Free Range 2011: Steven Mitchell Wright (Interview 21)

Risky, avant-garde and experimental are not words that frighten Steven Mitchell Wright, Artistic Director and founder of The Danger Ensemble; he relishes them. ‘I believe in the power of words and using them to say what we mean,’ and so is happy, in fact, completely unapologetic when using them to position his work as an artist. We talk briefly about why people reject labels – especially ones that appear to take such strong positions like avant-garde or experimental. He’s matter of fact and sweetly tactful. ‘I think it’s just that some people are afraid of being deemed something in case they limit themselves,’ he responds.

Steven’s C-V lists work as performer and creator with Brisbane’s Zen Zen Zo and Frank theatres. Whilst his artistic background lies in dance and theatre, he tells me he has been interested for a long time in the space where music and theatre meet – but not the way they do in musical theatre. He’s appeared at the Edinburgh Festival and directed Amanda Palmer‘s world-tour where her fans experienced a high-end, eclectic theatre show rather than the usual rock-venue presentations they were used to. ‘I’m interested not just in innovation, but in creating new audiences and new experiences for them.’ He’s emphatic about eschewing innovation for innovation’s sake, however. ‘I’m not interested in tack-on gimmicks. It is essential that theatre makers take the time to consider how audiences are going to receive their work. There’s so much influence now from the web-based world and work trans-media,’ he adds, ‘but if the work is about the technology, I’m not interested. There must be humanity at the core.’

Steven’s enthusiastic not only for the work being enabled by !Metro Arts, ‘who provide a place where we can create work we want to do and to investigate the format in which to present,’ but also the wider culture in the south-east of Queensland. ‘We’re in a strong place here,’ he says.  I ask him why. He cites generational issues – a lot of young people, strong leadership in the arts, a real feel that change is in the air. ‘It’s a place of opportunity,’ he adds, ‘and there’s a rejuvenated spirit about. People are attempting to create work with a bigger, more confident voice.’ He also talks about local artists getting increased exposure to other theatre practices. He mentions WTF! ‘We’re engaged in creating a strong, sustainable culture right now.’

But right right now, Steven’s got curatorial charge of  CROSS-STITCH: WITHOUT APOLOGY (all caps but I’m not shouting) which opens the Free Range 2011 Festival tonight. I ask about his vision for the work. Continue reading Free Range 2011: Steven Mitchell Wright (Interview 21)