Backstage

Freak Stalker Magazine Interviews Theatre Works’ GM Dianne Toulson

1) Firstly, congratulations for the awesome season of shows you’re putting on at Theatre Works. There’s always an inspirational story and wonderful performances to enjoy. And now, Chapter Two season is running! What can you tell us about this concept? What inspired you to make this Program of shows happen?

In 2019 our programming focus was to embody our values create a space for conversations that matter.

This means presenting more work for children, young people and families like Arena Theatre’s vital production of ROBOT SONG and Holly Austin’s ALPHABET SOUP. In Chapter 2 we host JUNGLE BUNGLE in a tent during school holidays, present the riotous MAD AS A CUTE SNAKE during Fringe Festival and host a new hip-hop initiative for young people with the PLAY IT FORWARD HIP-HOP FESTIVAL. All these works are central to ensuring new people, young people, get to the theatre and become engaged with stories that matter.

This year, we are also making a concerted effort to change the very face of Australian theatre, by putting teams led by female-identifying artists front and centre. Fleur Kilpatrick’s stunning adaptation of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE leads the charge in Chapter 1, with Leah Shelton’s staggering BITCH ON HEAT, The Anchor’s thought-provoking THE THREE GRACES and Rebecca Meston’s riveting DRIVE filling out Chapter 2. On top of this, Bridget Balodis and Krystalla Pearce’s SHE IS VIGILANTE program will see six women writers develop new works throughout the year, creating new narratives and new voices for female-identifying people.

Continuing our tradition of presenting tenacious, dangerous and boundary-shattering works, we are proud to present productions such as AUTOCANNIBAL by Mitch Jones and LET MEN TREMBLE by the Danger Ensemble. One a jaw-dropping solo piece, the other a rigorous ensemble show. Through new works by The Danger Ensemble, The Very Good Looking Initiative and The Anchor, we are supporting uncompromising ensemble practice; encouraging and promoting tight knit theatre communities and networks.

But where the focus of 2019’s programming truly lies is in our commitment to new writing and new scripts, proudly providing a platform for the storytellers of tomorrow.  From ROBOT SONG to DRIVE to THE OTHER PLACE, THE THREE GRACES, MAD AS A CUTE SNAKE and SHE IS VIGILANTE, Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 are full of exciting new stories that need to be brought to life.

This year we will support 13 of these productions through the funding we received from the Australian Government’s Catalyst fund – putting every last cent of it towards funding the artists that will ignite the imaginations of audiences throughout 2019. As an organisation, we don’t hold on to any of this money.

We do this because the artists we want to work with need and deserve the support. There isn’t enough arts funding (full stop) to support independent artists and the visionary productions that we believe in.

We believe in exploring and celebrating hidden and unheard voices. We believe in courage and curiosity and stories of joy, discovery and searing insight. We believe that the artists we have programmed across 2019 have the power to shape the future with their vision.

 

2) The program is very well designed. It really highlights female works and stories that are respectful and well told. The content is just so honest it makes it very easy to learn something from it. How have the audience received Chapter Two so far?

Our season and in fact Theatre Works historically have programmed with such diversity in story and voices that our audiences are very much based on the content of the show and the audience’s interest in the content. Does this story speak and engage them politically, socially and personally? We work with artists that have something to say, an agenda they are passionate about and this translates to what our audience sees on the stage. Often challenging and questioning current issues in our neighborhood or our society. Chapter two is filled with emerging artists that are ready to bring well developed and supported work to the stage.

No one piece of work in chapter two is like the other therefore we are engaging and entertaining new audiences with every production, the diversity in story line ensures this. For chapter two the audiences have shared our celebration on the new voices with just as much passion as they are delivered.

 

3) So far, which have been the works you’ve more identified with and why? Is there one you feel the audience have related to more than others?

For me as a female identifying person, Bitch On Heat resonates with my journey in life. The shifting line in what is acceptable in the way that men treat woman for a person of my age is quite blatant and obvious. At times in the past I remember thinking oh well that’s what men do and laugh it off while cringing inside. Whereas today I would not let anything slip by and say well it’s ok based on gender or a privilege of a man, but I have to learn how to be a feminist and advocate for equality. Bitch On Heat was so relatable and just made me more determined.

For audiences Robot Song by Arena Theatre spoke to everyone. It was a story with a powerful message, bullying and discrimination are prevalent in our society and inclusion needs to be fought for. We had over 2000 students attend the production and each time they came out of the show into the foyer there were tears, hugs and passionate conversations. Some recognizing their behavior towards others may have been hurtful and others seeing that there was hope for them to talk about the support they may need. Powerful stuff for the next generation of people to have such an affecting experience through theatre.

 

4) What’s coming next to Theatre Works? What can we expect from the upcoming programs and plays?

Expect to be challenged and engaged and to see work that is not represented on the main stage with big budgets. We do what we do with artists and produce amazing works on such limited resource, both financial and human. Expect that these artist and creatives will astound you with their stories and how their passion translates to well-formed work.

We open the Three Graces this week and the theatre is abuzz with a crazy bunch of artists pulling off a set design and production that will surprise you! The much-anticipated DRIVE opens in June and this show is already generating a huge amount of interest in the arts community, so you just know it’s going to be a good one!

So much more, such a massive program of exceptional work is coming your way !

 

5) To finish, what do you think you have learnt from working on Chapter Two?

For me personally I have found reinvigoration in working with independent artist that are passionate about their work but most importantly can articulate so clearly the reason they are producing this work and the drive behind the work. It is not art for art’s sake or story repeat telling – we asked the questions when programming, why here? Why now? And now we are delivering the answers, through our work. Exciting!

 

 

Interview originally published at Freak Stalker Magazine

 

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