in da house

— 19th July 2013 —

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been lucky enough to take part in two Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) workshops being held in conjunction with the NEON Festival of Independent Theatre. First up was a Directing workshop with Associate Artistic Director Sam Strong and Associate Director Leticia Cáseres.

Held in a rehearsal studio at MTC HQ on Sturt Street, I found myself sitting in an intimate circle of chairs with Sam Strong and only nine other independent theatre directors. Gulp. Sam generously shared his own story and career path along with some hot directing tips collected from heroes and mentors over the years including Neil Armfield and Anne Bogart. The group discussion that followed was very easy – partly because Sam is so open, and partly because sandwiches and coffee were being consumed at the time.

The next portion of the workshop was spent with the delightful Leticia Cáseres who introduced us to an exercise called Line of Action. Used to articulate the fundamental action of a play rather than its themes, this writing task involved condensing a play into two sentences. Hard, but worth it. After hearing Leticia’s draft Line of Action for her upcoming Belvoir production of Simon Stone’s Miss Julie, we all had a go at writing a Line of Action for a production we have in the works. I used Reception: The Musical (that’s right – it’s coming!).

Two days later, I found myself sitting in the VIP room of MTC’s Southbank Theatre awaiting another workshop entitled ‘The Pitch’ – an invaluable session with arts management royalty, Josephine Ridge (Artistic Director of Melbourne Festival) and Brett Sheehy (Artistic Director of MTC). Brett maintains that telling the truth is key. “It’s not a sales pitch. Drop the jargon and tell me ‘why’. We are in this because we love audiences and the human experience. I don’t like the hard sell - speak from the heart.” Josephine also added an insight into why a pitch may not be successful. “A panel might love an idea, but we’re also thinking about the mix, a wider context. Also, don’t just come to us needing money!”

Armed with hot drinks and decadent chocolate slice, we moved into the final section of the workshop – practice pitching. When it was my turn, I decided to have a crack at giving a light-hearted and punchy pitch for Reception: The Musical. Scary exercise? Sure. Beneficial exercise? You betcha!

I would like to thank the team from MTC for being so generous with both their knowledge and resources throughout the NEON festival. The independent sector really is buzzing as a result.

The final NEON EXTRA forum will feature panel members Simon Stone, Andrew Upton, Adena Jacobs, Dr Jane Montgomery Griffiths, Cameron Woodhead and Joanna Murray-Smith.

‘The Art of Adaptation’ – FREE ENTRY
Sunday 21 July, 1.30pm
The Sumner, Southbank Theatre
More info here

Get your buzz on

— 16th July 2013 —

I have been lapping up the NEON EXTRA events as part of MTC’s NEON Festival of Independent Theatre. Free networking events, seminars, forums and workshops. It sounds too good to be true.

With business cards stuffed into every pocket, I went along to NEON CONNECT - a networking event co-hosted by Theatre Network Victoria that saw the upstairs foyer of the Southbank Theatre packed with Melbourne’s Indie theatre makers and producers. After hearing from various venues, we voiced ideas and concerns, picked at fruit platters, put faces to names and names to faces. It may seem scary when people say, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’…but if you remember that those ‘who’s’ are just people, you can learn to love the challenge. I enjoy networking. It’s always inspiring to hear what people are working on, and to remember why it is we do what we do!

I also attended the NEON EXTRA forum, ‘Open Up’, at Southbank Theatre. Hosted by Artistic Director Brett Sheehy, a panel of experts (Patrick Brammall, Lally Katz, Emma Valente, Josephine Ridge, Daniel Schlusser and Ralph Myers) answered any question thrown their way during a 60-minute period. Once Brett’s barrel of submitted questions was empty, roaming microphones were turned on the audience. I tend to get nervous in these situations, feeling responsible for every audience comment. Mum says I should contribute in order to change the tone, but I always opt to sit in silence, suffering. Perhaps I’ll work on this…

Well, I’m in luck. The final forum open to the public is set to be a cracker! This Sunday 21 July, the best in the biz will openly discuss ‘The Art of Adaptation’ - a hot topic in the media at the moment. Deep breaths.

Read my NEON EXTRA feature on Aussie Theatre here

Cabaret, Crucibles and Kings

— 6th July 2013 —

In the last week, I performed twice in the Cabaret Festival, moved house, wrote a couple of articles, and saw two live shows and an exhibition. Poor effort, really.

My debut in the Melbourne Cabaret Festival was a lot of fun. Each of the workshop participants for Matthew Robinson's Singing Actor Workshop performed a solo piece from Matthew's own musical theatre song catalogue at The Globe Cafe on Chapel Street on Saturday 29 June. Both the 4pm and 7pm shows were sold-out. I was a tad nervous to be performing alongside such a strong group of trained singers, but I channelled Julie Andrews and sang-spoke my way through my lighthearted number, 'Perfectly The Same' from Happy People. Such a supportive environment - great for the audience to hear new work, great for the singers to have a chance to perform, great for Matthew to get his work out there and great for me to have a reason to wear my vintage sequin frock. Everyone's a winner at the Cabaret Festival!

Moving house was, well, it's never a walk in the park. But, I'm safe and happy in my new place. A lot more space, a lot more sunshine, and a lot more to explore!

I recently interviewed Martina Murray from MTC regarding the NEON Festival of Independent Theatre which runs from May - July this year. Alongside a season of five new works by some of Melbourne's leading independent companies, NEON EXTRA offers a wide range of free forums, masterclasses and networking opportunities for independents and the general public at large. Read my Aussie Theatre article here

My other Aussie Theatre article was for Four Letter Theatre Company's latest work, CHIASMUS. Written and directed by Angus Cameron, this confronting play was performed in the Collingwood underground car park. Read more here

On Wednesday, I saw David Wenham in Sam Strong's The Crucible at MTC. I managed to avoid all reviews in the lead up to the production, and was very pleased I did! I found some elements of the production challenging, but overall, I enjoyed myself very much. Arthur Miller's text is so incredible, and the story is so wonderful - it gets me every time. I particularly enjoyed the second and third acts - I almost felt my skin crawl during the famous courtroom scene when Abigail leads her friends in a chilling game of pretend. I was interested to find that the friend I was with has only ever been to one other straight play in his life - something by the Royal Shakespeare Company, no less. What made him see The Crucible? "I studied it at school". That, right there, is a reason why we need to continue programming the classics. My friend had a fantastic time, and is now more willing to try his luck for other productions at MTC. When I got home, I read this review. Though there were a few small elements that I agreed with (especially the decision to use Aussie accents for a play written in a specific dialect), I feel that I may have been watching a different play...

From witch hunts, to slaying dragons at the Malthouse Theatre. The Dragon, featuring original songs and live performances by Tripod, was an interesting, but fairly poorly directed piece of theatre. The production should have been 30mins shorter - some of the dialogue dragged on a little, and the text, in attempting to be poetic, came over as being a little verbose. The show looked great and I enjoyed myself at times, but it just could have been better. Snappier, funnier, simpler, clearer.

This morning, I took a friend to see The Extraordinary Shapes of Geoffrey Rush - a free exhibition in the arts centre foyer. Featuring a fabulous collection of images, footage, costumes, annotated scripts and awards from Geoffrey's incredible career, this exhibition really is a treat. I suggest you take an hour or two and journey through the incredible life of the king of characterisation. Oh, and while you're there, be sure to pop next door to the National Gallery of Victoria to catch some of the free installations in the foyer. Inspiring.