Kings Cross Theatre 2018 – Q&A With bAKEHOUSE Co-Artistic Director

Published in Arts  

Since its launch in 2015, KXT (Kings Cross Theatre) has presented new, risky, great theatre. In 2018 the dynamic theatre company behind the programming, bAKEHOUSE, will continue this.

KXT aim for 2018 to be the year of theatre for change. The season includes five world premieres, nine Australian premieres, five new works from Australian writers and the development of new works by nine writers. There are also two major social justice programmes developed from community collaborations.

Here, bAKEHOUSE Co-Artistic Director Suzanne Millar answers some questions about the season.

What can audiences expect to see in KXT's 2018 season?
Brilliant work from some of Sydney’s most exciting established and emerging artists. Our usual mix of important global and community stories. Some brilliantly funny comedies. Big immersive events. John (Harrison, Co-Artistic Director) says don’t forget the comedies. He thinks that’s what’s been missing!

What goes into putting together a year's worth of productions for the company?

It’s an open door policy, here: we’re not having quiet little meetings with friends. We’re committed to transparency and communication at KXT, and are very thorough in our process. So we hold a call out for expressions of interest, then go through every one of the more than 150 submissions we received… We read the scripts, go through additional information, look at dates, content. Obviously we’re interested in diversity and gender equity, but you can’t fill a season with that so we look to the scripts. And the three of us on the KXT Management team have long meetings, when we go through notes and talk through the year. Then we have a bunch of meetings. Through the year we try to get along to as much theatre as we can. And we aim to meet as many people as we can, through initiatives like the KXT Foyer meet ups and the KXTeethcutting staged reading programme. Great teams with good scripts that they’re passionate about will catch our attention.

You've used the phrase 'theatre for change'. What does that mean to you?
The independent theatre sector in Sydney just isn’t viable. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. There’s a lot of incredible work being made, by an extraordinary number of talented and dedicated artists, many of them young. At the moment, it all kind of functions like the city’s real estate industry: its competitive, fast-paced, expensive, privileged. We think its time we started re-evaluating how we measure success; started supporting the brave and ambitious idea; demanding better of our sector. More support for new work, diverse work, dangerous work. We should be giving artistry time, not blindly rushing into trying to be the best by being better than the rest. We want to be a part of a nimble, flexible industry that looks to the future.

Why is diversity, equality and collaboration so important in this industry?

At bAKEHOUSE we believe that theatre should speak of the world we live in and to the world we want to live in. Australia is a diverse nation, and Sydney is a migrant city, but we’re not seeing that reflected adequately in our theatres. Theatre is an opportunity to ask big questions and to explore our humanity: this can only happen when audiences come to a theatre and see themselves and their world on the stage. Equality as a general term is without argument. You’d think. But the recent spotlight on Hollywood and the treatment of women; on scandals in the UK theatre scene; and now stories emerging closer to home that speak to the misuse of power and privilege, all demonstrate that the arts sector is not immune from inequality, and speaks to what happens when half of our population is under – or poorly – represented. Collaboration is key to delivering on both. It is an imbalance of power that allows our stages to continue to focus on white, male, privileged work. True collaboration is a meeting of equals. At bAKEHOUSE we have a platform (a stage, an audience and a team) and we ask the question: what’s the story that you want to tell. And we’re prepared to play the long game: to identify, engage and invest in the work that speaks to and of our world. 'Jatinga' and 'The Laden Table' both ran sold out seasons at KXT this year, and both began with small ideas four and five years ago. 'Invisible Circus' in 2016 celebrated the work of women for a month. In 2018 we’re beginning that process on a number of close community collaborations that we believe will result in equally wonderful work. And we’ve programmed work that began in discussion and development at KXT in 2016. “We need artists to give us a moral compass” - Dr Karl Kruzselnicki speaking after a recent performance of 'Night Slows Down'.

What is the most rewarding thing about being co-Artistic Director for bAKEHOUSE?

A year ago my answer to that question would have been focused on the incredible people we’ve met and had the great good fortune to work with. Designers, producers, directors, writers, actors, operators, set builders… It takes an army of people to get a show on and we’ve seen battalions at KXT. And that still stands, of course. Right now though I have to say its been a privilege to be a part of change in our industry: to play a part in bringing diversity and equity to our sector; to bring new audiences to the theatre; to meet and work with the next generation of change makers and risk takers. And of course to be at the heart of Kings Cross, which is at the heart of the city, as it changes and wrestles with its future.

What does a theatre company like bAKEHOUSE and a theatre like KXT add to Sydney's artistic realm?
bAKEHOUSE has done things differently at KXT: we’ve invested in the sustainability of artists and companies; we’ve put together a model where the venue’s viability is not dependent upon the generosity of artists; and we’ve programmed for the future. And we’re proving that it can be done: that audiences will come see diverse work; that you can programme a play before it's been written; that it is possible to run a theatre in a way that allows companies to pay artists. It’s been thrilling to watch other companies and venues embrace some of our riskier programmes around mentoring, open door access and affordable space.

There are five world premieres next year! What is it like for KXT to be premiering brand new work?
What an honour! It’s time for a new Australian voice in theatre: and that’s in the writing and the artists themselves, but also in the sound of their voice. Sydney theatre has a long-held love affair with historical texts, dominated by English language. Sydney’s “voice” – its idea and its sound – is fresh and fierce and we’re putting it on the stage at KXT. It's also a little bit frightening. We’re all pretty risk-averse in Australian theatre, but we reckon it’s time to place a few bets on the risk takers and change makers.

What are you most looking forward to about what KXT is bringing to audiences next year?
KXT is giving you a reason to leave the house and head out into the heart of the city! Not only have we placed wonderful productions from some of our most seasoned professionals alongside new work from some of our most exciting emerging voices; we’ve also programmed some great event theatre: multi-level immersive work building on the breakout success of Visiting Hours for Vivid in 2016 and surprising and unexpected work in a cheeky new space. And lets celebrate pub theatre! You can grab a meal, see a show, and take in some music and cocktails all in the one venue. KXT2018 is a celebration of Sydney, as it looks to an excitingly surprising future.


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