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All roads lead to The Street Theatre

Richard Watts

Far more than just a production house, The Street plays a key role in the ACT’s performing arts ecology, while also connecting Canberra’s sector with the nation.
All roads lead to The Street Theatre

Michael Lampardo as The Soldier in The Weight of Light at The Street Theatre. Photo credit: Shelly Higgs

An artistic incubator, a presenting venue and a bespoke production house, The Street Theatre is a major player in the arts ecology of the ACT.

Providing paid professional opportunities for members of the local sector – no matter where they are presently based – is one of The Street’s key commitments.

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‘At the Street we champion the creative process alongside producing work and supporting inquisitive artists who have something to say about the world. Partnering and presenting has always been part of the relationship we have with the Canberra diaspora,’ explained Caroline Stacey, The Street Theatre’s Artistic Director and CEO.

‘There’s a highly transient population here. Lots of people move in and out of Canberra, and lots of people return – they went to school here, or university, or have partners working here – there’s constant flow. And I think one of our great challenges is to really embrace that flow and accommodate the way artists move and work across this country.’

Judging by the calibre of recent productions including The Weight of Light (a song cycle developed in partnership with Goulburn Regional Conservatorium which will show in Sydney later this year) and Cold Light (playwright Alana Valentine’s adaptation of a Frank Moorhouse novel) the team at The Street have risen to that challenge admirably.

‘On the local level we obviously feel it’s critical to invest in the development of artists that are based here, and that’s emerging, it’s mid-career, it’s also established and late career. Whether they’re writers and designers or performers and arts workers, there’s a critical role we play in creating opportunities for people to work and develop their methodologies, craft and aesthetic,’ said Stacey.

Connecting Canberra with the nation

The Street team are equally interested in collaboration with artists and organisations Australia-wide.

‘Because most work in Canberra is made independently, The Street has a really important function as a producing house that will invest in an idea and commit to realising that idea – and also will support artists getting to other places, or artists who have created work in other places in bringing it to Canberra,’ she explained.

‘And on a national level, we are really interested in exchange and dialogue and being able to open up relationships that could potentially lead to new work being made, or a group of artists in Canberra being upskilled to produce work in a very specific way.’

As a presenter, The Street is especially interested in working with like-minded companies.

‘We feel that our role as a presenter is really critical in terms of working with organisations like ourselves across the country, and independent artists that are making work for spaces such as ours,’ said Stacey.

‘And also, we’re very focused on work that’s made in regional centres and smaller places – Tasmania, the Northern Territory, regional Victoria  – and by smaller producing houses, because we know it can be so much more difficult to get that work up. Theatre, music, music-driven work, comedy, chamber opera, dance, live art, cross-form – we keep the live performance mix open.’

The Street Theatre’s ACT location allows it to work with many of the embassies based in the city, resulting in the presentation of several international productions a year, often in languages other than English. Being based in Canberra also opens up exciting new possibilities for collaboration outside the arts.

One such project, currently in development, sees playwright Alana Valentine and ACT-based composer Sandra France working together to explore the story of a uniquely Australian invention.

‘We invited the Defense Science Technology Organisation to discuss creating a performance work exploring the ever-expanding domain of science intelligence and invention; a work that brought science and art together. We knew Sandy and Alana were keen to collaborate and in the end we’ve managed to put it to commission. The work is called Flight Memory and it’s the story of David Warren and his invention of the “black box” using song cycle, contemporary jazz, and a strong visual language, and that’s a work that we will be premiering in 2019,’ Stacey said.

The project epitomises The Street Theatre’s position in the ACT arts ecology.

‘It’s very much a facilitating, connecting and enabling role, which includes a space, a physical space, that people can work in to make work but also present work. And obviously we also advocate in both directions for a wider range of work to be available in the Canberra market for audiences, and also for Canberra work to have a life in other places beyond the ACT,’ she concluded.

Learn more about The Street Theatre and its program at www.thestreet.org.au.  

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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