Doreen Warburton’s theatre legacy is everywhere

A note placed on the seats at the official opening night, July 19, of The Incredible Here and Now, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta gave the news –

Doreen Warburton, 1930 -2017, Founder and Artistic Director Q Theatre

Doreen Warburton and Q Theatre played pioneering roles in the development of professional theatre in Western Sydney

National Theatre of Parramatta dedicates the remaining performances of The Incredible Here and Now in her memory

How often have you attended a funeral where family and friends burst into applause? Tears and laughter, yes, but applause – not just once, but many times? Such was the occasion of Doreen Warburton’s farewell and celebration of her life last week. Doreen died aged 87, July 19, 2017. See the SMH obituary – Evelyn Doreen Warburton OBE, Doreen Gabriel. Actors, family and friends described her as larger than life, charismatic, impassioned, blunt, hugely generous, mother to so many of them, a brilliant artist, administrator and director. She was driven by a fierce sense of social justice and a determination that anyone could be inspired and transformed by their experience of theatre. Doreen grew up in wartime England and trained with the radical Joan Littlewood Theatre. The photo, above, was posted by The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre. – the present day home of the Q. Remembering a life well lived.

During a period of four years in the mid-1970s, Doreen pioneered a program of bringing theatre workshops and productions by the Sydney based Q Theatre into western Sydney suburbs. Their focus was young people – exposing them to performance opportunities and providing them with theatre skills, while simultaneously building future audiences for the theatre they planned to establish in the region. It was Penrith Council that eventually offered the use of the old Railway Institute and it was there that the Q Theatre made their home. Above, Doreen, right, opens the Q Theatre in Penrith in 1977, accompanied by the Mayor of Penrith, Eileen Cammack.

At the funeral, David Hoey described his excitement while a student at Colyton and then Rooty Hill high schools, when he discovered the chance to participate in those first Q Theatre workshops. He participated in some of Q’s subsequent productions and had a “brain explosion” when given the chance to work with the team producing the local rock musical St Marys Kid and another home grown musical story Zilch. Hawkesbury costume designer Leone Sharpe provoked laughter when she described her alarm and apprehension as a 20 year old, when her efforts to restore a hair piece for Doreen went wrong. Right, Doreen as Lady Bracknell in a costume later made by Leone.

Hania Radvan is CEO of Penrith Performing and Visual Arts Ltd (PP&VA) which incorporates the Penrith Regional Gallery, Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith Conservatorium of Music and the Q Theatre. Although she never actually met Doreen, she described her influence as everywhere – in their workshop and performance programs, especially for children and young people.

In an interview earlier this year, producer – Q programs, Nick Atkins said, “The Q is the Joan’s, theatre-making arm. My job, and the role of The Q, which sits inside the building, is to produce and develop professional local theatre. We make theatre for and from the heart of Penrith. We respond to what the local community wants to see, whilst also ensuring the voice of this community is pushed out into the world. We get to export stories as well as import them. Like others, he was a local high school student at Emu Plains, who was inspired by his exposure to Q Theatre, and went on to study a practice based theatre course at University of NSW.

In March this year he produced Black Birds, a new work by Emele Ugavule and Ayeesha Ash, exploring what it means to be a woman of colour in 2017 in Australia, it’s their personal stories. “The traditional way of theatre is very white, very Western, and very European, which clashes with their experience of the world,” he said.

“We have an artist in residence program. We offer four two-week residencies in our studio. So it’s two weeks space and $2,000 in financial support, and well as drama and technical support from the centre. We also have Propel, which is a play writing program, for 16 to 25-year-old emerging playwrights, in partnership with Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) and WestWords. Originate is also for 16’s to 25-year-olds. But it’s more for performance majors and actors. It’s an ensemble project. Eight artists are brought together over three months and create their own work.

Q’s partnerships and influence are everywhere. From August 10 to 12 The Joan wants you to forget your troubles, come on get happy. How to make a happy meal is a new devised performance created as part of The Q’s Originate project and involving two recent WSU music graduates.

“This year we have a new project called Highway 234, which is another residency program, it’s in collaboration with PYT in Fairfield and PACT in Erskineville. The objective is to see how can we not just empower performers here, but link them in with other centres – because as an artist, it’s great to have your home, but you need to start linking in with other networks.”

Q Programs are a true extension of Doreen’s philosophy, but the more things change, the more they stay the same. Western Sydney still struggles with the same inequitable funding distribution as it did in the 1970s. Nick says, “One per cent of federal funding is being used to try and open up a platform for 10% of Australia’s population to have either some experience in culture, or express their culture. That’s why the programs we run are so vital.”

Independent actor/director Aanisa Vylet, right, last week completed one of the new Southlands Breakthrough Artist Residencies at the Q by sharing a 15 minute excerpt from her new show The Woman and is deeply grateful for the opportunity. “In commemoration of Doreen Warburton, I will continue to create theatre that ‘…opens doors and windows to people’,” she says.

 

 

(Photo Credit, the fab Julie Koh)

Roslyn Oades – Abbotsford Convent

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A dance of many dimensions whirls around arts and sciences

1-PRG - Gravity and Wonder - Solar EclipseThere is a dance of many dimensions occurring around arts and sciences in the region. In the meantime, thank you to those who responded to the last post. A loss of internet and phone lines for six days and continuing household sickness has delayed follow up, but it will happen.

Reaching for the stars is just one element of a full program of activities for families, students and specialists to accompany the Gravity (and Wonder) exhibition opening at Penrith Regional Gallery, this Saturday, September 3, at 4pm. Topics will range from the impact of gravity on gardens to the glories of the night sky through the Western Sydney University Observatory telescope. Among the images on display will be the 1922 image, above, of a solar eclipse, part of the Museum of Arts and Sciences collection. The exhibition will be opened by Professor Barney Glover, vice-chancellor of Western Sydney University and president of the MAAS Board of Trustees, responsible for the controversial planned move of the Powerhouse Museum from Darling Harbour to Parramatta.

PRG - Powerhouse-Observatory_credit-Prudence-Upton-016-300x300On Sunday, September 11, there will be an adult and family day of exploration in the gallery gardens. Among the attractions will be Sydney Observatory gravity model demonstrations, left, and a conversation with landscape artist and host of ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, Costa Georgiadis, below. Costa’s conversation with David Duncan and Peter Western will take place in the gallery’s beautiful succulent garden. They will discuss the unique and curious elements of gravity and PRG - Gravity and Wonder - costa_large-300x300gardening.

Gravity (and Wonder) will present an all day Gravity Geeks Art + Science Symposium at Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, November 5. Artists and STEM researchers, educators, students and audience will come together in discussion and demonstration. The work of artists who collaborate with scientists in illuminating scientific concepts and related research concerning gravity will be presented.

Managed by Museums and Galleries of NSW and assisted by a Dobell Exhibition Grant, the Gravity (and Wonder) program will include star gazing from Western Sydney University Observatory and from the gallery gardens. Make sure you make at least one visit before the exhibition closes November 27.

On September 4, the National Trust presents a talk Saving the Powerhouse by Kylie Winkworth, heritage consultant and former trustee of the Powerhouse Museum.
The NSW Government proposes to sell and relocate the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. The trust opposes the sale of the Powerhouse but supports the establishment of a museum at Parramatta. It believes there has been inadequate consultation on the options. Tickets.

Metadata-2-website-bannerIt will be dance and science that combine in three performances at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, from September 15 to 17. Metadata, image above is the new project of one of Australia’s leading contemporary dance companies, De Quincey Co. Metadata continues the company’s cross art form, cross disciplinary and frequent cross cultural explorations. They describe Metadata – pure light, moths and mathematics as an exploration of the latest developments in physics and cosmology. Metadata will be presented by Form Dance and Riverside Theatres and each performance will be followed by an arts-science exchange led by science academics from the University of Sydney. Bookings and information.

Respond quickly to threats and great opportunities

NPUR - proposed redevelopmentYou have until 5pm, this Sunday, July 24, to make a quick submission to the Parliamentary Enquiry into Crown Land. Better Planning Network, through North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) says, “The NSW Government is proposing major changes to the way Crown Land is managed. This includes transferring Crown Land back to local councils and prioritising a business model. This will see the disposal and sell-off of parcels of Crown Land.” Among the lands likely to be affected is the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct, for which UrbanGrowth NSW is currently developing a master plan – NPRAG’s impression of the initial buildings proposed for the site, above.

“In response to community concerns, a Parliamentary Inquiry has been convened to investigate: – the adequacy of community input & consultation regarding the commercial use & disposal of Crown land
– the benefits of active use and management of Crown land
– the most appropriate & effective measures to protect Crown Parramatta Gaol - ABCLand
– the extent of Aboriginal Land Claims over Crown land & opportunities to increase Aboriginal involvement in its management’.

Click proposed changes to find out more and click on this link to make a quick submission, which you can personalise. Parramatta Gaol, ABC photo right, is the subject of a successful land claim by the Deerubbin Aboriginal Land Council.

There are some great opportunities to learn new skills and participate in fascinating explorations. Tracks: Western Sydney is a pop-up program for young writers. On Saturday, August 6, Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) at Parramatta will host a day of workshops conducted by Express Media in partnership with Westwords – western Felicity CastagnaSydney’s literacy organisation for young people. You can take part in a fiction masterclass with Sarah Ayoub or a non-fiction masterclass with Rebecca Giggs. Young writers can find out what opportunities are available for them in western Sydney and beyond with Michael Campbell, Lily Mei, Sarah Saleh and David Graham. Then find out what happens when you have been selected for publication from Susie Anderson, Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Kylie Fornasier and Felicity Castagna, pictured above. And if that’s not enough, listen to the work of some of western Sydney’s hottest young writers. Costs, bookings and details.

From Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest comes an exceptional opportunity. The gallery is about “to embark on a landmark project in partnership with the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences and Western Sydney University and needs volunteers to assist with its smooth running. This opportunity will particularly suit people interested in both art and science and is part of the upcoming exhibition Gravity (and Wonder) and its accompanying series of public programs. The exhibition and program examines gravity as a universal force, holding all things in place and in relationship to each other.

Penrith R Gallery - Gravity (and Wonder) Amy“The exhibition will bring together objects, historical drawings and photographs, technical and measuring instruments from the collection of MAAS alongside the work of contemporary Australian and international artists who have sought to engage with gravity and its wondrous elements. In addition to exhibiting existing art, new artworks have been commissioned from Sandra Selig and David Haines and Joyce Hinterding.

“Volunteer Invigilators will be required across the period 3 September – 27 November. Volunteers will be provided with training and induction and will work under the supervision of gallery staff.

“Deadline for applications: 31 July at midnight.
To apply: Please visit our website and read the extra information, then complete the downloadable application form and return it to us by the deadline.”

Haines and Hinterding - Gravity and WonderAs a preliminary to the opening of Gravity (and Wonder) art and science will intersect in a talk to be given at the Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo, on Monday, August 15, between 6 and 7pm, by David Haines and Joyce Hinterding. They are an artistic partnership, whose work is inspired by scientific concepts, while science is the foundation of their research and eventual artistic production. Their work is focused on the unseen and unheard – forces of energy, the environment and hallucinations. Their talk will precede their participation in the opening of the Gravity (and Wonder) exhibition at Penrith Regional Gallery on 3 September. Details and bookings.

Could this be Penrith’s creative hub for the future?

Breuer Building - Penrith 1Local artists and theatre makers are holding their collective breath that an appropriate buyer might purchase a building currently on the market in Penrith. For some years they have been seeking a suitable space as an arts and cultural hub, where people can work together to create events and products, to teach and learn from each other and to provide a flourishing centre of inspiration for the entire community. The building is the only one in Australia designed by modernist architect Marcel Breuer, whose most famous work is the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. It was one of several around the world originally designed for the Torin Corporation, manufacturers of air moving equipment. The building was designed in collaboration with architect Harry Seidler and landscape architect Bruce Rickard. It was completed in 1976 and state heritage listed in 2009.

The BreueBreuer Building - Penrith 2r building is located in Coombes Drive just off Coreen Avenue.  Photos of the building by Max Dupain were published in Architecture Australia, Vol. 66, No. 3 in July 1977. On Facebook Billy Gruner has posted some of the photos, see left and below. He asks “Should this be the new centre for Art, Culture and Design in the West? The fabulous Marcel Breuer building is for sale in Penrith. This building needs to be lobbied as the location of a Centre of Contemporary Arts and Culture in the West. Penrith Breuer Building - Penrith 3set on the river at the foot of the Blue Mountains already houses the Western Sydney University, TAFE, a major hospital and medical centres. Many would like to see this national treasure  turned into a community asset. Please pass this on to friends and associates.” On Theatre Links in the West, Ian Zammit says, “This could be a game changer for our city and our cultural life.”

Penrith was the first local government in western Sydney to provide a home for the region’s first professional theatre company, Q Theatre, in 1977. It opened a regional art gallery in 1981 in association with the Lewers Bequest, and launched The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in 1990. The Joan, as it became known, also incorporated the Penrith Conservatorium of Music.

While these spaces are greatly appreciated and well used, they are too costly and inappropriate for the messy activities and experimentation that can produce the completed works for presentation in these other facilities. The Breuer building looks like a perfect solution. What do you think?

International conflict, turmoil and displacement impact on local communities

1-George Gittoes - I WitnessSeveral arts projects are exploring international conflicts and their impact globally and on communities of western Sydney. On Saturday, May 28, at 3pm, Penrith Regional Gallery and Lewers Bequest launches its Winter Suite of Exhibitions, which all explore themes of conflict, turmoil and displacement. The centrepiece is a touring exhibition developed by Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre. I Witness is the first major survey in Australia of the work of leading Australian artist and filmmaker George Gittoes, above. I Witness presents a chronological journey through Gittoes’ career beginning in 1970 when he co-founded the Yellow House in Potts Point. There are more than 90 works: paintings, drawings, printmaking, and artist diaries from the fields of war, as well as installation and film.

George Gittoes - a work from No Exit AfghanistanGeorge Gittoes will open the exhibition and says, “I believe in art so much that I am prepared to risk my life to do it. I physically go to these places. I also believe an artist can actually see and show things about what’s going on that a paid professional journalist can’t and won’t do, and can show a level of humanity and complexity that they wouldn’t cover on TV”. Conflict zones where he has worked include Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. He has a special concern for speaking to young people about war and conflict through the medium of film. On Sundays in July, George Gittoes’ documentary films will be shown at 2pm. Above is a work from his 2011 exhibition No Exit from Afghanistan.

Complementing the main exhibition will be a display of works by Norman Hetherington, the creator of television’s Mr Squiggle. Norman Hetherington was a soldier in an entertainment unit during World War II. His daughter Rebecca has curated Heth, an exhibition including some of his pen and ink drawings of the life of a soldier produced while on duty in Northern Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific.

Penrith R Gallery - ZwolowaAlso opening at the gallery on Saturday, May 28, is Zwolowa – A Celebration of Lofa culture and community.  Members of the Western Sydney Liberian Lofa community, Mamre House and visual arts students from Caroline Chisholm College have worked together to create this exhibition revealing the life of Lofa refugees in Australia and celebrating the continuity of their culture. On Sunday, June 5, there will be a special Liberian Beat and Market Day, from 11am to 2pm. Everyone is welcome to all the exhibitions and events and admission is free. The gallery is set in beautiful gardens at 86 River Rd, Emu Plains, where the Winter Suite continues to August 21.

Education is a vital part of this series and of the overall work of Penrith Regional Gallery. The gallery recently announced the recipient of its new 12 month paid education internship program. Penrith is the only gallery in Sydney to offer such an internship and Christine Ghali is the first recipient. She majored in ceramics at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW and completed a Masters of Arts Administration course. Christine’s research paper Is There A Place for Art Education in Western Sydney? An Investigation on Its Importance for the Development of Children and At Risk Youth, is of great interest for the gallery’s education program, where she will be mentored by Naomi McCarthy, the gallery’s education manager.

Penrith R Gallery - Christine GhaliChristine’s own art practice is informed by her cultural heritage as a Coptic Christian and the conflict and persecution they have experienced in their homeland of Egypt. Left is a figure from her  ceramic work Hear No Evil, See No Evil, 2011, which she describes as representative of the suffering of people living in situations of religious, political and cultural intolerance. The hand built ceramics of Buff Raku Trachyte are bandaged with earthen ware slip and partly glazed. She says “Many of the figures have dates of recent attacks inscribed into them as well as the words ‘Lord Have Mercy’ in Arabic, Coptic and English script.”

Hear No Evil, See No Evil, will be on display in Penrith Library throughout the period of the Winter Suite of Exhibitions at the Penrith Regional Gallery. At the same time, Christine Ghali will be developing and delivering a regional youth project in response to the gallery’s winter exhibition suite.

Coming up on June 10, as part of Vivid Ideas 2016 is Pop Culture, Migration and Revolution – Transnational Responses to Injustice. Part conversation, part performance, party and revolution, the event brings together “some of the most exciting artists from the transnational Australian underground hip hop scene, to perform and share conversation with the audience.” Organised by Fairfield’s Powerhouse Youth Theatre (PYT), Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) and the Religion, State & Society Network (University of Sydney), the event is a lead up to the development of a new activist hip hop musical. To be produced by PYT and ATYP, WATAN will explore the lived experience of young migrant Australian poets and musicians from western Sydney.

Colony - KurinjiThen on June 22, you have the opportunity to experience the next stage of the multi-year, multi-artform project Colony, which is gathering stories across western Sydney and worldwide around the themes of climate change, social division and restricted social freedom. Riverside Theatres and Curiousworks will present an audio-visual concert by Kurinji (Aimee, above). Colony – When the Tide Comes In continues the story of Sam, a young woman living in a 22nd century Australia struggling under the impact of these changes. Colony draws on the largely unknown stories of western Sydney’s multicultural communities and moves across the region’s precolonial past and into its unfolding future. Bookings and information.

Finding hidden treasures through community engagement

1-ICE_Under-the-Awnings_Exhibition-FinalYou are invited to attend a brief exhibition at Parklawn Place in North St
Marys, between 4.30 and 5.30pm, on Wednesday, May 25. It will be the culmination of a project that has seen local kids, businesses and community members collaborate with renowned photographer, Peter Solness (TIME Magazine) and acclaimed screenwriter Nico Lathouris (Mad Max 4-­‐ Fury Road) to create Under the Awnings. After setting up their cameras under shop awnings, in North St Marys,  Peter and Nico captured people and moments as they moved about their daily lives. Peter said. “People work really hard here, so we just asked them to stop for a few minutes so we could take a snapshot.”

The exhibition will feature large photographic prints, video art, live music and refreshments from the local shops, Under the Awnings celebrates local faces, magnified by the expertise of the two artists. It is a way of letting people see their own lives and others’ from a different perspective and to recognise their uniqueness and the cultural riches of their community’s diversity. North St Marys is a small suburb of Penrith, largely untouched by development ICE - Dr Sayed Hasnain - Under the Awningsthat has been a beneficiary of Penrith Council’s Magnetic Places program. The small grants program has connected artists with communities, organisations and businesses since 2009. It helps animate and celebrate neighbourhoods, make stronger social and creative connections, and develop skills, resourcefulness and confidence among participants.

Above, right, is Peter Solness’s portrait of Dr Sayed Hasnain and below left, his portrait of Rosemary from Mario’s Pastizzi. Among other local businesses in Under the Awnings is Flora’s Fijian hair styling, which attracts clients from across Sydney. Art ICE - Rosemary - Under the Awningsstudents from nearby Chifley College are also featured. Different organisations partner with communities and artists to conduct projects and it’s worth looking at Magnetic Places Blogspot from 2013 to see something of their range and social impact. Under the Awnings is a project of the community engagement unit of Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) and produced by Christian Tancred. You will be a welcome visitor to Under the Awnings on Wednesday, May 25.

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.