it was burnt to the ground.
Would you agree, Liz, that you yourself are a bit of renegade and a game changer?
Look, I don’t know. I always think of myself as a fairly conventional person. You know, I’ve been married twice. Most people haven’t done that, I think. I’ve got two children of my own. I inherited 3 beautiful step-children. I’ve got 9 grandchildren and I’m a bit of a home body, really, but I have a passion for deviance and difference in all its manifestations. It’s been my passion since I was a young – a young woman. You know, it’s in fourth grade, I fell in love with Timmy Lester, an Aboriginal. The fastest runner in the school, a beautiful Aboriginal boy. I’ve always liked people who are very different.
And, Liz, can you tell us a little bit about the pieces that you’re sharing with the Victorian Seniors Festival?
This wonderful piece by Gough Whitlam, which - from a speech that he gave in 1973, which has always inspired me. I mean, I found him to be an enormous inspiration. He – he really founded, in a very deep and meaningful way, grassroots funding for the arts. He understood the arts, as not an elitist activity, but actually as part of everyone’s heart and soul.
[Liz Jones reads]
A healthy artistic climate does not depend solely on the work of a handful of supremely gifted individuals. It demands the cultivation of talent and ability at all levels. It demands that everyday work, run of the mill work, esoteric and unpopular work should be given a chance. Not so much in the hope that, one day, genius might spring from it but, because for those who make the arts their life and work, even modest accomplishments is an end to itself and a value worth encouraging. The pursuit of excellence is a proper goal but it is not the race itself.
And then the other piece is a piece that – from a letter than Anne Bon wrote in 1881 around the time of the trial of the – when the Aboriginal community of Coranderrk took the Aboriginal Protection Board of Victoria to court for malpractice and won and this was from a piece she wrote in The Age and it was used and read out in the trials in the minutes of evidence of that trial and it’s a wonderful statement of what the – what the white settler had done to the Aborigine of this state.
I’m sure you won’t think it presumptuous on my part to make a few suggestions regarding the management of Coranderrk. Coranderrk, the native state, was given to them by The Queen at the hands of Sir Henry Barclay, as a small substitute for the country they had lost. They regard it as their own property and they’re exceedingly attached. I may say, wedded to it. Then why drive them from it? It’s a fine estate of 4800 acres and is coveted by some of our land-grabbing neighbours. Are they to be driven from place to place, like a herd of cattle to make room for the white usurper? We have robbed them of their beautiful colony, deprived them of their hunting fields and fishing grounds and given them, in return, our vices and our diseases that are rapidly doing their work.
I think treasuring elders is something that has always been extremely important to me, even as a younger person. Betty Burstall, who was 20 years older than me, was always a wonderful inspiration to me and I’ve looked and seen, you know, with all my involvement with the Aboriginal community, just how important the treasuring and respecting of elders is and now I’m an elder too and I just think that we really need to be encouraged in this society – this sort of consumer, fast-paced society – to really stop and respect our Elders and give them space and time and allow them to have their voice and the Victorian Seniors Festival is a terrific addition to that.
My name’s Liz Jones and, look, I am a renegade and game changer – a quiet one. I do it mostly by saying it how it is and there’s no bullshit.