Ghenoa in rehearsal and Rachael Maza observing her performance.

Questions with Rachael Maza

Rachael Maza is the director of My Urrwai by Ghenoa Gela, and Artistic Director of ILBIJERRI Theatre in Melbourne. She shares some broader perspectives on the priority of First Nations’ story telling.

 

Rachael, you are a highly regarded and award winning director. What is the priority of First Nations story telling at this time?

(Nearly choked on that first sentence!!) Self-determination: True creative and cultural authority over our stories and how they get told. We are still in a time where the paternalistic all-well-intended “you need my help” attitude still prevails with no intention of handing over the power.  We are seeing an extraordinary body of First Nations work coming out that is bold in its realisation both content and form, even unpredictable.  The work that is coming out is unapologetic, brave and full of passion and urgency.  The priority for our First Nations story-tellers themselves is to trust your voice and ‘go for it!’ Our job as a sector is to support them in a culturally safe way, and get out of the way!

This is Ghenoa’s personal story. As a Director, what are the bits of story you chose to include and why?

It was very much a collaborative process.  In the development Ghenoa told many anecdotes from her life, and soon the wall was full of story cards. The challenge was how to crystallise it down. The other collaborator critical to this selection process was Kate Champion, who worked very much from a instinctual process of linking and countering stories like beads on a necklace. One of the stories that stood out to me as a key to getting to the heart of this story was when she talked about how her anger as a young woman manifested itself almost as an alter ego, and we talked about the rage that lies just below the surface in all First Nations people, in fact just under the surface on which we all walk. This land has seen much blood shed, there has been no justice, there’s been no grieving, no healing… only pent up rage.  This became the climax of her play in the scene called RAGE in which the sky cloth pulses blood red and Ghenoa embodied pure rage.

You also have Torres Strait ancestry – there are cultural differences between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. What ways does this open cultural conversation between First Nations communities? 

We premiered at Belvoir in Sydney Festival 2018, upstairs was My Name is Jimi.  I recall at the time  commenting on the significance of the programming: “This must be the first time Belvoir has ever programmed 2 Torres Strait Islander shows at the same time – A-Torres-Strait-Out!!, But then I thought – its actually the first time they’ve programmed 1 Torres Strait Islander show!”

What these shows did is make visible the Torres Strait Islander cultures as distinct and strong.  It was very clear that people had no idea who they actually were.

Ghenoa is a Young One, emerging in artistic leadership. What is the invitation you pose to young artists exploring their cultural identity?

Catapulting is the word I would use when describing Ghenoa’s trajectory.  She is truly a unique and exceptional talent, as anyone who has seen her perform would have noted.  I can’t say I’ve worked with anyone like her. The thing is – its who she is as a person – not just as an artist.  She in life is extraordinary, her conviction, her instinct, her strong spirit, her politics, her humour, her rage, but most importantly her cultural respect and humility – she’s the real deal alright.

If I was to give advice to other young fella’s coming up, from what I have learnt working with Ghenoa is to let yourself be your full confident self, but don’t ever forget your place in the bigger network of family, community and land – if you can find the balance between these 2 seemingly opposing forces you will find your voice.

My Urrwai plays from 29 August at the Hume Bank Butter Factory Theatre for three performances only.

It’s suitable for audiences aged 12 and above.

There are only a small number of tickets left.  Bookings can be made here

Ghenoa Gela in the spotlight during My Urrwai performance. Image by Daniel Boud.

Five Questions with Ghenoa Gela

Whilst jetting about the countryside with her extensive tour for My Urrwai, Ghenoa Gela shares a little bit about the show in anticipation for the HotHouse Theatre season.

Ghenoa, What’s it like coming back to communities you’ve visited but this time with your own story? Ghenoa visited Albury-Wodonga last year with Shakespeare.

Pretty exciting! I like showing my versatility not only as a performer but as a blak artist navigating the climate of the arts industry in this country. It also shows the unapologetic visibility of the need for more blak bodies on these stages and in these spaces. 

What initially brought you to performance and art making?

It was by chance. I mean I’ve been surrounded by it my whole life! My mum is a visual artist, my dad an artefact maker and between them they dance and sing amongst other things. My first real public performance that I can physically remember was when I was 5 years old doing traditional Torres Strait Islander dancing with my parents and my brothers! We would travel around QLD for NAIDOC week sharing our culture in schools! Through storytelling and dance. I never however, thought I could make a career out of it. I wanted to be the next Cathy Freeman! Haha.. I was really into sport when I was growing up as well – so that’s why it was by chance. Because I never thought about it in this way. Sharing culture is just what I’ve grown up with.

What do you experience ‘in process’ when creating new work?

What I personally experience is NEW EXPERIENCES – all the time! I learn more about myself and that’s actually something I really like! Sometimes it can be really confronting, but I have a bunch of AMAZING mentors to help me navigate my processes. So I know I’m always in a safe place and/or in safe hands.

My Urrwai holds many of your stories. Why this journey now?

Why not? The need to hear more blak stories will ALWAYS be IMPORTANT! Especially in this country. I’m just finding my own space to tell mine. And the conversations that have been I’ve sparked along the way by people who have seen my show, proves the NEED for more – because people now WANT MORE.

Rockhampton was a totally sold out show, how was it bringing your very personal story back to your home town. Is it quite a different experience to bring it back?

It. Was. Amazing. About 3/4 of the audience were friends and family! So their support was proper solid! Also, since my parents can’t really travel that much anymore, taking my show back home to perform was really the best gift I could have given them and for me to equally receive. My big brother has only seen me perform once before in my career, so having him there – no words will ever describe the immense feeling of love and happiness. The Rocky Show was proper special and I’m thankful for all the support from my family, friends and the Rocky mob and Darumbal Community. 

My Urrwai plays from 29 August at the Hume Bank Butter Factory Theatre for three performances only.

It’s suitable for audiences aged 12 and above.

There are only a small number of tickets left.  Bookings can be made here

Five Questions with Brendan Hogan

 

We sat down with award winning playwright Brendan Hogan to ask him five questions about his play The Last Boy on Earth which is being performed this July School holidays as part of the 2019 HotHouse season.

What inspires you to write for children and families?
There are lots of plays for really young kids, and there are lots of plays for young adults and older, but where are the plays for those kids aged 10-14? Not musicals or school productions, but actual funny, challenging plays. Kids in this age bracket are very aspirational in what they what to see and be engaged by. They’re not quite ready for the heavy adult stuff, but they also don’t want to be patronised by kiddy stuff. I want to give the audience something that the whole family can genuinely enjoy and be affected by.

The play is very funny. Do you have fun in rehearsals working with the young people in the cast?
One of the most satisfying things about writing a play is seeing what the actors bring to it in terms of other layers and jokes. Kids are great to work with because they have a different perspective and ask all kinds of tricky questions I hadn’t really thought of. We know we are onto something when, after hours and hours of rehearsals, we still find and create new moments that make us fall to pieces with laughter.

The play is set in the near future. What do you think the world will really be like 2043?
It’s fair to say a future where everyone, except for a young boy, has died, is not your normal fodder for a family friendly comedy. Do I really think the world will be like that in 2043? I hope not – I’ve got things I need to do! But there are other elements of the show I do think ring true, even in 2019, such as our inability to properly manage our waste and our dependence on technology to solve all our problems for us.

What are you looking forward to the most about doing the play at HotHouse?
HotHouse is one of the best regional theatres in Australia and it’s right on our door step. As a playwright, you always write with the hope of having your work performed in front of a large audience in a professional theatre. The reality is that for most playwrights, those opportunities are few and far between. It’s been a thrill to work with professional producers, designers and crew. In the end, however, I’m looking forward to opening night and seeing the audience respond to what we have created. We think it’s great and we hope other do to.

For those who saw the play last time – why should they come back and see it again?
It’s a different show to last time. Bigger and better! The story has been tweaked and Ben, our musician, has been working on a completely new score for the show and will be performing live for the audience. Sophie has designed an amazing set, which has to be seen to be believed, and Rhys has been working hard on a new lighting design which is a world away from the couple of lights we had in the tiny Masonic Hall in Yackandandah. Visually and emotionally, the story will be different and we can’t wait to show everybody just what we’ve done with it!

The Last Boy on Earth plays from 9 July at the Hume Bank Butter Factory Theatre for six performances only.

You can read more abo0ut the play here. 

The Last Boy on Earth is suitable for humans and aliens aged 8 earth years and above

Bookings can be made here

The production contains: Haze, Loud noises, and Strobe lighting.

Meet HotHouse Theatre’s new Artistic Director and CEO – Karla Conway

Thursday 6 June 2019

Today the Board of HotHouse Theatre announced the appointment of Ms Karla Conway to the role of Artistic Director/CEO. Karla will relocate to the region in early July and commence full-time in her new role from the 8th of July 2019.

Karla is a director, dramaturg, theatre-maker and respected arts leader. She studied Theatre at the University of Missouri-Columbia USA, and graduated from NIDA (Directing) in 2009. Since then, Karla has worked professionally in numerous leadership roles: as Artistic Director/CEO of Canberra Youth Theatre, Creative Producer for Warehouse Circus, and currently, as Program Manager for Canberra Theatre Centre. Alongside this, Karla has maintained her freelance practice as a director/dramaturg of theatre, contemporary dance and circus for professional artists and companies including The Street, Warehouse Circus and Australian Dance Party.

Karla has created numerous innovative works as a theatre-maker, including site-specific works for the National Library and the National Gallery of Australia, and has collaborated with artists and companies across the country on works for: Sydney Opera House, Black Swan State Theatre Company (WA), The Street (ACT), Action Transport Theatre (UK), Long Cloud Youth Theatre (NZ), and Academy of Interactive Entertainment. Among her many productions include international collaborations, interstate and international tours and a body of work amassing over 40 award nominations and wins – including three Canberra Critics Circle Awards. She will also bring to the role a depth of experience in developing and supporting emerging and mid-career artists.

Ms Conway said: “It is extremely humbling to be entrusted with leading this formidable company, and one that is so fully embraced by the community and the country. I look forward to ensuring HotHouse continues to evolve as one of the nation’s most prolific breeding grounds for new Australian theatre and new voices, and as a creative sanctuary for artists across the country”

Paul Robb, Chair of HotHouse said: Karla was an outstanding applicant for the role of Artistic Director of HotHouse. Karla is graduate of the NIDA Directors course, previous Artistic Director of Canberra Youth Theatre, and most recently was a senior member of the programming team for Canberra Theatre Centre.  Her own professional practice as a director and creator of theatre has covered a wide range of theatre genres. We look forward to welcoming Karla and her family to the region, and working with her in the next exciting stage for HotHouse.

Five Questions with Kamarra Bell Wykes

Kamarra Bell-Wykes (Yagera/Butchulla/European) is the director of the reading of STOLEN on the 24th of May to acknowledge National Reconciliation Week.  In 2017, Kamarra was appointed ILBIJERRI’s Creative Director and works as a playwright, performer, director and dramaturge across mainstage and community productions. Kamarra is dedicated to the development of First Nations ways of working across all of her practices.

Q1/  What is it about STOLEN that excites you as a director?
The opportunity to direct STOLEN is such an honour  as I played the role of Ann in the Victorian VCE tour for many years and the work and the experience of performing for so many  young people that had never heard of the Stolen Generation had such a huge effect on me. STOLEN provides so much opportunity for actors through its character transformations, time/place jumps, song, rhythm and movement. Despite its very serious content and message its actually an incredibly fun and enjoyable show to work with.

Q2/  What can audiences expect when seeing the reading?
The magic of STOLEN is that no matter how old you are or where you come from, every single person that sees it finds something they connect with. For First Nations Peoples this is even more so. These are the stories of our old people, of our grandparents and our Aunty’s and Uncles. Whether we like it or not these are stories that have shaped our collective experience. This is just as important for non-indigenous people as the Stolen Generations are part of our shared history. Just from different sides of the fence. I believe that STOLEN has a power because every single time a different Aboriginal person plays one of these characters, they bring with them the perspective of their families and their ancestors which the role is born anew through. I think having the opportunity to have these amazing young people and community members bring their voices and with them their collective old people, the audience can expect to experience a moving and powerful night of theatre seeped in the truth of the historical experiences of the area.

Q3/  The play has been around for 20 years – why do we still need to see/hear it?
The Stolen Generations are still a very recent part of our history and the trans-generational trauma created by these experiences still resonates within our communities and families today. With rates like 2 in 5 Aboriginal children removed from their families (and in some areas even higher) I don’t think there are any First Nations Australians that haven’t been affected in some way. It is crucial that upcoming generations of First Nations and Non-First Nations Australians understand what our old people went through and the impact this had on us. Unfortunately, the rates of First Nations children in care are now reportedly at higher rates than during the official Stolen Generations, this story is not over.

Q4/  You’ve worked in the region before – What do you love about working here?
Its always such a refreshing change to get out the big smoke and get close to the big river. Its such beautiful country up there and to be able to combine my love of theatre and being in the bush is a pretty special privilege. HotHouse is an amazing venue with incredible programs and phenomenal staff and for me it’s a bit of aspiration. I would love to see something like this taking place in my own community. Im always so blown out by the enthusiasm, talent and powerful voices I encounter when working in the space and I have no doubt this experience is going to be just as special.

I am always super excited about staying at the FarmHouse as well, as I believe this such in iconic space in Australia’s art landscape and is filled with so much magic. When I stay there, I know I’m sleeping in the shadows of Kings.

Q5/  What was the piece of theatre that made you think  – “yep that’s for me”?
There are a lot of pieces that have this impact on me but I think most recently I would have to say Future D. Fidel’s Prize Fighter , Dee and Cordelius’ SHIT, and ILBIJERRI’s Beautiful One Day. I think the mark of a great play is one that you still think about years after seeing it and I would have to say that of David Brown’s Eating Ice cream with your eyes closed which I actually saw at HotHouse many many moons ago.

 

Lyn Walis portrait

Artistic Director Says Au Revoir, Not Goodbye

The Board of HotHouse Theatre announces that after more than four years with the Company, Artistic Director/CEO Lyn Wallis will step down from her full-time role at the end of June: for personal reasons, and to pursue other creative endeavours. Lyn will work with HotHouse until new artistic leadership is in place, and will continue in a contract capacity as an Associate Producer until the end of the year providing production
support to the Company and incoming Artistic Director, and shepherding the company’s new independent performance program (Celsius), through its first season.

Lyn has led HotHouse from strength to strength, enabling it to remain one of only a few producing regional theatre companies in Australia. HotHouse Chair Paul Robb said:

“Lyn leaves the Company in excellent health, both artistically and financially. Through leveraging dynamic partnerships with some of Australia’s most accomplished theatre artists and companies, Lyn has significantly expanded our programming profile – and our audience base. Her new work commissions ‘The River at the End of the Road’ by Caleb Lewis and ‘At The Hip’ by Roslyn Oades, were based on local stories and experiences and spoke deeply to the uniqueness of the region, and our community. The establishment of the Celsius performance program by Lyn will leave a long-term legacy for the development of local independent artists. Lyn leaves the
Company with our best wishes and we thank her for the valuable contribution she has made to the Company”.

Lyn Wallis said, “Leading HotHouse through such a dynamic period for the arts in Australia, in partnership with a vibrant regional community, has been one of the richest experiences of my career. I love Albury-Wodonga, and am proud to call it home. I am looking forward to working on a freelance basis and continuing to contribute to this thriving arts community.”

The role of Artistic Director/CEO will be advertised today. A Position Description and other recruitment details can be obtained by contacting HotHouse Theatre Chair Paul Robb at chair@hothousetheatre.com.au or General Manager Michael Huxley: 02 6021 7433 or generalmanager@hothousetheatre.com.au

Ends.

Media contact: Vanessa Keenan, Marketing and Communications Manager 0418 445 131 or vanessa@hothousetheatre.com.au

Lyn Wallis talks about international sensation and puppet-hero, Alvin Sputnik playing 11& 12 October

Lyn Wallis talks about our company-in-residence – The Last Great Hunt

The Last Great Hunt are a Perth-based artist collective who have taken the world by storm with their imaginative and engaging style of theatre making. And they are in residence on the Border for the month of October.

While they’re here, they are performing three of their award winning shows: The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer, Its Dark Outside and Fag/Stag

See all three shows for just $99, find out more here.

Russell Cheek talks to Lyn Wallis about Who Am I …?

Artistic Director Lyn Wallis, caught up with performer and creator of Who Am I …? Russel Cheek about how he turned his real life Sale of the Century adventure into a charming and funny one-man show

Want to know why you should come and see SHIT by Patricia Cornelius?

Artistic Director, Lyn Wallis talks about why you should come and see this award winning production in its only regional season this year.