2000s Deep Dive — The History of Theatre Works

As part of our birthday celebrations and retrospective series, we aim to guide you through the historical events, past productions and creative leaders who shaped Theatre Works into the organisation it is today.

You’ve read about what a roller coaster it was here at Theatre Works in the 1990s, so let’s jump ahead to the 2000s.

Where we left off, Theatre Works had just lost state and federal funding and was mostly a venue for hire—but surviving.

After a couple years in this state and another change in the General Manager, the company’s financials began to improve. By the end of 2000, Theatre Works was once again ready to determine it’s own creative destiny.

In 2001, the Parish hall played host to a variety of festivals, with events in the St Kilda Festival, and a collaboration with City of Port Phillip on the Bless Your Big Blak Arts Festival. The latter included a production of No Parkin’ by John Harding, one of the founding members of Ilbijerri Theatre Company.

In 2002, the Theatre Works Board established a volunteer Artistic Subcommittee which was tasked with using the company’s growing resources in a ‘bootstrapping strategy’ to attract artists, audiences, and make better art. This led to things like the Company Initiative Program, which allowed four companies an opportunity to present their work in the venue each year with minimised risk for everyone involved.

The company was seeking to have more of a curatorial say over what went on it’s stage; and these investments into relationships with local artists helped cultivate long-lasting relationships and are why so many leading companies today can trace their artistic lineage to Theatre Works.

Aoroi by Liquid Skin Theatre Company


Productions to achieve recognition during this decade included liquidskin’s Aoroi (Melbourne Fringe Festival Movement Award 2004), a Melbourne Fringe Festival Most Outstanding Production Award for the collaboration between TW’s Companies in Residence, Rawcus and Born in a Taxi‘s Not Dead Yet, plus the Melbourne Festival Award to Rawcus Artistic Director Kate Sulan (2005) and Green Room Award Best Ensemble nominations for Ignite Theatre’s Jet of Blood directed by Olivia Allen (2005) and the Stuck Pigs Squealing production of Lally Katz and the Terrible Mysteries of the Volcano directed by Chris Kohn (2006). Luke Mullins was nominated best male performer for his role in Little Death ProductionsMercury Fur in 2007 and Kellie Jones best female for Complete WorksInky in 2008.

Not Dead Yet — By Rawcus and Born in a Taxi

It was also around this time that Theatre Works finally resolved its names, and branded itself as Theatre Works — ending the days of TheatreWorks or Theatreworks.

Towards the close of the decade, Theatre Works was once again making its mark as a creative leader and a venue of choice for independent artists and companies from Melbourne and interstate. The venue was nearing full occupancy, audience numbers had increased by 15% and, after years surviving on annual funding, TW was finally successful in its application to Arts Victoria for triennial funding in 2009-11. By 2009, Theatre Works was presenting 32 individual companies’ works each year, a dizzying rise from the 1 or so it started the decade with.

Over the decades the company has survived, it’s shown one continuous thread through all it’s iterations, and that’s it’s tenacity. Theatre Works doesn’t have one but multiple legacies, it has incubated different artists and styles, and helped important Australian artists to establish themselves. We’re looking forward to what the next decade might hold for us.

Find out more on our History of Theatre Works page.

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