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equity media enter tain ment & a r ts a l l ia n ce

AU T U M N 2011

Working on a Winton Wonderland Cloudstreet comes to life

Up close and personal with Kerry Fox, Geoff Morrell, Jane Badler, Brett Sheehy and Tony Sheldon

Contact Directory Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance Equity Federal President Simon Burke Federal Secretary Christopher Warren Equity Director Simon Whipp Equity President, NZ Jennifer Ward-Lealand Alliance Membership Centre 1300 656 513 (Australia only) Alliance Inquiry Desk 1300 656 512 (Australia only) Equity Foundation Director Suzanne Culph Ph: +61 2 9333 0922 SYDNEY 245 Chalmers Street REDFERN NSW 2016 PO BOX 723 STRAWBERRY HILLS NSW 2012 Ph: +61 2 9333 0999 MELBOURNE Level 3, 365 Queen Street MELBOURNE VIC 3000 Ph: +61 3 9691 7100 BRISBANE Level 4, TLC Building 16 Peel Street SOUTH BRISBANE QLD 4101 LOCKED BAG 526 SPRING HILL QLD 4004 Ph: 1300 656 513 ADELAIDE 241 Pirie Street ADELAIDE SA 5000 Ph: +61 8 8223 6055 PERTH 123 Claisebrook St Perth WA 6000 Ph: +61 8 9227 7924 Going green: The solar panels on the roof of Sydney Theatre Company will provide more than half its power. Read about what Australian theatre companies are doing to lessen their environmental impact on pages 16-17

HOBART 379 Elizabeth Street NORTH HOBART TAS 7000 PO Box 128 North Hobart TAS 7002 Ph: +61 3 6234 1622 CANBERRA 40 Brisbane Avenue Barton ACT 2604 PO Box 6065 KINGSTON ACT 2604 Ph: +61 2 6273 2528

supporters The Equity Foundation and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance thank the following organisations for their generous support.

Patricia Amphlett, Robyn Arthur, Kerith Atkinson, Roy Billing, Simon Burke, Carol Burns, Tina Bursill, Mitchell Butel, Caroline Craig, Chloe Dallimore, Helen Dallimore, Jack Finsterer, Patrick Frost, Corrine Grant, Stuart Halusz, Kevin Harrington, Alan Fletcher, Abbe Holmes, Lorna Lesley, Robin McLeavy, Monica Main, Jonathon Mill, Gus Murray, Chrissie Page, Eddie Perfect, Anna Lise Phillips, Daniel Wyllie, Matthew Zeremes, Kerry Walker, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Jeff Szusterrman

MEDIA SUPER Locked Bag 1229 Wollongong NSW 2500 Ph: 1800 640 886 Fax: 1800 246 707 Email: administration@media AUSTRALIANSUPER Locked Bag 4 HAYMARKET NSW 1236 Ph: 1300 368 118 Fax: 1300 368 881 Email: email@stasuper.australian

Photo by Sue Murray. Thanks STC

Members of your National Performers’ Committee are:

AUCKLAND 195 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby AUCKLAND 1011 Ph: +64 9 360 1980

Editorial 4

Message from the President 5

Message from the NZ President 5


Industrial wrap up 6

Stage left A new $100m theatre centre opens in WA 29

Newsbites 32

Dressing room review

Flood relief

Mark Kilmurry finds a new side to Casanova 27

QPAC’s flood recovery was a group effort, reports Chris Vernon 8

Green is the new black

Crystal ball gazing What does 2011 hold for the arts industry? 12

Screen stars Elizabeth Franks looks at shows due to hit our TV screens in 2011 18

Access to the arts Live broadcasts of opera and ballet are bringing new fans and new revenue, writes Victoria Houston 24

OPINION The out-of-towners Try-outs are becoming critically important for major musicals 14

Free festivities What role do our major festivals play, asks Flynn Murphy 20

Digital dilemma Media convergence is one of the biggest issues facing the arts, media and entertainment industries, writes Drew MacRae 22 EQ UI T Y



Our leading theatre companies are going green, reports Flynn Murphy 16




Diary of a Casanova

Character building Gina Morley on getting into character 28

Oral history Nigel Giles has been recording the stories of performers for a decade 30

IN THE BACK Obituaries Farewell James and Frank Equity pays tribute to James Elliott and Frank Whitten 31

The Last Word Salom’s Lot Joel Salom prepares for his first season at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 34

COLUMNS Up close and personal Badler is back We catch-up with V star Jane Badler 7

Priscilla takes Manhattan

EQUITY AWARDS Top TV Equity launches a new award to honour TV ensembles 10

Tony Sheldon brings Bernadette to Broadway 11

The art of improv Michelle Nussey takes us inside improv comedy 26


Geoff Morrell and Kerry Fox in Cloudstreet Photo by David Dare Parker. Thanks Showtime




his will be the year when restrictions placed on our cultural industries by the US/Australia Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) start to bite. It will also be the year when the US seeks to drive those restrictions even further. We all knew that the free trade agreement between Australia and the US, legislated by the national parliament under the leadership of the former Howard Government, would not impact immediately. After all, the Howard Government did not give away the right to maintain the Australian content rules that were in place at the time. What it did, was agree to onerous restrictions on future Australian parliaments wanting to regulate levels of Australian content on new media platforms. Senator Stephen Conroy, minster for communications, has announced a Convergence Review. Briefly put, this review will look at all laws regulating our media in light of the fact that content is no longer delivered via discreet screens in our homes. Now we can receive the internet through our televisions, watch television broadcasts over the internet, and much more when personal devices such as iPods and Kindles are taken into account. How useful will regulation of local content on television broadcasts be, if the vast majority of the population is watching television through the internet? How useful will regulation of local content on analogue radio be, when radio is provided digitally or over the internet? And keeping local content at the levels we have now won’t be enough to hold back the tsunami of overseas content that will inundate our shores when the National Broadband Network arrives. More Australian content than ever before will need to be produced, just to ensure our voices are heard. We already have a taste of this on the multi-channels, none of them regulated for local content, with the result that the percentage of Australian content on TV has plummeted. The Convergence Review will examine all of these issues, and more, and report to government on how to respond. Unfortunately, the AUSFTA means that some options that may once have been open to government (for example, ensuring prominence of Australian programing in an Electronic Program Guide), will now be much harder to implement, if at all.

That’s not to say that nothing can be done. Far from it. But the tools available are restrictive and mostly revolve around the government committing its own resources or finding other resources. Of course, government could provide a considerable boost to the funding of the ABC across all its media platforms and trust that this will impact the way other providers of content behave. Alternatively, all Internet Service Providers and other providers of content could be levied a percentage of their turnover and these monies applied to a “content creation fund”. There are no doubt many other ideas. This year however, some momentum will be needed to ensure that the Gillard Government hears from performers, and others in the industry, that they expect the government to introduce mechanisms to ensure high levels of local content remain on our screens. In the same vein, the Gillard Government in Australia and the Key Government in New Zealand will need to hear from both Australian and New Zealand performers that the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPAA), currently being negotiated, is unacceptable unless culture is entirely excluded from the deal. The TPAA, a free trade agreement between Australia, the United States, New Zealand and many Pacific Rim countries, is like the AUSFTA on steroids. The United States is once more pressing hard for culture to be up for negotiation and expecting governments to bargain it away. As we understand it, the United States is pushing for much more than it was able to get under AUSFTA. Performers will need to stand strong and call on the Gillard Government, trade minister Craig Emerson, and the Key Government and its trade minister, Tim Groser, to prevent this occurring. Equity would not be an actor’s union unless there were constant challenges. It goes with the territory. My experience indicates that performers are always ready to rise to the challenges that face them and to stare them down. This is the pleasure and blessing of my role. I expect nothing less this year. Best wishes,

Simon Whipp Equity Director



Photo: Alex Vaughan

DETAILS Editor Suzanne Culph Assistant editor Elizabeth Franks Staff writer Flynn Murphy Subeditor Kate Johnston Design and production management Gadfly Media Cover photo David Dare Parker. Courtesy of Showtime Equity thanks Jane Badler, Chris Vernon, Jemma Rix, Tony Sheldon, Steve Turner, Ruth Harley, Sophie Ross, Patrick Brammall, Terence Crawford, James Mackay, Charlie McDermott, Holly Austin, Elissa Blake , Lucy Maunder, Kerry Fox, Geoff Morrell, Anna Bauert, Zoe Tuckwell-Smith, Virginia Gay, Catherine Lavelle, Vanessa Hollins, Lindy Hume, Brett Sheehy, James Brown, Patrick McIntyre, Anthony Phelan, Philippe Magid, John Aitken, Brendan Ewing, Michelle Nussey, Mark Kilmurry, Jamie Unicomb, Gina Morley, Nigel Giles, Joel Salom, Brad Martin, Paul O’Byrne, Ian Garrett, Jason Chatfield, Sophie Miller, Sarah Wilson, Kristy Doggett, Annette Vieusseux, Tim McKeough

message from the president

Photo: Alex Vaughan


here’s a whole lot going on at Equity in the coming months. Firstly, we’re preparing to host the International Federation of Actors (FIA) once again. Performers from around the world, and their respective performers’ union executive officers, will be warmly welcomed to Sydney mid-April. It’s been my great honour to take part in FIA gatherings in several different countries during the past few years, so I’m particularly pleased that members of our new National Performers’ Committee will have an opportunity to see, first-hand, the great work that the FIA does, and experience the invaluable exchange of ideas that occurs both in and out of conference. And who can resist the opportunity to show off the wonders of their home town? As you would know from my recent email, we’re also gearing up for two exciting new Equity awards that will cover the 2010 television season: • Equity Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast in an Australian television drama series • Equity Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast in an Australian television comedy series. All financial members have had the opportunity to nominate and now it’s time to vote! In this edition of the magazine you’ll find a ballot paper that lists the top five ensemble programs in each category, as nominated by performers. For more detail on the awards see page 10. When a cast stands together, works together and supports each other they can achieve great things, on and offstage, on and offset. So to my mind honouring these outstanding ensemble performances is a perfect fit for Equity. It’s my hope that these awards, along with the Equity Lifetime Achievement Award, established two years ago, will be the first of a whole raft of peer-judged awards generated by Equity, and with the generous support of organisations such as

message from the NZ president


y year started on a bit of a high when I found myself invited to the SAG (Screen Actors’ Guild) awards in LA. Of course, it was wonderful to frock up and walk the reddest of carpets with SAG’s Amy Aquino and Ken Howard, ACTRA’s (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) Ferne Downey and Nick Wyman of American Actors’ Equity. But the real highlight of the evening was being welcomed so warmly into the global community of actors, our colleagues and our peers, and to feel the unity and support that exists for us on the world stage. The SAG awards are literally a glittering example of what a group of actors can achieve when they stand together – though the real strength of the Guild thrives at many levels and not just at this starry occasion. It was a great opportunity for me to thank our fellow actors from around the world for their support of us in 2010, and a perfect way to begin 2011 – a year I hope will be one of building, rebuilding and moving ahead for Equity. It is time for all of us to refocus and ask what it is we want to achieve as Equity, and how we can achieve it. One thing we learnt in 2010 is that when we stand together we can no longer be ignored. But we also saw that more of us need to stand together if we are to achieve what we want for performers in NZ. This means not only joining Equity, but also putting up your hand to help us build and grow. If you’ve picked up this magazine and are not already a member, I urge you to join. And if you are a member, please


FOXTEL, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which has sponsored the inaugural Ensemble Awards. The award recipients will be announced in March 2011 with a presentation in April. Find out more about this and all things Equity by going to our fantastic new website, We’re using this site to launch the ensemble awards so check it out and tell us what you think of it and what you’d like to see on it – and send your feedback via email to the font of all foundation wisdom, Suzanne Culph A year ago I wrote of the wonderful memorial held at NIDA for the late, great, actor/photographer, the one and only Stuart Campbell, whose untimely death touched the hundreds of performers he had photographed over many decades. The good, no, the great news is that, thanks to the brilliant efforts of his dear friend filmmaker Gillian Armstrong, the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra will celebrate Stu’s work with an exhibition of some of his portraits (April 30-July 17). He would have been beyond chuffed. If only he were here to see it. Thanks for reading,

Simon Burke Equity President

Jennifer at the SAG Awards with SAG President Ken Howard

talk to another performer about why they should join. Our next big challenge will be negotiations with SPADA (the Screen Production and Development Association) for an agreement that will set the ground rules for how we work in the future. These negotiations will require clear focus and strong commitment. This is an exciting moment for Equity and an opportunity for us to work with SPADA constructively towards a common goal. I urge you to think about what matters to you and what you’d like to see addressed in these negotiations. And join! Because the more members we have, the more weight we bring to the negotiating table. A well-informed union, which represents the breadth of NZ performers, is the only way we’ll achieve an outcome that is fair and workable and that helps all of us to build an industry we can be proud of. This is a journey that I look forward to taking with all of you.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand Equity NZ President


Industrial wrap

Cinema sensation: Movie-goers attend the premiere of the Australian film, Bran Nue Dae, in Sydney. A new collective agreement for those who perform in Australian feature films is under negotiation.

Parental leave for dancers For the first time in the history of the Sydney Dance Company, a paid parental leave scheme will be included in the collective agreement covering pay and working conditions for dancers. The new agreement, which has been in negotiation since the end of last year, will also include improvements to clothing allowances, clarification around career progression and a wage increase of 12 per cent over three years. The agreement is expected to be finalised in the coming weeks.

Vive le offshore agreement

Sick leave sticking point The refusal of producers to offer satisfactory sick leave entitlements to those working in live 6

Nothing trivial about rights New Zealand production company South Pacific Pictures has agreed to meet the terms of the Pink Book for the TV drama series Nothing Trivial. Following a request from Equity, travel and transport conditions have been improved to meet the standards of the Pink Book, which sets terms and conditions for screen production in New Zealand. Last year, Equity and the NZ producers’ body, SPADA (the Screen Production and Development Association), agreed to use the Pink Book on all screen productions in New Zealand.

Black Swan simulcast An agreement was reached last month with the cast of Black Swan Theatre Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for a live simulcast of the show to be beamed to sites in regional Western Australia. All involved will be paid the appropriate fee for this additional work and will be protected by a simulcast agreement specific to this set of circumstances. Read our article on the proliferation of live recordings on page 24.

Pygmalion washed out As a result of flood damage the Queensland Theatre Company’s (QTC) production of Pygmalion, which was due to start rehearsing last month, has been cancelled. The cast met with Equity several times last month to ensure that appropriate entitlements were paid and that arrangements for the remounting of the production later in the year are satisfactory. More on the Queensland floods on pages 8-9.

Singular hiatus Earlier this year feature film Singularity, which was shooting on the Gold Coast, went on a production hiatus for several weeks. Equity sought a bond from the production company before filming resumed in India, to cover

performers’ wages in the event of another disruption to production. Equity also asked that all travel expenses and per diems be paid before performers left for India. Discussions continue.

Feature film agreement

The next collective agreement to cover performers when they work on feature films is currently being negotiated. Some of the improvements reached during negotiations include a colour-blind casting clause, a provision for transport to and from location, a greenroom on all sets regardless of cast size, an international tracking system to monitor the reuse of films and ensure accurate residual payments and detect unauthorised reuses, as well as a new clause requiring a performer’s consent for the use of any nudity scenes for publicity purposes. Outstanding issues include Equity’s claims for an increase to turnaround from 10 to 11 hours, pay increases, and improved residuals. Equity and performers have been meeting with the Screen Producers’ Association of Australia since last year. Equity thanks all performers who have been involved in discussions and ensured performers’ views were represented at the negotiating table. It is hoped that an agreement will be reached this month. EQ UI T Y

Photo by Wolter Peeters. Thanks Fairfax Photos

A French telecommunications company has agreed to use the Equity Offshore Commercials Agreement for an advertisement being shot in Australia by the Sydney-based production company, Revolver. Last year the Screen Producers’ Association of Australia ripped up the agreement. However, performers are encouraged to make sure they are covered by it for any offshore commercials they work on, to ensure their pay and conditions are protected.

performance has held up negotiations of the new Performers’ Collective Agreement (PCA), the main Equity theatre agreement, which was expected to be finalised earlier this year. Equity has met with Live Performance Australia since last year to renegotiate the PCA, which has now expired. Improvements to pay, transport and accommodation entitlements have been reached. Equity has met with cast members working on every musical playing in Australia to discuss the sick leave issue and the best way to proceed. A deal, which ensures those who work on the stage receive fair rates and entitlements, is expected to be reached any day.

Born to be Badler Many years on, Jane Badler revisits her role as the alien villain Diana, in a new version of the sci-fi television series V. She tells Suzanne Culph about her amazing journey

G recently told of a new series of the 80s television show V, in a piece titled The Good Get Good-er and the Bad get Badler. The report stated that “… in a single stroke of TV executive genius, V has brought on Jane Badler to reprise the role of Diana” going on to describe her as “… one of the greatest sci-fi villainesses ever to come to prime-time 80s television”. V first aired in 1983, an NBC sci-fi extravaganza about aliens intent on plundering earth. Badler’s Diana was the glamorous, occasionally forktongued and rat eating Commander of the Visitors. The show, and Badler in particular, soon gained a loyal global audience. When a new version of the show was reported, fans were quick to use the internet to demand the return of Diana. “There was an energy, a synergy, for my character to return,” says Badler. “You could tell from the groundswell of fans that wanted V to return. I don’t know if the young guns producing [the new V ] realised the importance of the first show, but I can’t help but think the web had a lot to do with my return.” It had been 25 years since Badler had played Diana and more than 20 since she had moved to Australia. Persuading the producers that the role should be included, and that only one actress could play it, took some doing. “When I found out about the series I wanted to be a part of it, but the producers had no intention of bringing back old characters.” Two producers and two trips to LA later, Badler’s agent got a call: “My agent told me they wanted me to audition and I was sure it was a hoax. I was being asked to audition for a role I had created!” Badler says. “They explained that the role would be an homage to my character Diana but not necessarily me. So it was crazy, intense and very stressful, with lots of high profile people chasing the role.” Badler was asked to send a video audition from Australia: “It is happening more and more. It gives a little bit of power back to the actor [because] you get a better chance to control your nerves and take your time, which is wonderful. I asked the cameraman to come to my house and, in my own environment – I had a big velvet couch and it helped me be queenly – it was more relaxed.” EQ UI T Y

Not only did she get the role, Badler’s cameo turned first into three episodes and then, an entire season. With a movie-sized budget for each show and the pick of new technology at the producer’s disposal, Badler found many changes since the first series. “There were amazing top end technical effects but I only performed on green screen, which I had never done before. It felt tricky to begin with – I had to imagine everything – but then it became easy. I had the same environment to get used to, the bowels of the ship and my dungeon.” Badler is not unfamiliar with the contrasts that a career as a performer can bring. After the first series of V she went on to do the Mission Impossible series. “I was in a lull looking for a similar ‘next big thing’, [but] playing the same character in different roles can be a trap that you don’t know how to get out of in LA. I was in my late 20s and you don’t just ‘hop off’ and do theatre,” she says. “In so many ways, coming to Australia and falling in love was a godsend. It gave me a chance to pursue a different life. “In the US, television in the 80s paid well, there was lots of money and you were treated well. You were part of the ‘star system’, which comes from a strong union like SAG and the large population to sustain it. Everything is done so that we can just act. I was used to all that and then I came to Australia; it was an awakening working on Cluedo.” Cluedo, an Australian game show based on the board game of the same name, aired between 1992-93. Badler played Mrs Peacock: “No one had their own trailer or dressing room. In fact the dressing rooms were shared and full of people smoking. I had to re-evaluate why I was in the industry. There were no frills in acting here, just your craft.” Badler’s skill at reinvention has served her well. Before new season V she completed a stint on Neighbours and prior to that spent years in stage, cabaret and fringe, what she calls “nuts and bolts acting”. “V kick started my career after the hard slog of four years gigging. You’ve got to believe in yourself so that your audience can believe in you too. If you are lucky, and something positive happens, just be ready for those opportunities and be ready to take the amazing journey.” Jane Badler appears in Diva Choice with special guests Paul Capsis, Paul Grabowsky and Gary Pinto on March 10 at the Speigeltent in Melbourne 7

When the rain stopped falling Brisbane’s cultural heartland was inundated in January – first with water, then with helpers, writes Chris Vernon


rowing up in Brisbane in the 80s, I had heard about the kind of devastation that is felt by a flooding event, such as that which we experienced over a few days in January. They were stories from 1974 – another Brisbane. That Brisbane had yet to emerge as the modern city we know today. Since that time – before Expo 88 and Southbank, Citycats, and the arrival of significant cultural infrastructure on its banks – Brisbane has seen significant change. The south bank of the river, in the stretch opposite Brisbane’s CBD, is now home to two major art galleries, the state library, a museum, the four theatres comprising the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Opera Queensland, the Queensland College of Art and Griffith Film School. Around the corner we have the Bille Brown Studio, home to the Queensland Theatre Company (QTC), the Queensland Symphony Orchestra at its Ferry Road studio, and the Queensland Ballet. So much of Brisbane’s cultural infrastructure is now located in one bend of the river. Once the full extent of the disaster became known it did not take long for members of the arts community to act. Those of us spared personal tragedy were keen to pitch in elsewhere in our community. Social 8

networking sites were abuzz with offers of assistance and demonstrations of generosity. Offers of volunteer performances, to entertain children in evacuation centres, poured in. The folk at La Boite Theatre (located away from the flood zone) put on buses to transport children and their family members to performances of its holiday show, Gruffalo’s Child. Flying squads of actors, techies and others moved in to assist colleagues and family members to clean homes. Benefit performances were scheduled (and continue to be announced). Members of Brisbane’s musical theatre community produced a cover of a classic Channel Seven promo song, Love You Queensland, with proceeds from iTunes sales going to the Premier’s Disaster Relief Fund. The flood peak brought a metre or so of mud through the theatre, foyer, dressing rooms, green room, prop and set stores, and other back-ofhouse crannies of the Bille Brown Studio. The public response to the QTC’s callout (via a facebook event) was so overwhelming the event was closed within hours and further offers of assistance gratefully refused. I found myself in the workshop (above flood level) at the Bille Brown Studio on day one of the clean-up, where gumboots that had previously only seen mud at Woodford were put to less “folky” (and, frankly, EQ UI T Y

skankier) effort. Props, walls, floors, furniture, crockery, anything below the watermark was hosed, disinfected and washed again, in an effort so concerted that all work suitable for unqualified volunteers was completed in three days. On day two of the effort the company’s new artistic director, Wesley Enoch, arrived on the red-eye from Perth, where he was directing a play in the Perth Festival, and spoke about the importance of storytelling and theatre in building cohesive communities. Throughout the weekend I met many strangers, many who had never stepped into the building before. Sitting in the workshop before one briefing, surrounded by timber, power tools and the white plaster walls and doors of the set for QTC’s first show for the year, an older gentleman (looking a little confused) asked me where the performances happened. Cleaning out a dressing room with a woman from the museum and a pair of chatty, 50-something sisters, I turned to see a profoundly visionimpaired man, scrubbing a basin. I wonder if he considered the rest of us a bit slack for downing tools during the temporary blackouts, when the generators occasionally failed? On the third and final day of the clean-up, working with a Sydney puppeteer whose museum gig had been cancelled and a former Equity organiser from Queensland, I learned that members of the cast of Wicked! had also pitched in to help. These guys had not even opened their show, probably had no long-term association with Brisbane, and yet had given their time to the clean-up effort. So many good people came, not because they had any particular relationship with this theatre

Brown Studio will be fine for our season and Opera Queensland has loaned us a rehearsal venue. It’s my first show with the company. I had been told there was a lovely sense of community in this building. Reflecting on her need to contribute time to the effort, one senior artist told me that she had to be there, as this was her family. While I haven’t yet stepped into the building during the rehearsal period, and have only really felt a connection to its space as an audience member, a few mud-caked days this summer have hinted at the possibility for such a community. Chris Vernon is an actor based in Brisbane and Equity member of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Queensland Branch Council

Wicked floods After the deluge: Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) post-floods

company or theatre generally. They came because they were motivated by a driving desire to see their city returned to normal. They came because helping is what you do, when bad things happen. All QPAC shows during the flooding and the immediate aftermath were suspended. A mammoth clean-up effort allowed Wicked! to open several days late. As I write, a few weeks since the flood’s peak, the entry to the Playhouse Theatre at QPAC is still surrounded by temporary fencing – but it is the only venue still out of operation. Last week, the cast of Pygmalion were informed that their Playhouse season has been delayed until November. As they were due to begin rehearsals, it must have been devastating news. Currently, I am in rehearsal with QTC for the first play in their 2011 Youth and Education program. We are lucky to have a show; the Bille

The Actors and Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund of Queensland is taking donations to assist performers affected by the floods. To donate visit, email or phone (07) 3846 0044


On the day I woke to news of the Queensland floods, it felt strange driving into QPAC (the Queensland Performing Arts Centre) through the heavy rain. At rehearsal there was tension in the air; QPAC is situated right on the river. The water had not yet broken its banks but we knew it was going to rise soon. We went into rehearsals before what was going to be our first preview in Brisbane. On a break we were told the show that night, and both shows the next day, had been cancelled. It was a shock, but we all knew what was happening around Queensland and how serious it was. My husband was away in New Zealand for an Ironman triathlon event. When disaster happens, even if it doesn’t directly affect you, you want your family close, so it was hard not having him around. After the floodwaters receded we had a meeting. All the cast and crew were eager to know what the damage was and what was ahead for Wicked. We were told our costumes and props were safe, but all of QPAC’s parking and electrical systems had suffered water damage. We were sent home not knowing if we would be back again.

When I did get the call that Wicked was back, it made me realise how much I love my job and how lucky I am! On Tuesday January 25 we performed our first show, skipping previews and opening night. The first show was a matinee and everybody was buzzing and so happy to be back. John Frost, our producer, gave the most amazing and uplifting speech before we started the show; everyone in the audience was cheering and the smiles on the faces of the cast and crew said it all. The adrenalin that ran through my body for that show was unbelievable; I felt I could have flown without my apparatus. Theatre is a great escape and I think it was so important for Wicked to come back to the people of Queensland, who had been through so much, giving them that chance to escape their own world for three hours and to relax and enjoy themselves. I will never forget my time in Brisbane and I’m so grateful I got the chance to perform for them through such a tough time. Jemma Rix is a performer based in NSW. She is currently playing Elphaba in Wicked the Musical 9

equity awards

Excellent ensembles (clockwise from below): Robyn Butler and Neil Slider in The Librarians, Eddie Perfect and Kat Stewart in Offspring, Justine Clarke and Kat Stewart in Tangle

COLLECTIVE ACTION Underbelly, Offspring, The Librarians and Tangle were just some of the fantastic Australian productions on our TV screens in 2010. One thing each of these, and other productions, had in common was the great work done by an ensemble of actors


erformance is a collaborative process and Equity is all about working together. And as we know celebrating is also a collective experience. In late 2010 we celebrated our second Equity Lifetime Achievement award, awarded to Bob Hornery at Melbourne’s Malthouse. Mitchell Butel chaired a wonderful evening, with tributes from Richard Piper, Roger Hodgman, Caroline O’Connor, Alison Whyte, Simon Phillips and Geoffrey Rush. When the entire audience rose to stomp and cheer in noisy celebration of Bob’s career, it was an Equity moment in which we celebrated the achievements of one of our own. Given that ensembles are all about capturing the magic of what a group of performers working together can achieve, honouring the work of ensembles seemed like a logical next step for our Equity awards program. During the past few weeks we’ve asked you to nominate which Australian drama ensemble and which comedy ensemble you thought was most deserving of the Ensemble Award for 2010. And now the nominations are in! We’ve taken the top five productions you nominated in each category and included them in a ballot that we are asking financial Equity members to take part in. You’ll find your ballot with this issue of the magazine and we’re asking you to complete it and have your say. What television drama ensemble stood out for you in 2010? What television comedy made you laugh out loud? Was it a program that has been on our screens for years or something new? Equity will recognise the performers who made these shows a success with two brand new Equity Awards. The awards will cover the 2010 television season and will be given for: · Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast in a television drama series · Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble Cast in a television comedy series Award recipients will be announced in March with a presentation in April 2011. Equity thanks the ABC for their support of these new awards.




hen Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Musical opens in New York this month, references to Kylie Minogue will be replaced with that of a performer better known to American audiences. It is one of the few changes to an otherwise very Australian production, says performer Tony Sheldon, who has played the part of Bernadette 1201 times. “We’ve made it a little bit more accessible but it is still a very Australian production. Its ‘Australianness’ is what makes it so unique and so popular. We’ve tried not to play around with that too much,” says Sheldon of the musical based on the 1994 cult film about three drag queens who travel across the Australian outback on a tour bus called Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Sheldon may be one of the most qualified people to comment on the show and its enduring popularity, having performed in its Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, London and Toronto runs. “It’s five years to the month since the first workshop for the original Australian production

Priscilla takes Manhattan of Priscilla, which I was at,” he told equity. “Audiences scream and laugh from beginning Playing dress-ups: Tony Sheldon to end. It’s a very affirming, feel good show as Bernadette in Priscilla, Queen about being true to yourself, regardless of what of the Desert – The Musical society says. The idea of outsiders trying to find acceptance really seems to strike a chord.” “But I’m confident American audiences will respond very well. We have Sheldon and the rest of the cast hope the show’s success follows them to New York, where Priscilla is playing at the Palace just finished a three month out-of-town try-out in Toronto. We know people love it.” Theatre: “I am incredibly excited to be performing on Broadway. It’s a Despite initially being reluctant to accept the role of Bernadette (he’d dream for most performers, myself included.” already donned drag for The Producers and Torch Song Trilogy), Sheldon It’s no surprise that Sheldon finds himself performing in a hugely says landing the part, back in Sydney more than five years ago, was “a successful musical on Broadway: success on stage runs in the family. life changer”. Sheldon is the son of cabaret stars Toni Lamond and Frank Sheldon, “Before Bernadette I had never worked outside of Australia. My mother left grandson of actor/writer Max Reddy and actress Stella Lamond and my aunt left but I never felt the need. I kept landing fantastic roles.” and nephew of singer Helen Reddy. Since beginning his career on As well as his award-winning roles in The Producers and The Witches Graham Kennedy’s In Melbourne Tonight at age seven, Sheldon has of Eastwick, Sheldon has performed for all of Australia’s major theatre performed in hundreds of theatre productions and musicals, including companies in a varied and lengthy list of productions, written and the Australian production of The Producers, for which he won the 2005 Helpmann Award, the Sydney Critics Award and the Glugs award for his produced a whole host of well-received productions but, inexplicably, appeared in only one major film, the 1985 war drama An Indecent Obsession. performance as Rodger de Bris. Despite an impressive CV and extensive experience playing the vivacious “They don’t ask me,” says Sheldon of his lack of film roles to date. “But you never know – I mean, look at Jacki Weaver.” and loveable Bernadette, Sheldon says he is nervous about Priscilla’s For now, Sheldon is where he wants to be: “We’re over here flying the Broadway debut: “It does feel like the stakes are much higher,” Sheldon flag,” he says from his New York apartment. “And we are very proud of told equity just weeks before the show opened. “You are part of a much how it’s looking.” bigger machine over here, in terms of the marketing and publicity, so of Elizabeth Franks is a journalist with the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance course you feel the pressure that comes with that. EQ UI T Y


Photo by Tristram Kenton

After more than 1200 performances in Priscilla, Tony Sheldon is bringing Bernadette to Broadway, writes Elizabeth Franks

WHAT LIES AHEAD equity invited a selection of people from the arts industry across Australia to tell us what 2011 holds for them

2011 promises to be both interesting and rewarding. In mid-February I started rehearsals with Deckchair Theatre in Fremantle for Damian Miller’s award winning play The Modern International Dead. I play Rod Barton, a weapons inspector, plus a number of other characters in keeping with the challenging convention of the script. Come June, I pack my bags and fly to tropical pearl town, Broome, on the northwest coast, to commence rehearsals for Steve Hawke’s re-worked version of Jandamarra. The production will be staged throughout July and August in beautiful Bandilngan National Park, against the spectacular backdrop of Windjana Gorge, and will subsequently tour to Kununurra and Halls Creek. This experience represents a rare and fabulous opportunity, mostly due to the uniqueness of the project but also partly attributed to the inherent swap of bleak southern winter for balmy northern dry season. My third show for the year will be When The Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell. I’m looking forward to exploring this intriguing and emotive script, where casting dictates that I play my own grandfather, and to performing in Black Swan Theatre Company’s remarkable new venue at the State Theatre Centre. So far so good! Three major projects working with talented theatre makers: it doesn’t get much better than that! Steve Turner, performer, WA 12

“Convergence” is something we’ll hear a lot more about this year. Revolutionary change in the way media is produced, distributed and consumed is underway. Viewer choice is greater than ever before and the National Broadband Network has transformative potential for the screen sector. How do we ensure that Australian stories, which provide an invaluable contribution to Australia’s cultural identity, are supported in a converged media environment? I believe that this year the screen industry needs to be at the forefront of this important debate. This is very relevant to Screen Australia’s current review of television funding. Our aim is to move forward with renewed clarity about our role in keeping Australian storytelling alive in this rapidly converging media landscape. Audiences are engaging with Australian films – the diversity that was a key strength of last year’s feature film slate looks like it will continue. And there’s no doubt, Australians love home grown TV. There are challenges ahead, but at the bottom line I think we all want the same thing – a sustainable and creative screen production industry that’s contributing positively to the life of Australians. Ruth Harley, CEO, Screen Australia

I have been working as a resident actor for the Sydney Theatre Company since June 2009, alongside fellow residents Alice Ansara, Cameron Goodall, Ursula Mills, Julia Ohannessian, Zindzi Okenyo, Richard Pyros, Tahki Saul and Brett Stiller. December 2010 saw the end of the residential road for Alice, Urs and Brett, who all made the choice to take on new adventures – they are missed. Those of us who push on at the Wharf have a jam-packed year ahead, with a mixture of creative development work and productions in the Main Stage, Next Stage and Education seasons – including a season of new Australian shorts (Money Shots – directed by the brilliant Sarah Giles). I am currently working on the contemporary German work, Before/After, by Roland Schimmelpfennig – directed by the gorgeous, talented and incredibly bright Cristabel Sved. I have a very European year ahead, with productions of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding and Botho Strauss’ Gross und Klein coming up. The exceptional Iain Sinclair has adapted Blood Wedding and will also be directing – I am thrilled to get the chance to work on such a passionate, sharp text and with a truly sensitive and creative director. I close the year with Gross und Klein, under the directorship of Luc Bondy, an incredibly rare and very exciting opportunity. In between productions, I am lucky enough to be supported (financially and creatively) to develop new work – I will do so alongside the residents as well as Alice Ansara, Adam Booth and Ian Meadows. I look forward to all that 2011 holds – in particular I relish the opportunity to work alongside such gifted actors and creatives. Sophie Ross, performer, NSW

Is it 2011 already? Jesus. That means it’s 10 years since I finished drama school. Thank God work’s picked up since then. Right now I’m EQ UI T Y

rehearsing Apologia for the Melbourne Theatre Company – a family drama starring Robyn Nevin and a hyper-talented cast directed by Jennifer Flowers. We preview this week. It’s getting real. When does this magazine go to print? We’ve probably opened already. I wish I was reading this right now and thinking “what an unmitigated triumph that show was”. While performing I’ll miss the Australian premiere of my first feature, Griff the Invisible. Directed by Leon Ford, I feature alongside the dreamy Ryan Kwanten and the equally hot Maeve Dermody. It’s already screened in Toronto and Berlin, but I’m keen to see how it goes here. I wish I was reading this right now and thinking “what an unmitigated triumph etc. etc.” Come late April, it’s Sydney Theatre Company for The White Guard, a sprawling Russian play by Mikhail Bulgakov (adapted and directed by Andrew Upton). It’s got all the bells and whistles: big cast, vodka, singing, facial hair – all that Russian crap I had a go at in drama school but couldn’t do properly. A brilliant cast is being assembled, led by Miranda Otto. Yep. Looking forward to that one. Then back to the Melbourne Theatre Company for Clybourne Park, a brilliant, dark, American comedy. I’ll be reunited with Peter Evans, who I had a fantastic time with on The Ugly One in 2010. I almost want to fast forward straight to that play. Almost. So, that’s the shape of 2011 for me. I don’t know how it happened – I’m not used to having job security. Maybe I’ll buy a mortgage and a dog. Patrick Brammall, performer, NSW

Last October I celebrated 30 years as an Equity member, so this year is the start of a whole new decade. I’ve had a fantastic time since returning to Adelaide after 20 years away and four years overseas, to reunite with the theatre company that gave me my first work after NIDA, the State Theatre Co. SA. I was thrilled to be in Adam Cook’s King Lear with old mates John Gaden, Victoria Longley, Jonathan Mills and Michael Habib in the cast. It’s also been great to link up with the new guns of Adelaide theatre, directors like Chris Drummond at Brink, and Geordie Brookman, with whom I’ve done Attempts on Her Life and Romeo and Juliet since landing back in Oz. This year I’m working with Geordie again in Andrew Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues. It’s great to be connecting with this beautiful play, especially since I was EQ UI T Y

on the board at the Griffin when it was first done. Fear factor? Well, yeah, I’m on public record in my book, Trade Secrets, lauding Geoffrey Rush for his role in Lantana – now I’ve got to play the same bloody role! The rest of the year includes some other “excitements” – a reading for the ABC of a terrific book called The Philosopher and the Wolf, preparing for publication my next book with Currency Press, directing Richard III with my students at Adelaide College of the Arts, and ferrying a great mob of ACArts third years into the industry. Terence Crawford, actor, playwright, head of acting, Adelaide College of the Arts

The first steps taken for 2011 will be to India for the second block of shooting on Roland Joffe’s Singularity. It’s bound to be a wildly different shoot to the two months we spent on the Gold Coast last year and I can’t wait. It may be naive, but for now I’m looking forward to the inevitable challenges and chaos. Not only is the job itself worth a pinch on the forearm – playing a horseriding, sword-swinging Scottish officer serving under the East India Company in Bombay, circa 1778 – it’s also delivering a long-awaited first trip to India. To be shooting in the country in which the historical events and characters of the script occurred, to have the chance to explore, first hand, such an ancient culture (and a way of life so different to our own), to be working on a film in a country in which the passion for cinema verges on idolatry – all these factors send a tingle of anticipation up the spine (not to mention the cricket World Cup happening simultaneously on the subcontinent). The uncertainty and delays surrounding the production during the hiatus have left me a little nervous. But what would a year as an actor be, without a healthy dose of instability to kick things off? James Mackay, performer, NSW

I’m really looking forward to more work on the cards; already Auckland is abuzz with new television series, films and work generated by the Auckland Festival. For the festival I am performing in a show, Carnival of Souls, which will open in the venerable Mercury Theatre (training and stomping ground of our theatre greats), which hasn’t been used as a theatre for many years. I’m really looking forward to being part of Auckland’s history in that way. And I’m further contributing by having the band from Carnival of Souls rehearse in the basement of my house, since Auckland’s theatre productions currently outnumber rehearsal rooms. Our production company, Royale Productions, is putting together an arts festival to support the World Cup, we’ve got a one-man show with Michael Hurst under way, a play about zombies in the wings, and I have my own voice work and auditions in between. I’m excited about creating our own work while coming back to my performing roots this year. I’m nervous about getting married next week but luckily, with that production, I have a budget, no reviewers, and an exceptional leading lady. Charlie McDermott, performer, Auckland

I think an actor’s least favourite question is “what are you up to at the moment?”. Thankfully I kick off this year with two very exciting projects – so, Equity, you’ve asked me at the right time! First up, Hamlet for STC Education, directed by Naomi Edwards, in which I play Horatio and Rosencrantz. I also join forces with the amazing Cameron Goodall to create a live score throughout the show. The second project is a new work in development with my company MAKEbeLIVE Productions, The Adventures of Lolita Red. Teaming up with Alice Osborne, a talented puppeteer, and Julian Louis, artistic director of NORPA, we fuse beat box, clown and mime in a heartwarming story about a clown doctor who meets an extraordinary little girl. It’s great to be working on a combination of self-generated and main stage pieces and I’m looking forward to a fantastic year ahead. Holly Austin, performer, NSW



roadway is littered with the corpses of failed music theatre ventures. Savage reviews, poisonous word-of-mouth or financial meltdowns have closed dozens of shows – some after just a few performances. Legendary clangers include Bob Merrill’s 1966 adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which closed before it officially opened. Carrie: The Musical, based on Stephen King’s novel, closed within 72 hours of its opening night in 1988. More recently, High Fidelity, based on Nick Hornby’s novel, which New York Times critic Ben Brantley ranked among the “all-time most forgettable musicals”, closed after 14 performances in 2006. Enron, a satiric view of American capitalism, also copped a hostile review from Brantley last year and closed within a fortnight. Previewing on Broadway right now, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, reputedly the most expensive music theatre venture yet attempted, has been plagued by accidents and cast walk-outs and is being torn apart by bad press and

Trying it on: Lucy Mander (Lara) rehearses Dr Zhivago


Out-of-town try-outs in safe havens such as Sydney are becoming critically important for producers hoping that their musicals will cut it in New York, writes Elissa Blake


a show in Melbourne sounds scary to a Broadway producer,” she says. “When global producers think Australia, they think Sydney.” Events NSW, which is bidding aggressively to secure musicals for Sydney ahead of Melbourne, has sunk a “significant amount of money” into Doctor Zhivago. “Less than $1 million, as it has a relatively short run,” says Events NSW chief executive Geoff Parmenter. “But it is part of a long-term strategy to make sure Sydney secures world-class musicals.” In addition to Doctor Zhivago, Parmenter says, three more international musicals will open in Sydney in 2012 and 2013. Legally Blonde (The Musical) is slated for the Capitol Theatre mid-2012. Other shows yet to be announced to premiere in Sydney include The Addams Family (2013) and Ghost: The Musical (opening in Manchester and then London this year, followed by Australia in 2012-13). The next out-of-town world premiere strongly rumoured for Sydney is An Officer and a Gentleman – The Musical, co-produced by Waxman and Frost. The director will be Simon Phillips, who directed Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Musical. His profile is expected to rocket when Priscilla opens on Broadway in March, after extensive seasons in Sydney, London and North America. Industry insiders say An Officer and a Gentleman is already secured to launch in Sydney in late 2013, though it has not been officially announced. Much depends on the success of Doctor Zhivago. “Everyone is watching to see how this musical goes in Sydney,” Waxman says. “If it takes off, I can guarantee you’ll have a long line of producers wanting to use Sydney as a kind of pre-Broadway.” Sydney fits the bill in a number of ways, Waxman says. Producers are looking for English-speaking audiences with tastes similar to those of the major hubs of the West End and Broadway. Which, she says, all but rules out launching a new musical in continental Europe or Asia in the foreseeable future. EQ UI T Y

Photo thanks IP Publicity

gloating bloggers. It doesn’t officially open until March 15. Testing a musical in a safe haven is becoming critically important for producers hoping to cut it in New York City. So-called “out-of-town tryouts” commonly take place in Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco. But with the growth of web-based chatter and gossip, even these cities aren’t far enough from Gotham. Producers and directors are looking for new, under-the-radar locations, in which to refine their untried shows. Which is why Sydney, far removed from the snippy Twitterati and bloggers of New York, is looking increasingly attractive as an out-oftown testing ground. “The tension in Broadway right now is scary,” says Anita Waxman, a multiple Tony Award-winning producer. “Everyone wants out. The costs are so high and reviewers are closing shows and the bloggers are so nasty. All the producers I know are looking for somewhere away from the glare of the gossips, who can really destroy a show.” Is Sydney really so much kinder? Waxman believes it is. The New Yorkbased producer is here to oversee final rehearsals for Doctor Zhivago, a new, big-budget musical based on Boris Pasternak’s novel, with Anthony Warlow in the title role. Co-produced by Waxman and Sydney’s John Frost, Zhivago is a joint venture between Australian and American creatives and investors hoping to use Sydney as a launching pad before committing to seasons in London’s West End and on Broadway. More than 50 international producers, investors and theatre owners were expected in the audience on opening night at the Lyric Theatre, many from New York. “International producers see that Sydney is on top of the world right now,” Frost says. “In the last few months we’ve seen Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush on stage, we’ve had Jersey Boys and everything happening at the Sydney Opera House. The arts scene here is incredibly vibrant and they feel safe and embraced by the community here.” Waxman adds that producers prefer Sydney to Melbourne: “Opening

Another factor in Sydney’s favour is the city’s depth of talent. “I’ve done auditions all over the world and I don’t see talent like I do here in Australia,” says Waxman. “We could have cast Zhivago three times over. In America, people specialise in one thing, like singing or dancing. Here, everyone can do everything; it’s extraordinary.” Liz Koops, the producer of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Musical, agrees: “We chose Sydney for our out-of-town try-out because of the incredibly high skill base here and the lower costs,” she says. “We always intended to roll Priscilla out internationally but it made absolute sense to start here. The audiences are receptive to new work and the talent is tremendous.” The Boy from Oz, returning to Sydney in March, was the first Australian musical to be a hit on Broadway. The story of singer and composer Peter Allen was launched in Sydney in 1998 and played for two years, with Todd McKenney in the lead. American backers saw it, developed a new script and opened the show on Broadway in 2003, with Hugh Jackman playing Allen. Dirty Dancing launched in Sydney in 2004 before hugely successful seasons in London, Europe and Canada. It has yet to reach Broadway,

Making music: The ensemble cast of Doctor Zhivago rehearsing

Scoring a try with zhivago

Love songs: Lucy Maunder & Anthony Warlow in rehearsal for Doctor Zhivago the Musical

Sydney is already seen as a bridge between the West End and Broadway. The British musicals Billy Elliot and Mamma Mia! were refined in Sydney before heading to Broadway. “Australians are halfway between the English psyche and the American psyche,” says the Sydney-based producer Louise Withers (Billy Elliot, Mamma Mia!). “Producers can get a good feel for how a show might survive in another market. Once someone has [launched] successfully here, more will come. I know people who are keeping a quiet eye on [Doctor Zhivago].” The second big factor in Sydney’s favour is cost. Waxman says a musical on the scale of Doctor Zhivago would cost between $12 million and $15 million to produce on Broadway. Here the budget is about $5.5 million. It is more economical for production companies to fly in leading North American creatives – for Zhivago, director Des McAnuff (see below), composer Lucy Simon (sister of Carly), librettists Amy Powers and Michael Korie (Grey Gardens, Harvey Milk), Disney orchestrator Danny Troob and veteran Broadway conductor Eric Stern – than to fly the Australians involved to a launch city in North America. The Zhivago cast is entirely Australian, as are many of the creatives involved, including the award-winning set designer Michael Scott-Mitchell. “I don’t want us to be inundated with American creatives to the point where Australians don’t get a look in,” Frost says. “It has to be a joint venture.” EQ UI T Y

For the Australian performers starring in the world premiere, there’s nothing about Doctor Zhivago that feels like an out-of-town try-out. Lucy Maunder, who plays the lead female role of Lara, Zhivago’s lover, says the scale would not be any bigger, nor the content any better, were the production premiering on Broadway or the West End. However, Maunder (pictured) says she understand why shows are tested in cities such as Sydney, before London or New York. “Blogs, websites and critics can absolutely bring down a show in a couple of weeks. Australia may be a safer place to gauge an audience response and make changes accordingly.” Maunder says there is a certain amount of

pressure that comes with starring in largescale musical, particularly one that’s never been seen on the stage. “I am incredibly excited but of course I am a little apprehensive because of the sheer scale of the production and it being a brand new staging and a premiere. I won’t deny there is a pressure that comes with that. “A great deal of the material we’re performing on the stage is brand new and has never been workshopped before. “Mainly, I’m just very happy Australia gets to see it before anyone else. I think audiences will love it.” Doctor Zhivago: A New Musical is now playing at the Lyric theatre in Sydney Elizabeth Franks

partly due to a court case between the producer Kevin Jacobsen and his brother, Col Joye, over $40 million rights to the show. But does Sydney have the infrastructure to sustain a production line of musical theatre? Frost says no – we need another 2000-seat theatre. “Either we need to convert the Sydney Entertainment Centre to include a new 2000-seat theatre, right in the dead centre of the city, with all those restaurants around it,” he says. “Or buy the State Theatre, rebuild the back of the stage, and put a new proscenium in. “It’s urgent. We have to do this before the Sydney Opera House closes for renovations [tipped to take place in the next five years], forcing the opera and ballet to take the Capitol and Lyric Theatres for two years. Then no musicals can come into Sydney.” Pre-sale tickets for Doctor Zhivago are already halfway towards breaking even. Ticket sales from Melbourne are particularly strong: “I have partners coming from the States and they are thrilled because these early numbers beat Jersey Boys’ early numbers,” Waxman says. “It’s looking very exciting. But we need the city to love it. If Zhivago takes off, Sydney will be the new pre-Broadway.” Elissa Blake is a freelance journalist based in Sydney. This article was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald 15

Turning green: Theatre companies are limiting their impact on the natural world

Out, damned carbon!


here’s always been a visceral connection between art and the natural world. For centuries, millennia even, nature’s mix of beauty, power and fragility has left artists and performers in awe, inspiring some of their greatest creations. So it’s only fitting that many in the artistic community are exploring ways to impact less on the environment, while maintaining the integrity of their work. Leading the charge when it comes to building a greener, more sustainable art world, are the Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre. In November 2007, the Malthouse launched a sustainability initiative called Project Greenlight, and became the first main stage theatre company in Australia to initiate a compulsory carbon offset. This offset came as a surcharge of 50 cents on all tickets sold, or $2 on each sixmonth subscription. Carbon offsets allow energy users to invest in clean energy technologies from accredited sustainability initiatives – a way to “cancel out” their own emissions. As a result of these programs, Malthouse is now a carbon-positive theatre company. “The first thing we invested in was a wind farm in Turkey,” explains Brad Martin, who has been integral to the development of the Greenlight Project since its inception. Martin is leader of the Malthouse green team, an informal grouping of staff members who are passionate about limiting the environmental impact of their company. The green team was originally established to field enquiries from the Malthouse board about how the proposed offsets would be received and why they should be implemented. They now co-ordinate the way offsets are spent. “We invested in this incredible initiative in Cambodia, where they had designed energy-efficient cook stoves and were distributing them to 16

Australian theatre companies are thinking globally and acting locally – and paving the way for others to follow, writes Flynn Murphy troubled communities throughout the country so that they could cook without burning wood. These stoves have reduced a huge amount of their emissions, and they’re also produced locally.” Sourcing materials and products locally means saving the energy that would otherwise be used to transport them. Martin says there’s been a real change in the philosophy at the Malthouse: “Everybody’s really supportive of Greenlight and very conscious of the initiative. When a set designer is coming up with a project they get really excited about using recycled materials, or found objects.” And performers too are getting in on the action. Martin says it’s hard to gauge whether they take the philosophy of sustainability home with them, but he has noticed changes in the workplace. “On the first day of rehearsal, every performer is given a mug that has a label with their name on it. Now instead of constantly using paper cups and that sort of stuff, people use those and refill them at the water tank in our office.” Leading the green charge in Sydney are Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett and playwright Andrew Upton, co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theatre Company (STC). When the duo were interviewed for their current position three years ago, they pitched the idea of developing a sustainable theatre company. “They had big dreams and wanted to leave a legacy, not just of an artistically great theatre company, but a sustainable one with an infrastructure that EQ UI T Y

would actually save the company money and do the right thing by the environment,” says Paul O’Byrne, manager of the sustainability project at STC’s iconic Wharf Theatre, which overlooks Sydney’s Walsh Bay. Blanchett and Upton landed the contract, and their Greening the Wharf initiative, an 18-month sustainability program, has since gained great momentum. One of the project’s aims is to see the whole pier derive up to 70 per cent of its power from renewable sources; a real shift in the way the STC does business. Under the project’s broad umbrella sit a wide variety of projects, large and small, innovative and common sense. O’Byrne refers to the larger ones as the “hero projects.” The company has introduced an innovative rainwater harvesting and storage system that they predict will save up to eight million litres of water each year. This was possible through the in-kind support of Australian engineering firm Sinclair Knight Merz. They designed the system, which features a rainwater pipe that will snake for 500 metres around the foundations of the wharf, evenly distributing the weight of its capacity: four Olympicsized swimming pools. When the pipe is completed in mid-2011 it will supply 100 per cent of the wharf’s non-potable water. At the other end of the scale are small changes, such as placing recycling bins in prime locations so performers can guiltlessly dispose of old scripts when they move to a new revision, handing out reusable water bottles, or asking set designers to paint by roller instead of spraying, to minimise the release of harmful particles into the air. “We’ve bought this drum sander that lets us reuse vintage timbers. It’s really amazing,” says O’Byrne, visibly excited. “This sander completely strips the paint and makes it raw so we can use the wood over and over again.” When it comes to lighting, O’Byrne explains that LED lights are more environmentally friendly than conventional incandescent lights, but throw multiple shadows, which can impact the quality of a production. Instead of compromising on quality, the company has replaced its 25-year-old stage lights with newer, more efficient ones that use half the energy of their ancient counterparts. This is supported by behavioural change. “Obviously the power issue is the main issue for us, so we’ve started something called the ‘green design policy’ that we share with our creative team. We encourage our lighting designers to adhere to a

wattage cap, which is about a 40 per cent decrease on existing capacity.” Rather than feeling constrained by the changes, performers and designers at STC have tackled the challenges head on. “Change is always a challenge to any group, but everyone here believes it is the right thing to do, a necessary thing to do. Designers are used to creative parameters and constraints, like the size of the theatre, production budgets, and so on. This is just a new parameter.” But there is more to Greening the Wharf than just one theatre – however impressive 1906 solar panels shining up at passers-by on the Sydney Harbour Bridge might be (another of the “hero projects” slated to provide more than half the theatre’s energy needs). The real key, explains O’Byrne, is the documentation of the project, which will culminate in a comprehensive report published as a website toward the end of 2011. “There are very strong case studies in every section – in lighting, in archives, set design, in whatever we do – and the plan is to share those with other arts companies. “We don’t see this as proprietary information: it’s very much about sharing our knowledge. We’ve been given an opportunity, through our partners, to create this best practice environment and we have a responsibility to pass that on.” Greening the Wharf has enjoyed widespread favourable media coverage, as well as federal, state and local government support, corporate support, and philanthropic support: even individual subscribers have given money. Many corporate groups have also given in-kind support. Overall, there are around 30 financial stakeholders in the development of a theatre that represents best practice in sustainability. The company uses its vast resources to buy and use green technologies that are in an early stage of their life cycle, in order to invest in them and drive down the cost, making them accessible to other institutions. But vast resources aren’t needed to make positive changes when it comes to sustainability. Behavioural changes – such as recycling set materials, reusing water bottles, and printing pages double-sided – can have a huge impact on the resource use of a theatre company. Flynn Murphy is a journalist with the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance

Measure for measure Measure. That’s the most important step any theatre venue can take toward environmental sustainability, according to Ian Garrett, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Centre for Sustainable Practice in the Arts (CSPA). The CSPA is a for-profit organisation that advises artists, and arts organisations, on the best ways to reduce their environmental footprint without reducing the quality of their productions. Garrett is the go-to guy when a theatre company in the United States decides to make itself greener. “It’s unconscious consumption that’s really at the root of the problem,” he explains. Being aware of what you’re using – measuring your use – both as individuals and as a company, can be a wake-up call, he says. “There is an anecdote about people on diets: they lose more weight by writing down what they’re eating. Even if you do nothing with the data, just realising what you use may put you on an energy and resource diet.” Garrett says the maintenance of inventory is extremely important if you want to build


an environmentally sustainable performing environment. The money saved from better stock keeping can be used to make productions more environmentally friendly, by being invested in new materials and technologies, or used to buy carbon offsets. “Once you run a tight ship, you can decide where to swap out materials. Can you use certified sustainable lumber? LED lighting instruments? Organic cottons for costumes?” Garrett is something of an expert when it comes to the energy use of theatres. Before founding the CSPA in 2008 he worked as a lighting designer (lights are one of the biggest resource suckers in live performance). “When given the time to make design choices,” Garrett reflects, “I used lights in a more conscious way, instead of just turning everything on and moving on to the next cue.” It’s also important to give everyone involved in a production as much lead-in time as possible when asking them plan sustainably. Adequate planning time makes it easier for designers to make the best, most environmentally

Greenhouse: Melbourne’s Malthouse theatre uses a ticket surcharge to purchase carbon offsets

sustainable choices – in this way the same savvy decisions Garrett made about lighting can be extended to sound design, set design, and other elements of the production. For example, when it comes to sets and props, plans can be made to dismantle them and reuse them later. “Can you build a set with screws, instead of nails and glue?” asks Garrett. “Then you can reuse the lumber. Can you build with steel?

Steel is reusable and then recyclable. Look in all technical areas for this. Really it goes back to reduce, reuse and recycle.” Garrett’s other key tip relates to transport: “Promote public transport for your audience. Provide incentives for alternate transportation, like racks for bikes or discounts for drivers of electric cars. The transportation question can be 40 per cent of a show’s environmental impact.” Flynn Murphy


Photo thanks Seven Network

High school reunion: Zoe Tuckwell-Smith, Melissa Bergland, Virginia Gay, and Melanie Vallejo in Seven’s Winners & Losers

local heroes A mini-series based on Tim Winton’s classic Australian novel, Cloudstreet, is just one of many hotly-anticipated Australian TV shows due to hit our screens this year, writes Elizabeth Franks


loudstreet, Tim Winton’s tale of two working-class families forced to live under one roof, will air on pay TV later this year. Joining it on the 2011 TV schedule will be a host of original Australian comedies and dramas. Other programs attracting attention before they go to air include the latest offering from Summer Heights High’s Chris Lilly – Angry Boys, the first coproduction between HBO, BBC and the ABC; Winners & Losers, another feel-good family drama from the team behind ratings-winner Packed to the Rafters; and comedian Judith Lucy’s quest to explore faith and spirituality, Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey, which is already being tipped as a winner. The Sydney Morning Herald’s television critic, Michael Idato, believes the line-up points to a “shift in local drama”. “It seems our once unquenchable thirst for Underbelly, Homicide and forgettable police and legal drama-soaps … has given way to dramas that talk about contemporary people, their families and less-than-straightforward relationships,” he wrote earlier this year, in an article titled Australian television’s dramatic change of course. Idato named Cloudstreet one of the “Seven Wonders of the (2011) TV World” and in response to the question “Will it work?” answered: “Iconic novel plus great cast, equals ‘yes’”. “It’s pretty exciting,” says one member of the Cloudstreet cast, Geoff Morrell. “It’s a story that’s close to the heart of a lot of Australians. A screen adaption has been on cards for a long time but everyone in the industry felt very protective. There was this sort of ‘I hope they don’t stuff it up’ feeling. I think when the cast was announced, and that Tim Winton was going to co-write it, there was a collective sigh of relief,” says Morrell, who plays Lester Lamb alongside Essie Davis, Kerry Fox, Stephen Curry and Emma Booth. It took Screentime four years to buy the screen rights from US producers, who had failed to turn it into a film or TV series. Screentime’s Des Monaghan told The Australian it was a “… very protracted and very frustrating process.” Winton, who co-wrote the mini-series, is relieved it is now a home grown production: “I am really pleased to know that through the collaboration of Screentime and Showtime, it can be made here and provide work for local cast and crew,” he told The Australian. 18

“It takes a lot of pressure off, knowing Tim Winton wrote the adaption,” Morrell says of keeping the many Cloudstreet fans happy. The novel, which won the Miles Franklin Award in 1992, about two Perth Families, the Pickles and the Lambs, set between the 1940s and 60s, has been translated for publication in countries around the world, is on the national school curriculum and was adapted as a hugely successfully stage production directed by Neil Armfield. “I think it is going to be a wonderful Australian production,” says Morrell. “It was made by local crew, who are at the very top of their game, and we were working with a wonderful piece of material. When you re-read Cloudstreet you remember how well Tim captures the Australian spirit and also how funny it is. I had forgotten what a funny novel it is.” More than 100 local actors have been cast in the production and of the 105 crew members, 90 came from Western Australia: “The locals were 100 per cent committed to telling this story,” says Morrell. “As soon as I got a whiff of this production I responded immediately,” says New Zealand actress Kerry Fox, who plays Morrell’s wife, Oriel Lamb. “I have to say we didn’t feel any kind of pressure when filming. When I was filming Bright Star there was this sense of international expectation,” she says of Jane Campion’s critically acclaimed feature film. “[But] when we were filming way out there in WA last year, we were left alone. It was a very tight team and everyone was committed to making it a good thing. My kids and I had a great time there during filming. It is a very special and unique part of the world.” “I honestly can not wait for Cloudstreet to air,” says Anna Bauert, who plays Alma, one of the Bairds who work with Rose Pickles. “The footage I’ve seen looks exceptional. Matt Saville and his team have done an absolutely stunning job.” “Winners and Losers is another one I am looking forward to,” says Bauert, of the Seven Network’s new prime-time drama series, which centres on the lives of four best friends bound by the shared experience of being “losers” in high school. “When Bevan (Lee, network script executive) started talking about the show, he said ‘the scars of high school never leave you’. You carry them with you into your 20s, and even later. I felt like that was so staggeringly EQ UI T Y

Photo by David Dare Parker. Thanks Showtime

Photo David Dare Parker. Thanks Showtime

Ice cream rampage: The Lamb family, including Kerry Fox (second from left) and Geoff Morrell (far right)

true of the way I lived, that I immediately wanted to be a part of it,” says Virginia Gay, who plays high-powered workaholic, Frances. “I also think it’s about as quirky as mainstream TV is ever going to get. It’s still definitely a Seven, family-friendly production. But I think it appeals to that sense of outsider, underdog, loser that lies within. These people do kooky things. Mad things. And we love them for it.” Gay says the success of Packed to the Rafters has paved the way for another original Australian drama on a commercial network. “We didn’t want gritty, heartbreaking, soul-crushing realism, and we also didn’t want heroics and helicopters. The Rafters are the perfect family, and you watch and want to be a part of that – all their flaws and foibles, lovingly examined and then accepted,” she says. “Winners & Losers are the perfect group of friends. It’s Rafters for a different generation, a generation that doesn’t have a family, or has the family you choose – your friends.” “It is refreshingly light and has heart,” says Zoe Tuckwell-Smith, who plays Bec. “That’s a good centre point for a show to build on. I hope it brings joy and simple pleasure to people after a long day.” “About time, hey?” she says, of the shift from police and legal dramas to those that focus on family and relationships. “I think everybody agreed there was a kind of glut in the market with police procedurals, action, helicopters,” says Gay. “I sincerely hope there now isn’t a glut of funny, chatty, complex modern life storytelling. If so, I’m bringing a helicopter into Winners & Losers and we can combine the two.” Gay also thinks the ABC’s 2011 drama line-up includes many programs to look forward to: “Laid. Outland – both on the ABC. I’m stoked about these coming on – from what I’ve seen they are my style of humour and filled with fantastic performers. “I love what Debbie Lee (head of comedy) is doing at the ABC. Giving quirky, independent, seemingly unpitchable premises, like Laid and Outland, a shot. She’s made them on a budget, with new faces, which have been cast for their talent, not their name, and is letting the shows find their own crowd. It’s fabulous, shows a lot of creative faith, and I would love to see more of it.” “As we can see from the diverse line-up of programs coming to our screens in 2011 the increase in budgets has had a positive impact,” says EQ UI T Y

Heavy load: The Lamb family arrive at Cloud Street

Equity director, Simon Whipp. “It’s led to greater creative flexibility and therefore a greater variety of genres. There are some really original and unique shows audiences can look forward to this year.” A review, last month, of the screen production sector, showed that film and television is being funded at record levels. “A new system of production incentives has led to a tripling of government support in the past three financial years to $412 million,” Garry Maddox wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald in February. “While investment has certainly increased it has not reached the levels that were being estimated when the Producer Offset was introduced,” says Whipp. “The offset was expected to create a $1 billion film and TV industry here in Australia. At the moment it is still at about $750 million. As the global financial situation improves I hope the industry reaches the $1 billion mark.”

some of the ONES TO WATCH Laid (ABC1): A black romantic comedy about a woman who is dragged back to her chequered bedroom past to preserve her chances of true love. Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey (ABC 1): Australian comedian Judith Lucy’s personal path from devoutly religious child, to determined young atheist, to adult searching for something to believe in. Cloudstreet (Showcase): The TV adaption of Tim Winton’s award winning Australian novel.

The Slap (ABC 1): Based on Christos Tsiolkas’ novel about the repercussions that occur among a group of friends when one of them slaps a child at a barbeque. Winners & Losers (Seven): Follows four women who are bound by the shared experience of being the “losers” at high school. Angry Boys (ABC1): Chris Lilley explores what it means to be a young man in contemporary society.

The Games: London Calling (Nine): A mockumentary following three consultants (satirists John Clarke, Bryan Dawe and Gina Riley) to the 2012 London Summer Olympics. A spin off of ABC’s popular The Games, which aired in the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Redfern Now (ABC1): The first contemporary TV drama series written, directed and produced by Indigenous Australians. The series will explore contemporary inner-city Indigenous life.


The art of the festival

Crowd control: This year’s Festival First Night at the Sydney Festival drew crowds of more than 200,000 people Behind the scenes (above): Sydney Festival director Lindy Hume, and Melbourne Festival director Brett Sheehy

Audience demand ensures that our international arts festivals will always have an Australian face, writes Flynn Murphy



Australian Opera in 1992, before landing gigs at the Victorian Opera and OzOpera. In a Sydney Festival press release she is described as being the “first practicing artist” to direct the festival. She also directed the Perth International Arts Festival from 2004 to 2007. Hume is noted for making the Sydney Festival more accessible to audiences – this year, 17 out of a total of 109 Sydney Festival events were free. Hume also instituted a “Tix for Next to Nix” program that saw a small number of tickets to all performances available for sale on the day of the show, at the massively reduced price of $25. For many punters, particularly students and struggling artists, this was a major drawcard – provided they were prepared to line up from 3am, which many were. Hume is happy with how this year’s festival turned out, in terms of its “shape, atmosphere and spirit. We had a fantastic response and it was well received at the box office. “I think probably one of the nicest nights I’ve ever had in my life was sitting in Parramatta Park watching the Sydney Dance Company and Australian Chamber Orchestra perform Inside Out.” Hume says when programming a festival it is important to think about how local artists can be pulled into collaborations. Last year she commissioned Smoke and Mirrors, a mix of acrobatics, magic and cabaret that has since won three Helpmann awards, including Best New Australian Work, and toured nationally and internationally. “Sydney Festival was a great launch pad into both a national and international market,” says James Brown, one of the three performers in ThisSideUp, the company that fielded the acrobatic side of the Smoke and Mirrors collaboration. ThisSideUp have performed together since 2007. “[Artists] produce phenomenal, ground breaking stuff here in Australia. It’s a bit sad that some festivals don’t seek out what’s in their own backyard.” EQ UI T Y

Photo by Prudence Upton. Thanks Sydney Festival

othing beats the buzz of an international arts festival. Each year, these hulking behemoths of the Australian art scene roar to life in cities across Australia, drawing together a vast array of local and international acts across every art form, playing in theatres, clubs, pubs, museums, and streets – pretty much anywhere that people and art are able to occupy the same space. The epic scale of such festivals can only be achieved through a hefty reliance on government funding and subsidy. Sydney Festival is propped up by $6.3 million dollars from the New South Wales state government, though of course the state reaps massive rewards from tourism as well as other less tangible benefits. But how do these industry flagships go about their programing? Are they conscious of the important opportunities they provide for Australian performers? What sort of risks are they prepared to take, and are our performers getting a return on our investment? equity put these questions to two of Australia’s most celebrated festival directors: Lindy Hume and Brett Sheehy. “International arts festivals are huge ecosystems,” says Hume, director of the Sydney Festival. “They’re really important hubs, and draw audiences that are in a very particular state of mind, which makes them highly desirable places to perform. An international festival is the best possible place for work to be seen. “You need one under your belt,” she says, having just completed the second chapter of her three-year run. Hume is the sixth director of Sydney’s largest annual arts festival, which has been held each year since 1977. This year the Sydney Festival sold more than 132,000 tickets and took more than $5 million at the box office. Sydney-born Hume hails from an opera background, and became artistic director of the West

Photo by Prudence Upton. Thanks ThisSideUp

behind it, or the means to pull together a team of artists, create a work and Brown says it is important for festival organisers to recognise the put it on the stage, “Work that pushes the boundaries of art forms.” opportunities they provide for performers and take risks on new “In festivals we can present undefinable art forms, as the silos between Australian works. art forms continue to melt away.” “Nobody wants to see the same thing that’s been done over and over Sheehy says that while it’s important to acknowledge the role of the again, and as artists it’s important to keep it fresh, and find new ways of taxpayer in funding international arts festivals, it’s also important to performing in different contexts.” respect that they were established to support collaboration as well as When it comes to harnessing the power of the Sydney Festival to bring international works to our shores. provide opportunities to Australian artists, Hume says she doesn’t follow “I personally deeply respect my core brief of presenting international art, a ratio of local to international acts, but says her programs tend to turn and also developing and presenting Australian art created for, or with the out around half-half. potential to tour, the international stage. “You can’t program an international festival without having a substantial “What I have to do is decide which is the work best suited to the Australian component. It’s not right – it looks wrong and it feels wrong.” international arts platform. I ask myself ‘is this a work that I would say to As it turns out, in 2010 and 2011 the Sydney Festival featured more my colleagues in Bogota, in Amsterdam, in Johannesburg, that presents overseas events than Australian ones. But on a performer-by-performer the Australian creative pursuit in the 21st century? Someone flying in basis, locals outweighed overseas talent. The Festival First Night event, from Hong Kong or San Francisco for three days should which reportedly drew crowds of more than 200,000, be able to open a brochure and pick any five shows and tends to tip this balance toward Australian artists. find works that are reflective of our artistic pursuit, and “The audience hungers for both Australian and can stand beside each other in any platform in the world.” international work, feels equally strongly about both, and Sheehy began his career at Sydney Theatre Company, critiques both equally. It’s a good feeling to know that the where he worked for a decade. From 1985, he recalls, he cultural cringe is over. has had to travel overseas every year of his working life, “We want to be part of the cutting edge, instead of one of building networks that now extend back 26 years. As a the touring circuit cities. We have to have a sense of new result he carries a shortlist of works that runs to 450 or ideas being explored in real time here in Sydney, otherwise 500, and is constantly shifting and changing. you run the risk of having everything three years after “That may sound like a lot, but when you break it down London.” into art forms and the whole world, plus the diverse The risks don’t always pay off. The Giacomo Variations, an national landscape, it’s really not.” avant-garde chamber opera starring John Malkovich, was Sheehy gets between 12 and 15 pitches for festival works a major showpiece of this year’s festival but did not sit every day, by email, mail or telephone, which he sorts well with many critics and reportedly prompted walkouts. into three categories: of no interest, of some interest, Hume says that, while it wasn’t her favourite night of and of passionate interest. These are then shortlisted for theatre, “it was a really interesting experiment”. further exploration. Giacomo premiered in Vienna the same month it came to But like Hume, Sheehy uses no ratios or rules when it Sydney Festival, and one of the major criticisms from the comes to balancing local and international work on the media was that it was booked by festival organisers “sight festival program. unseen”. But while it was an overseas production, Giacomo Balancing act: Acrobats James Brown, Casey Douglas and “That’s the art of being a festival director. Getting incorporated the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, local Christian Schooneveldt-Reid it right in terms of what becomes the final, wholistic performers, technicians and entertainment staff. And it perform in Smoke and Mirrors festival program. I’m passionately against it feeling like sold out. you’ve walked a shopping trolley down the supermarket shelves of art in “The whole point of a Sydney Festival is that Sydney is the meeting Australia and internationally and kind of dropped things in.” place. The conversation is between the place and the world. Australian He says he takes care to incorporate the artistic milieu of each city he artists come first in a way, and then the conversation about what’s going works in and that there is nothing like taking over a new festival. “It’s on around the world is a bigger question about what kind of city are we, a completely clean slate and that’s absolutely liberating. Suddenly, the what kind of community are we, what kind of meeting place are we? orchestras, dance companies, theatre companies, visual arts companies “We also have to have creative collaborations, and be part of the and opera companies you have to work with are all different. They have development of ideas. That can’t be sliced up between Australia and the different strengths and a different flavour and feel, and that automatically rest of the world. You need to be part of the bigger picture, of ideas, stimuli, and the sort of conversations we have with creative teams around colours a proportion of your Australian work.” Though Sheehy questions whether audiences are genuinely different in the world means we are part of that thinking and artists are creating each city, recounting that when he moved from Sydney to Adelaide he work for Sydney as much as they are for Antwerp or Toronto.” was told the audience there would expect their festival to be “absolutely Melbourne Festival director Brett Sheehy agrees. “You have to take high art”. risks. The primary job of a festival is to ensure the work in the program “But when I got there I found out, well, actually, people just love great is work that could not appear if it didn’t appear in a festival context. art. They engage with great art whether it’s in Sydney or Adelaide or That means you tend not to present work you’d find in the subscription Johannesburg or San Paolo. Then, when I was coming to Melbourne, seasons of the state opera, orchestra or theatre companies.” everyone said the artistic landscape there was very intellectual, very Sheehy has just been appointed artistic director of the Melbourne Theatre Company. Last year he directed the second Melbourne Festival of cerebral and sometimes inward looking. And I got to Melbourne, but again it was just about great art. People are people.” his four-year tenure. This saw 503,603 people attend 56 events, bringing Ultimately, like acrobat James Brown performing in Smoke and Mirrors, in $2.7 million. Previously Sheehy has directed the Sydney and Adelaide international arts festivals are a balancing act. “We take risks in Smoke Festivals, and he has a history of championing Australian works. Sheehy and Mirrors, and that’s what everyone needs to be doing, I think.” is also passionate about supporting art that would otherwise not find a Flynn Murphy is a journalist with the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance platform. He looks for work that doesn’t have a permanent company EQ UI T Y


Local voices: Richard Roxburgh and Lisa McCune in ABC’s Rake

Converging desires Local content regulations are under threat and with them the ability of Australians to produce, see and hear Australian stories, writes Drew MacRae


However this move towards a universe of programming available to all, could, paradoxically, have a devastating impact upon the Australian screen industry and, by extension, the working lives of performers. With the flood of foreign programs available on mobile phones, computers and digital set top boxes, there is a real possibility that our homegrown TV programs will be drowned out. The main reason Australian shows are screened on free-to-air television, and in smaller levels on pay television, is that the government has put regulations in place to ensure there is local content being produced and screened. These regulations require that the Seven, Nine and Ten networks, as well as their regional affiliates like Prime and Southern Cross, screen significant quotas of Australian-made programs – 55 per cent of their television schedules in fact. Without these laws levels of Australian-made television shows would decrease sharply. How do we know this? Well, discounting the fact that before regulation, when television first started, hardly any Australian television was produced or screened – with networks choosing to screen American and British programs – the simple truth is that is doesn’t make economic sense. Commercial television broadcasters have the choice between producing one hour of Australian drama for $500,000 – paying performer, crew and post production crew salaries – or buying one hour of US drama for less than $50,000. US programs are so cheap because they have already been paid for in the US market, thus anything they can earn selling the program overseas is pure profit. In that decision-making process it is easy to see which choice a commercial broadcaster, thinking of the shareholders, would make. Digital technology creates increased competition for TV networks – undermining the near monopoly over our home entertainment needs that the networks have held for years. Their ability to continue running EQ UI T Y

Photos by Clare Barry. Thanks Fairfax Photos


n my house, Monday nights are Stay at Home and Watch Television nights. Last Monday I caught up on the series Rake with Richard Roxburgh, which I missed when it first screened on ABC1, but is now screening on ABC2. My legal type friends recommended it to me over Facebook. That was after I got to catch up on last week’s episode of the US series Big Love, recorded from SBS on my personal video recorder. Of course, watching Rake for the first time (it was great by the way – go the Aussie drama) meant I missed out on my favourite show of the week Media Watch, so I caught up with it the next morning on ABC iView. I did catch Q&A and tweeted my views (I felt that shouting at the television simply wasn’t enough) using my Blackberry. Most of you will have had similar experiences. Some of you will have been watching the latest series of Mad Men on DVD, ignoring the TV schedule altogether (and the advertising that goes along with it), others may have watched the latest episode via legal download on iTunes. Your kids might be playing the Me & My Monsters game online, and others still watching the latest movie or documentary on Foxtel. Our entertainment and TV watching habits are changing drastically. In many ways this is exciting and empowering – we get to watch what we want, where we want and interact with the content, be it through leaving comments, via twitter or by “liking” the Home and Away facebook page. In other ways the exponential increase in entertainment and media outlets is overwhelming. Twenty years ago all we had to choose from was three commercial stations (Seven, Nine and Ten), the ABC and SBS. We could record one thing at a time on analogue VHS. Sometimes, if you were lucky (and you were in a capital city) you could tune your TV into a community or regional station. Now though, there are more than 100 Foxtel stations, more than 10 additional free-to-air digital multi-channels, TV series on DVD, downloads over the internet that can be uploaded to an iPhone or Blackberry, and an endless array of websites, games on multiple consoles and TV stations streaming over broadband internet. All of this is immensely exciting for film and television lovers (not to mention increasingly expensive). We live in a time where we have almost instant access to any program or piece of information – be it our favourite US comedy series, documentary from Asia or European news service.

Tuning in: The cast of children’s TV show Me and My Monsters

a profitable business will weaken as advertisers move over to where the eyeballs increasingly are – on the internet or on pay TV. Indeed, the networks have long argued for a relaxation of local content laws because it costs too much to produce Australian programs. Local content regulations are under threat and there are real fears within the industry and government that Australians will lose the ability to produce, see and hear their owns stories in their own voices. The government has called for a total review of its support system for the industry, in the light of what they have called “convergence” – the coming together of all the different technologies (television, internet, mobile phone etc). The main aim of this review is to identify the problems that the digital revolution will raise within the media environment. Particular attention will be paid to the regulations that support Australian programming. The review committee – to be led by Screen Australia chair Glenn Borehan and former AFTRS chief executive Malcolm Long – will also seek ways to ensure that Australian programmes can continue to be nurtured and produced into the future. But what is the answer? This is the $64 million dollar question and one that the industry is busily attempting to answer. First we need to acknowledge that, for the time being, the local content regulations work and work well, and shouldn’t be abandoned without a fight. Advertising revenue of the TV networks is up and they remain one of the most profitable businesses in the country. Indeed it has been reported that projections of decreased advertising levels on free-to-air channels, which were used as the basis for a calculation that led the government to deliver the stations with a $250 million rebate, have turned out to be wrong as the advertising market bounced back strongly from the global financial crisis. Lowering the 55 per cent local content requirement would also invoke rules in the US Free Trade Agreement, which say that if we decrease local content quotas we can’t raise them. This is another important EQ UI T Y

Laying it down: The cast of Australian drama Laid

reason not to tinker too much with the regulations as they stand. However, in a potential future where the National Broadband Network begins to deliver television broadcasts and other programs via the internet at super fast speeds, and regulation is no longer enough, there are a range of options available for protecting local content: from pledging the licence fees to create an Australian content fund, to using the Producer Offset to encourage increased investment in Australian television. The Alliance’s key concern is that the government may choose not to act now. Performers could find themselves in a future where there are fewer and fewer programs being produced for Australian television and fewer and fewer employment opportunities. Of course it would not only be performers who would be impacted. Crew members, including directors, gaffers, grips, lighting – the whole gamut of roles that add to the creation of the productions on which we work – are in the same position as performers. Journalists too. Digital technology is hitting newsrooms, newspapers, and broadcasters hard and convergence makes the current rules limiting foreign ownership and cross media ownership redundant. So it is important that we get off our comfy couches, designed for watching 3D, hi-def television, and let the government know this is a critical issue for us as performers – and that it is also important for us as Australians who may end up not having the choice to see our own stories, hear our own accents or watch our own news. We don’t want to stop the exciting prospect of watching our favourite shows when and where we want – we just want to make sure that our voices are heard in this coming cacophony of content. In the coming months Equity, along with the entire union, will launch a campaign to ensure your voice is heard by government and continues to be heard over the airwaves, down the cables and on our TVs. As they say in the classics … stay tuned! Drew MacRae is Equity’s federal policy officer 23

All the world is a stage

Cameras are coming out of the studio and into the theatre and performers are having to adapt, writes Victoria Houston



of live performances inject new life into theatre in Australia? Opera Australia thinks it can, if reports coming in from the Met in New York are anything to go by. This season, the Met expects three million people worldwide to see their operas in the cinema, and reports that they made a net profit from cinema attendances last season of $US15 million. These are clearly big bucks. For the financially challenged Opera Australia (OA), the Met’s success cannot be ignored. OA’s chief executive Adrian Collette sees the recording of performances for cinema and DVD release as a means to build the company’s reputation both here and internationally. “It will also introduce another income stream to be shared between OA and its artists,” he says. “We have to do it to remain relevant.” Late last year, the company’s productions of The Marriage of Figaro and Rigoletto were captured on film and released into cinemas around Australia and more recordings are planned for this year. It is too early to tell how successful the venture will be for OA, but it is clear the company is focused on doing all it can to make the recordings a success, with DVD and television sales of these productions planned. It also remains to be seen whether Australian audiences will take to Opera Australia’s recordings with as much fervour as worldwide audiences have to the Met’s. Sydney Theatre Company’s general manager Patrick McIntyre cites programming choices at the ABC as one reason for the new focus on recordings. EQ UI T Y

Photo thanks Fairfax Photos

raditionally, performers worked in theatre, in film or on television and never the twain should meet. Now most performers move between all media – although there will always be those performers who feel most comfortable in one field and decide to stay with what they love best. But a change is happening for those performers who choose solely to work in live performance, as more and more, the cameras are coming to them. While the recording of live performances isn’t new – radio broadcasts of full-length stage plays began in New York in 1922 – technological advances have allowed companies such as the New York Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Royal Opera House, the Bolshoi Ballet, Opera Australia and the Australian Ballet, to take the recording and screening of their performances to a new level. High-definition recordings of live performances are being screened in movie cinemas and other big screen venues with increasing regularity and growing popularity. For theatre performers this has thought-provoking consequences. Stage make-up looms large on a seven-metre cinema screen. That note in Act 2 you didn’t hit exactly as you wanted was recorded and can be replayed countless times. Your regular move upstage, to clear your throat before your aria, is no longer so subtle. And the ventriloquiststyle chats with fellow corps de ballet members during a 45-minute divertissement are suddenly not ok. There is clearly a new dimension to live performance, but if performers can adapt to it, could the recording

(Far left) Ballet broadcast: The Australian Ballet’s The Nutcracker was beamed around Australia from the Sydney Opera House in 2007. (Left) Access to arts: Last year Opera Australia broadcast The Marriage of Figaro – their first HD cinema broadcast

Photo by Branco Gaica. Thanks Fairfax Photos


McIntyre says the Sydney Theatre Company is planning “to conduct a few projects on a pilot basis to evaluate artistic, production and financial models for the future. It is not acceptable to us that an international market for alternative cinema content is developing in which world-class Australian artists are not represented.” For the Australian Ballet, financial concerns are of less importance. “For us, it’s not so much about money; it’s more about people seeing works,” says the Ballet’s associate executive director Philippe Magid. “A lot of our performances sell to capacity and we can’t just throw in extra performances.” Collette, McIntyre and Magid all see that they have a responsibility, as publicly funded companies, to be available to as many people as possible. Magid sees recordings and simulcasts as a way to give people who can’t come to Australian Ballet performances, whether because they’re sold out or because of price or access difficulties, the opportunity to see ballet. “We’re not interested in taking over the space occupied by the Royal Ballet in cinemas.” Magid says. “The more people watching ballet the better.” All three agree that nothing replaces the thrill of being in the theatre but says Magid: “It’s a great option for another way to see performing arts.” While the Australian Ballet isn’t worried about losing audiences who’d prefer to pay $20 for a cinema ticket, for arts companies in less comfortable financial positions this must be a consideration. Anecdotally, the Met reports an increase to audiences coming to the theatre since they began screening in cinemas. The 2010 UK report by Hasan Bakhshi and Australia’s David Throsby, Culture of Innovation, was very positive about the effect on audience numbers at the National Theatre following

First radio broadcasts of full-length stage plays in New York 1922 The first full Metropolitan Opera radio broadcast (Christmas Day) 1931 Complete performance of Verdi‘s Otello broadcast live on US ABC-TV 1948 Australian Ballet makes a film version of Don Quixote starring Rudolph Nureyev 1972 The New York Metropolitan Opera begins broadcasting into cinemas 2006 The Australian Ballet’s The Nutcracker beamed around Australia from the Sydney Opera House 2007

World Opera and Ballet Cinema in HD comes to Australia with works from the Met, Royal Ballet etc available to Australian cinema audiences National Theatre UK screens Phedre live into cinemas The Mariinsky Theater presents first direct TV broadcast ballet in 3D Opera Australia broadcasts The Marriage of Figaro – their first HD cinema broadcast First 3D opera recording – Royal Opera House’s Carmen English National Opera’s Lucrezia Borgia becomes first live opera broadcast in 3D

“The ABC used to actively program opera, ballet and live arts for television [with] recordings later released on video. Once the ABC stopped pursuing this policy arts coverage declined sharply and no new recordings were made,” says McIntyre, who was with the Australian Ballet in 2007 when they kick-started live simulcasts, by beaming their production of The Nutcracker to eight regional cinemas around Australia and the Sydney Opera House forecourt. He sees new technology, and the resulting reduction in cost, as the main reason why people are looking to recordings once again. “It meant arts companies could begin investigating new business models for broadcasts,” he says, which has resulted in more control over both the process and the finished product. Collette agrees: “[We now have] more artistic control – we have knowledge of the specific performance and can therefore direct the recording and editing to ensure quality.” This focus on quality should allay some performers’ concerns. “Unlike film, there are no retakes and once it’s ‘in the can’ so to speak, that’s it,” says Sydney actor Anthony Phelan, who appeared in the Bell Shakespeare production of King Lear that was recorded for the ABC last year. “That’s not to demean [recordings of live performances], it’s just to say that it adds another ‘nervous’ complexity to it for the performer.” Phelan thinks the more control the company has the better: “We … have the edit on our side.”

a screening of Phedre in June 2009, citing one third of the audience at the cinema as saying they would be more likely to now book tickets to see a show at the National Theatre. In Australia, recording of performances is an emerging area. While it has happened intermittently during past decades, there is now a focused push to match, if not outdo, what is coming out of Europe and the US in terms of cultural content. At a time when traditional theatre audiences are ageing and the speed with which digital technology and social media are transforming is astounding, arts companies must change the way they do things. At the upcoming International Federation of Actors meeting, which will see actors’ unions from all over the world meet in Sydney for three days in April, a panel discussion will be held to tease out more of the issues faced by performers in the digital age, with particular regard to recordings of live theatre. With the first 3D recording, in London last year, of the Royal Opera House production of Carmen (which will be screened in Australian cinemas in March), things are moving fast. While the industry at large hopes that Australian arts companies achieve financial success with recording and broadcasting, it remains to be seen whether the reported successes overseas can be repeated here. Most importantly, we need to wait and see whether this will be done in such a way, as performers, and their performances, are not compromised in any way. Victoria Houston is Equity’s national live performance industrial officer


2009 2009 2010 2010 2010 2011


No pun unpunished It may not be glamorous, but nothing beats the energy and excitement of a night of improvised comedy, writes Michelle Nussey

Hearts and Bones: The cast of Melbourne’s Big HOO-HAA! troupe (including Michelle Nussey, front)


with six players, an MC and a musician pulled from a collection of 20 et’s be honest. Unless you’re a jazz musician, live improvised improvisers. In order to smoothly facilitate the regular cast changes, the performance doesn’t have great appeal. Critics dub it “hit and miss”. crew trains every week, with their main focus on working together as a Arts funding bodies turn their noses up at it. Actors only see its team. Unlike the competitiveness that can be found backstage in other value as behind the scenes during character development. Many wouldcomedy and impro rooms, The Big HOO-HAA! cast continually look be audience members don’t even know what it is. And I would bet most out for their fellow players and actively create an environment more readers couldn’t think of the name of a performance company that regularly conducive to taking bigger risks on stage. Ultimately the performances performs live improvisation. Not what I would call a blessed art form. are freer and more exciting. So what’s the deal with The Big HOO-HAA!, a weekly improvised What does this mean for the audience? The resulting show is a feelcomedy show that is triumphant against the odds? Started in Fremantle good affair that encourages both the viewers and the players to have in 2002 by Cut Snake Comedy, The Big HOO-HAA! quickly gained fun. Whether singing a song based on the last line a regular following. Nine years later the show sells out every week in Perth and last year was successfully the ease and openness of dialogue they offered, or changing their intention at the blow of a whistle, the performers are happy to launched in Melbourne. It is the only show in Australia with which they commit thoroughly to every situation thrown at them. that has ongoing weekly performances running in two conduct the show This ease and openness with which they conduct the states. And as if that isn’t enough, it can also boast invites the audience to show invites the audience to join in and come along for establishing the burgeoning comedy careers of Claire join in for the ride – the ride – while being happy it’s not them up on stage. Hooper and Tim Minchin. The Big HOO-HAA!, in a nutshell, is a two-hour while being happy it’s And of course the beauty of this well trained, tried and competition between two teams – the Hearts and the not them up on stage tested art form is that the show is different every week. Unlike your favourite movie, which you can watch as Bones. These teams are armed with only audience many times as you like, but never get the first time surprises again, The Big suggestions and a handful of props as they leave “no song unsung, no joke undelivered and no pun unpunished in their mad dash for the punch HOO-HAA! has the same atmosphere and lighthearted energy every week with completely new content. Plus, each show can never be repeated, and line.” Their quips are quick, their characterisation acute and their short is an entirely original experience for only one group of punters. scenes leave you wanting more. If you’re looking for an easy night out to forget your week or get your Part of the charm of The Big HOO-HAA! relies on the fact that it has weekend off to a good start, The Big HOO-HAA! is the place to be. You been running for so long. The kinks have been ironed out and the can be as involved in the show as you like, from calling out a suggestion performers know what is needed for each segment, with a professionally for every scene to sitting back, sipping a beer and enjoying the funnies. slick result. The strength of this framework gives players the freedom Michelle Nussey is performer based in Melbourne. The Big HOO-HAA! to ad-lib between scenes and games without losing the direction of the Melbourne is on every Friday night at The Portland Hotel, Cnr Russell and show. This pretty much eliminates the flailing that can be caused by the Little Collins Sts, CBD at 8pm. Details at tangential nature of improvisation and keeps the night barrelling along. The Big HOO-HAA! Perth is on every Saturday night at Lazy Susan’s Possibly one of the greatest assets of The Big HOO-HAA! is the camaraderie of its ensemble cast. The onstage performers change weekly, Comedy Den above The Brisbane Hotel, Highgate at 7.30pm 26


dressing room review

Photo by Dallas Lewis


few years ago I watched a BBC television series of Casanova written by Russell T. Davis and starring Peter O’Toole and David Tennant. It revealed the spark of chemistry between the writer and actor, who later teamed up for the brilliant re-launch of Doctor Who. I was struck by how theatrical the series was and how Davis captured a dorky, intelligent, smart, sexy but very real, domestic Casanova. He was funny too. No po-faced dwellings on life, sex and death, no sordid romps and unnecessary titillation, no overdressed costume drama with stuffy accents. This was fresh, hilarious and about love. Casanova loved one woman deeply and never forgot her. He also invented the lottery. Who knew? So I wrote to Davis’s agent. Waited. Tried not to think about it. Until I heard back – yes, there were others interested, but if I wanted to outline my idea Davis would look at it. My idea: faithful to Davis’s writing, with Older Casanova, in his library, in the present. The past represented by a bare stage and a curtain – very much commedia dell arte with physical acting, mimed props, but truthful. And a cast of seven. I waited. And waited. And then – yes! Davis liked the idea. We were on! March, 2010 Four drafts later, a first read. I gathered faithful actors that I love and trust. They all said, “yes” to a read only; no one asked to be cast in any role and didn’t expect to be. Which is why I eventually cast them all. I have worked with them before and, though I love finding new talent, I need to be safe and secure on such an ambitious project. There’s great chemistry and the reading goes very well. Discussions afterwards are always interesting. Some felt the play was physical in the first half and not enough in the second. Some actors played 14 parts and were talking to themselves, which I needed to sort out. Many comments about how the play didn’t feel

like it was originally for the screen – nice to hear and testament to forward when he started his scene. I can relax now we have cast Davis’s writing. We agree to meet in a year’s time. But before then I the main part. need one important element – a Casanova. December 20, 2010 December 7, 2010 I start on the fifth draft of the play. I need to re-examine the Rehearsals start in two months. There are 22 potential Casanovas physical aspects. Leaping over balconies works on TV but in waiting to see me. Cath Moore, in the part of Henriette, is reading theatre, with limited space and resources, needs more stylised opposite and brings a calm sense of fun to the proceedings. A thought. Meeting with Daryl Wallis to talk about music. I want to journalist who is observing notices all the hopeful actors wear open the play with arias reflecting the time, or perhaps a little pointed shoes, tight jeans and t-shirts. Is this an audition uniform earlier with the music of Baroque composer Henry Purcell. Daryl she asks? Not as far as I know. Finally Cath asks an actor and we suggests the lyrics of modern songs, sung in the style of Purcell. I learn it is a Casanova homage. I encourage the actors to have like it and promise to make a list of favourite 70s and 80s songs. fun, relax and play rather than try too hard. Two days whizz by and December 21, 2010 I have a short list. Reading about Casanova. All he did was write his life down as December 9, 2010 honestly as possible. Of course he wrote about lust and sex Simone Romaniuk’s designs for the set are perfect; a faded, but also about love, rejection, loneliness. Casanova’s writings peeling, green-black Venice; an empty space to play downstage; are not so much a tale of sexual conquests but of a man a table set against a broken panel of windows looking out from discovering himself. Casanova’s library. The feel is one of age, past glories, wear and January 2011 tear – like Casanova’s mind. Designing the costumes it’s hard Draft five finished and scenes re-worked for balance and story to get the right balance between costume drama – which I telling. I feel confident this is the version we will take into rehearsals, don’t want – and too modern. Simone has come up with some which begin in a month. Now, with a Casanova, a great cast, a wonderful creations. See-through elements make the period fantastic set and costumes, I feel we are ready to tell the story. exciting, sexy, and dangerous – hoop skirts without skirts, coats Mark Kilmurry is a performer based in New South Wales without shirts, corsets revealing flesh, boots, sunglasses. December 10, 2010 Tim Walter is cast as Casanova. He has all the right qualities for He loved only one woman and invented the lottery – Mark the role. Cath Moore reacted favorably after his audition and Kilmurry presents a new angle on the life of Casanova I noticed the journalist lean

Diary of a Casanova

Backstage: Catherine Moore, Michael Ross and Tim Walter rehearse for the Ensemble Theatre’s Casanova



experiences. And by deciding what these formative experiences were for my character, using the script as a starting place, I can then meditate on and improvise around these events to get to know how she thinks and why she acts the way she does. JU: How do you bring all of these ideas and back-story into your performance? GM: First and foremost I like to learn the lines rote. I want to get them into my head so that I know them backwards. The technique I use is to take each word and breath in and out on it. So say the first line is “Can we just drop it”, I would take the word “can” and breathe in feeling the word and thinking about it as a stand alone entity and exploring any images that come to mind associated with that word. Then I breath out and do the same for “we”, and then breathe back in doing the same for “just” and so on. I do this taking several breaths on each word, or just briefly ponder on each word as I breathe in and out. When I learn lines this way, I’m not learning a performance and not deciding how lines should be spoken, the lines just get into my body so that I can effortlessly recall them. I’m a big believer that lines are the tools actors’ use for improvisation. And learning lines in this way allows me to have access to the words as a tool, without pre-conceived notions holding me back. JU: So you learn the lines as tools and get inside the

Getting into character

In his quest to discover how performers know which direction to take their characters, Jamie Unicomb spoke to actor Gina Morley Character building: Performer Gina Morley gives her tips on script reading and analysis



Photo thanks Gina Morley

JU: Gina, I have seen you get inside the mind of many different characters. How you would describe your process? GM: Developing characters, finding out who they are and why they do what they do, is what I’m passionate about. Overall my process is one of finding their truth. Using psychology to analyse the words and actions in a script to get to the bottom of where a character is coming from and what they really want. And by that I mean what they want right now and what they want for their whole lives. JU: What is the first thing you do to “attack” a script? GM: I read it over and over, each time thinking about my character from the perspective of all characters in the scene. I take note of anything that is said about my character, actions performed by her and others, and also what is not said. For instance, if I’m playing a woman who’s just been fired and she comes home to her partner and says: “I got the sack”. And he walks away and says: “Damn babe, that’s no good. When’s dinner ready?” these words and actions speak volumes about their relationship, gender division, what they are willing to put up with. From that I extrapolate their back-story. I use these ideas to build a profile of who my character is and where she came from, down to who her friends were when she was little, her first kiss, her parents’ relationship etc. As the daughter of a psychologist it’s not surprising that I believe we are all a product of our

character’s mind by developing back-story and exploring how your characters’ past affects her life. How do you put it all together? GM: I mentioned improvisation, that’s a big part of it for me. I like to take events from my character’s past and improvise them to get the actual experience of living them into my body. I learnt this technique from working with the amazing film director Alkinos Tsilimidos (Tom White). For example, if the character from before who was fired, had only recently had a large promotion, I would do an improvisation around say how she felt when she got home after the promotion. Literally I would go outside my front door then enter as the character and improvise from there. Learning how she reacts to events and how she feels and having the actual memory of those events allows me to then work with the scripted scenes with truth and reality. I know that using this technique has allowed me to “play” a lot more and find interesting human reactions that would not have come out of a more conventional “learn lines then perform” rehearsal process. JU: Any last thoughts or advice for other actors? GM: Be fearless. Trust that whatever character choice first comes to mind is the right one. Don’t second guess yourself and try to think of something more “clever”. What you first think of and your natural reaction is more interesting than anything you could cognitively construct. Also, look for places in the script where your character is making choices, we all make choices all the time so identify what they are and consider what the alternative was. And of course listen to and be changed by whatever happens in a scene. Jamie Unicomb and Gina Morley are performers based in Victoria

Setting the scene: The new State Theatre Centre opened in January The write stuff: Playwright John Aitken has written a new play to celebrate the opening of the new State Theatre Centre

With Shakespeare lighting the way Just as the Globe Theatre ushered in a new era of creativity in Shakespeare’s day, WA performers hope the $100 million State Theatre Centre in Perth will bring new audiences to the region

Main photo by Eva Fernandez. Inset photo thanks JMS Publicity


new play celebrating the life of Shakespeare will have its world premiere at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, which opened in Perth’s Northbridge in January. “I am hoping it will usher in a new era of creativity, just as Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre did in London in 1599,” says WA playwright John Aitken, who penned The Enchanters to celebrate the opening of this thoroughly modern entertainment venue. The play tells the dramatic story behind the building of the Globe. According to legend, famous Shakespearean actor Richard Burbage and his brother, Cuthbert, inherited a playhouse called The Theatre from their father. Unfortunately, the lease on the land on which the Theatre stood, had expired. When the landowner threatened to demolish the building, Richard and Cuthbert, with other members of Lord Chamberlain’s Men (the acting company to which Shakespeare belonged), dismantled the playhouse and transported the materials across the Thames to build the Globe. Some of Shakespeare’s best-known stage works were produced at the Globe, including his four tragedies. “Here in Perth we are facing a similar situation,” says Aitken, a member of the government consultative committee responsible for the centre. “We are saying goodbye to one theatre, our beloved Playhouse, while embracing the exciting new theatrical age with the opening of the State Theatre Centre.” The Enchanters will be performed in the Heath Ledger Theatre at the new centre and, in keeping with Elizabethan tradition, will feature an all male cast. “There will be a lot of testosterone,” laughs Perth-based performer Brendan Ewing, who has landed the part of Shakespeare. “I’ve never been in an all-male production.” “It was a production decision, which I like, to present the play as if it were being presented by Shakespeare’s company,” says Aitken. “There is a big cast, many of whom are doubling as two characters, which was also common in Shakespeare’s day.” Aitken says the play is unusual because it is not by Shakespeare, but about EQ UI T Y

him. Adds Ewing: “Most people are familiar with his works but not the man behind the works; there are even people who say he doesn’t exist! Regardless of what you believe, he is a huge figure [and] I am having a lot of fun thinking about how I will fill his shoes.” The performers and creatives involved in productions showing at the State Theatre Centre of WA all agree there is a need to ramp up the level of production in WA and are hoping the new centre, which is now home to both Black Swan and the Perth Theatre Company, will play some part in making this happen. As well as the 575-seat Heath Ledger Theatre the centre includes a 234-seat underground studio, a multipurpose outdoor space, numerous rehearsal rooms and state-of-the-art equipment. “I think this is going to be an ornament not just for Perth but Australia,” award-winning actor William McInnes said at the opening in January. “People will want to come and work here because it such a cracking piece of infrastructure and it’s infrastructure with a brain.” Andrew Lewis was artistic director for the centre’s opening ceremony: “The theatre community, which is rich with talent, has waited 40 years for such a building. I’m hoping it will attract a lot of people. I’m a true believer that if you build the home, the audience will come.” “I hope it means more productions and bigger audiences. I think a venue like this might be able to attract different audiences, maybe those that don’t usually go to the theatre, and also amplify awareness of what’s on, in terms of theatre and performance in WA,” says Ewing. Aitken, who has written more than 30 stage plays, says: “It is a bit of a cliché to say we are having a ‘boom’. But there are certainly people from all over the world settling in WA and visiting WA, and there are large companies looking for sponsorship opportunities, so it is definitely time we had something like the State Theatre Centre to offer them.” The Enchanters, presented by The Prickly Pear Ensemble, is playing at the State Theatre Centre of WA from May 31 to June 4. Bookings at Elizabeth Franks is a journalist with the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance 29


et’s start at the beginning. Can you tell me where and when you were born?” That is how the majority of the oral history interviews I conduct for the National Film and Sound Archive commence. I’ve been recording them for 10 years now and although there’s a method to how I procure details of someone’s career – generally working in a chronological fashion – no two interviews are the same. The National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) came into being as a separate agency in 1984 and the Oral History Program began at the same time. Today, there are more than 10,000 recordings held in the Oral History Collection, of which approximately one third can be regarded as genuine oral histories. Each one tells the story of a career spent in film, television, radio or recorded sound (or a combination of these areas). But you don’t have to be considered a “star” to be invited to record your story, just someone with an interesting career whose work has made a significant contribution to Australia’s screen, sound or broadcast history. The collection houses audio (and some video) interviews with people from

radio, film and television. Over a period of several weeks I travelled to Owen’s home in Eastwood, ending up with something like 12 hours of tape. We became friends and kept in touch until his death in 2002. I submit names to the archive or they suggest names to me. For every actor who tells his or her story there are 10 more I could record. It’s a question of time and availability. I’ve been all over Australia with my recording equipment – Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – and have been privileged to record the stories of performers we’ve since lost, such as Les Foxcroft, Ernie Bourne and Brian James. At the same time, I regret not having recorded interviews with the likes of Monica Maughan, Frank Wilson or Syd Conabere. I’ve recorded close to 40 interviews and developed rewarding relationships with many of the interviewees, which seems natural after spending so much time with them, uncovering important details of their lives and careers. Many tell me they have shocking memories, but I find that once someone starts telling their story it’s amazing how many recollections come to the fore. The duration of an oral history can be anything from

Stories of the storytellers What began as an interest in one performer’s story has led to a decade of listening and recording the stories of nearly 40, writes Nigel Giles History in the making: Joy Westmore with Nigel Giles, the National Film and Sound Archives’ oral historian


40 minutes to 20-plus hours. Each interview is like part of a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces gradually fitting together, so you get a rich picture not just of an individual’s career, but, for instance, a specific production, a company or an era. Each story goes into the collection where it remains, preserved and accessible (depending on the terms of a signed release agreement) and provides a permanent record for family, friends, fans or researchers and generations of people to come. Anyone can use the archive for research purposes or simply for pleasure and there are access centres in all capital cities. You can go in and watch an old episode of a TV series or hear a radio show from the 1940s. It’s free and easy. If I’m out and about and see actors I’d like to interview I often approach them directly. Other times I go through their agent (providing they still have one). So be prepared, one day I might introduce myself and invite you to tell the story of your life and career for our archive. Nigel Giles is an oral historian with the National Film and Sound Archive. For further information about the Oral History Program contact Ken Berryman on 03 8638 1505 or visit EQ UI T Y

Photo thanks Nigel Giles

behind the scenes and in front of the camera (or behind the microphone) and although I’ve interviewed writers, directors and producers, I have a penchant for actors. That’s because I’ve always admired anyone who can make a go of an acting career, particularly in this country. I tell my interviewees “there are no rules, it’s your story so tell it on your terms”. However I discourage them from censoring themselves. When they say, as they often do, “It’ll be edited, won’t it?” I tell them “No, there is no editing.” This can seem odd, but it’s necessary to retain the true essence of the storytelling. As an archive discussion paper states: “These recollections may be idiosyncratic, flawed or amazingly precise, but in all instances they provide a personal, first hand view of a past that may be otherwise lost to future generations.” My first interview was with the late actor Owen Weingott in 2000. I met Owen in regard to a project I was working on at the time and as we talked, and he began telling me about his career, it became apparent that someone should be recording his story for posterity. I got in touch with the NFSA (or ScreenSound as it was called back then) and found out they would be delighted to have an oral history recording detailing Owen’s career in


Sincere and loyal

Frank Whitten 1942-2011 On one of his trips back to New Zealand in the late 1970s, Frank brought his clown character, Simeon. I saw Simeon in front of a class of eight year olds, who readily invented a life for him and eventually concluded he was four. I think Frank’s clown was present in his work and in his life, sometimes sadly nostalgic, sometimes wildly anarchic, always sincere and loyal. Frank was born in NZ and educated at Tauranga Boys’ College and Hamilton Teachers’ College. In the early 60s he took off for London to realise his love of theatre. He became deputy principal of the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, until some philosophical differences caused him and two other tutors to leave the school and set up a theatre company called Commonstock, in Hammersmith. The group drew its inspiration from a close association with the community, performing plays written by local school children and paying the young writers royalties. On one of his trips back to NZ he took improvisation classes at the Mercury, then under the directorship of Tony Richardson, and in the early 80s decided to settle back in NZ and concentrate on acting. One of his early successes was as the iconic farmer in Vincent Ward’s Vigil, a character not so very far away from his Southern Man in the Speight’s commercial. He played a variety of roles in TV series such as Open House, Heart of the High Country, Porters and Betty’s Bunch. On stage he was a magnificent Salieri in Amadeus and a comical singing policeman in HMS Pinafore. Frank moved to Sydney about 20 years ago and worked consistently with the Sydney Theatre Company (STC). In 2007 he was highly praised for his role as the “silver tongued” Cassius in Julius Caesar. Late last year he was in Measure for Measure for Company B and in Our Town for the STC. Most recently Frank played Grandpa Ted in the hit TV3 show, Outrageous Fortune. At the Air NZ Screen Awards 2007 he received an award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of the senile ex-safecracker. Everyone who worked with Frank recognised his integrity as an actor, his impeccable attention to the preparation of his scenes and his generosity to his fellow actors. Above all he will be remembered for a wily sense of humour in the face of the absurdities of human behaviour. Elizabeth McRae is a performer based in Auckland EQ UI T Y

Vale Jimmy

James Elliott 1929-2011 James Elliott, the Scottish born actor who found fame as one of the original cast members of Cash Harmon’s groundbreaking television series Number 96, has died in Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital of Lewy Body Dementia. He was 82. The second of five children, he was raised in the Kelvinbridge area of Glasgow and after leaving school, where he excelled at boxing, found work on the Clydeside docks. Prompted by his older sister Muriel, who had sent him a postcard from Australia singing this country’s praises, a 21-year-old Jimmy (as he was known) boarded a ship and arrived in Sydney in December 1949. He expected to stay six months, but was so enamoured by the warmth of the people he decided to stay. In early 1954 he was told a film was being made of Long John Silver, so he went to see an agent and landed a non-speaking role of a pirate. He enjoyed the experience so much he decided to pursue an acting career. He auditioned for ABC radio and a week later, having heard nothing, went and knocked on producer Eric Johns’ door. This led to Jimmy being told he was “on” that very night, filling in for an actor

who hadn’t turned up. Through the 1950s and 60s, Jimmy performed in many ABC radio dramas such as Fire in the Snow, Crime Passionnel and The Tempest. In 1959 he played Guildenstern in a live-to-air production of Hamlet for the ABC – the first televised Shakespeare play in Australia. His career continued with work in other early television productions such as Consider Your Verdict, Homicide, Whiplash and Stormy Petrel. In 1968 he worked on The Tony Hancock comedy specials. More film work came in 1970 when he was cast in Tony Richardson’s Ned Kelly. Then in 1972 he won the role of Alf Sutcliffe, the Lancashire migrant in Number 96. Playing opposite Elisabeth Kirkby as his wife Lucy, the pair had an instant onscreen rapport. They both appeared in the cult movie version of the show, made at the end of 1973. When he left Number 96 in 1975, Jimmy returned to the stage playing Dysart in Equus for the Queensland Theatre Company. He continued to work in television guest roles as well as the films Summer City and Money Movers. He also appeared in three of Terry Bourke’s films alongside mates Roger Ward and Chard Hayward. After a 10-year break Jimmy returned to acting in 1995, appearing with his son James in a TV commercial. He also had roles in Home and Away and All Saints. It was in the hospital drama that he arguably gave one of his best performances as Rex Gordon, a homeless former mathematics professor. His final role was in 2008 in the short film Running with the Boys. James joined Equity in 1959. Nigel Giles. Giles recorded an oral history interview with James Elliott in 2006 for the National Film & Sound Archive 31


Here’s cheers: Bob Hornery celebrates his Equity Lifetime Achievement Award

Hornery honoured at Malthouse Melbourne’s acting community turned out in force to help Bob Hornery celebrate his Equity Lifetime Achievement award presented by FOXTEL in early December. Mitchell Butel hosted a jampacked evening at the Malthouse Theatre and Richard Piper, Roger Hodgman and Alison Whyte shared the stage, and their stories, to celebrate Bob’s extraordinary career. Simon Philips, Caroline O’Connor and Geoffrey Rush joined the party by video, and FOXTEL’s Adam Suckling presented Bob with his award. Geoffrey Rush captured the mood of all present, who gave Bob a standing ovation when he said: “Congratulations on this most deserved accolade, a salutary acclaim from your fellow artists and the greatest honour bestowed upon you by your beloved union.”

Free Jafar Panahi

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Biloela Bille Equity warmly congratulates longstanding member Bille Brown (Narnia, The Dish) for being awarded a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia on Australia Day for services to the performing arts as an actor and playwright, and to education. “I’m very honoured to be so recognised,” Brown told Central Telegraph. “You don’t think about awards of that calibre – you just go about your life. You do it because you love the work. I’m not a star, not a celebrity; I’m just a working actor. I am as proud of coming from Biloela as I am of getting the award.”

Eight Aussies up for Oscars Eight Australians earned nominations for this year’s Academy Awards, the most since 2003. Equity congratulates our Equity colleagues Jacki Weaver, Geoffrey Rush and Nicole

Kidman on their nominations. Kidman received a best actress nomination, the third of her career, for Rabbit Hole, a small budget drama she called her “passion project”. Rush earned a best supporting actor nod, the fourth of his career, for his portrayal of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech. Weaver was nominated as a supporting actress for her role in the Australian crime drama, Animal Kingdom.

Wicked flood repair After a fortnight’s closure due to flood damage the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) re-opened on Tuesday January 25 with a matinee of Wicked. “This has been an extremely challenging time for our state and we hope that presenting this internationally acclaimed production in our theatre will bring some fun and magic to our audience’s hearts,” QPAC chief executive John Kotzas said. “Despite external appearances, QPAC sustained significant damage during the floods to our low-lying facilities including our basement storerooms and, critically, the power supply. This rendered some of our vital EQ EQUI UITTYY

Photo by Luis Enrique Ascui.

NZ Equity, along with the Screen Directors’ Guild and WIFT (Women in Film and Television), are backing Amnesty International’s call to free award-winning Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who faces imprisonment in his country for “propaganda against the state”. Last year Panahi and fellow filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof were each sentenced to six years in prison, accused of making an anti-government film about Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election. Panahi was also banned for 20 years from all artistic activities, including filmmaking, scriptwriting, travelling abroad and speaking to the media. “We are pleased to see members of New

Zealand’s film and television industry standing with Amnesty International to demand freedom for Jafar Panahi,” Rebecca Emery, deputy director of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand, told the New Zealand Herald.

Hitler’s Daughter hits Tampa Sydney-based theatre company Monkey Baa has showcased its production of Jackie French’s Hitler’s Daughter at the International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) Showcase in Tampa, Florida. Performer and founding member of Monkey Baa, Tim McGarry, said: “About 250 to 300 theatre presenters from the USA and Canada, together with other European representatives, were in attendance, and the company was very fortunate to have about 70 young people from two local Jewish schools in Tampa come along to the performance too. The response from both students and presenters was fantastic. With the support of both the Australia Council and Arts NSW and our wonderful Angels with Wings donors, Monkey Baa was given a rare opportunity to embark on the international stage with a truly home grown Aussie work. The aim – to secure an American agent for the company and tour the play through the USA and Canada in 2012-2013 – is looking very positive.”

services inoperable including air flow, fire and safety systems, lifts, car parking and waste management. After the floodwaters receded, a large and dedicated team of staff, Queensland government partners, emergency services, volunteers and contractors worked tirelessly on the difficult job of clearing, assessing and repairing our below ground facilities and equipment.” There were staggered reopenings of the Cremorne Theatre, Playhouse and Concert Hall as QPAC underwent safety inspections.

Great Gatsby Filming on Baz Lurhmann’s much-anticipated 3-D movie adaptation of the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Great Gatsby, is due to begin at Sydney’s Fox Studios in August. The announcement that the man behind Moulin Rouge, Strictly Ballroom and Australia had chosen to make the film in Sydney, rather than New York where the book is set, came last month. “This comes at a good time for the film industry,” said NSW premier Kristina Keneally. “Australia was thought to be losing international filmmaking due to the strong Aussie dollar – put simply, this is a big win.” An estimated 275 crew will be hired during preproduction, more than 400 cast and crew during principal photography and an estimated 150 post-production and visual effects crew.

No offset for Taboo The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has upheld Screen Australia’s ruling that documentary series Taboo, which features no Australian accents, is not eligible for EQ UI T Y

Monkey Baa: Kate Worsley, Robert Jago, Michael Gupta and Melle Stewart backstage at the David .A. Straz Performing Arts Centre, Tampa Florida

the Producer Offset. Equity welcomed the decision, announced in February, not to allow a US production to receive the tax offset created to support and foster Australian drama production. The AAT said the production, in which only four of 45 stories are Australian, did not meet the requirements of the Significant Australian Content Test because it was not “characteristically or recognisably” Australian.

Equity online Last month the Equity Foundation launched its new website. Make sure you visit www. for the latest industry news, events, photos, media releases, online versions of equity and policy information. To stay in touch with your industry and your fellow performers you can also follow us on Twitter at @ausactorsequity and “like” us on our new facebook page: www.

Beatbox wins Tropfest Damon Gameau’s film, Animal Beatbox, which cost just $85 to make, was the surprise winner of this year’s Tropfest. “I’m quite new to stop animation, but I find it a quick and versatile way to express any idea that may be lurking in my head,” Gameau, an Australian performer who has appeared in Underbelly and Balibo, said when accepting the best film award. Judges included Bruce Beresford, Olivia Newtown-John, Jack Thompson, Xavier Samuel, director Stephan Elliott, producer Liz

Watts, last year’s Tropfest winner Abe Forsythe, Tropfest founder and director John Polson and British actor Joseph Fiennes. Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival, is held at Sydney’s Domain and watched by an audience of 150,000 from locations around Australia.

Sydney Theatre Awards Congratulations to John Bell who received the 2010 Sydney Theatre Award for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of his extraordinary career as an actor, director and producer. More than 300 people attended a star-studded awards ceremony in Sydney’s Paddington earlier this year. Richard Roxburgh was awarded the best actor award for the Sydney Theatre Company’s (STC) production of Uncle Vanya, for which Hugo Weaving won the best supporting actor award. The Diary of a Madman won four awards, including best actress in a supporting role for Yael Stone. Robyn Nevin was awarded the best actress award for her role in STC’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. For full details, visit: In conversation: NZ Equity President Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Sam Neill

In town and talking Earlier this month 50 lucky Equity members were selected by ballot to attend an exclusive Equity event with Sam Neill. The performer – known for his work on productions such as Jurassic Park, The Piano, Sirens, The Dish and many more – joined NZ Actors Equity president Jennifer Ward-Lealand for a chat on stage at the St Columba Centre in Ponsonby Auckland. Neill opened up about everything from his New Zealand vineyard to how he prepares for his roles and why he still gets nervous. Neill then joined performers for a drink and chat, where attendees drank wine generously donated by Neill from his vineyard. 33

last word


ur lighting operator had blood shot eyes and looked like crap; we asked if he was ok? “I’ve been up all night praying to God to do a good job for you tonight,” he replied. My wife looked at his lighting desk and gently said: “It’s good to pray to God but it’s also good to label your lighting channels.” Our dear operator was relying on divine guidance; I just needed to see what I was doing on stage. It was a few hours before our third night at the Harare International Festival of the Arts and the previous night the stage was in near darkness for most of the show. Zimbabwe was the first time I’ve experienced full houses and standing ovations for my own theatre show. It was the dream I’d been shown in Europe so many years ago. Street performing, festivals, corporate events then your own

Salom’s lot

Street performing can prepare you for anything, writes Joel Salom – even juggling a new show, a new baby and a growing mortgage theatre show: it is possible. Now, my first season at the Melbourne International Comedy festival is as exciting

as it is intimidating. I haven’t risked this kind of money and effort since Edinburgh Festival 1998, and that was a spectacular mess. Come on Joel, that was 13 years ago! Remember the good reviews: “Warning; wear a nappy in case of laughing too hard, this man is funny.” This time I’ve got a great producer, a great venue, a great time slot and a great show, damn it. Just relax, knob head, and be funny! What to focus on? Triggering laser animations, electronic music and audience voices with my juggling gloves has taken me around the world. Do I really need to incorporate video samples as well? More tech doesn’t make a better show, does it? In New York, on 42nd street with Circus OZ, a flying trapeze artist ripped out of the catcher’s grip and hit the back stage wall. I was one of the next flyers to take off the platform. “Keep going!” was called. Doing flying trapeze after you’ve seen some one stack takes a lot of focus. She fractured her back and the flying act kept going; at the end of the act the house curtain came down, the paramedics came in, took the artist to hospital and what the hell do you do next? “Send on Erik the Dog!” the director said. My robotic dog, Erik, went on and did his stand up act about how much he liked sniffing other dogs and then showed them his metal balls. Life in the circus doesn’t always make sense and it’s backbreaking work. A background in street performing prepares you for almost anything. I was 21, first time in Europe, when I arrived at the “pitch” in Copenhagen. There were five other circus acts queuing up to do shows. As I introduced myself to one performer another stepped forward and patronisingly asked if I wanted to do shows, then told me to come back in six weeks. I came back the next night and the same performer said that if I wanted to work I could work now. It was the worst time, 6pm, and the streets were dead. I said I’d just hop on the end of the queue (there were five acts already waiting) but he insisted that I start now if I wanted to work there. I took my time and built a crowd person by person. Everything thing was working – every gag, every routine. I did my biggest show and took my biggest hat of the three weeks I ended up working there. I was 21, cocky as hell, and on top of the world. Now I’m 38. My wife is pregnant and I’m juggling my first Melbourne International Comedy Festival season. I’m heading to Seattle nine days after it finishes and my wife is due the day I leave. We just redrew on our mortgage! My six-year-old son will travel with me to Seattle and my wife and new baby will follow a month later. There’s a lot happening. Joel Salom is a performer based in NSW. His show Salom’s Lot is playing at The Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2011 from March 31. $15 discount tickets are available for industry folk during the first week using the password “erikbaddog”. For further information visit

I haven’t risked this kind of money and effort since Edinburgh Festival 1998, and that was a spectacular mess 34


Equity Magazine Autumn 2011  

Official magazine of the Actors Equity section of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance.