Last night we had the pleasure of attending the opening night of the Ensemble Theatre’s newest production RAPTURE BLISTER BURN.
The play focuses on the decisions women make about their lives through the eyes of ex-roommates Catherine and Gwen who pursue different paths—one has a successful academic career while the other raises a family. Putting it simplistically (in fact the play is complex and thought-provoking), each woman is envious of what the other has.
I had read the synopsis of the play before I committed to exhibiting in the Ensemble Theatre Foyer during the run of this play. I thought the themes of the play were relevant to my current life choices. I have nothing to lose now in pursuing a professional arts career, but what might have been if I had followed that career from the outset?
Choices in the 70s
When I left school in the 70s I remember thinking there were 3 possible careers. I went to a public girl’s school, so those careers were: hairdresser, nurse, teacher. I don’t recall anyone giving me career advice. The things I was passionate about at school were art classes, jazz dance at lunchtimes and creating performances for, e.g. Farewell tribute to Year 12, Year 12 muck-up day. Other than that I was inclined to truant—the lure of ‘Pot-of-Gold’ and midday movies.
What we understood by Feminism in the 70s
Feminism was burgeoning but we just accepted that and didn’t analyse our place in that new space. In fact we lived Puberty Blues, because we could. We did understand enough about feminist attitudes to bait our history teacher, though—telling her that we (my bestie Michelle and I) were going to live next door to each other in identically romantic-white-picket-fenced houses and raise lots of kiddies while our husbands provided for us. She seemed to be outraged, so that was worth it.
Therefore I decided to become a teacher—huh? Yes, as you do, if you think standing on your feet all day washing and cutting hair is a bit too energetic, or you faint when you get your ears pierced, so being responsible for stemming blood flow or giving needles is not an option. But…not just any type of teacher—an art teacher! That surely would be fun! I was so desperate to follow that path that I had my mother ring my college of choice practically daily after I had my results to ensure I was on their entrance list. For someone who spent as little time at school as possible, I was wanting to spend a lifetime in the same institution?
In summary, my teaching career was oddly similar to my schooling (except for the truanting). I took every opportunity to ‘create’ in the classroom, or through the ‘extra-curricular’ opportunities that increasingly became the focus of schools competing for customers in the 90s. When I became a curriculum consultant and manager, I still cherished creative opportunities in the tertiary sector. I was only ever offered a job as an artist once in the 80s—someone suggested I work as a scenic artist for the ABC—I remember the pay was about a third of a teacher’s wage, so that decision was a no-brainer.
Now is the time for a different choice
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach (From George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Man and Superman’), so the saying goes. I was a teacher for 33 years. The choice was part financial, and part because I was sucked in to the absolute joy of creating with students. I couldn’t have pursued a professional arts career even if it was possible at that time—I just wasn’t mature enough. So the saying isn’t quite right—perhaps it should be Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach for a while until they can sustain the ‘doing’ part of what they love best.
I’ve learnt enough now to take the first steps. Now I want to put my paintbrush where my mouth is, so to speak.