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

NSW Premier skewers democracy again in service of developers

On Monday, the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, below, abandoned all pretence at community consultation in government planning decisions. Hours before the second community consultation about the future of the Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo, was due to begin, she announced that a new facility would be built on the old DJ’s carpark site on Parramatta River, above, to be purchased from Parramatta Council at a cost of $140 million. “Any future redevelopment at Ultimo would potentially include residential units, while retaining an arts and cultural presence,” she said. The interests and values of the Rum Rebellion had won again.

This was no longer the pretence at community consultation, conducted by the same people, over the future of the North Parramatta Heritage Precinct four years ago, when participants were encouraged to think widely and creatively. By the second session the results had been distilled into one option of choosing where to place potential buildings.

As it was, my heart sank as we read the two key questions in the first consultation. This was the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MAAS) Project Public Meeting (Parramatta), organised by the Department of Planning and Environment with MAAS, on Wednesday evening, July 26. About 100 people grouped around tables had one and a half hours to respond –

Question 1: What would you like to see, do and experience at the new Museum in Western Sydney? What would make it an exciting place for you and your family/friends to visit?

Question 2: If some Powerhouse Museum presence stays at Ultimo, what would you like to see, do and experience?

Once again the parameters of community involvement were strictly limited. There had been media reports that former Premier Mike Baird’s developer driven thought bubble of selling the Powerhouse Museum, (SMH photo right, by Louise Kennerley) and relocating it to Parramatta had not withstood financial scrutiny and community pressure was forcing a rethink. In booking for the free event, people were invited to submit three key questions they would like answered in the consultations.

Mine were along the lines of questioning the assumptions on which the project was based:

  • Why dismantle a popular and well established cultural institution in the heart of Sydney?
  • Why move it to a small flood prone site on the bank of the Parramatta River?
  • Why not consider a museum for Parramatta that relates to its rich indigenous past and early colonial history already holding national and World Heritage values, like the North Parramatta heritage precinct?

It wasn’t long before it was clear that many others were questioning the same assumptions and offering a range of alternative proposals.

Organisers stated ,”The new museum will be designed with community input and will be on the cutting edge of science and innovation. To deliver the best possible museum, a business case has been established to ensure all options are investigated, tested and analysed. Community consultation is an important element of the business case and local community members are invited to be part of the conversation.”

People certainly responded: Why, if you are going to spend $500 million delivering the museum to western Sydney, spend $100 million purchasing the Parramatta River site and another $100 million on flood proofing it, before you even begin building a new museum? You could do so much more with that money. Parramatta is difficult to access from many parts of western Sydney and now with new road tolls and poor public transport, it’s not going to get any easier. Why the rush? The government wants the business case for the project to be submitted to cabinet before the end of the year. For such a major institution, why not spend time engaging community and experts in conversation from the ground up?

Why not operate like the Smithsonian Institution which now has 19 museums and the National Zoo across the United States? “Congress authorised acceptance of the Smithson bequest on July 1, 1836, but it took another ten years of debate before the Smithsonian was founded. Once established, the Smithsonian became part of the process of developing an American national identity—an identity rooted in exploration, innovation, and a unique American style.”

In western Sydney, MAAS could operate like Western Sydney University with its network of campuses across the region. Indeed it could be linked to the university and work with the existing arts centres serving different parts of the region. An excellent example of such a productive collaboration was last year’s Gravity (and Wonder) exhibition, left, at Penrith Regional Gallery. What about the new technology park planned for Luddenham and links to the Blue Mountains World Heritage Centre?

On the “community” consultative process alone, there were plenty of questions: Where was the cultural diversity among the participants, which is such a feature of Parramatta, let alone the region’s population? Where were the young people for whom the future museum is so important?

The deadline for responses about the MAAS  project is August 18. You can reply to the question: “Is there anything else that should be taken into consideration when developing the business case?” https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/536XXPF

Highlighting the state government wish for haste was the Parramatta City Council meeting on Monday, July 10, conducted by administrator Amanda Chadwick and attended by 200 people. Twenty speakers were registered for the public forum including Better Planning Network, National Trust of Australia, Australian Institute of Architects, Saving Sydney’s Trees, Parramatta Female Factory Friends, ParraGirls, Darug Elder Kerrie Kenton and North Parramatta  Resident Action Group, left.

Present also was Sydney Morning Herald columnist, architectural critic and former Sydney city councillor Elizabeth Farrelly. She couldn’t suppress her chortles at the absurdity of the administrator’s role. Every time the administrator Amanda Chadwick said a motion was before council, followed by “I have resolved . . .”, her smiles broke out afresh. Her report the following Saturday was scathing –

“Oh, and the item on everybody’s lips: the new development control plan enabling UrbanGrowth’s massive, 20-storey resi-velopment of the area euphemistically dubbed the Parramatta North Urban Transformation Precinct. Our finest treasures reduced to that. PNUTP. More than a thousand public objections. Twenty impassioned speakers. The screens scroll. RESOLVED CHADWICK.

“Why cram so much in? Why vet speakers? Why ram this through when national and perhaps world heritage listings are expected any week?

“Could it be because this was the last ordinary “meeting” before democracy returns in September? Is this how we do things now in Sydney? Is this “inclusion”? Approved voices only? Excuse me, Big Sister, but how exactly is this different from tyranny? From Big Brother’s deliberate erasure of history? How is “inclusive, resilient” (Parramatta promotional buzzwords) not classic doublethink?

“It’d be funny if it weren’t so dangerous, running hand-in-murderous-glove with the wholescale destruction of everything . . . ”

The only speaker in favour was the head of the UrbanGrowth team planning the North Parramatta transformation. She stated that people were stopping her in the street saying yes, yes, yes. That was undoubtedly happening at the archaeology open day, when the focus was on the history and heritage and not the proposed development to come.

Conflict over the national heritage site continues to escalate. NPRAG president, Suzette Meade, left, wrote yesterday – “Thanks to our continued relationship with University of Sydney’s Professor Peter Phibbs from Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning we were able to secure two events to be included in the University’s Festival of Urbanism.

“Urban Growth tried very hard to dissuade the university from holding a tour on the site claiming it was a construction site and unsafe, and then followed that up with an offer to hold the tour  themselves and provide free lunch for tour goers. The university stood their ground and secured Dr Terry Smith local historian and myself to provide a two hour tour of the Cumberland Hospital Precinct to architects, planners and industry specialists.

“We had also included a discussion on the future of the Heritage Precinct, this was passed on to the Western Sydney University to hold at the Female Orphanage/Whitlam Institute.   Unfortunately we were told there was no room for NPRAG to speak and then advised Urban Growth NSW were invited to be keynote speaker.  We continued to push the university hard for equal representation and negotiated to allow a ‘community member’ to speak at the event.  Speaking will be long time advocate for the precinct and former NPRAG committee member Jason Burcher.”

Better news from the Premier on Monday was the announcement of $100 million for the redevelopment of the Riverside Theatres. There is no doubt that this commitment is the result of years of negotiation between Parramatta Council and the state government, following the enormous success of the theatres under the direction of Robert Love.

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!

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.

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.

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.