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From pathway to HWY: theatre development opportunities now open

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Richard Watts

La Boite’s artist development programs provide valuable opportunities to strengthen and grow Brisbane’s dynamic theatre sector.
From pathway to HWY: theatre development opportunities now open

La Boite's Single Asian Female is a HWY success story. L-R: Alex Lee, Courtney Stewart, Hsiao-Ling Tang. Photography by Dylan Evans.

‘All of our work starts and ends with our artists. They’re at the core of our practice, and we are very much focused on being accessible and working with local artists and artists nationally as much as possible,’ said Sanja Simic, Creative Producer, La Boite Theatre Company.

La Boite’s commitment to working with local theatre-makers extends to providing a range of professional development opportunities, applications to which are now open.

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Simic is keen to emphasise La Boite’s commitment to working with local artists at every step of the creative process.

‘We’re developing opportunities and platforms to bring people in so that they’re not only cast in our shows, and we’re not just producing work that’s already written or already made – we’re working with people from the very beginning, from concept to realisation.’

Key to this development process is the annual HWY Festival of New Work; a two-week season of workshops, readings, showings, masterclasses, pitches, conversations and more. Artists wishing to participate in the program, presented in March, don’t need to have finished scripts ready for assessment – what’s wanted are fresh new concepts and ideas.

‘The program will range anywhere from eight to 12 works, depending on what’s submitted. It will have a number of presentations, which could be a reading, a showing, or an excerpt and an in-depth conversation with the audience. But then I’m also bringing back our pitch sessions, which we rolled out this year for the 2017 HWY Festival. That will be five or six artists who come in and do a half-hour pitch, the very first time that they’ve ever talked about an idea or a concept that they have, using the audience as a sounding board to flesh out what that idea might be and what it might look like if they take it to a development,’ Simic explained.

Learn more about La Boite’s artist development programs

The value of HWY is demonstrated by works already staged by La Boite, such as Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female, developed through HWY and given its world premiere in Brisbane in 2017. Another work developed through the festival is The Mathematics of Longing, which has had two HWY Festival presentations to date and is now programmed in La Boite’s 2018 season.

‘There is a development pathway that is very clear and those two works are a great example of that,’ said Simic.

While the 2018 HWY Festival of New Work is firmly focused on development, it’s also an opportunity for emerging to mid-career artists to participate in workshops and masterclasses. Additionally, the festival caters for Brisbane’s theatre enthusiasts by investigating contemporary Australian theatre practice more broadly through a range of forums, panels and conversations.

‘The tagline we’re using is “this is a snapshot of the future of theatre in our city,” and I firmly believe that and I’m really excited about the possibilities of the festival next year,’ Simic said. 

MAD DANCE AND EMBEDDING ARTISTS

Presented for the first time in 2018, the Mad Dance House Grant is a new initiative developed out of a partnership between La Boite and Brisbane based dance centre, Mad Dance House.

The grant is ‘a unique opportunity for a Brisbane dance-theatre artist to develop a new work,’ Simic said.

The successful applicant will receive the equivalent of four weeks full time rehearsal, access to rehearsal spaces at both La Boite and Mad Dance House, depending on availability and $10,000 to cover artist’s fees and materials, as well as mentorship and marketing support where appropriate.

‘It’s outcome focused,’ said Simic. ‘They’ll do a three night showing for an audience, and the idea is that they come in, they’re fully supported and they make a new dance-theatre work.’ 

Hybrid forms such as dance-theatre often fall between the cracks, making the Mad Dance House Grant all the more significant in terms of art form development.

‘The possibilities of form are something that we talk about here a lot at La Boite, and this a great way to engage with artists we might not otherwise be engaging with.’

Following its introduction in 2017, La Boite’s Assistant Creatives Program – an opportunity for emerging and mid-career artists to assist in a paid capacity on any main stage production – returns in 2018.

Rather than being limited to just assistant directors or dramaturges, the program is open to all theatre professionals, including those interested in gaining experience in lighting, production management and sound design.

‘We’re definitely interested in the breadth of theatre practice and theatre practitioners of all stripes, so everyone is welcome to apply,’ said Simic.

‘If they’re dance-theatre practitioners they might apply to work on The Mathematics of Longing, for instance. Writers might apply to be attached to someone like Suzie Miller or Kathryn Marquet, so they can get a really in-depth knowledge of creating brand new Australian writing for a major theatre company. And assistant directors are also welcome to apply. We’re interested in creatives who align with the La Boite vision and mission, in terms of their practice, and the shows in our 2018 season specifically.’

Simic said it was vital that companies like La Boite do everything they can to support the next generation of theatre practitioners.

‘Our resources aren’t endless but where we can assist, we’re certainly doing our best to do so. I think one of the best ways we can upskill people and provide platforms is through practice – and these are very much practice-focused and based opportunities. And they’re paid – the Assistant Creatives program is a paid opportunity for three emerging to mid-career artists to be attached to a professional theatre company,’ she concluded.

Visit laboite.com.au/participate to learn more about La Boite’s 2018 Artist Development Programs.

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R.

The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the board of literary journal Going Down Swinging and on the Committee of Management for La Mama Theatre. He is a former member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.

Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts

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