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Creative Accounting

Photo: Dr Kara McKechnie

Part of the Invisible Diaries series:

Week 4 / Day 4


April is the cruellest month.

I have to do my tax for two different countries that are out of sync. That’s why I need the pink hat – to cheer me up. Plus, we’re moving. C’mon, you didn't think my room was normally that messy, did you?... Okay, I like creative chaos.

I wonder what TS Eliot would have thought of 🐈 Cats – the musical? Is the film as bad as they say? Or so bad it's good? Did it need a dramaturg? Would it have inspired Eliot to write The Wasteland - Part II? The Wastedland?

Q. Do you get nostalgic while doing your tax? When you find a receipt for some great thing/some experience, do you get wistful? Lost in reverie and return to the night in question? #goodtimes

Doing your tax is a test of your ethics. (Isn't that somewhere near Sussex?)

Q. Can I claim 50% of that dinner as a business expense?

Q. Did I wear those clothes as a costume to an audition or to perform poetry? If so, do I have proof?

Q. How creative can I get here?

Q. Do you think the Tax Dept check your Social Media?... You bet.

Rule No.1 for Freelance Artists: Get a good accountant and organize all your receipts for them. Don't write funny #hahaiku on the back so it's unclear if they are in the receipt or poetry pile. This is how the world ends – not with a bang but an audit.

Rule No.2: Don’t do any work until you’ve signed a contract.

Rule No.3: Read the contract. Closely. Like a good dramaturg should. Question the meaning of everything. Pretend you are a hotshot lawyer and many lives depend on you to win a class-action lawsuit against “The Man”. It could come down to a misplaced semicolon or hyphen. There is a world of difference between resigned and re-signed.

Dramaturgs / dramanerds love punctuation and grammar. They like taking care of the small stuff so the big stuff flows. They love the story of Harold Pinter ringing up his publisher in the middle of the night to say he’d like to insert a (PAUSE) instead of a (SILENCE).

But, honestly, punctuation freaks me out. I’m with Oscar Wilde when he said he put all the commas in one morning and took them all out again in the afternoon.

Samuel Beckett? I threw him across the room. In my first year of university (1982), I accidentally took the course ‘Introduction to Modern Literature’. It was just some elective, and I was there to do a law degree, inspired by an American TV show, The Paper Chase. I wanted to be the lead character Hart, part of a Harvard freshman study group who were terrorized by Professor Kingsfield and his Socratic Method: “You come in here with skulls full of mush and, if you are lucky, you will leave thinking like a lawyer!”

I’d never heard of Beckett. I read the first half of Waiting for Godot and was bewildered. I started Act 2 and was struck by the same criticism someone much more learned made: Nothing happens twice. I threw the play across the room. I grumped my way to the lecture determined not to be enlightened by how this was some seminal work of genius.

The lecture started with a young lecturer, Adrian Kiernander, doing Lucky’s “In spite of the tennis…” – speech. It was nonsense… but riveting. I played tennis. I hung in there. A few years later I played Pozzo. It’s now my favourite play.

Brecht was in the same course. When I wrote about Socialism yesterday, I thought about my first foray into acting. It was in a collection of Brecht bits directed by Phil Mann, called Stop That Romantic Staring. I was struck by Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt. I wondered how it worked. The opening night was jammed so the ushers put the extra audience down the front. But forgot to tell the soldiers with spears who ran out at the start of the show. They stabbed an audience member. Boy, did that person understand Brecht’s Alienation Effect on a real deep level! 😊

But it wasn’t all fun and punctured lungs. I’d had a major crisis when I got into Bill Manhire’s creative writing class (another elective) in my second year at Victoria University of Wellington. I’d got disillusioned by Law and begun writing bad poetry to the tune of Rod Stewart songs. I dropped Contracts, picked up Shakespeare and got a C grade. My parents freaked. But the coolest / hottest people were doing drama and had the best parties, so I decided to concentrate on that in my third year.

I still don’t really like acting. I feel like I’m joining the dots, but I believe all playwrights, dramaturgs, directors and designers should have to do it. They need to know how hard it is to make it look so easy, which is what great actors do, and great musicians, and great artists in general. Their craft is so crafty that you don’t see it and lose yourself in their performance. I finished university with an English Literature degree and having written experimental short plays, mostly about nuclear war, for the Drama Club. I’d grown up. I’d realised I didn’t want to be a real lawyer, just a lawyer on TV. Some of my thespian friends were auditioning for the New Zealand Drama School. I liked institutions and didn’t fancy being a lonely writer stuck in my grotto. I auditioned. Did a weird Stanley Kowalski piece with Blanche as a silent chair. I got in. I think they figured the classes would ultimately help my writing. They did – a lot. I was bottom of the class. Two left feet when it came to dancing, jumping octaves in singing, and told that I was talking like a director, not an actor, when my Waiting For Godot scene bombed.

I twisted my ankle real bad. I considered dropping out… before they kicked me out. Somehow, I hung in there. Just before we graduated, I auditioned for a big professional show, The Threepenny Opera. I sang “Master of the House” from Les Misérables (which I’d never seen). I got in. I later learnt they needed big guys who could lift the heavy metal set. Whatever, I was a professional actor. I played Whore / Beggar / Gangster / Chorus and got butchered by Mac the Knife. I loved how edgy it was. I hated years later when McDonald’s got the rights to the “Mack the Knife” song and created a “Have a Mac Tonight” ad to sell their hamburgers. I’m imagined Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill feeling very alienated and stabbing them with spears.

I went on, acted in more plays, got a bit part on a TV cop show that paid the bills and allowed me to write. With my drama school mates, we created a satirical revue about the hysteria surrounding two teenage Goths who’d committed suicide at an Auckland High School. The band The Cure was blamed. Concerned parents could ring Gothline. It became a cult hit. I was on my way. I needed an accountant.

Headshot by Tae Hoon Kim.

Home office photography courtesy of David Geary.


David Geary is a playwright, dramaturg, director & screenwriter who writes haiku on twitter: @gearsgeary.

David is of Māori, English, Irish and Scottish blood. His iwi / tribe in New Zealand is the Taranaki. He grew up immersed in the Polynesian trickster tales of Maui and is now honoured to live, work and play in the lands of the Coyote and Raven tricksters of Turtle Island/Canada.

He is an award-winning playwright, dramaturg, director, screenwriter, fiction writer and poet. David works at Capilano University in North Vancouver, Canada. He teaches screenwriting in the Indigenous Digital Filmmaking program, documentary, and playwriting. David’s recent work includes short plays for Climate Change Theatre Action and Centre Point.

David also teaches playwriting for Playwrights Theatre Centre (PTC) in Vancouver. The Māori word ako means both to teach and to learn, and he finds as a teacher he learns as much from his students as they do from him. David’s most recent fiction work can be found in the Penguin Random House collection Purakau and Bawaajigan: Stories of Power (Exile).

He’s a member of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) and does script consultation for theatre, TV and Film, most recently with Women in Film and Television (WIFTV).

David lives by the yogic mantra: “Life is short, stretch it!”


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