The program for the 2009 forum was set over three days, as follows:
Day One included: What have we done?: A collective narrative of the recent past and your place in Australia’s theatre history; What are you working on? A series of facilitated speed dating groups where delegates and respondents introduced current creative ideas to each other for feedback. And finally, A progressive dinner: Future possibilities – innovation as a condition of survival. To stimulate the most expansive big picture thinking, the evening dinner had 5 keynote speakers, leaders in their fields, who spoke provocatively on how they see the future. Adapting to climate change, culture and the creation of social capital, human rights in a globalised world, new models of cultural production, and the role artists and non artists were all on the menu. After their talks, they joined the diners at their tables to continue the discussions.
Day Two included: Open Space – Art begins with risk – what risks should we be taking now? Facilitated by Improbable Theatre (UK) Open Space was developed in the US by Harrison Owen after countless people reported that most productive conversations at conferences happen at the water cooler or in the bar, outside the set agenda and conference structures. It encouraged delegates to take responsibility for facilitating discussion about issues they were most concerned about, arising from a leading question, and created a dynamic, creative and enjoyable forum, that resulted in tangible action based outcomes as well as conceptual development. Open Space was self documented by the participants. Day two ended with: Your money where your mouth is (venue offsite), facilitated by Robyn Archer. Delegates decided collectively how to spend $1000 or more from project proposals gathered at the forum.
Day Three included: a breakfast meeting by Theatre Network Victoria; a panel discussion: Failure. Leading Australian theatre luminaries, including Stephen Armstrong, Executive Producer Malthouse Theatre, Robyn Archer, and Alicia Talbot talked about their experience of failure and its importance in leadership, risk taking and innovation; Confessional: Private conversations between delegates and respondents exploring failures and their potential to be re-examined for unexpected outcomes. Day three ended with What will we do now? Actions from Open Space. Action plan development of the four hottest issues arising out of Open Space. And a Closing party of course!
Chris Mead (2010) wrote about the Forum in his paper entitled ‘Shake It Up’ as follows: “In May 2009 the euphoria was almost palpable. While many theatre professionals, when invited to last year’s Theatre Forum initially despaired of another 20/20 Summit style gab-fest, the opportunity, however, proved the cynics wrong. What the Theatre Forum did with gusto was to remind us that we are an ingenious, heterogeneous, heterodox community. It reminded us that at times we can blaze vibrantly.…. Chock-full of challenges, provocations and potential ways forward the Forum participants sought to re-build, to re-fashion, our theatre industry to allow more artistic opportunities, more lateral collaborations, deeper community engagement and greater possibilities for the art form and for audiences. Some of the topics were pie in the sky, others entirely nitty gritty; some were achievable, others beyond the aspirational; but the Theatre Forum dragged us out of our bunkers, making plain our theatre industry’s size and ambition, scope and scale.”