Tales For Our Time – Decameron 2.0 debuts online in July

STCSA-Mitchell-Butel-photo-by-Mark-HeuerMore than 30 of the state’s finest established and emerging artists will collaborate and present a series of isolation-inspired stories in an exciting new online project, Decameron 2.0, from State Theatre Company South Australia and ActNow Theatre.

Based on the concept of the original The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron 2.0 will result in a collection of 100 stories by 10 South Australian playwrights, performed by 10 or more actors for online broadcast over 10 weeks.

Thanks to funding from the state government’s COVID-19 Arts Grant Support program, more than 30 professional writers and actors whose planned productions or developments have been either cancelled or postponed as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and have lost income as a result, will be employed over the next few months. Three groups from ActNow (featuring First Nations, queer and CALD emerging artists) will also receive mentoring from the writers along the way.

The Decameron is a 14th-century collection of novellas by Giovanni Boccaccio in which 100 stories were told over 10 nights by 10 people sheltering together in a villa outside Florence to escape the Plague. A masterpiece of literature in itself, it has also been the source of inspiration for other famous works by Shakespeare, Molière, Lope de Vega, Keats and Middleton.

With artistic staff from ActNow and STCSA, the writers of Decameron 2.0 will meet online each week to discuss and nominate a theme (loosely inspired by The Decameron’s original themes such as fortune, fate, love and virtue) and then work that day to write a short monologue or free-form piece that will be rehearsed by a director and actor (online or socially distanced).

The core writing team will consist of five writers (Sally Hardy, Alex Vickery-Howe, Alexis West, Emily Steel and Ben Brooker) alongside a rotating roster of contributing writers including Manal Younus, Kyron Weetra, Sarah Peters and Kiara Milera.

The monologues will then be performed and recorded (either online or at STCSA’s Wigg and Son facilities) the following day and broadcast to STCSA and ActNow’s online communities shortly thereafter.

State Theatre Company South Australia Artistic Director Mitchell Butel called the collaboration “a great adventure”. “I’m delighted that in the midst of COVID-19 absences from our normal theatres, State Theatre Company South Australia is collaborating with ActNow Theatre, one of the most innovative, inclusive and dynamic companies in Australia, on a whole new form of theatrical storytelling that we can share online with our audiences,” he says.

“Inspired by history and responding to our current world and crisis, this project will generate daring new tales of love, fate, destiny, community and wonder and bring together 30 diverse South Australian writers, actors and directors in what may be one of the largest and most exciting digital theatre projects to come out of the lockdown.”

“ActNow and STCSA have been seeking ways to collaborate more deeply and I’m indebted to the uber-talented South Australian playwright (and the project’s supervising writer) Emily Steel for bringing us closer together and for providing the seed of this fantastic idea,” said Butel.

Emily Steel, the playwright behind Euphoria, was inspired to pitch a version of The Decameron after picking up a copy in March. “This, to me, is very exciting theatre – it’s responding quickly to local and global events, it’s telling new stories and supporting the emergence of new voices and new theatre makers,” she says.

“It will give us scripts and performances that will reflect a very specific point in our history. We have very little idea what the future of our industry is going to look like, so to be funded and supported to make this new work – and get it out to audiences – is just brilliant,” said Steel.

ActNow Theatre Artistic Director Edwin Kemp Attrill says it’s exciting to be working on a project that unites local independent artists and South Australia’s flagship theatre company. “We want to envisage what a “new normal” could look like in theatre and storytelling, and this is an extraordinary project to find that out,” he says.

“It’s a very exciting way to use the current crisis to find new stories told in new ways by new voices, and support the state’s leading artists to come together. This project is able to activate ActNow Theatre’s community workshop groups, engaging particularly with First Nations, queer, and culturally diverse artists, and it’s an amazing opportunity for a range of diverse artists to create work under the support and guidance of ActNow Theatre and State Theatre Company South Australia,” said Attrill.

Both companies hope to one day bring the project to the stage, once it is safe for audiences to gather again. The first video from the Decameron 2.0 project will be available online from July. For more information, visit: www.statetheatrecompany.com.au or www.actnowtheatre.org.au for details.

Image: Mitchell Butel – photo by Mark Heuer