Associate artists Fleur Murphy and Katie Rowe provide a summary of what the 2022 cohort have been busy with over the last couple of months - from creative reFlective practice sessions to off-site visits, budgeting, marketing and more.
We’re Fleur and Katie, two more of the 2022 Associate Artists at Theatre Works, and we’re so delighted to give you a little insight into the program and what we’ve been up to these last couple of months.
Our first week in May kicked off with an opportunity to reconnect after the break and discover more about how each artist came to their practise and what drives their inquiry. This was done through a fun ‘speed dating’ session where we were tasked with chatting to each other about:
what initially drew us into the theatre
what we’d love to see more of
and why we make theatre.
These questions were a great way for us to try and articulate aspects of our creative practise and enquiry in the present, as well as reflect on our journey. Then, as a group we brainstormed a sentence that would encapsulate each artist’s creative inquiry and values. What was revealing about this exercise was how we talk about ourselves and our work versus what others hear - that the information that we think stands out and resonates with others (our peers, audience etc) isn’t always what is communicated and understood clearly. Of course there is an element of subjectivity, but learning to talk about yourself and your work is an important skill, and like anything, constant practice builds confidence, clarity and rigour.
One of the main focuses of day two was on how to engage with venues and planning for presentation with partners and other people you bring on board for a project. We were fortunate enough to do a site visit to Abbotsford Convent, where we met with the delightful CEO, Collette Brennan. We were able to have a tour of the beautiful spaces on offer at the Convent. Collette talked us through her prosperous career, and the importance of being selective with what venue works for you is actively interested in a venue’s programming, what kind of work they’re putting on, and whether your practice, enquiry or vision aligns with what they’re doing. We spoke about it being like a kind of relationship and how as artists, we need to figure out what kind of relationship it is.
One of the other highlights of the week’s intensive was talking with Steve Mitchell Wright, Artistic Associate of Theatre Works and Artistic Director of The Danger Ensemble, about projects and their journey from development to realisation. We resonated with the idea that it's not worth pursuing if you already know what the work will be before you’ve made it. It was inspiring to hear about Steven’s process, his journey with his own company, and how the genesis of an idea or a story must sustain years and years of work, research, planning, grant writing, budgeting and developing. We also spoke about marketing and how we can interoperate into our arts practice and it not be perceived as a separate thing. We talked about how everyone from the creators, writers, directors, performers, designers and photographers are part of your team. Particularly, when you’re an emerging artist, it’s essential to carefully consider who is your team and who are the people you are going to surround yourself with.
We spoke about developing substantial marketing collateral, and a pitch is imperative for getting people on board; how can we as artists appeal to both potential investors, presenters, venues, creatives and audiences that “this show is for you” or even perhaps, “this show isn’t for you.”
In the afternoon we had a session with Dianne Toulson, the Executive Director and Creative Producer at Theatre Works. Dianne has a breadth of knowledge and experience working for a number of theatre companies over the years and took us though a session called “The Cost of Things.” Dianne talked us through a budget breakdown of a recent project and explained the considerations behind each line item, the overall project budget, and the actual cost in the end to create the work. As independent artists money and budgets can be a tough conversation, for many reasons - we never have enough money, we may not feel confident working with numbers and spreadsheets, using the “business” side of our brains can feel like it takes time away from the creative stuff – the reason why we’re making the work. This session was great because we could have an open and honest conversation about budgets and field any questions we had to the group and Dianne. Some of the key takings from this session was that transparency with your team from the beginning is a foundation to building clear expectations around what can be achieved with the resources (and money) available, and also working out early on what the agreed rewards are for your artists, as a collective and as individuals.
Unfortunately, our week was cut slightly short due to some covid interruptions, which the two of us wanted to touch on briefly. It’s already a challenge - being creative and an emerging artist during this time. Covid has really added this complicated layer to what is already a very complex world and profession. Sometimes you can feel like you’re barely holding everything together. It can be both overwhelming and lonely at the same time. The rollercoaster ride is still going. But, it’s an honour to be doing this program right now amongst the chaos. This program has provided moments of stillness and pause to focus on our professional and creative practice, and that is hugely fulfilling. We’re forever grateful to Theatre Works for allowing space for conversation, insight and reflection about what it means to be an artist right now.