Doctors in the House (Interview 38)

I became aware a few months ago of a new crop of doctoral graduates whose names were very familiar to many of us in Queensland as performing artists and creatives.

The reasons for taking on such an enormous, all-consuming project – one that can occupy years of research and writing – is something that each prospective doctoral student mulls over well  before signing on the application’s dotted line. In fact, most university graduate schools provide a period in which the candidate has to research the topic, pitch the idea to a panel and go through other academic hoops before the candidacy is approved. It’s a bit like the audition, call-back, second call-back etc., before you get the gig. And then it starts – for many, the longest production period you’ll ever know.

I wanted to chat with three of the most recent theatre doctors: David Morton, Katherine Lyall-Watson, and Andrea Moor all of whom are busy, practising artists. Katherine Lyall-Watson’s latest play MOTHERLAND, a Patrick White finalist opens its season tomorrow night at Metro Arts. Andrea Moor is appearing in QTC’s DESIGN FOR LIVING, and David Morton, the AD of the busy independent company Dead Puppet Society, has just finished a residency with the South African company Handspring (you may know them for their work in WARHORSE) and is also working in NYC. And this is rather typical of their arts practice. Apart from anything else, where did they get the time?

I wanted  to get a sense of why they decided to start out on the academic track and how, if it all, it had changed their own artistic practice. Was it a hunger for learning or a more pragmatic desire i.e., to create another career path?  One thing is certain; everyone attempting and successfully completing a PhD or a professional doctorate is never the same again!

Here in their own words are their responses.

Congratulations to them all and to all those others out there working away on their own doctoral productions – chookas!

Continue reading Doctors in the House (Interview 38)

Brad Jennings and Steven Maxwell: Markwell Presents (Interview 37)

Image: Brad Jennings & Steven Maxwell – (c) Greenroom

One December day, about 5 years ago I interviewed Brad Jennings and Steven Maxwell as part of Apple’s Create World Conference. That year I was part of the Create World team using podcasts and blog posts to capture the points of view from creative people working in (mostly) higher education. I remember at the time thinking how interesting was the aesthetic concept of what they were calling ‘cinematic theatre.’ I managed to see a snippet of the way Brad and Steven integrated it into performance via a short performance they presented at that conference.

In the past 5 years I’ve seen their work in production (The White Earth for La Boite Theatre and August Moon for QTC among others). Markwell Presents is a name that’s been appearing more and more, and especially in education circles. It turns out that, among other things, they do about 12 artistic residencies in schools each year, an amazing number, I think. You can check the scope of their work on their website, but I wanted to talk again with Brad and Steven and find out how cinematic theatre and their work has progressed in that time and what lies ahead for them. Continue reading Brad Jennings and Steven Maxwell: Markwell Presents (Interview 37)

Nick Skubij (Interview 36)

Nick Skubij is one of the artistic triumvirate that heads up the enormously successful shake and stir theatre company. Their name may be minimalist lower case but there’s nothing small-scale any more about this company that has been in business since only 2006. Its operations are compact – they work from a small office in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley and call no theatre space their own – but they’ve made a huge impact with the quality of their work, and the scale of reach throughout the state and now national touring circuit with their in-school work and their inventive, award-winning productions of classics.

I caught up with Nick via Skype – they’re in Maryborough tonight – as they approach the final leg of their  current national tour of the George Orwell classic, Animal Farm. In 2011 they took Statespeare beyond the state for the first time.  Nick has adapted Animal Farm for the stage – it premiered in Brisbane in mid-2011.  Michael Futcher has again directed the play which has seen the addition of a new cast member, Tim Dashwood. Next year they’re planning to show the rest of the country their other Orwell – 1984. Funding by Playing Australia (the only funding they’ve ever received) for three national and state-wide tours in three years is not a bad strike rate at all.  “We like being commercially independent,” Nick tells me. Continue reading Nick Skubij (Interview 36)

Timothy Wynn (Interview 35)

Guess what frustrates many arts-workers living and working in regional Queensland, especially if their base of operations lies within a 2 hour driving radius of the capital where (arguably) the ‘important audiences’ lie?  You know where I’m going with this, right? I meet it all the time living as I do in Toowoomba where we tend to shrug off the apparent lack of interest from elsewhere i.e., the audiences from Brisbane, with the ‘water doesn’t flow uphill’ epithet. For those of you who don’t know the geography of SE Queensland, Toowoomba sits on the top of the Great Dividing Range less than a couple of hours from the state capital.

If you are a professional theatre maker, you do know when the work deserves a wider audience. However, unless a concerted effort is made to ‘tour’ it, then the work stays at home. Whilst sharing excellent work is undeniably valuable in profiling the group and the individual artists and creatives, I think it’s a false premise to assume audiences and colleagues in a capital city are needed to validate the work being made in the regions. As the region to the capital city so the capital city to a bigger capital city to the world etc. You know … the cringe thing again?

Last week I spoke about these things and a lot more with Timothy Wynn the Artistic Director of That Production Company which, after a couple of years in Brisbane, is now based in Ipswich – about 40 mins from the capital. Tim, along with professional partner Cassandra Ramsay is committed to working in his own back yard. Tim is currently directing a production of Lynn Nottage‘s Pulitzer Prize winning play RUINED(2007) with a cast of Africans now living in and around this regional city. It’s going to be an Australian premiere and it’s certainly note-worthy for Tim’s commitment to building work in and for his own community. Continue reading Timothy Wynn (Interview 35)

Megan Shorey (Interview 34)

Megan Shorey will never write a musical. Or so she tells me. But before I can wonder if I’m having a coffee with the wrong gal, she clarifies: “At Joymas Creative we write Music Theatre. Theatre with music, for theatre lovers; for people that enjoy a mental challenge, an emotional challenge; where the songs continue to drive the narrative.” So, if you’re looking for sequins and a kick-line, you’d better head elsewhere. Or stay – and enjoy something new.

Joymas Creative is a Brisbane-based, independent music theatre company that produces its own work, and has done so since 2009. It is headlined by the extraordinarily talented Megan Shorey – writer, director, producer, songstress, wife and mum.

I met Megan for the first time last week to chat about the launch of Joymas’ 2013 season. We covered kids’ illnesses, ballet school madness, starting prep and our mutual disdain for babies that don’t sleep, and then I remembered I had to do an interview. Not only is Megan one of the most delightfully articulate, clever and engaging women I’ve met, she’s also got her finger firmly on the pulse – and a good thing too – for 2013 will see Joymas embrace the often elusive, yet always intrusive Generation Y. Continue reading Megan Shorey (Interview 34)

Claire Christian (Interview 33)

I had the pleasure yesterday of speaking with Claire, the current Director of Empire Youth Arts. We chatted about the work being done by EYA in Toowoomba and the surrounding regions in southern Queensland.

Over the past couple of years I’ve seen a lot of the work being done in the various after school and performance projects which EYA has produced. The scope and outcomes are impressive, to say the least.

Claire expanded. “Some … that I’m really proud of include a partnership with Toowoomba Flexi School for National Youth Week. We also worked with the boys from Optikal bloc to create a documentary. We facilitated a Child Protection Week project with some young children at Rockville Primary school, and provided them access to a couple of visual artists.”

In addition, during 2012 there were two IMPACT Ensembles: the first was a production of Blackrock which Claire speaks about in the interview. She notes that it was particularly exciting for the group who had partnered with the Toowoomba Says no to Violence movement, and held a Young Men’s Forum day as part of the overall project.  The second IMPACT Ensemble a production written, performed and designed by the ensemble members has just closed. Claire and I chat about the value of this particular project in the interview. Continue reading Claire Christian (Interview 33)