Breaking new ground in telling our own stories through theatre and writing

More and more people are telling the stories of western Sydney and regional New South Wales. Felicity Castagna won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction in 2014 for her debut novel The Incredible Here and Now. With a spare writing style she evokes a picture of the inner life and thoughts of Michael a teenage boy in Parramatta, who undergoes the sudden loss of his older brother and its impact on his family and his own growing up. It’s a gentle story of a quest for understanding and finding his place in the world and is filled with intimate glimpses of his home and family and the places where he hangs out with friends.

Yes, there is drama, but the story is more about Michael’s responses to it rather than the events themselves. The Incredible Here and Now has a quiet, meditative quality about it so it will be very interesting to see how it makes the transition to the stage. The National Theatre of Parramatta commissioned Felicity to create a play of the same name from her novel, which opens at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, on July 13 and runs to Saturday, July 22. For Felicity, it has been a great learning curve as she works with directors Jeneffa Soldatic, right, and Wayne Harrison. Jeneffa herself grew up in Sydney’s south west, at Ingleburn, and feels that Michael’s teenage experience has many similarities to her own. To make her way in theatre, she had to leave Sydney for New York, where she graduated from the Actors Studio in 2004 and became one of only a few Australians to be accepted as a life member.

Felicity says, “I’ve been attending shows at Riverside Theatres for more than 15 years. To see my own work on stage there, in my own community is such a privilege. The support and guidance provided to me by National Theatre of Parramatta, has been incredibly important in developing my own career as a writer and as a voice in the community that I love so much.”

“Fundamentally,” she says, “it’s a play about language and silence. Our personal grief is such a fundamentally hard thing to articulate whether you’re a teenage boy or a mother. That grief therefore, needed to be expressed in the visual language of the play; a box, a stack of pancakes, an older brother who is not there anymore but continually returns to stage like a memory that is always in the back of one’s mind.”

Performing the lead role of Michael is Bardiya McKinnon, above, (TV’s As the Bell Rings and In Your Dreams) and as Dom, Alex Cubis (TV’s Mako Mermaids and Rake). In addition, The Incredible Here stars Caroline Brazier, Libby Asiack, Olivia Simone, Ryan Peters and Sal Sharah. Information and bookings.

Two young women are taking the concept of storytelling across the regions of NSW to new heights. Natalie Wadwell, left, of south western Sydney and Lucinda Davison of the NSW south coast have been developing a comprehensive website State of the Arts – SOTAau – for the last two years. They “support the next generation of Australia’s storytellers”. It’s a big vision and requires a lot of work and financial investment. This year, Natalie was a recipient of a Layne Beachley Foundation ‘Aim for the Stars Scholarship.’ This money was put towards SOTAau to gain legal support and redevelop their platform. SOTA is also among the first initiatives to be supported by Arts Initiatives Australia – an organisation aimed at making Australian arts more sustainable.

You can now explore the prototype of SOTA’s new platform. Over the next six months they will be shortlisting and targeting five areas, the independent artists within and the organisations servicing them. This will help them learn where the platform can improve and how they can scale it to effectively service the vast geography that is greater western Sydney, regional NSW and the ACT.

They provide publishing opportunities for writers based in suburban and regional areas and access to a growing network of mentors and other creatives to help build sustainable career pathways. SOTA is a social enterprise: a business that generates profit for a social purpose. They say, “Local writers are best positioned to share experiences of art and culture.” Watch this space!

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Arts, sport and pushing back against fear

1-hakawati-team-and-ntopI could kick myself that I’m too late to get a seat for Hakawati, right, National Theatre of Parramatta’s show currently part of Sydney Festival. On the other hand who could begrudge NTofP‘s sold-out success at El Phoenician Restaurant-Bar and the enthusiastic reviews? Hakawati draws on ancient Arabic traditions of entertaining through story telling while sharing a meal, at the same time offering insight into contemporary issues with a powerful western Sydney twist. The show has proved so popular that a return season is planned for later in the year. Click on this link for notification of dates when they are advised..

I was more successful in booking for Champions, at Carriageworks, this week, where the skills of contemporary dance and soccer collide. Directed by Martin del Amo, assisted by Miranda Wheen, Champions tells the story of an all female soccer team and their preparation and performance in a drama filled match. Blurring the boundaries between the elite skills of 1-1-champions-form-dance-projects-photo-by-heidrun-l_hr-webdance and sport, the team worked with coaches and athletes from Western Sydney Wanderers. Channel Seven sports presenter Mel McLaughlin provides analysis and commentary in the show. If Champions, left, has anything like the qualities of previous Form Dance Project productions, including the linked Dance Makers Collective’s Dads, last November, it will be enthralling, thought provoking and highly entertaining.

Providing background to my thoughts about these and many other productions engaging western Sydney artists are the heartfelt observations of two such creatives shortly before Christmas. The first is Aanisa Vylet (below right preparing for Daisy Moon Was Born This Way to be produced by The Q at The Joan, Penrith in 2017, photo by Alana Dimou) – gifted actor, director, adventurous and generous spirit. That’s also Aanisa in the bottom right hand corner of the Hakawati photo above, where she has been dramaturge to the production. On December 21, she posted on her blog Secrets : From one artist to another. Do read it.

aanisa-daisy-moon-q-2017-photo-alana-dimou“I feel like we are living in a very unpredictable and frightening political landscape. I have had this idea sitting in my chest: to write a blog of secrets and tips that I would whisper to a fellow artist…to offer support. So these are some values and strategies that have kept me going as an actress, artist and outsider for the last 11 years . . .”

I’ll leave you to read the 10 points for yourself, but her final note is illuminating. “I will share one last secret…at the beginning of this year, I told myself – “Ok, so this is your last chance to be an actress/artist, you need to give it your best shot and if you don’t land something and if your play turns to shit – you need to find another career and accept it. This is your last shot. NO HOLDING BACK.

“I have not had the time to write a blog this year because I have been overwhelmed by the abundance of what I have experienced. I still had moments where I was  afraid, mistrustful of myself and of the the world at large. What if I eliminate all fear?”

1-natalie-dec-2016On a related theme are the writings of passionate community activist and creative entrepreneur, Natalie Wadwell, left. Natalie is concerned that the arts are not valued in the community in the same way as sport and yet their contributions to physical and mental skills, imagination, social cohesion and much more have many features in common. She wants to see more artists of all disciplines engage directly with communities, take courage in forging their own pathways and enlarge our understandings of our shared humanity.

She is continually putting her words into action. With her colleague Lucinda Davison, they have established a website State of the Arts. It has a big vision – “It aims to bring together creatives, art writers, performers, musicians and art organisations to investigate, engage and promote the diversity of creative initiatives and cultures. From the northern plains to the southern basin of NSW, including Greater Western Sydney and the ACT, State of the Arts will be a guide from country to coast.” Now they are advertising for help in developing their website.

natalie-web-developerState of the Arts web developer [PAID OPPORTUNITY]
Help State of the Arts refine our platform and shape new features to be launched in April 2017. Live, work or playing across Western Sydney or Regional NSW is not essential, but desirable (we want to support local).
If you or a mate you would highly recommend is interested send us an email with the subject line ‘I can web, mate,’ and three samples of recent work.”

Like so many others, Aanisa and Natalie are determined to push back agains the clouds of fear constantly under discussion in mainstream and social media. Working collaboratively, talking openly and honestly about concerns and sharing explorations towards better understanding are just some of their tools. Fear can engender more fear which just ends in paralysis. I love the Bernard Shaw line famously only half quoted by Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser in the 1970s, “Life wasn’t meant to be easy . . .  my child, but take courage: it can be delightful.”

Creative artists present nuanced views of conflict, causes and consequences

ntop-qanonAward wining film director George Miller says, “. . . art is at its best when it allows catharsis through story telling and a nation is at its best when it provides a refuge for humanity to heal and flourish.” It seems that this observation is relevant to three arts events due to launch across western Sydney, where negotiating multiculturalism and difference is a daily  experience.

The first is Diaspora-Making Machines opening at Blacktown Arts Centre, on Thursday, September 29. The second is a public dialogue between writers Ellen van Neerven and Michael Mohammed Ahmad under the provocative title Black and Lebo. The third is The Cartographer’s Curse, a new production created by National Theatre of Parramatta, which explores the complexities of political and social divisions within the Middle East. Above is an image of the qanun, a Middle Eastern instrument featured in The Cartographer’s Curse. Director Paula Abood explains qanun is the origin of the English word canon, encompassing the lore and law of a society.

In Diaspora-Making Machines eight artists of diverse cultural backgrounds explore some of “the systemic devices (the machines) that generate movement and the dispersal of communities (the diaspora).” From the earliest days of the colony, Blacktown has been a scene of continuous waves of migration. Some were forced, like the Aboriginal and Maori children sent to be “reformed” at the 1823 Blacktown Native Institution, and others like migrants and refugees who made new homes there by choice.

1-blak-douglas-bac-for-diaspora-making-machinesOffering an Aboriginal perspective on the exhibition’s theme of Blacktown’s historic place as a centre of migration, attitudes to newcomers, and notions of belonging and assimilation is Blak Douglas, who grew up in the area. His work, left, Pipe Dreams (Part A), suggests a challenge to the role of the church as a systemic device in the dispersal of Aboriginal communities. Another of the artists is Mehwish Iqbal, who grew up in a small town in Pakistan where art wasn’t even taught in the local school. Nonetheless, she defied traditional expectations to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the National College of Arts and then moved to Dubai. In 2006, she moved to Australia with her family where she completed a Masters degree at the College of Fine Arts UNSW. Mehwish has undertaken international artists residencies and has a keen interest in themes of integration, assimilation and separation experienced by migrants living in Australia and issues faced by under privileged children in developing countries.

The other artists are Jumaadi, Nerine Martini, Susannah Williams and Warren Armstrong, Luping Zeng and his son Cheng Zeng. Diaspora Making Machines will continue at Blacktown until Saturday, November 5.

ellen-van-nervanBlack and Lebo promises a lively discussion between two award winning young writers, Aboriginal author Ellen van Neerven, right, and Michael Mohammed Ahmad, below, left. Ellen won the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Indigenous Writers Prize, among other awards, and has just published a new book Comfort Food, a collection of poetry. Michael is the director of Sweatshop – Western Sydney Literacy Movement, a talented actor, and a doctoral candidate at the Western Sydney University Writing and Society Research Centre. He has won several awards for his work and for his debut novel The Tribe. His second novel The Lebs will be published early next year.

Ellen and Michael Mohammed.AhmadMichael will discuss the intersections between race, faith, class, gender and sexuality in contemporary Australian literature, give performances from their latest works and take questions and comments from their audience. Black and Lebo takes place on Friday, September 30, at Western Sydney University, Bankstown campus, Building 3, Room G 55. The event is free with lunch provided and everyone is welcome, but RSVP is essential.

Prof Ghassan HageFrench and British colonialism of the early 20th century in the Middle East is the starting point for The Cartographer’s Curse. Invasion, colonialism and conflict have been common experiences for centuries among people in this region, where borders have undergone frequent change, according to who holds the power. A century ago, it was the British and French who drew lines on a map to divide the area according to their own interests. The consequences continue to reverberate and have led many people to seek refuge elsewhere in the world. Under the guidance of Paula Abood, history is imagined through spoken word poetry and prose, parkour movements and qanunic music. Among the characters are the cartographer, the wandering professor, the poet, the resistance, the merchant and the master of the qanun. The professor is played by Ghassan Hage, above right, an actual Future Generation Professor of global stature.

1-ntop-cartog-curse-thistle“This ensemble captures the very best of Arab Australian artistry in all its different expression,” Paula says. “Each performer in The Cartographer’s Curse brings a particular prowess and this makes for an exciting performance.” The coupling of the melodic quality of the qanun with the edginess of Parkour movement, she describes as “artistically very exhilarating.” The thistle, left, grows throughout the landscape of the Middle East and could easily be perceived as a metaphor for resilience and survival. The Cartographer’s Curse opens at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, on Thursday, October 5 and continues only until October 8.

Opportunities galore!

And now we are six! A new baby in the household means that blogging has to take second place to grandmotherly duties, so just brief notes on a fantastic range of opportunities:

ICE - ISLAM I AM

ISLAM. I AM | EOI closes Friday 5 August

ISLAM. I AM will be a ground-breaking series bringing together Muslim filmmakers to tell stories about contemporary Islamic life in Australia. The series will be created for ABC1, produced by Jungle FTV in association with I.C.E.

Muslim filmmakers, artists, storytellers are invited to submit a proposal to be considered for the next stage of development and production.

Submit your Expression of Interest here! 

CPAC - Staging StoriesSTAGING STORIES: ADULT SOLO THEATRE WORKSHOPS, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre,
Mondays | 8 August – 12 September, 23 September and Tuesday 4 October
7 – 9pm | $150 for 8 sessions

Facilitated by respected theatre professionals, STAGING STORIES is a solo theatre workshop designed to unlock your potential as a both a writer and performer and put your story in the spotlight. Building over a series of weeks, STAGING STORIES workshops will give you an overview into performance and storytelling like you’ve never experienced, providing you with an opportunity to develop your confidence, expand your network and explore your ideas. Bookings.

— FROM PAGE TO STAGE —

Putting the nation on stage, National Theatre of Parramatta is calling for expressions of interest to its inaugural playwriting program

NT of P Joanne Kee“National Theatre of Parramatta is committed to building an ecosystem for the theatre in Western Sydney. It is harder for our artists to be visible beyond our communities. We know that we have stories that resonate beyond these geographic limitations. We are providing a platform to not only showcase these artists but also to develop additional networks and skills that will enable them to fine tune their craft. We are offering a chance for Western Sydney voices to be heard,” says Executive Producer of the National Theatre of Parramatta, Joanne Kee, left.

Presented in association with Playwriting Australia, From Page to Stage is a free program that provides playwrights with a unique opportunity to hone their skills whilst aiming to assist new Australian works come to life on the stage.

Ten applicants, with a demonstrated commitment to writing, will receive guidance from some of the industry’s best playwrights and facilitators. Commencing in October, the 15-month course includes mentorship, tutorials, workshops and script development opportunities. Participant’s plays will also be considered for inclusion in the National Theatre of Parramatta’s annual season and the National Play Festival, Playwriting Australia’s major industry showcase of new Australian works.

NToP - logoRiverside Theatres’ resident company, National Theatre of Parramatta, is committed to capacity building in Western Sydney. With the launch of From Page to Stage, National Theatre of Parramatta will further nurture and develop committed writers who live and/or work in the region.

Applications for From Page to Stage close on 28th August. For more information and to apply, visit: https://riversideparramatta.com.au/NTofP/engage/from-page-to-stage

At last your chance to respond to the proposed National Heritage Listing of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct: Submissions

Parramatta Female Factory Precinct - heritage listing

FORM DANCE PROJECTS – Fostering Dance Culture in Western Sydney

CALLING CHOREOGRAPHERS AND DANCERS 21 & UNDER

SHARP SHORT DANCE IS BACK!

Sharp Short Dance is a dance festival that unearths the best up and coming talent in Sydney.  The festival celebrates dance in all its forms and encourages young aspiring choreographers and dancers to showcase their work to industry professionals.

Choreographers can enter one work to each heat, which are curated by genre:

Heat One Jazz, Tap, Lyrical
Heat Two Classical, Contemporary
Heat Three Hip Hop, Street, Cultural

This year selected finalists will be awarded secondments with Sydney Dance Company (Pre-Professional Year), Bangarra Dance Theatre, Dream Dance Company and Shaun Parker & Company.

“This program is one of FORM’s best and that’s why we are awarding an industry placement with the Dream Dance Company. I can’t wait to see what talent emerges this year.”
Marko Panzic, Director – The Dream Dance Company

REGISTER NOW
For registration forms and info visit form.org.au
DVD, Youtube and Vimeo applications preferredForm Dance - Choreographers - Photo - Dom O'Donnell

REGISTRATION CLOSES
17 OCTOBER

REGISTRATION FEE
$15.00

HEATS 1, 2 & 3
15, 16 & 17 NOVEMBER 7:30PM

FINALS
19 NOVEMBER 7:30PM

Registrations via form.org.au or  this downloadable form.

Photo : Dom O’Donnell

Inspired initiatives from western Sydney attract engagement across Sydney

1-Augusta SuppleAugusta Supple is responsible for Strategic Initiatives – Western Sydney at Arts NSW and a passionate advocate for the region. A theatre director, producer and writer with national and international experience, she says, “Western Sydney is the most exciting region in Australia – diverse in its landscape, arts and cultural activity – home to a tenth of Australia’s population, third highest region contributing to Australia’s GDP. Western Sydney is the innovative, distinctive, unique crucible of community engagement and internationally connected artists.”

She was pleased when last week Richard Watts reported in Arts Hub  that, ” An increased flow of works and ideas between cultural organisations in Sydney’s east and west is helping to unify the once-divided NSW capital.” Arts Hub is an extensive online membership service and publication for the Australian arts community. The headline signalled a change slowly becoming more apparent, “Eastern suburbs provide audience for the West.”

1-jump first ask laterRichard Watts talked with Powerhouse Youth Theatre director Kaz Therese about last year’s production of Jump First – Ask Later at Fairfield. The production was created by six young members of Dauntless Movement Crew (DMC), directed and choreographed by Byron Perry.  It tours to Sydney and Melbourne later this year. It will be in The Studio at Sydney Opera House from September 22 to October 2, preceded by two days of creative learning for school students, Years 3 to 12. Photo by Alex Wisser.

The four member directorate of the new National Theatre of Parramatta are themselves representative of east and west. After their challenging first production last month, Swallow by Stef Smith, directed by Kate Champion, Augusta reflected on the role of theatre in society. “. . . Theatre serves many purposes. To impart information, to entertain, to inspire action or compassion in one’s own life. It also helps define identities, create community and asks people to be present, with each other – which in a bombarding world of curled spines and thumbs tapping on screens seems to be more and more of a big ask – or an oasis, depending on how you choose to look at it.”

NToP isNToP - Imogen Ross - Stolen well into preparation for their next production Stolen by Jane Harrison directed by Vicki Van Hout, 2-17 June at Riverside TheatresStolen tells the stories of five individuals from the Stolen generation. A reading this week launched their Backstage Pass program, a partnership with UTS: University of Technology Sydney which provides an opportunity for high school students to meet with the cast and creative team, and get an industry glimpse into the creative process.  Stolen set and costume designer Imogen Ross, above left, unveils her design concepts.

Another leading initiative from western Sydney is the Sydney Sacred Music Festival, already in its sixth year and under the direction of founder Richard Petkovic. Save the date!! It seems a long way ahead, but July 3, at 6pm, Camelot Lounge, Marrickville, will be here before you know it. Sydney Sacred Music Festival is promising a wonderful night of music to raise funds for their 2016 festival, from September 3 to 18. The Festival Fund Raiser – will feature Latin music legend Victor Valdes and many more artists to Syd Sacred Music Fest 16 - Friendsbe announced. The photo above is of the recently formed Friends of Sydney Sacred Music Festival, who were meeting for the first time at an Afternoon Tea on the Silk Road. They are planning a colourful market stall at Addison Road, Marrickville, markets, June 5, and will help out at Camelot Lounge, July 3. They welcome new members, too. Read the festival’s latest newsletter and make contact.

1-Aanisa Vylet - The GirlYet another extraordinary talent from western Sydney is Aanisa Vylet.  Drawing on her own life experience, Aanisa created The Girl over many years, which met with great success at its premiere production at this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival. Now she is bringing it to Leichhardt Town Hall, May 27, at 8pm. Catch it if you can – an amazing experience! Maybe you can get there straight after Natalie Wadwell’s all day forum We Run This: A Conversation with Australia’s Independent Arts Sector, as part of Vivid Sydney. It’s worth a try.

And finally, there is a unique offering from North Parramatta Residents Action Group – NPRAG. They are presenting the premiere screening of Zu Neuen Ufern – To New Shores at the Riverside Theatres on Sunday, May 22, at 2pm. It’s a rare black and white German musical drama from 1937 with subtitles. Set in London it tells the story of a woman sent to the Parramatta Female Factory after taking the rap for her fiancés forgery crime. (He’s a cad and ultimately gets his comeuppance!)

NPRAG - German film 1Like a plot from a Coen Brothers movie, the making of Third Reich era German film Zu neuen Ufern (To New Shores) is quite a story in itself. Produced by German film studios in 1937, the film was nominated Best Foreign Film at the 1937 Venice Film Festival. Swedish actress Zarah Leander is Gloria, who must now endure the consequences of her wrongful seven year sentencing to the colonies. Filled with betrayal, heartbreak and perseverance, the film embodies the struggle of many women inside the walls of the Parramatta Female Factory. Join NPRAG.org, Professor Carol Liston (Western Sydney University) and James Findlay (University of Sydney) for a talk and screening of this fascinating collision of Parramatta’s colonial past and Germany’s pre-war cultural machine. The film highlights the importance of Parramatta Female Factory’s application for National Heritage Listing and assists with fundraising for the campaign.

Two new professional theatre companies launch with education programs, too

NToP - SwallowHere is an opportunity too good to refuse! To celebrate the launch of their inaugural production, the National Theatre of Parramatta is offering tickets at a special price to industry colleagues and to readers of this blog.

Swallow, written by Olivier award winning playwright Stef Smith opens at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, on Saturday, April 23, 2.30pm and 7.30pm, with a preview performance, Thursday, April 21. Swallow explores questions of identity, heartbreak and hope with a vivid and poetic intensity and received rave reviews for its world premiere season at Edinburgh Festival in 2015. A five star review described Swallow as “A compelling and bitter-sweet snapshot of the lives of three women in transition.” The Australian premiere production is directed by founder and former artistic director of Force Majeure and Helpmann Award winner, Kate Champion.

Australia’s newest theatre company, National Theatre of Parramatta, is the resident theatre company at Riverside and has developed with the guidance and support of Riverside’s director, Robert Love. Its driving aim is to reflect the true diversity of Australian society today and to tell its rich and complex stories. Western Sydney lives through the daily experience of negotiating cultural difference, of needing to listen and learn – hence this blog’s title Western Sydney Frontier. So many of the region’s individual stories are unknown to a wider national audience and NToP is determined to create bold, contemporary productions inspired by local communities, while offering training and education programs to young people from western Sydney.

While NToP directors develop the foundations for this work, they have chosen to launch the company with Swallow, a play in the spirit of the qualities they wish to nurture. With a stellar cast of just three, Swallow tells the stories of Rebecca (Megan Drury), Sam (Valerie Berry) and Anna (Luisa Hastings Edge) who are simultaneously at the tipping point between self-destruction and self-acceptance. Sharing similar states of vulnerability and defiance, they influence each other’s lives in unforeseeable ways while connecting their fates and ability to re-enter the outside world. A story about survival, the company says Swallow is tragic yet comic, complex yet simple and ugly yet beautiful.

Industry and Blog Reader Offer
Code
: INDUSTRY
$29.00 ticket only
Performances: Thursday 21st April preview performance / Saturday 23rd April 2.30pm and 7.30pm performances. Bookings: available online, at the counter and over the phone – 8839 3399. Riverside Theatres – Corner Church and Market Streets Parramatta NSW 2150. Swallow continues to April 30.

Taking WSO-May-Logo-535x354centre stage at The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith, next month will be a new young company Western Sydney Opera. The brainchild of Kingswood lyric tenor, Lorenzo Rositano, Western Sydney Opera won start up financial support from Penrith Council after Lorenzo’s successful production of La Boheme at The Joan last September. With three qualifications from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and almost a year of touring and performing in Italy in 2014, he developed a commitment to making Western Sydney Opera an educational project as well as an artistic venture.

WSO - Lorenzo RositanoTwenty eight year old Lorenzo’s early training was at Penrith Conservatorium of Music. In 2006 he was selected by the Australian Olympic Committee to perform the Australian national anthem at the Winter Olympics Games in Turin, Italy. He also graduated from the Talent Development Project, directed by Mary Lopez, the former director of the Schools Spectacular.

Western Sydney Opera will be launched at The Joan, with a Mothers Day concert, Saturday, May 7, at 7pm. The young cast of opera’s emerging artists will present a program of operatic highlights and songs from operetta, musical theatre and much more. Bookings and more information.

Bold new development in launch of National Theatre of Parramatta

Robert Love - RiversideThe 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 NT of P Annette-Shun-WahTheatre 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 NT of P Paula AboudFoundation, 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 NT of P S. Shakthidharanof 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 NT of P Wayne-Harrisonof 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.

NT of P Joanne KeeJoanne, 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.

NTofP_Web_Stolen_BannerStolen 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 admin_ntofp@parracity.nsw.gov.au. As part of its development program, the company will offer many chances to engage with it:

  • Trainee and Assisting Roles
  • Networking events
  • Masterclasses
  • Skills development workshops
  • Advanced Writer’s Salon
  • Mentorships
  • Performance platforms

There will also be opportunities to volunteer and learn. Add your name to their email list.