This Month’s Post is by Andy Packer, the Artistic Director of the Adelaide based company, Slingsby. Last year, Susanna Day Hamnett was the first artist in residence chosen for the Colleen Porter Fund. As we look forward to continuing the Colleen Porter Fund, we were curious as to what the first residency had entailed. Over the next several weeks we will also hear from Susanna.
How did Slingsby become involved with the Artist in Residency Program that was created by the Colleen Porter Fund?
In mid 2013 Slingsby was approached by IPAY to see if we would be interested in hosting an Artist in Residence as part of the Colleen Porter Fund. Our answer was an immediate Yes! In 2009 Slingsby had the opportunity to showcase its inaugural production The Tragical life of Cheeseboy at IPAY Showcase 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. It was in the lead up to this presentation that we first met Colleen Porter. What an inspirational, driven, passionate person. She made us feel incredibly welcome and cared for at Playhouse Square and we enjoyed her energy and no nonsense approach to things. She had a very 'Australian' approach to getting things done. The news of Colleen’s passing was devastating for all of us who new her. Slingsby was very pleased to make a financial contribution to the Colleen Porter Fund to kick off this great memorial initiative. We were doubly honoured to be invited to host Susanna Day Hamnett, the first Artist In Residence for this fund.
Can You Give Us An Outline of What Susanna Experienced while working with Slingsby?
Susanna arrived in Adelaide in mid December 2013, at a crucial stage in the development of Slingsby’s adaptation of the Grimm Brothers story The Mouse, The Bird and The Sausage. Susanna joined us a for an eight day creative development which included a two day design intensive and a week-long development incorporating the cast, designers, composer and writing team. Through this process we explored the theatrical form of the work and worked through how to stage a human sized Sausage bathing in a pot! Through this residency Susanna was invited into all of the conversations – having the opportunity to observe but also to contribute to the conversations and question asking process. During her time in Adelaide Susanna also spent time visiting Patch Theatre Company and Windmill Theatre.
What Do You Think You Took Away From This Experience?
It was wonderful to have an extra pair of ‘outside eyes’ in the room as we developed this production. As the director and co-writer on this production it was very useful for me to stop from time to time and retreat into a corner where I could assess Susanna’s view of what was developing. Much of my work is focussed around searching for emotional truth in moments of a story, looking for the perfect combination of text, image, performance and music. It is an imprecise process of setting tasks and getting the artistic team to work so that I have the opportunity to sit back and observe, poised to leap to my feet when we trip over a moment that really hits me emotionally or making a connection that leads to a new idea or observation. It was terrific to have Susanna sitting there observing with me – I could really sense when we had both seen something that really worked. Susanna is an exceptional artist with a very different training background to mine so I really valued her thoughts and observations. Plus she is a wonderful person and a very nice energy to have in the room.
Why do you think the Colleen Porter Fund is an important part of IPAY?
The opportunity for international collaboration and observation is critical to the development of the art form of theatre and for the continual improvement of the theatre we present to young audiences. The Colleen Porter Fund provides a rare opportunity for a North American artist to be inspired (or at the very least informed by) to observe another artist at work. As artists we rarely have the chance to stop and consider other approaches – this is critical to our own professional development – and push ourselves to find and refine our own artistic voice. In addition to this Colleen Porter was an incredible woman who gave so much to the Theatre for Young Audiences movement internationally. We should continue to remember and be personally challenged by her tireless contribution.
"If more theatre were like this, the world would be a magical place indeed....
It is theatre like the work Slingsby produces which makes us all imagine a better and happier world.” Australian Stage Online (March 2010)
Adelaide based Slingsby is an artistically adventurous company creating outstanding original theatre for adults and young people aged ten years and up.
Artistic Director Andy Packer and Executive Producer Jodi Glass established Slingsby in 2007. In the past seven years the company has premiered five original productions and toured to 68 venues in 43 cities and towns across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, UK, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Canada and USA, including a two-week sold out season on 42nd Street, New York.
The company has received 12 awards including two Ruby Awards (2010 Best Work and 2009 Leadership in Arts Enterprise) and a Business SA Export Award. In 2014 Slingsby’s production The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy toured to Ireland and Norway, with its Irish premiere season at the prestigious Dublin Theatre Festival.
Slingsby's theatre is best described as: 'original tales of shadows and sunshine for young and old.'
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