My first theatre memory: It was 1983 when my Mum took me to the theatre. We saw The Sound of Music. And I loved it. I loved the music, the choreography, the characters and their relationships and of course the story, but there was one moment that made me feel absolutely electrified.
When the Von Trapps hid from the Nazi troops, all around the theatre banners with swastikas unfurled and then, on the balconies and behind us in the dress circle bugles called out: clear and crisp and thrilling.
And suddenly, I was completely in the world that I had just been watching on stage. Just like the family I wanted to run and hide, I felt under threat. I had, in a single moment, been transported to wartime Austria. As a member of the audience I was no longer sitting mollified in the dark, I inhabited the world. I was participating in the story. I was an active audience.
I share this story because I believe it’s the reason I’m directing theatre today. In that moment, as an eight-year-old, the power and possibility of theatre to transfix and transport us was deeply understood. I know all of us have a similar story – a moment that electrified, a moment that got you hooked.
For thousands of people in the last 25 years that moment happened during a Black Swan production.
I feel very fortunate to have started my journey with Black Swan in its 25th year because it has been a time for all of us to reflect on the legacy of the company and the enormous cultural and social impact that has been forged. Black Swan is nationally recognised as being at the vanguard of Aboriginal theatre and a leader in cross cultural collaborations between Australia and Asia.
The jewels in the Black Swan crown include Bran Nue Dae, The Sapphires and Red Dog, all of these stories – made world famous by feature films, began right here at Black Swan.
I’ve been in a love affair with theatre from the age of eight, and I know that Black Swan and I are a perfect match. Across my career, I have been referred to by some as a gamechanger. But I’m not about to share with you a vision for radical change. Dynamic change, yes, but I strongly believe that the key to our flourishing future is well and truly in the DNA of Black Swan.
Black Swan is built on collaboration. We will continue to build our community of artists and audiences. We endeavour to inspire empathy and compassion at every turn. We promise to entertain. There will be cultural diversity on our stages and we will hear a rich range of Aboriginal voices. We will achieve gender parity.
We will electrify and activate our audiences and encourage complex conversations. And we will proudly speak with our quintessentially West Australian voice. We will take our work to the world. We will be audacious. We will be ambitious. And we will always be authentic. And we’re going to have fun doing it. The kind of fun that’s infectious.
I believe Black Swan is a visionary gamechanger right now, just as it was when it began. I thank you for being part of the journey as we take the best of Western Australia to the rest of the world. We want Black Swan State Theatre Company to match the beauty and boldness of the state that we live in. And when we next meet in the foyer, I invite you to share your first theatre memory with me…the moment that got you hooked.