Alistair Wallace: Show Saviour!

That’s my real name, btw.

I’ve been working on this Cabaret at atyp, Tease and it’s been really fun. A bunch of really nice, fun, talented performers from Darwin and Sydney doing crazy acts and bits and things. There are all sorts of acts, but Tim and I are in it (as our ‘double act’: DoubleBooked) to do comedy, magic and fire. All kinds of fun.

Yesterday I walked into the theatre at call time and was stopped by the technical manager of atyp. He wanted to congratulate me on my professionalism and for saving the show. He said I was the embodiment of the skills they were trying to instill in their young actors learning at atyp. Well done me.

Here’s why:

The cabaret is a series of acts strung together by an mc (oddly), while the audience and performers sit around the stage at cocktail tables (bar tables? cocktail tables? that’s a thing, yes? no? fine: sitting at tables.) and one of the acts is a comic called ‘Felix Barbosa’ – a rough, southern, hard-drinking, cowboy-esque rascal who does Star Wars puns. On Thursday night he was having some trouble with his mic stand and it was ruining the bit. He had his guitar and the mic in hand so there wasn’t a lot he could do about it so there was an awkward moment or two while we watched him struggle. Feeling his pain, I jumped up and helped him (and failed too, comically) and ended up just standing there, holding his mic to his face. I made sure not to pull focus and did my best to look like I was trying not to laugh at the jokes I had heard many times before as he finished his set. Success.

The show carried on and everything went fine until Tim and I got up to do our second act. If you haven’t seen the show (and looking at ticket sales, that’s a certainty) Tim and my second set is pretty good. It basically goes: Joke, Joke, Joke, I leave, Tim gets an audience member to choose a random word from a random page from a random book and then hands them an envelope with that word written in it, everybody claps, I burst in and proceed to do an incredibly dangerous fire breathing act, everybody claps, end.

On Thursday night everything was going fine (Joke, Joke, Joke) but then something went wrong with Tim’s magic trick. I won’t go into details (because magic) but basically a crucial  part of the trick went wrong (“went wrong” is pretty much the only safe phrase to use here). Tim knew it and I knew it, but the audience didn’t realise and were still waiting for the big reveal. About 3 seconds of silent terror went by (for us, not the audience. for them: 3 seconds of misleading suspense) before I screamed out from backstage “Hey Tim! I’ve got a trick for you!” and then burst on stage early with the fire trick.

That’s it. That was my big saviour moment. I knew Tim was stuck and I knew I could help him, so I did.

My point is: (I feel bad that I keep having to write “My point is:” for these blog things. Surely good writers just make their points self-evident. Surely good writers don’t just tell interesting (?) stories and then shoe-horn a point in later. Surely good writers don’t cry themselves to sleep each night….

Don’t call me Shirley…)

But, my point is: those kinds of skills (skills? instincts? habits?) are not natural things. Actors learn or are taught by experience when to save a show or cover a mistake or rush for time or stretch to cover a change and so on and so on. I keep talking about what it means to be an ‘actor’ or even an ‘artist’ in our tiny industry and I think the real answer lies in these little details. A real ‘professional actor’ isn’t a person who gets paid to act (despite that being the literal meaning of ‘professional actor’) but someone who, no matter what, will serve the show.

That’s why “the show must go on” is such a catchy catch-cry – because a true professional knows that the show is the thing and the whole of the thing. Rehearsals, marketing, design, salary etc all exist to serve the show (and definitely not the other way around – a paid show is not a means to make money, a paid show is a means to do a show and not have to work your other job(s) at the same time).

A professional actor is forged in the fires of covering up fuck-ups on stage. Every time someone has to say: “But soft, what light from yonder window breaks… I hope… any minute now… aha! It is the east!”  or “Alas, poor Yorrick! I knew him, Horatio… *phone rings* …even now I hear the bells of heaven ring!” or even “What is it, Mr Worthing? You look like you have something to say… perhaps about your name?” (I’ve got a thousand of these) – they learn that the theatre is magic and everyone in the building wants desperately for the play to keep going no matter what.

So, I guess the lesson is: if you want to be a good actor, don’t learn how to act, learn how to keep going if someone skips a scene, forgets a prop or accidentally breaks one of your ribs on stage. And then learn how to act – it’s actually kinda necessary.

– Wally

ps. as a reward for reading, here is a picture of me doing fire in a heritage listed, wooden building.


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Free to the highest bidder…


Sorry that I (we [actually, I]) haven’t written in a while but it was Paul’s turn to write an article and he is afraid of technology. 

In the meantime, however, I have become poor. I don’t know how it happened but it probably had something to do with the fact that no one has paid me to do anything for a while (I blame society) and it got me thinking about why we do things for free.

In the small-to-middle league arts industry free is the norm. You put on a show because you want to see the show on stage, you audition and cast actors who work because they want to perform, you enlist designers who want to expand their portfolio and technicians who want to improve their skills. There is always talk of ‘co-op’ or ‘profit-share’ but in my experience that is a very small carrot at the end of a very long string and not worth keeping hopes high. 

So here is where I go on and talk about my experiences as a producer and how grateful I was to find talented and valuable designers, actors, technicians and directors willing to give their time and skills up for the love of it; and how gratifying it was build something up from nothing that had value and brought enjoyment; and how everyone’s career took another step up the golden ladder towards happiness….

But I know that for the most part, everyone was doing a favour for a friend. And that is the magic part for me. Incredible talents giving up so much just because you want them to and you’ve promised that it might be fun.

I am not a great producer, but I do know that a producer can only be great if they remember that. A great producer is not working for themselves, they are trying desperately to make the lives of their colleagues easier because it’s the decent thing to do. 

Anyway, thanks guys. I’m gonna go eat beans in the cold. 



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The Sydney Theatre Awards – A Tangent

Some of you might have heard by now that pantsguys won some awards at the Sydney Theatre Awards on Monday night. I mean, you may not have, we’ve kept it on the DL, but the time has come to advertise the fact. Some more.

So we did. We won some awards. Graeme McRae won best supporting actor (beating out fellow Punk Rocker Gabe Fancourt – I guess the bully always wins, no matter what after school specials might tell you). Anthony Skuse took out best director of an independent production and Punk Rock won best Independent production. Which is all pretty amazing. Plus all the other nominations (Sam, Darce, Gez), who all deserve such big kudos and hugs.

To be honest though, the award I’m most glad we won was Anthony’s best director nod. We are in a phase of such youth-driven work in this country’s theatre and film industries, which is fantastic, and certainly not something that a youth-based, emerging theatre company should complain about, but I wonder if that doesn’t come at the expense of some of our most experienced and talented older practitioners.

Anthony Skuse has been in the industry a long time. He has taught at NIDA and Actor’s Centre Australia for many years, building up an impressive portfolio of graduates, all of whom are so grateful and awed by his talent, curiosity and joy in his work. You only had to listen to the reaction of the crowd at the Paddington RSL on Monday night to hear the way Skuse is respected in this industry – no other award got a bigger cheer, and many of the people in that room were his students and collaborators.

He has directed some of the most impressive independent theatre in the last five years, from Bug and References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot at Griffin, to Bad Jazz and the acclaimed Pool, No Water at Darlinghurst Theatre, as well as productions at the New Theatre and for Opera Australia. He directed NIDA’s end of year graduate showcase last year and it was by far the best I’ve ever seen.

Now obviously I’m biased. Anthony Skuse is my mentor and friend. I’ve been lucky enough to work with him twice this year, both as an actor and assistant director. There is no one I’d rather work with.

So tell me why, oh why, Sydney theatre community, is Anthony Skuse still struggling in independent theatre? He has proven his talent, ability and commitment time and time again. His plays get consistently good reviews and audiences, he brings out the best in his team, both cast and creatives, he is a joy to work with. I don’t know anyone who would say differently.

I’m not here to write a fawning, aggrandising epistle of Skuse (although I may have strayed into that territory a little). I’m just asking if it is always best to value youth over experience. The directors being employed at our mainstage theatre companies are all young, and it seems to me are people who the creatives can mould in their own image. Or else people who are more interested in the ego, and director as auteur than in telling a story, honouring the writer, finding the heart of the play.

Skuse will continue to work, in whatever capacity  he can, because he loves the theatre, he loves storytelling, he loves taking an audience on a journey. And his dedication will be the same, whether he is working for a small amount in mainstage theatre, or even less to no money in independent theatre. But his work should be seen. The higher-ups at our mainstage companies need people like Anthony Skuse. And I can only hope that this award and exposure goes someway to creating a path down which this wonderful theatremaker and man can walk.

Thank you for everything Skusey. Now onwards and upwards, hey?

(I was supposed to write a post on the Sydney Theatre Awards. I kind of went off on a tangent, but I think this is more important than more self-congratulations. If you want to know more about the Sydney Theatre Awards that pantsguys won or were nominated for, check… I don’t know. The internet)

–            Bec


Anthony Skuse winning Best Director – Independent Production. With special guest James Earl Jones.


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Dropping out

This is a story that has a point. Trust me.

A while ago a friend of mine who I really respect suggested me for a short film being made by a friend of hers. I was (and am) keen to build up more material for my (still) non-existent show reel so I accepted the role, sight unseen.

I arranged a meet up to have a chat with the director and met her at her place and a few things worried me. She lived in a boarding house in a room the size of two average sized doorway (so what, you say, art pays nothing). Secondly, her only experience was in photography (again so what, film is film). And thirdly, she was Spanish, with English as a second, underdeveloped language (now you’re just being racist, you say). So, It seems that I was signing up for an unfunded, ill equipped art film directed by an inexperienced surrealist artist with difficulties communicating.

Also, the script made no sense.

So, in short, I was having serious doubts about my involvement in this thing.

Now, I know what you are thinking: “Ok, so you told her no, went home and laughed about it to your friends, right?”


“Cool” I said. “Right right right, I see.” I said. “Well, I’ll have a look at home for some costume ideas and I’ll email my availabilities. Oh, you don’t have email? That’s fine, I’ll just give you a call. Ok. Ok great. I’ll see you at the read through. Thanks so much for uh, meeting with me. Bye!”

I stepped outside and instantly regretted everything I had said inside. I’ve had “DON’T REFUSE WORK” imbedded so thoroughly that I was stuck in this thing and completely miserable about it.
For the next week or two I swung between “no, I can’t do it. I’ll call and she’ll just have to find someone else” and “I dunno, it might be good. I’ll go to the read and see if it could work… It’ll be fine.”

So I did nothing and went along to the read through. The read was at an abandoned flour mill in Newtown. (Apparently there is an abandoned flour mill in Newtown) that a guy was slowly converting by hand to an incredibly crummy house. (No pun intended). The place was immense, run down, dusty and shithouse. Perfect for a zombie movie, not so good for a film about a 19th century dinner party. The other actors whilst keen had no acting experience, except for one woman who was an aspiring opera singer. I could tell she was an aspiring opera singer because she would sing all her lines. And whenever you talked to her. And loudly to herself when no one was talking to her. So we read the script and we all agreed that it was very interesting and unique and interesting and umm challenging as each of us talked out of our respective arses to prove that they ‘got it’. Meanwhile, the director calmly informs us that, due to the cinematographer’s work commitments at ‘Ivy Bar’, the shoot won’t be starting til 11pm and should only take a few hours, hopefully.

So now you’re thinking “so this is when you get your shit together and tell her you can’t do it, right? Nobody can be so desperate for work/polite to put up with that, right? Right?”


9am on Day 1 of shooting, I am a wreck. I’ve been worrying about this fucking thing for 2 weeks now. I am so far into it that I can’t possibly drop out without wrecking the whole project but still I cannot possibly go through with it and not feel like a pathetic sell out. So I do the only thing I could: I pretend to be in a panic, called up the director and said I can’t come to the shoot because my dad is in hospital, I’m so sorry to let her down, but this is an emergency. I put on a pretty good performance, short of tears (it’s a phone call: don’t gild the lily) and the response is: “uhuh. Sure. Ok, bye.”

She knew I was faking, she knew I hated the project and she knows that I have fucked her over.

I don’t know what happened to the film. I haven’t spoken to her since, nor have I spoken to the friend who recommended me. I feel like a snob for hating the project and a coward for not doing anything about it for so long.

But what have I learned? Nothing, apparently. I’m still accepting any project that comes my way, regardless of quality and ‘tsk’-ing at actors who drop out of them.

So then, what is my point?

I guess I want every project to have a ‘return-by’ date. Crazy projects are great; everybody going out on a limb to try and make something special but with big risk you need big commitment and if you can’t give it, don’t try. I want the right to say to a friend “I don’t want to do this” and still keep that friend.

That may never happen.

Merry Christmas!

– Wally

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12 plays of Christmas…

I just had a meeting with some friends about a play opening in three weeks at the TAP Gallery. It’s called “the 12 plays of Christmas” but I call it the “what the hell” play.

Basically, it’ll be a bunch of silly songs and sketches and things put together with a Christmas theme all about the Sydney theatre culture. Things like: ’12th Night in 12 minutes” and “a scene from three sisters written by someone who hasn’t read three sisters”. Silly.

At first I had reservations. Initially because of the venue. If you’ve never been to the TAP gallery, you are lucky. It is small, crummy, dirty, smelly and a fire hazard of a rat hole building where the owner’s cat pisses everywhere and wanders on stage during shows.
That said, it is also the cheapest theatre to hire in Sydney and I have seen some great shows there. It is perfect for the emerging artist wanting to just get a show up on stage. In a city where “independent” theatre seasons are dwindling and opportunities to create work are rare, the tap is the last resort.

Anyway, back to the show. I will be a very lonely actor if I start turning my nose up at shows that don’t satisfy my burning ambition to create great art. This is a silly fun show to celebrate Christmas and it can give everyone hope that an actor (director/writer etc) need not work for STC with a 50K budget to have fun doing what they love.

So, come see ’12 plays of Christmas’. It’ll be dumb, silly and under rehearsed, but at least it won’t be set in a fucking glass box.

– Wally

EDITOR’S NOTE: not all articles in this blog will be written by Wally alone. He’s just feeling a bit creatively starved at the moment. Be patient.

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Stories from the Westside

I’m working on the ACA 2nd years’ verbatim (ver batem? verhoeven?) performance at the riverside this week. It’s a good show and a great format. Each year the students go out and interview people, talking about their life stories and getting their opinions on all sorts of issues and stuff. They then take the recordings, cut them up, put them all together and learn them verbatim (verbatman?).
The show is all these stories presented as if the characters are sitting around on a panel sharing stories about their life. It’s great.
Every year uses the same format (down to the smallest detail) and all that changes is the characters (and topics…and actors… and venue… shut up).

I’ve seen about 6 versions now and I always enjoy it, but what I like most is the audience’s reaction. The first time they see it, they don’t see the tricks or the format, they just see these real, raw stories and heartfelt conversations and audiences are captivated.

I want to have a crack at a bit more verbatim (volkswagon) theatre. It’s such a simple process but a huge reward creatively.

Go see stories from the Westside at riverside Theatre this week and next cos it’s well good.

– Wally

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Hello? Is this thing on?

Hi guys,

Welcome to the pantsguys theatre blog.

As a theatre company, we like theatre and talking about theatre and also art and culture and other things that don’t make money. We also like to talk to people like you (the people who would bother googling “theatre blog”) and see what things that you like.

So, for now, this is where the pantsguys can talk about what’s going on in Sydney and the world and eventually, we might get someone talking back.

The pantsguys are: Cat Dibley, Paul Hooper, Owen Little, Rebecca Martin, Graeme McRae, Tim Reuben and Alistair Wallace and all opinions posted on this blog are their own and not representative of any show, production or business they may currently be working for.

Talk to you later,



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