A note from the front lines or Is Winter Brisbane’s theatre ‘season’

Greenroom’s interviews and reviews have been on hold for a bit – as you may have noticed if you are a regular reader here. I’ve been in the trenches known as ‘production week’ for Umber’s production of Water Wars by Elaine Acworth, which played up here on the Darling Downs at Oakey on Wednesday and Thursday. Oh, by the by, there’s nothing quite like an out-of-town opening on a cold winter’s night to bring out theatre’s true believers and supporters – just saying!

The entire company appreciated enormously the effort our stalwart first audiences made to complete the theatre-making circle for us before we head to Brisbane to be part of La Boite’s Indie season next month. Anyway, this post is not about Water Wars butIf you do want to read up on what’s going on, you could check out Umber’s blog or their Facebook page where you will find videos and pictures, and interviews as well as comments on the tech side of things for Water Wars – which are just plain amazing, by the way – definitely more on that to come.

So, the tyranny of distance being what it is, I’ve missed some of the plethora of good things happening on Brisbane’s main stages and in indie theatre this month: Dead Puppet Society’s The Harbinger – sold out much to the glee of La Boite Theatre’s marketing department (good on ’em); some of the Queensland Music Festival‘s offerings including Drag Queensland (where I would have paid anything for a ticket to see a glittery Lucas Stibbard don falsies); the new-in-town-Antix company’s Speaking In Tongues by Andrew Bovell – a chance to see this next week, maybe; Secret Bridesmaids’ Business at the Brisbane Powerhouse; and the 40th anniversary celebration performance of The Removalists at QTC (though I will get to a day-time showing next week). Aside: I got married in the week my husband directed QTC’s first production of this in 1975 – talk about theatre getting in the way of more important life matters – but that’s another post.

Next month rolls out more and more theatre so I’m wondering whether Winter really is Brisbane’s theatre ‘season’. I guess it is.

Oh, and don’t be misled by my use of the word ‘trenches’ above. The experience of working on a new play with everyone involved in the Water Wars production company has been thrilling – hard work, yes – but also a huge buzz. And I got to meet and get to know that lighting genius David Walters. Aside: David is another USQ Theatre graduate from the first year – 1975 – the year QTC first produced The Removalists and my life changed. Loving being back …

Life’s Good: Nelle Lee (Interview 19)

Life is very good right now for Nelle Lee,  producer-actor, writer and one of the artistic director triumvirate of the very successful independent theatre company, Shake and Stir.

She and the rest of the company are on the first leg of their national tour of Statespeare and, earlier this week in a special ceremony, she was awarded the University of Southern Queensland‘s Young Alumnus of the Year Award and Faculty of Arts Prize. We catch up at Jilly’s coffee shop, just round the corner from Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre where Statespeare is playing this week.

Nelle arrives in a flurry, a bit late from an interview with a local television crew. It’s good to see her so energised and happy and confident. We eschew the contents of Jilly’s famous wicked-cake case, settle on coffee and start to talk. It’s been a while since we did this – apart from quick ‘hellos’ in theatre foyers across the years since her graduation from the Theatre program at USQ in 2004. It seems there hasn’t been a spare moment for her since then. Shake and Stir started (in a part-time way) in 2006, but has been going flat out since 2008-09, she tells me – not bad going. She’s modest about her achievements: ‘I have a lot of people to thank.’ She’s not yet 30, I think, and she can already claim to have a huge career hit on her hands with the theatrical start-up company that is Shake and Stir. The company gets no government subsidy or philanthropic money, and is entirely self-supporting.

Shake and Stir employ over 20 actors a year with 8 full-time positions. All actors are paid at above-Equity rates.

In addition to their mainstage performances in Brisbane and on tour – they do not have a home theatre base – Shake and Stir also run teacher professional-development workshops and after-school and holiday classes for kids either in-school or at Brisbane’s Old Museum. Whilst the focus of their performance work is on introducing young people to Shakespeare, they are also keen to do the same for other classic works. Their production of Animal Farm (another school syllabus favourite) is programmed for production later this year. But for now and for the next four months as they tour Australia, it’s Statespeare which was commissioned by the Festival of Cairns in 2008 and which has been hugely successful for the company ever since. Continue reading Life’s Good: Nelle Lee (Interview 19)

Out of bed and on the job: David Burton (Interview 2)

David Burton

I was delighted to speak with David – Dave to his friends – Burton late last week about his playwrighting, and especially his latest work Lazarus Won’t Get Out of Bed.  I can tell from the outset that he is upbeat – excited even.  It was a good opening night the preceding evening – the buzz is good he tells me.  But as we talk I can see that he’s just as excited by the opportunities that are out there for a young playwright. “I can’t keep up; anyone who says there aren’t enough creative development opportunities or support programs for young writers is not trying hard enough, or not looking in the right places.” We go on to speak a lot about support during the course of our conversation; it becomes a theme almost. Continue reading Out of bed and on the job: David Burton (Interview 2)