Media Release: CAST welcomes Labor and Greens arts policy announcements

Posted by on 7 June 2016 | | 0 Comments
Tuesday 7 June 2016
CAST welcomes Labor and Greens arts policy announcements
The Confederation of Australian State Theatre Companies (CAST) has welcomed the arts policy platform announced by the Greens on Monday 30 May and the Labor arts launch on Saturday 4 June. 
Both platforms commit to the returning of funding to the Australia Council for the Arts and the abolition of the Catalyst program ensuring the principle of arms-length funding is protected. Labor’s plan to return Catalyst funding to the Australia Council and to invest an additional $20 million per year would reverse the damage done in the 2015 budget but would not return to Labor’s 2013 Creative Australia commitment. CAST welcomes the Labor commitment to additional funding for ABC drama and notes the interconnectedness of the performing arts and screen industries in their employment of artists and arts workers. The companies call on Labor to rebuild its arts commitment to 2013 levels. 
CAST calls on the Coalition to make a renewed commitment to return Australia Council funding to 2013 levels and to abolish the Catalyst program unless additional funds can be found for it.
‘The arts contributes over $4.2 billion to GDP in Australia*,’ the CAST Executive Council said. ‘To ensure that this highly productive industry continues to contribute at this rate, government support at a level that sustains the entire industry is essential.' 
This statement is co-signed by the Confederation of Australian State Theatre Companies and the executive management of each organisation.
*Figure from the 2015 Arts Nation report published by the Australia Council for the Arts.


The Language of Angels in America

Posted by on 20 May 2016 | | 0 Comments

“Your problem, Henry, is that you are hung up on words, on labels… AIDS. Homosexual. Gay. Lesbian.” 
– Roy Cohn (Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, Act One, Scene 9)
The world of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America can seem like a foreign place today. Loaded with now-uncommon references to Reaganites and McCarthyism, culture wars and Valium, anti-communists and Soviet spies, this distinguished play about American life is a world away from what we know.  
As good plays do, Kushner’s language reflects, and is informed by, the society in which he lived – 1980s New York City. Set during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 15 years before the new millennium (now a distant memory), so successfully did Kushner capture and equivocate the zeitgeist of the period, he was awarded, among other accolades, the highly-esteemed Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1993).
His Gay Fantasia on National Themes channels the paranoia about the millennia and reflects the anxieties of the time. Littered with references to Mormonism and Judaism, long-dead Republicans and Democrats, Kushner unashamedly fits political and religious discourse into his work. Characters discuss, debate and contest politics, identity, ethnicity, race, religion and homosexuality, and only Kushner’s poetic voice and wicked sense of humour ties it together. The complexities of his portrayal of a society about to combust can make the literal appearance of an Angel seem the most straightforward element in this epic play!
An important piece of theatre, Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches struck a chord that resonates today. Now, as Western Australia’s State Theatre Company brings it to life once again, we must contextualise Tony Kushner’s work and the rich tapestry of his language for a new audience. 
Here are some examples of terms and language in Angels in America, Part One, with definitions: 
AIDS Act 1, Scene 9
A disease of the immune system characterized by increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections.
Ethel Rosenberg Act 3, Scene 5
An American citizen who spied for the Soviet Union. 
Feh Act 1, Scene 4
A Yiddish expression defined as something you say when you are disgusted with something.
Goyische Act 1, Scene 1
A term used by a Jew to refer to someone who is not Jewish.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus Act 1, Scene 9
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defense system. 
Jeane Kirkpatrick Act 3, Scene 2
An American ambassador and an ardent anti communist.  
La Cage Act 1, Scene 2
A musical that focuses on a gay couple: Georges, the manager of a Saint-Tropez nightclub featuring drag entertainment, and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction, and the farcical adventures that ensue when Georges's son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancée's ultra-conservative parents to meet them. La cage aux folles literally means "the cage of mad women". However folles is also a slang term for effeminate homosexuals (queens).
Litvak shtetl Act 1, Scene 1
Litvak are Lithuanian Jews. A shtetl is a small Jewish town or village formerly found in Eastern Europe.
Maudlin Act 2, Scene 8
Self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental.
Mohicans Act 1, Scene 1
An Eastern Algonquian Native American Tribe.
Monolith Act 3, Scene 2
An obelisk column, large statue formed from a single block of stone.  
Mormons Act 1, Scene 2
Most often refers to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) because of their belief in the Book of Mormon, though members often refer to themselves as Latter-day Saints or sometimes just Saints.
Nancy Drew Act 1, Scene 7
A fictional character in a mystery fiction series created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer.
Ontologically Act 3, Scene 2
Of or relating to essence or the nature of being. 
Pepto-Bismol Act 2, Scene 7
A brand of medicine claimed to be effective against nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhea.
Rabbi Act 1, Scene 1
Originates from the Hebrew meaning “teacher.” In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word rabi meaning “My master”.
Reaganite Act 1, Scene 6
A supporter of Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States and/or policies that he endorsed.
Scion Act 3, Scene 7
A descendant or heir, especially of a wealthy or prominent family.
Schtupping Act 1, Scene 2
Have sexual intercourse with (someone).
Seltzer Act 2, Scene 4
A naturally effervescent of water mineral.
Sid the Yid Act 3, Scene 2
Offensive slang a derogatory word for a Jew.
Sodomite Act 3, Scene 6
A person who has anal sex with another person.
Sophistry Act 1, Scene 9
A subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning.
Star of David Act 1, Scene 1
Known in Hebrews as the Shield of David or Magen David; a generally recognized symbol of modern Jewish identity and Judaism.
The Holy Scriptures Act 1, Scene 5
A collection of books written over multiple centuries by those inspired God to do so.
Tumesce Act 3, Scene 6
Swollen or becoming swollen.
Utah Act 1, Scene 8
A state in the western United States.
Valium Act 1, Scene 7
A brand of diazepam used as a tranquilizer. 
Yahrzeit Act 1, Scene 1
A candle or called a memorial candle neshama, meaning “soul candle”.
Yid nebbish Act 3, Scene 5
A person regarded as weak-willed or timid.
Zeitgeist Act 2, Scene 7
The spirit of the time, general trend of thought or feeling.

“Your problem, Henry, is that you are hung up on words, on labels… AIDS. Homosexual. Gay. Lesbian.”

A Note From Set & Costume Designer Christina Smith

Posted by on 18 May 2016 | | 0 Comments


I first designed Angels in America as a student at WAAPA in 1995. At the time I saw it very much from the perspective of youth – it was a new and contemporary work with so many challenges to solve.
Now 21 years later, I approach it with the eyes of an experienced and somewhat seasoned designer. Whist on the surface it seems now more like tackling a period piece or an established classic (with all the baggage that brings), I have also tried to approach it with the same freshness and excitement I encountered the first time around.  The fact that I have found it just as challenging and relevant now is a testament to the power of the work. 
It is a theatrical piece that calls for an intrinsically theatrical space, an epic that requires the mechanics at times exposed but also concealed. The moments of magic are invested with as much integrity as the moments of realism, and there is an essential need for the piece to flow as seamlessly as possible from one moment to the next. This led to the creation of a formal space captured within the workings of the theatre itself – a clinical white floor and monumental neo-classic ceiling suspended in the black theatre void surrounded by an exposed lighting grid. I wanted to emphasize the journey of the play towards its millennial conclusion - the walls closing in but also the sense of hope approaching from outside the space. 
In a way, revisiting this work at this point in my life very much feels like a bookend of sort: I can see the form this design has taken in a similar symmetry. Back in 2011 I designed one of the earliest shows in the Heath Ledger Theatre, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, also directed by Kate Cherry. I was eager to explore the facilities of this brand new venue and push its capabilities. The response from the audience when the first piece of staging ‘magic’ was revealed was a career highlight. The set for Angels is a distant relative of this first set – the germination of a seed planted all those years ago. 
In subsequent designs I’ve explored other aspects of this venue – the recent production of As You Like It was something of a love letter to the beautifully paneled wooden auditorium that I’d been fighting for years. This design for Angels is in turn somewhat of a ‘breakup’... 
This will be my last design for Black Swan with Kate Cherry at the helm. Kate gave me my first professional design job at Melbourne Theatre Company, 16 years ago, and I still don’t know why she did – I was incredibly young and very inexperienced. She has since given me countless opportunities to design some of the most wonderful stories ever written. She has also through various programs at Black Swan allowed me to pass on the guidance and mentorship she showed me to another generation of young designers. Kate’s willingness to foster new talent and give them opportunities could easily be overlooked amongst her other achievements here at Black Swan – but without it I certainly wouldn’t be designing works like this. I’d like personally thank Kate for the doors she has opened and the journeys we have taken. 
Christina Smith
Set & Costume Designer 

Set & Costume Designer Christina Smith wrote a wonderful note for the Angels in America, Part One programme. Unfortunately we couldn't include her whole note in the programme due to space, so here is the full version: 

Media Release: CAST calls on Federal government to reinstate Australia Council funds

Posted by on 13 May 2016 | | 0 Comments


Friday 13 May 2016
CAST calls on Federal government to reinstate Australia Council funds
The Confederation of Australian State Theatre Companies (CAST) calls on the Federal government to formally review its budget cuts to the Australia Council after today’s announcement that 62 arts organisations will be defunded after failing to secure key organisation core funding.
CAST considers these cuts and subsequent defunding of arts organisations to be a deeply concerning outcome that will cause a devastating cultural and employment deficit with widespread and long-lasting impact.
‘These cuts have an impact just as dramatic and negative as the arts industry has feared and will cause irreparable damage across the sector – one that contributes over $4.2 billion to GDP in Australia ,’ the CAST Executive Council said.
Of the 147 small to medium arts companies previously awarded operational funding through the Australia Council, only 85 were successful in the four year funding rounds announced today. Despite 43 new organisations receiving funding, this still leaves 62 organisations with an unknown future including the risk of closure, hundreds of job losses, and an overall increased instability throughout the arts industry as these companies join the many others whose survival balances precariously on a knife-edge.
Small to medium companies are the lifeblood of the theatre sector across Australia and where some of the most innovative new Australian work is generated and presented. They also punch well above their weight in terms of both national and international touring and play a vital role in developing artists and practitioners nationally, including five of the current artistic directors of CAST companies who were significantly supported by the small to medium sector before taking on executive roles at major performing arts organisations.
Likewise, many acclaimed and award-winning co-productions in recent CAST company seasons would not have been possible without collaboration with small to medium organisations. These organisations include Arena Theatre, Barking Gecko, Brink Productions, Chunky Move, Circa, Force Majeure, Griffin, Hothouse Theatre, Ilbijerri, LaBoite, Performing Lines, Playwriting Australia, St Martins Youth Arts Centre, The Blue Room Theatre, Windmill Theatre and Yirra Yaakin.
‘It is virtually certain that a number of the key organisations defunded today won’t survive. While CAST acknowledges that the government’s new Catalyst program might provide funding for some projects that may have previously been supported by the Australia Council, project funding is of little use to a company that has no operational support to exist in the first place,’ the CAST Executive Council said.
Funding cuts at any level of the arts sector have a dramatic flow on effect throughout the industry – from independent artists to the major performing arts companies. In this sudden climate of uncertainty and upheaval amongst the sector, CAST is committed to supporting artists and small to medium companies to help sustain their future and that of Australia’s vibrant cultural landscape.
In doing so, CAST implores the Federal government to show that they recognise and understand the importance of these companies and take prompt action to review and reinstate funds cut from the Australia Council to the small to medium sector and key organisations.
This statement is co-signed by the Confederation of Australian State Theatre Companies and the executive management of each organisation.


Friday 13 May 2016

Black Swan Welcomes a New Artistic Director

Posted by on 14 April 2016 | | 0 Comments


Black Swan Welcomes a New Artistic Director
Black Swan State Theatre Company ushers in a new era and welcomes the appointment of its new Artistic Director from 2017, Clare Watson.
Following the announcement in late 2015, that its Artistic Director Kate Cherry, will leave the company at the end of 2016 after 9 years in her post, the company is delighted today to announce Clare Watson as Kate’s successor.
After spending her early years in Perth, Clare comes to Black Swan from Melbourne, where she is currently Artistic Director of St Martins Youth Arts Centre, as well as freelance directing for companies such as Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse Theatre, State Theatre Company of South Australia and Belvoir St Theatre.  Her latest MTC production of Lungs has received rave reviews from Melbourne audiences, as has her production of The Events, which was staged during the Sydney Festival and Adelaide Festival. Clare has also been a Resident Director at Malthouse Theatre, during Marion Potts’ tenure and part of the MTC inaugural Women Director’s Program.  
Clare’s work has been presented at numerous major Australian Festivals and she has received a number of awards and nominations including Best Director at The Helpmann Awards, Greenroom Awards and the inaugural Best Director award at the Melbourne Fringe.  In 2008, she received a scholarship for a three month residency in Brussels.  Clare has a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from The University of Melbourne, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Theatre Directing from the Victorian College of the Arts.
Black Swan’s Chair, Mark Barnaba AM said, “We are thrilled to announce Clare Watson as the next Artistic Director of Black Swan State Theatre Company.  After many years of growth and change, led expertly by Kate Cherry, Clare’s appointment will herald in a new era for the company.  Clare has an impressive directing track record and has worked with many of Australia’s major companies and festivals.  Her leadership ability is clearly evident with the work she has been undertaking transforming St Martins Youth Arts Centre into a highly collaborative company that is now presenting work in major festivals and with  major Australian theatre companies.  She is highly respected as one of the next generation of Australian artistic leaders and is highly sought after as a freelance director by our colleague state theatre companies”.
Clare Watson says “I am honoured and excited to be returning to Perth in the role of Artistic Director at Black Swan State Theatre Company.  I’m excited about working with Natalie Jenkins and the company to continue to present world class theatre experiences for audiences and build on Black Swan’s distinct voice in the national cultural conversation”. 
Clare will shortly commence working with Black Swan as Artistic Director Designate in a part-time capacity, focusing on programming the 2017 season, together with Kate Cherry. She will re-locate permanently from Melbourne in October of this year, after completion of some major projects in Victoria that she has already under way.  Clare will officially take over the reins from Kate Cherry on 1 January 2017.  She will work alongside Executive Director Natalie Jenkins, as Co-CEO.
"The announcement of  Clare Watson as Artistic Director represents the beginning of a new era for Black Swan in its 25th anniversary year,”  WA Culture and Arts Minister John Day said. “This appointment will continue Black Swan’s legacy of delivering an excellent and innovative mix of original Western Australian theatre for local, national and international audiences, while also providing great employment opportunities for the WA theatre sector.”
Black Swan State Theatre Company extends a warm welcome to Clare Watson and looks forward to her commencement with the company later this year.
Please find attached the media release, image of Artistic Director Designate, Clare Watson and a copy of her CV.
For all media Enquiries, please contact Natalie Jenkins, Executive Director, Black Swan State Theatre Company on 08 6212 9301 or email      

Black Swan State Theatre Company ushers in a new era and welcomes the appointment of its new Artistic Director from 2017, Clare Watson.

Creating a Mask: Face Moulds for The Caucasian Chalk Circle

Posted by on 22 March 2016 | | 0 Comments

Last week and over the next few weeks the cast of The Caucasian Chalk Circle are having a bit of face work done, both in Perth and Sydney! The Caucasian Chalk Circle, a collaboration between the National Theatre of China and Black Swan, will feature masks designed by Professor Huaxiang Zhang and worn by cast members throughout the show. These masks are specially designed and created using moulds of the actors’ faces – a process that takes approximately 45 minutes. First, the actor’s face is prepped with Vaseline, especially around facial hair. Then the mould mixture – dental alginate – is applied to the face, covering the eyes but leaving air holes at the nose. Then plaster bandage is layered over to support the alginate. Once completely dry, the mask can be easily removed from the face and voila, you have an exact negative cast of their face. Once all the moulds are completed, a positive cast is taken using plaster. Once all 14 casts are complete, these will be sent to Beijing where they will be used in the creation of the physical masks once the designs are completed.

Meditations on Picnic at Hanging Rock

Posted by on 9 March 2016 | | 0 Comments

Writer Tom Wright, who's adaptation of Joan Lindsay's novel Picnic at Hanging Rock will be presented at the Heath Ledger Theatre in April, wrote a series of meditations on this classic story. Read on for some insight and some musings. 

How to bring a classic Australian story to the stage

Posted by on 26 February 2016 | | 0 Comments

Matthew Lutton, Artistic Director of Malthouse Theatre and director of Malthouse and Black Swan's coproduction, Picnic at Hanging Rock, sat down with The Guardian to reveal some insights into the world premiere of this stage adaptation. 

New Talent on Stage in LOADED: A Double Bill of New Plays

Posted by on 22 January 2016 | | 0 Comments


ACTOR Hoa Xuande
Though this is your debut for Black Swan, you already have professional credits under your belt.  What has it been like working with Black Swan State Theatre Company?
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Black Swan because of the facilities and support staff that go out of their way to make your job easy. And to do a professional gig in a great venue is just a bonus.
How are you finding playing the character of Lewis? What has been challenging about the role?
Playing Lewis has definitely been a challenge as he has required me to dig deep psychologically and emotionally. And because he is a damaged character, he needs to be balanced with a just as complicated public persona, which has been a great journey to try and find.
What aspects of your WAAPA training have you drawn on for this production?
Because we had the opportunity to work with so many different and diverse directors at WAAPA, something that I’ve drawn on from my time there is to be open and trust every new process as it comes.
Can you share with us what an average day in the rehearsal room might look like?
Will, our director, is a very practical director so it was great for me to be able to work on the floor immediately as soon as we started rehearsals. And every day in the rehearsal room we would be running sections of the play or playing and improvising to discover new things.
What is next for you after Tonsils + Tweezers?
I’ll be moving back over to the East Coast, Sydney and trying to audition for a pilot season before travelling to Canada for a few months. The next couple of months will all be about networking and just establishing myself.

Actor Hoa Xuande makes his debut on Black Swan's stage in Tonsils + Tweezers by Will O'Mahony. As part of Black Swan's 2016 Bridging Company, Hoa is one of eight recent WAAPA graduates to take the stage in LOADED: A Double Bill of New Plays featuring Tonsils + Tweezers and Girl Shut Your Mouth. We chatted with Hoa about what his experience has been like. 

Will O'Mahony on Bringing a New Work from Page to Stage

Posted by on 22 January 2016 | | 0 Comments

Black Swan audiences may know Will O'Mahony first as an actor. He started with us in The HotBed Ensemble in 2009 with roles in pool (no water) and The Dark Room. He followed that with Twelfth Night in 2010, Flood in 2014 and, most recently, Glengarry Glen Ross in 2015. Other than Black Swan's stage, Will has also appeared in numerous productions at the Blue Room Theatre. But what some may not know is that Will is also a playwright and director. He was a member of Black Swan's 2014-15 Emerging Writers Program and has won multiple awards for his plays. 

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