Thursday, September 3, 2009


Defector-Art Theatre is the brain child of two brothers - Frank and Paul Otis. With Frank's controversial and critically acclaimed writing, along with Paul's natural talent with visual concepts and desire to challenge the steriotypes of society, this is a winning combination!

Defector-Art Theatre is a non-profit co-op based theatre group committed to raising public awareness on issues that matter.
What people have said about us and other mentions:
Queen Lara - The Box
Boxashorts 2 - Buzzcuts
Over the edge of sanity, Melbourne Fringe Festival - Arts Hub
Size does matter in night of lucky dips - The Age
A Story of Truth - Green Left Weekly
Behind These Walls - Green Left Weekly
A Play in a Day - HATS Theatre
Theatre company tackles death at work - OHS Reps @ Work
Raw Drama Remains Sincere - Herald Sun

Queen Lara - The Box

Writer: Frank Otis
by: Melissa Hyatt-Boyle, The Box
Box Hill Tafe music student, Jenita Spirtovic [pictured], delivered a solid performance starring in Queen Lara presented by Defector Art Theatre at Northcote Town Hall from the 5th til the 9th of May.

Defector Art Theatre's slogan, 'Anything But Safe' can be used to describe Frank Otis' tenth full length play, Queen Lara.

It's risky to present a play with vampires these days. It is riskier still to have a vampire address the audience in the first act to declare all the audience thinks they know about vampires is false. If you write an 'your [sic] about to be blown away' remark into your play, you had best deliver. Promise of a new twist on vampires in Queen Lara, however, was disappointing.

It may have been the ratted 80s looking hair and costumes that let the production down. It may have been the vampire world scenes differentiated only by the actors hissing and moaning their lines as they writhed around on the stage. Had it not been for that initial boast of something new, however, it may not have been so disappointing.

Thankfully the initial disappointment didn't linger. The overall production of Queen Lara proved to be worth the risk. The concept of vampires helping humans to evolve is interesting. Otis in his character Queen Lara (Spirtovic) explores the shades of grey surrounding what is wrong or right. The sacrifice of a few for the common good. Even if a leader has good intentions how far can he/she bend the rules? Otis says his inspiration came not from the rebirth of the vampire films but from the 1951 sci fi 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'.

As both writer and an actor in the play, Otis has some brilliant moments. In the final act Janet (Flame Alicia Divine) forces John (Frank Otis) to strip against his will using mind control. Janet stage right facing audience - back to John, mimics taking one article of clothing off at a time. As she does John, centre stage, removes the corresponding item. The scene was done very well with actors, lighting (Douglas Scott Montgomery) and stage direction (Paul Otis and L'hibou Hornung) all coming together beautifully. Had the synchronisation been perfect the scene would have been flawless.

All of the club scenes were impressive. It's incredible how well a simplistic approach to stage design can be so effective. The club atmosphere was captured without the set taking over. Flashing lights and original music (Paul Otis) came from back stage along with use of a smoke machine. With this approach actors were given freedom of movement and were able to be heard clearly.

Frank Otis says there are two things that make Defector Art Theatre unique. One, which is worth Box Hill Tafe students taking note of, is opportunity. Otis says, '(they) love giving people a chance to show off their craft. It doesn't matter if you are an actor, writer or director.' They don't care about your experience, just your talent.

The other is their 'Anything but safe' slogan, their love of challenging an audience. This is ultimately what paid off in Queen Lara and makes Frank Otis and the theatre company worth keeping track of.

The Box

Writers: David Ryding, Christine Croydon, Nathan Curnow, Alex Broun, Scott McAteer, Bridgette Burton, Frank Otis. by: Aleskei Plinte Cromwell Road Theatre

As the black vinyl couch sits in pools of disparate light you await anxiously knowing that what’s about to be thrust upon you in seven short performances will keep your skin crawling and your mind awake. The running theme of ‘sanity’ is introduced simply, almost as if to coax you into a place of familiarity and comfort, your own living room perhaps. However, the torment portrayed in the stories that follow, challenges your every perception of reality and draws you into a psychotic orb of what lies beyond.

Boxashorts 2 is a Defector Art Theatre production and is directed by Frank Otis and Bess Maxwell. Following from last years Boxashorts 1 the production comprises of a range of short performances produced by different writers that all focus on a recurring theme.

The characters in each performance reveal a kaleidoscope of inner conflict and mental instability where their demons are faced and levels of psychosis confronted. It should be noted that the violence, nudity and coarse language that is integral to ‘Edge of Sanity’ may provoke a few squeamish responses.

But throughout each bizarre setting or confronting personality, humour manages to filter through the tight script writing and the actor’s incisive performances.

The production was well rounded off with a play titled “Shock Therapy”. Almost like a ‘Brand Power’ infomercial, this black comedy features running commentary from presenters. This shines a light on the insanity behind the treatment of suspected terrorists and how media and propaganda seem to feed this embryo of uninformed fear and hatred.

An indication of the quality of content and production in ‘Edge Of Sanity’ is that four of the writers have made it to the finals of Short and Sweet. Short and Sweet is the largest short play festival in the world and will be held at the Victorian Arts Centre in December this year.

Source: Buzzcuts

Writers: David Ryding, Christine Croydon, Nathan Curnow, Alex Broun, Scott McAteer, Bridgette Burton, Frank Otis. by: Kym Davies

Macabre, edgy, insane? Defector Art Theatre’s short play bonanza sure tries to be.

This Melbourne Fringe Festival contribution includes seven short plays tied together with a witty and down to earth narrative, written and in this case performed by Frank Otis, creator of Defector Art Theatre.

The seven plays explore a range of themes to do with relationships, torture, terrorism, and even non linear time, while asking the audience to only rely on great writing and a showcase of acting to entertain and engage.

All plays were cleverly written using satire and black humour, to juxtapose a general commentary of death and chaos.

Do You Want To Play by Christine Croydon and Alex Broun’s Mozart And The End Of Time were clear stand outs, with the greatest performance of the night delivered in both by a star in the making, Hanna Fox. She is certainly one to watch.

However, Bloodletters by Nathan Curnow was my absolute favourite, with a maniacal, quasi-mad doctor, well played by Adrian Snodgrass, and his 'rabbit' played with great measure and physical characterisation by Ross Macpherson. Shame we did not see more of Ross, although he did make his mark again, along side the very brave Mr Otis in the final short of the night Shock Therapy. Nyssa Lock in both Shock Therapy and Anxious But Not Alarmed also impressed with a great satirical performance. She was hilarious and great to watch.

Props, set and costumes were a mixed bag of items including a big plastic knife that accidentally upstaged the action, and a funky, black, blow up chaise lounge that squeaked when the actors sat down. Relying on the action to set the scene, the beautiful space at Cromwell Road Theatre was used well and the overall staging was understated and simple.

The lighting design was a little uninspired, but specifically succeeded in creating the dark mood required for the basement lab of the mad doctor in Bloodletters.

The sound by Charin Blacker had impact and helped create the right mood on stage in each short, along with some fantastic original music by Paul and David Otis. This music added to the macabre and cheeky nature of the show, and helped propel the narrator's message along between each play.

Overall, Defector Art Theatre have done a good job in producing some fantastic grass roots theatre that explores a darker side of a 'new' Australian culture, and the deep recesses of the human mind. A culture of fear and anxiety, death and chaos. Cool.

For a mad night out filled with fun and more shockers than you could poke a stick at, Defector Art Theatre Boxashorts 2 - Edge Of Sanity was all round fringe worthy entertainment. You’d be 'un-Australian' to miss it!

Source: Arts Hub

Writers: David Ryding, Christine Croydon, Nathan Curnow, Alex Broun, Scott McAteer, Bridgette Burton, Frank Otis. by: Tim Hunter
*** (3 stars)
Running time: 105 minutes, including interval

DEFECTOR Art Theatre presents its second anthology of short plays, using the edge of sanity as its umbrella theme. Directed by Frank Otis and Bess Maxwell, it gives young writers and actors a chance to get some stage cred behind them, and it's a mixed bag.

The first two plays, Neat and Do You Want To Play, both deal with stalkers and lovers, whose existence is thankfully ambiguous.

Not as successful is the macabre Bloodletting (sic), or the impenetrable Mozart and the End of Time, both well-performed with accomplished dialogue, but lacking clear intent.

That’s something that can’t be said of the second half’s trio. Anxious But Not Alarmed is clearly satirical, as social workers visit a repeat caller to the terrorist information line, and Lunchtime Meeting is a well-executed tale of a woman confronting her adulterous husband, even if both are a little long. Shock Therapy presents the torturing of a potential terrorist subject as a satirical game show.

Source: The Age

And Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Written by Frank Otis Footscray Community Arts Centre, 45 Moreland St. 24-25 May, 8pm.

And Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is a new play that takes a no holds barred look at how rape affects survivors. Directed By Andrea Ousley, it takes you inside the nightmare world of a rape survivor's mind showing you their thoughts and fears. This is not a "have a shower and don't touch your lover for two weeks" type of story. This story is real, this story is truth.

This is writer and political activist Frank Otis's first play, written in 1995. It is a brutal story that has to be told. Otis is a rape survivor himself, and feels that the general community does not understand what a rape survivor goes through. "It makes me so angry when people say `just put it behind you', but no one will tell you how. Rape affects every aspect of your being; it not only changes the way you do things but it changes the way you act and feel. If this play can give people just a little more understanding then it has done its job", he said.

Source: Green Left Weekly

Written by Frank Otis La Mama Theatre Beginning 30 July

MELBOURNE--As part of his recovery from a traumatic background of sexual assault and psychiatric illness, Frank Otis wrote his first play, And Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, which was produced last year and played to packed houses. (It will begin a season at La Mama on July 30.)

His new play, Behind These Walls, which begins its season on May 2, picks up from where the first play ended, but Otis points out that you don't need to have seen the first play to understand the second. “Within the first two minutes, you will pick up what is going on”, he says.

Lee, the main character of both plays is, like Otis, a rape survivor. In Behind These Walls he is in a psychiatric ward, almost emotionally destroyed by the incest perpetrated by his father during his childhood.

Lee has built a complex fantasy world to deal with the trauma. However, the hospital is about to be closed down, and the patients decide to fight back, forcing Lee to come to terms with reality.

The play is directed by Chris Gaffney, who has 25 years of experience as an actor and director in theatre, film and TV. He is the director of Melton Theatre Company and has had a long association with New Theatre.

Assistant director Carrie English, from Brunswick Women's Theatre, has had considerable experience with improvisational theatre in England. Gaffney, Otis and English also have roles in the play, along with 13 other actors. Original music was written by David Otis, Frank's brother.

Source: Green Left Weekly

A Play in a Day is exactly what it’s all about: a show written, cast, rehearsed and produced in just 24 hours.

To the best of our knowledge it’s never been done before in Australia!

Frank Otis was one of the directors for this challenge. He used a brief story (that was also written in this 24-hour period) and cast and directed it to fruition. Picture: Frank's light blue shoulder in the far top right of the groups.

The 24 hour production began at 10.00pm on Friday, February 14 when six writers, six directors and fourteen actors arrived at Vermont Secondary College. After a brief address, teams were chosen by pulling coloured balls from a hat (seems appropriate for a HATS production). To ensure originality, two themes were randomly drawn by the writers, one of which was to be the subject of their play.

The teams then assembled so that the writers could gain an understanding of the actors' individual skills.

Soon after 11.00pm, only the writers remained to write their plays throughout the night.
At 6.00am (now Saturday), the directors returned to discuss the plays; whilst we battled with a reluctant printer. At 7.00am the actors arrived as the weary writers turned home for a most deserved sleep. Throughout the day the plays were discussed, learnt and rehearsed. After lunch each play performed a technical rehearsal; which took far longer than was originally planned.

By 8.00pm all the plays were ready, and shortly after that the last of the audience arrived. At approximately 8.15pm the the tech crew grabbed a well earned drink of water and the performance got underway.

The order of the show was the same as the listing below, with an interval between 'Down Among The Dead Men' and 'Intolerance'. Incredibly, the final play finished within a minute of 10.00pm - exactly 24 hours since the whole process started!

The audience reaction was fantastic and I would not be the only one to be astonished by the quality of the shows. So much of this success must be given to the writers who not only produced wonderful playsso but in so doing inspired us all to produce our very best efforts.
Congratulations to the directors and actors who were able to fully realise the potential of these scripts and to breathe the first breaths of life into them.

A tribute to the efforts of the technical crew who worked tirelessly, and without a break, for eight or more hours.

Thanks also to the vision of the producers who made this all possible, and to the audience who willingly came along (and paid their money) for a completely unknown show - thanks for your faith in us.

After this, we might even do it again next year!

David Swann - Stage Manager. Source: HATS Theatre

The Melbourne based Keep Left Theatre Company will perform a play about workplace death in late October.

Complicity is a play about a workplace death and a fight for justice. The play was written by Frank Otis and will be performed by the Keep Left Theatre Company in late October. SafetyNet spoke to Frank Otis about the production and his role as a writer with Keep Left Theatre Company. This is the third major production by Keep Left and I have written them all. Prior to my involvement in the theatre I was a union official with the CEPU. I have been involved in theatre now for seven years. I started out acting and went on to writing – this is my eighth full-length play. The play is about a workplace accident at a factory that manufactures cigarette lighters for cars. They have been cutting back and the factory is divided into union and non-union workers. After the accident the employer is charged and fined $45,000 after the case is heard in court. The employer tries to dodge his responsibility in paying the fine and the play looks at what happens when the workers find out what he has done. Performances of Complicity will be held at The Victorian Trades Hall Council (enter via Victoria St) on October 25, 26, 30, 31 and Nov 1, 2 at 8pm 2002.

Source: OHS Reps @ Work

Rarely does a play as bitter and painful as Melbourne debutant dramatist Frank Otis' Now I Lay Me Down come to our stages.

La Mama presents the raw and uncompromising production mounted by director Tony Le Nguyen within the stark space of the Carlton Courthouse in Drummond St.

Every essential ingredient for high-voltage, life based theatre is there, and nothing is spared by writer, director or cast.

The one-act docudrama's subject is child rape, perpetrated by brutal male parents.
The trigger for Otis, who bravely plays the lead male role, Lee, to pen the play was a brutal knifepoint rape he endured one evening in Carlton. Many of the emotional scares he suffered during and after the attack are bared in Now I Lay Me Down. His character in the play has not been raped in adulthood; he is a disturbed man who has brought charges against the father who brutalised him during childhood.

The play's other central character, Leeanne, played with searing intensity by Jennifer Priest, is a rape victim also. Horrific nightmares, during which she is raped, have forced her to seek counselling from a psychiatrist, Dr Dasill.

The sessions have woken the cause of the trauma ... sexual atrocities committed by her father in early childhood.

Otis' text is littered with language that still shocks some people. The action is explicit, and the force with which it is played out mirrors Le Nguyen's experience as an actor in the controversial western suburbs racial warfare film Romper Stomper.

The play is solid in content, but its theatricality would be improved by a skilled dramaturge working with the writer. Finely honed performances come from Priest, Elizabeth Rule and Yvonne Virsik. But it is the play, rough at the egdes, but utterly sincere in its purpose, that makes Now I Lay me Down theatre that will live in the conscience for a long time.

Source: Herald-Sun, Bob Crimeen

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