• 15 Feb 2012 /  News, Other Art Forms

    I have been trying to catch up on missed posts for a while now, and among them are stories about goings on at Opera Australia – and good goings on, I mean. For many years Australia’s most expensive performing arts company thrived of the rare vocal gifts of Dame Joan Sutherland. Her voice was so great, and she was so loved and admired by audiences, that the company only had to include a production with her in a season and they basically had a thriving subscription base. Like any good ecosystem – a generation of fine Australian singers and other theatre-craft folk grew up around her. It was also an era when many subscribers were European emigres, with good ears, who came to HEAR opera rather than necessarily LOOK at it. Directors included some great originals like Elijah Moshinsky, but very often what we might call the exceedingly capable, like John Copley, who could mill massive crowd-scenes (aka the chorus) into elegant shapes around a diva in just a few rehearsals. It was the way opera was done back then – and few complained.

    Joan Sutherland

    I am telling this story in a kind of cartoonish-way to keep the story succinct. The point being Read the rest of this entry »

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • 16 Oct 2008 /  News

    Okay you kids sit down and shut up. I tell you a story. Long long time ago there was a Whitefella place for Dreaming called Old Tote. It died like a sick old man and after a new special Dreaming place grew up out of the water now called Sydney Harbour on the lands of the Gadigal and Guring-gai people of the Eora Nation. Sometimes it is a very Sorry place and sometimes it has very good Ceremony.

    One day coming up you can go down there and see Whitefellas making their own Dreaming stories.

    Scenic Art Workshop: Photo by Brett Boardman

    Scenic Art Workshop: Photo by Brett Boardman


    Saturday 1 November 2008 from 10am to 4pm
    Sydney Theatre Company, The Wharf, Pier 4 & 5, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
    Admission and all workshops, events and forums: FREE

    On Saturday 1 November from 10am – 4pm, Sydney Theatre Company is throwing open the
    doors of its home venue, The Wharf, the ‘engine room’ of the Company, inviting visitors in to
    explore for free one of Sydney’s most unique and beautiful venues and gain insights in to how
    the Company creates its shows. There will also be a range of free workshops, forums, tours
    and presentations at both The Wharf and at Sydney Theatre including; discussions about
    plans for the Company with Artistic Directors Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett; workshops
    in voice, movement and performance run by leading practitioners; ‘Meet the Artist’ events
    including sessions with some of Sydney’s leading actors, directors and a playwright; a free
    screening of the documentary In The Company of Actors; and children’s activities
    throughout the day.

    Visitors to the Open Day will be able to explore the backstage areas and talk with staff in
    STC’s scenic art, set construction, props and costume departments, rehearsal rooms, archives
    and other rarely seen spaces, as well as The Wharf’s two performance spaces, Wharf 1 and
    Wharf 2, where many of the Company’s productions are presented.

    Open Day 1 November 2008 10.00am – 4.00pm

    Tours of The Wharf

    Visitors can wander around and discover The Wharf at their own pace throughout the day. Special guided tours of the Wharf will be conducted every half hour, from 10am – 3.30pm. Tours can be booked in advance through the Box Office on (02) 9250 1777 or on the day if space permits.

    Costume Department: Photo by Brett Boardman

    Costume Department: Photo by Brett Boardman

    Workshops, Forums, Talks and Presentations
    In addition there are a range of free workshops, forums and presentations throughout the day:
    at 10:00 am
    - Presentation: Stage Make Up with Lauren A. Proietti in WHARF 1
    - The Actor Speaks: leading Australian actors discuss their craft in WHARF 2
    - Group Devised Performance Workshop with Stefo Nantsou* in the BIG REHEARSAL ROOM
    - Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett discuss STC plans in SYDNEY THEATRE (repeated at 2.30pm)
    at 12 noon
    - Greening The Wharf – Why? Forum in WHARF 1
    - The Director Speaks: theatre directors discuss the process of creating theatre in WHARF 2
    - Voice Workshop with Charmian Gradwell* in the BIG REHEARSAL ROOM
    - In The Company Of Actors, screening of STC documentary in SYDNEY THEATRE
    at 2.00 pm
    - The Playwright Speaks: a dramatist discusses the process of writing plays, in WHARF 1
    - The Actor Speaks: leading Australian actors discuss their craft in WHARF 2
    - Workshop: Movement with Fiona Malone* in the BIG REHEARSAL ROOM
    - Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett discuss STC plans in SYDNEY THEATRE
    * There will be three workshops run in each session. Please call the STC Box Office on
    (02) 9250 1777 to book. Please note: bookings are essential and participants must be
    aged 16 years and over.


    STC for Kids – Costume, Face Painting and Street Performers SMALL REHEARSAL ROOM

    Food, Drink etc
    The Wharf Restaurant, Sydney Dance Café and Hickson Road Bistro will all be serving café-style food.
    Further food and drink stalls will be located around The Wharf. Gleebooks will also be open at Sydney

    Free shuttle buses are on a loop every 20 minutes, stopping at Wynyard (Carrington Street), The Rocks
    (George Street outside DFS stores) and The Wharf. The first bus will depart Wynyard at 9:45am and
    the last bus will depart The Wharf at 4:15pm.

    For more information and updates

    Tags: , , , ,

  • 11 Sep 2008 /  News

    I’ve partaken in so many launches of late I could be mistaken for Cape Canaveral, or should that be a speedboat derby. I will ultimately get onto Jim Sharman’s biography, Blood and Tinsel, perhaps closer to Christmas shopping time. Anybody who puts a photo of me in their book when I was so young that there was still an ‘air of innocence’ about me is certain to get their product endorsed!

    Last week, Monday 1 September, there was the launch of the 2009 Sydney Theatre Company Season. The Upton-Blanchetts were in full glow, and a spirit of fun, excitement and enterprise filled the air of the Wharf Theatre Foyer.

    Glitter and Fluffy

    Glitter and Fluffy Launching Their Debut Season

    Cate and Andrew (aka Glitter and Fluffy), gorgeous little pussy cats that they are, can clearly be seen pushing the company in new directions. No upheavals or revolutions, but some conceptual tidying up and what looks on paper like some excellent team building.

    The company’s activities have been divided into three areas. Here’s a quote from G&F’s online message:

    “The major divisions are MAIN STAGE, NEXT STAGE (artists and artform development) and BACK STAGE (readings, forums, tours and more), not to mention our Education Program. There are various offerings and activities associated with each (and there are a lot). If you were really keen, you could probably find something to do here every week – we certainly do! You can learn about the Main Stage Season on this our brand new website. As for what’s going on with Next Stage, Back Stage and the Education Program – we’ll let you know the details later.”

    The MAINSTAGE program meanwhile is broken up into three categories by venue: Wharf 1, Drama Theatre SOH, and the wimpily (sic) named Sydney Theatre. (Why not the ‘Robyn Wherett Complex’?)

    With five gigs booked in, work at Wharf 1 has been branded: ‘Discover the Essence of Sydney Theatre Company at the Wharf’. These productions, I guess, will focus on those more intimate theatre experiences for which this venue is ideally suited. It includes, on the Australian-play front, a fresh rendition of David Williamson’s classic The Removalists, to be directed (NB) by Wayne Blair; and an upgraded version of Tommy Murphy’s new play, Saturn’s Return, which has just finished its sell-out debut season in Wharf 2. In regard to Saturn’s Return, it’s great to see the theory of working plays up, through process, being put into practice. It will be fascinating to see what this inventive new play looks like in ten months’ time

    Soft on Actors - Steven Soderbergh

    Soft on Actors - Steven Soderbergh

    2009’s celebrity guest, Steven Soderbergh, will also be creating a work for this cosy venue – a good subscription teaser! Coz you aint gonna get in any otherways

    With three gigs, the Drama Theatre is branded: ‘Have a Great Night Out at the Opera House’, kicking off with Tom Stoppard’s writerly pleasure palace, Travesties, to star Jonathan Biggins (currently at the height of his powers) and master craftsman, director Richard Cottrell. The pair recently worked exceedingly well together on the Goons gig, Yin Tong. With Michael Scott Mitchell on set design and Julie Lynch on costumes, I can’t see how the word ‘fabulous’ is to be avoided by those of us generally disinclined to hyperbole!!! Plus Blazey Best, Toby Schmitz and William Zappa among the other cast members. Can we have same NAMES please!

    The Robyn Wherrett Complex (ex-Sydney Theatre), is hosting two shows under the category ‘The Big Event’.

    Names Please! Joel Edgerton, Cate Blanchett and Robin McLeavy: Photo by Derek Henderson

    No Big Names? Joel Edgerton, Cate Blanchett and Robin McLeavy for A Streetcar Named Desire: Photo by Derek Henderson

    One of themis Tennessee Williams’ A Street Car Named Desire, to be directed by Liv Ullmann starring ‘Our Cate’, Joel Edgerton, Russell Kiefel, and rising mini-diva Robin McLeavy. That’s leaving out a bunch of other ‘hot’ names also in the acting line up. Ralph Myers is on set design, with Tess Scofield on costumes. Can’t see it myself – but I guess I’ll plod along.

    Show Pony - Dame Nellie Melba

    Show Pony - Dame Nellie Melba

    A point to be made here. Up until now, our mega divas (Judy D, Robyn N, Cate B) have been involved mostly in small productions at the Wharf. There were reasons for this – like allowing them to be ‘pure artists’, etc. But I can just imagine Nellie Melba looking across the road and saying’ ‘What’s wrong with that Big House over there!’ So with both The War of the Roses (SydFest 2009) and, in a much larger role, in Streetcar, we have Ms Blanchett rising to the challenge and clamour – and putting herself out there where the whole world can see. Bravo!

    Cate Blanchett has taken to her duties in her first year as co-artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company with remarkably good grace. She was obliged to endure some appallingly cheap hits in the print media early on. Her response was to smile and not bite back. Actions prove louder than words, and this – we are discovering – is her way. That she can segue from ‘global icon’ to ‘local industry team player’ by just pulling her back into a pony tail is amazing to watch. She knows when she has to turn her aura on, whenever this is required of her, and when she doesn’t. If she doesn’t have to, she don’t. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to run into the men’s room and hide. It’s the ‘heat’ – lol.  I sometimes think of her as the cinematic child of Kate Hepburn and Grace Kelly, sister of Catherine Deneuve. If cryogenics can allow that.

    It’s different for Andrew Upton, aka Cary Grant, who has been exposed to less ‘tall poppy’ crap. He, on the other hand, has probably got to learn how not to want to be ‘everybody’s best mate’ coz somewhere along the line he is going to have to make some hard choices – between one best buddy and another. Very State of Origin, if you get my drift…But hey, how about the enthusiasm and the smarts!

    Jeremy Sims - Cast to Type: Photo by Derek Henderson

    Jeremy Sims - Cast to Type: Photo by Derek Henderson

    The other comment one could make about the 2009 program is its focus on team building. This can be observed in who has been put to work together on shows mentioned above. Wayne Blair, of Aboriginal descent, gets to tease out the themes that hold The Removalists together. Including a couple that might have been overlooked in the past? By asking Blair to direct, we have a special interest in this revival. The entire talent packages around Travesties and Streetcar promote excitement. This is not a season where plays have been picked and then production teams put to them. Jeremy Sims stars in a play called God of Carnage. Say no more! Rather, a play has only made it onto the program if it was thought that the ‘right team’ could be found to bring the work to true life.

    There are a couple of one-off treats as well. Most notably, a new look Actors Company performing a mega-version of three Medieval Mystery Plays in the vaste expanse of CarriageWorks at Redfern. More on that another time.

    For a full run down of the main-stage program (Wharf 1, Drama Theatre SOH, and the Sydney Theatre) go to the STC’s website.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,