Season(s) 2012: the new and the independent ftw

Last night La Boite Theatre announced its 2012 or ‘twenty twelve’ season on their fresh look website complete with a maroon coloured (Queensland?) splattered torso – not quite sure what that’s about but, as with the new-look QTC logo (below) your guess as to meaning – if you need that kind of thing – is as good as mine.

The other big house in town, Queensland Theatre Company announced its 2012 season a few weekends ago. Artistic Director Wesley Enoch launched 2012’s mainstage productions along with new logo and website. I was at QTC’s launch but couldn’t make it to La Boite’s despite their generosity of an invitation which, I understood, was a pretty hot ticket – as was QTC’s for their launch. Theatre goers in town are clearly keen to see what the two ADs have in mind.

As La Boite’s launch got underway the Twitter stream spread the word beyond the walls of the Roundhouse Theatre. As an aside, I love the way social media is being used by companies to create a more inclusive audience on desktop or smartphone for various events; I’ve ‘been to’ lots of season launches of late this way following commentary and conversation around the country and the world as productions are introduced and a range of artists speak to them – nice touch this!

David Berthold’s second season is following a tried and true formula based on this year’s successful format; box office and the word about town are overwhelmingly positive. We posted a quick note on Greenroom’s Facebook page last night to that effect:

Interesting first look through La Boite’s 2012 program launched tonight. Content aside (and it looks intriguing) it’s a similar model to this year’s: a mix of in-house production (including a Shakespeare), co-pros, a buy-in, the ‘promotion’ of a previous independent show to the mainstage, and a return of the indie season within a season where there’s an increase from 4 to 5 plays. The formula seems to be working well, so why change?

Indeed, what we’re seeing reflected here and elsewhere – across town at QTC and in other major Australian theatre companies – is a change in programming models from the almost exclusive in-house production seasons of old with few (if any) co-pros or buy-ins/presenting partnerships, and little recognition or room for other companies within their walls.

Current economics and years of government focus on efficiency measures in arts organisations have undoubtedly contributed to the creation of this model with a recognition that the small pie that is arts funding needs more careful slicing if it’s not to lose its filling and crumble away entirely. Resources are finally being shared with, perhaps, a growing sense of everyone’s being in this enterprise together. It’s a nice thought …

QTC has yet to announce what’s coming in the replacement for its Studio Season – they’re calling it the Green House – where artists can ‘get their hands dirty’ with, presumably, the new and the untried and experimental. There’s also the continuation of the Premier’s Drama Award which is in reading mode right now for a production in 2013. If you add the input of Metro Arts’ contribution to the sector and the Under the Radar segment of the Brisbane Festival as well as other independent productions outside the curation of organisations, then it’s clear there is a distinct emphasis on the new, the experimental, the independent and the local in Brisbane’s theatre.

It’s been a long time coming, but the signs have been there with the emphasis on new works in both companies now for many years. However, with a couple of new Artistic Directors who are not afraid of the new – in fact, who are positively encouraging it – the theatre face of the city has altered big time.

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