Sunday 12 June 2016
Thanks to everyone who joined us to celebrate our 15th birthday party. If you missed it, here is Artistic Director Ella Caldwell’s speech from the night.
Just over 15 years ago I was an excited 19 year old, sitting next to my new acquaintance David Whiteley, in one of the first social gatherings of this new little company, in a small room in Inkerman St.
I was overwhelmed to have been selected from over 300 actors auditioning in the first round for the Ensemble, and I was the youngest and greenest of the group. I distinctly remember enjoying Dave’s company, his ‘wisened’ perspective of being the ripeold age of about 30.
Dave had just the right touch of cynicism, compared to me at least, and acknowledged that many companies before us had started up to make their own work in the indie sector, and who knows how long it would sustain.
But he said that he had a kind of special feeling about this particular group andwhat we were endeavoring to do. I couldn’t believe I was sitting there and knew I would do anything and everything I could to keep the company alive andinspiring as it was to me from the very first day.
What started 15 years ago as a group of like minded actors, honing our craft and staging contemporary, intimate, gutsy theatre we loved, has evolved into a major player in the national arts landscape, fulfilling our dream of an artist driven collective where members work together to realise and develop plays that we are passionate about that speak to audiences and demand to be seen.
Vince Miller, the founder of RS, miraculously brought together a group of actors whose determination and commitment to rigorously investigating our craft managed to create a working Ensemble that could weather the ups and downs of independent theatre and find a productive work ethic where each member’s voice contributes and balances the company’s direction.
Its always about getting in and making it happen. For example, Kat Stewart often fondly remembers her and Daniel Frederikson’s induction into the company when they both joined in 2002 as being invited to bump out our existing production. No fanfare, no welcome drinks. We are pumped to have you on board, please rock up at 11pm, wear your work boots and be ready to build the new set with overnight!
Under the Artistic Direction of David Whiteley from 2004 onwards, the company evolved immensely to include touring, developing new Australian work, a graduate and intern program, and continued to evolve our repertoire of exceptional international playwrights otherwise unseen here.
Since 2014 I’ve had the privilege of leading this extraordinary ensemble, and collaborating with the many brilliant artists we work with each year. We have taken our new writing program to the next level, and increased our commitment to production of Australian work alongside international on our stages. New writing from our community on stage alongside the best from around the world – exactly where our writers deserve to be seen. We have increased artist wages by 26% across the board. And the Ensemble has evolved to include more incredibly passionate, talented people who throw their heart into keeping this special company alive and thriving.
We have, as many of you know, recently be subject to the Aus Co funding cuts that have swept the small-medium sector of our industry. This is disheartening and damaging to the sector, and detrimental to our community at large, however fortunately we have made efforts in recent years to further diversify our income stream, and have received some extraordinary support from our Kindred members. We also rely on our strong ticket and subscription sales, so please keep coming along and thank you!
We are determined to continue our commitment to theatre in Australia, and to continue to develop Australian artists. Tonight’s party is a celebration of the first 15 years, and an opportunity to look toward a strong and ambitious future for the company. A future in which artists’ craft is valued as it ought to be through proper pay for their work, in which the repertoire continues to extend the cannon of terrific contemporary Australian writing for theatre, and in which we evolve the company to nurture more artists on our stages and around the country.
Tonight have a drink with us, talk to the ensemble, share your experiences and your hopes for Red Stitch.
On behalf of the Ensemble I would like to thank our wonderful Kindred members, Serge Thomann and the City of Port Phillip for their ongoing support and for making tonight possible by giving us this beautiful venue, Creative Victoria for the critical support they provide, The Cybec Foundation, The Malcolm Robertson Foundation and the Lyngala Foundation. I would also like to thank the Red Stitch Board and Staff, and of course our catering partners Susie Wong for the delicious food.
Tonight is the official launch of our 15 year Fundraising csampaign, through which we plan to secure the longevity and sustainability of the company by setting up and Endowment to further increase artist wages. If you want to know more, feel free to speak to me, or Kirsty Hillhouse can chat to you about this at the donations table.
I’d like to end with a toast to the audiences, playwrights, actors, directors, designers, technicians, arts managers and administrators, volunteers and everyone who plays a part in this pursuit we share. The pursuit of a collective experience, of empathy, of understanding what it means to be human, of the questions and challenges of our society, of the things that must be scrutinised and the things that we must rejoice over. Cheers.
Photos Courtesy Just ‘n Idea.