03 December 2013

What Melbourne loved in 2013, part 3

Today is about artistic directors with Marcia Ferguson from Big West, Rachel Maza from ILBIJERRI and Ella Caldwell from Red Stitch.

It's also about brilliant stuff that I missed.

Marcia Ferguson
Artistic Director, Big West Festival

MARCIA: A school student was crouched over the footpath in front of a large, prominent city bank. Looking more closely, we saw she was laying out five-cent coins to make the word GREED. The bank's security guard was getting agitated, standing right over her as she pored over her design. After yelling at her – “this street belongs to the bank!” – in the face of implacable concentration, he called the police. The girl scarpered as they arrived. An argument ensued between the police and a guard over who owns the street. When they'd all gone, pedestrians stooped to pick up the coins but very few people had the courage to touch the word GREED. This was my mecca moment of theatre for 2013.

And, of course, there was the Big West Festival (finished on 1 December). We got to see everything everyone has worked for since May 2012!

It's more than a festival. It's something new: it's art works driven equally by community and professional artists of heart and rigour. It's art by the audience. It's slow burn. It's art made over a long time, a great indicator of quality!

I love the moments where events teeter between performance and participation. For instance, at this festival, theatrical all-stars Born In A Taxi led the audience masterfully into the creation of a performance they didn't know they were making, and two Dinjerra Primary preps conducted recordings at the school market and left them for the artist to collect.

The festival is human, it's warm. It offers simple ways for people to make art. It has something to say. It’s about what's happening right now made by the very people who are living amongst it.

SM: My biggest disappointment of the year was not being able to get to a single Big West show or event. I really tried, but sometimes the diary tetris just doesn't work. Next year, I promise.

Rachel Maza
Artistic Director, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company

Photo by Michael Corridore

RACHEL: In June 2013 I had the great fortune of being invited to attend the Matariki Development Festival in Wellington, New Zealand. It blew me away!

This festival showcased some excellent new work and it was great to see what our first peoples' neighbours-across-the-way were making. The number of works and the calibre of work being produced over there is so inspiring. It also provided a forum for me to meet these amazing first nations theatre makers from around the world.

In Australia, it’s easy to feel like we're the only colonised nation but there, in that space, being able to draw direct parallels in their experiences and ours was empowering and enlightening.

And of course, Beautiful One Day! (Which finished at Arts House on 1 December.) Working with the Palm Island community, version 1.0 and Belvoir again has been exhilarating experience. This multi-faceted collaboration has challenged me as a performer and as a director. This latest remount has seen the work grow and develop into something we are all so proud of.

SM: Seriously, there was so much happening in the last two weeks of November this year that I missed as much as I saw (and I saw a lot). Missing Beautiful One Day is another regret.

But, the most exciting news for ILBIJERRI is that they're taking Uncle Jack to London, with Jack Charles V The Crown, directed by Rachel, having been invited to perform at the Barbican in February.

There's more of Rachel at issimomag.com.

Ella Caldwell
Artistic Director and Ensemble Member, Red Stitch

ELLA: So much great theatre this year! A standout for me was Kids Killing Kids (by MKA at the Melbourne Fringe) – I loved this. It was energised, unique and brave. The experience was electrifying at the time and has stayed with me.

On our home turf (Red Stitch), some key moments: The exquisite, detailed life that existed onstage between Julia Blake and Ensemble Member Tim Ross in 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog. Oh, and the moment during Midsummer (at the 2013 Geelong season)by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre when Ben (Prendergast) and I realised that an audience member had just vomited in their hands rather than leave and miss the last few moments of the show.

SM: I remember seeing Ella in a play years ago at the Courthouse and thinking that she's going to make it. I'm still never disappointed when she's on a stage. But my highlight for 2013 was easily her performance in Midsummer (even if I saw it in late 2012) and I'm really looking forward to her first year as the new Red Stitch AD.

And see what Ella's looking forward to in 2014 at issimo.com.

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