A Letter to the Basement from Nisha Madhan

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Basement

Dear The Basement,

I’m writing this letter to you because I am super sad to miss out on your first annual hui. I think it’s a rad idea to hold this open forum that is inclusive of the artists and the public that help make your venue.

I’m so impressed with how you have been operating in the last few years. I think the greatest testament to an organization is the work that comes out of it. As someone who works in the gaps between artforms and loves to reign down on traditional structures, I often feel marginalised, treated like a weirdo, and homeless. Not everyone appreciates a challenge. It’s hard to find spaces that will house hungry, investigative minds who want more than just entertainment from the making and viewing of theatre.

This year I have already witnessed 4 works that are cementing The Basement as a place for art that takes risks. Heteroperformative, If There’s Not Dancing At The Revolution, CAR and 36 Questions are all a huge indication that your venue is fostering the making of live genre-less, boundary pushing performance. I love that there is a drive to create theatre that doesn’t just exist in a building. Twice now you have housed works (I Wanna be…and CAR) that used the city as a theatre. That is fucking cool. It is exciting. It doesn’t happen everywhere and is hardly encouraged anywhere in New Zealand. The Basement is becoming a home for this type of work and it is something you should be immensely proud of.

I have always felt supremely supported when I walk through the doors to create a mess in your venue. The Basement has allowed and encouraged me to experiment wildly with my art and given me huge opportunities through Young and Hungry and the PlayScience program to learn and grow as a director and a dramaturg. I have never felt like a weirdo in this venue and I want to acknowledge that.

For the future I can only hope that your delicate dance with the demands of the industry and the demands of risk takers continues. It’s important to offer alternative models in an environment that is becoming increasingly standardised, I’m not sure how you can do that but I hope you can. As you do continue to explore the possibilities of your contribution to ‘Auckland’s creative ecology’ as a risk-share venue, I hope that you can keep a hold of those artists working outside the mainstream who lack spaces to work and grow. If we are not careful, these artists will leave, and worse, they may not come back.

I also want to encourage always the crossing of genre and discipline. I hope that one day it will be possible for you to not have to state whether something is theatre or dance or performance art of comedy, that it is simply performance and simply new performance at its best. This is not an easy task. It requires a fight for the purpose of seeking new grounds in our art form. A justifying of the good in asking questions about who we are, what we are doing and why we are doing it Here and Now in Time and Space.


Aroha Nui

Nisha Madhan The Town Centre