The National Theatre of Parramatta sounds like a contradiction, doesn’t it? National localised? Well yes, perhaps it is. But only because the founders see Parramatta as a microcosm of what Australia has become in the last few decades – extraordinarily culturally diverse and generating a vibrant intensity and passion for life that is simply not reflected on the mainstream Australian stage.
The National Theatre of Parramatta was launched at Riverside Theatres on November 19, 2015, where it will be the resident company. Its establishment fulfills a long held ambition of Riverside Theatres director Robert Love, above, to have a resident company servicing Parramatta, western Sydney and regional NSW, in telling the region’s own stories and providing professional career opportunities.
After many years of gestation, the National Theatre of Parramatta has won an initial four years of funding from Arts NSW, Crown Resorts Foundation, Packer Family Foundation and Parramatta City Council. A four member directorate comprises Annette Shun Wah, above left, Paula Abood, left, S Shaktidharan, below left, and Wayne Harrison, bottom left. Between them, they have an enormous range of creative and production experience in theatre, radio, music, film, major arts events and community cultural development. They make a formidable team and are all in agreement that they aspire “to create bold contemporary works that draw their inspiration from the rich diversity and untold stories of western Sydney and beyond, adding to our cultural landscape a company that truly reflects the nation on stage. “
They “aspire to create a body of work that is expressive of new conversations and new voices; work that challenges and exhilarates; that engages audiences in a dialogue of ideas, nurturing emotional exchanges and interactions that move beyond the stage and into people’s lives.” You have only to type “theatre” into the search facility on this blog to glimpse a little of the range of talents and ideas that have already found expression in western Sydney and which constantly challenge the status quo of Australian theatre making.
The executive producer for this bold new company is Joanne Kee, whose international work record includes Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival, general manager of The Song Company, business manager of programming Sydney Opera House, setting up creative development and performance residencies for artists and work at the Arts Council of England and Carnivale, multicultural arts festival. As a producer she tours internationally award winning work. She is on the board of Music Australia, Sydney Fringe Festival and the Glebe Chamber of Commerce. She was Chair of Ausdance NSW and chair of the working group that set up Critical Path.
Joanne, left, says, “We want to create opportunities for artists in an environment where they are being paid for their work and where they can learn their craft alongside the best in the business.” Their first season will begin in April with an existing play Swallow, which premiered to rave reviews in Edinburgh last year. In it, three strangers share states of vulnerability and defiance connecting their fates and influencing each others ability to re-enter the outside world. With challenge and humour, Swallow “explores questions of identity, heartbreak and hope with vivid, poetic intensity.” Swallow begins a sustainable first year, which will set the tone for program expansion in subsequent years. It will be followed by a fully developed production of Stolen in June after two successful readings of Jane Harrison’s play at Riverside in 2013 and 2015.
Stolen is a story of five young Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their parents and brought up in a repressive children’s home without contact with family or culture. It is a story with parallels throughout Australian communities, told from the perspective of the children. You are invited to “immerse yourself in a yarn about the importance of family, understanding and issues that have impacted strongly on Aboriginal families. Stolen will be directed by acclaimed performance maker, Vicki Van Hout.
In October, Paula Abood and Wayne Harrison will stage the inaugural Telling Tales, a festival all about story telling using a series of traditional and unconventional spaces. Telling Tales will “celebrate the glorious complexity and diversity of Western Sydney, sharing the stories of its people; the yarns, anecdotes, personal memoirs and imaginary tales set in a performance context, with something for all ages.” Telling Tales will include some of the best entries in Tell It – a story telling competition to be run in September for people 18 years and younger.
Take the opportunity to explore the website of the National Theatre of Parramatta. They are interested in hearing from new voices, particularly those who have a connection to Western Sydney. If you would like to invite representatives to your performance or creative development please send invitations to firstname.lastname@example.org. As part of its development program, the company will offer many chances to engage with it:
- Trainee and Assisting Roles
- Networking events
- Skills development workshops
- Advanced Writer’s Salon
- Performance platforms
There will also be opportunities to volunteer and learn. Add your name to their email list.