We chat to Daniel Clarke, the new artistic director at Theatre Works, ahead of the launch of their special Midsumma Festival mini season
What was your first theatre experience?
I remember my first practical theatre experience – after seeing the film Mary Poppins (I was 6 or 7) I turned to mum and dad and said I wanted to be an actor. Then it feels like I started drama classes not long after that. I remember crawling around the floor, through tunnels.
Where were you before you came to Theatre Works?
Before I came to Theatre Works I was living in Adelaide making and producing work for my last year there. Before that I was the artistic director of Adelaide’s Feast Festival and before that I was in the UK for a number of years.
Describe Theatre Works in one sentence.
We support visionary artists, nurture the development of ideas and provide space for bold artistic adventures.
What is the artistic director's role at Theatre Works?
I program, source funding, enable artists to create and develop work, budget, market shows, write press releases, mentor artists and generally try and give us much support as I can to the independent artists we are working with. Oh and I work with the Board!
The Theatre Works venue on Acland Street, St Kilda, is a fairly unique venue. What character does the physical site lend a Theatre Works season?
The Theatre works venue is a converted church hall. It is one of the largest independent performance spaces in Melbourne. Because of the size of the space there are opportunities for artists to use the space in a variety of ways. I hope that in the future the space is continuously being used differently and that audiences are surprised. I think you can really feel the history of the past performances in the space.
Since you've taken over at Theatre Works, have you had time for your own creative projects?
I guess now I have to be very selective of what creative projects I do – and can’t do everything I want. I do have creative leave in my contract and I am only employed at Theatre Works three days per week, so there is time. My wish list of projects however is growing rapidly and it’ll be interesting to see how many shows I direct when I finish my time at Theatre Works.
Are there any theatre companies you admire in for their cultural achievements, finding a niche, breaking new ground?
I actually am really impressed with how Vitalstatistix (in South Australia) has reinvented itself in the last few years. Through some rocky times, funding-wise, they have come out of it presenting exciting work and collaborating with artists from a number of backgrounds. Their program feels contemporary, bold and risk taking. The diversity of artists who have been involved with the company in recent times is fantastic. I feel like they have very much become a contemporary live performance company.
What is the most essential quality for an artistic director?
To have a strong clear vision that excites others and to remember other people’s tastes as well as your own.
How would you like your term at Theatre Works to be remembered?
I would hope that we truly become a national hub for independent live performance and that we have sustained deep and creative relationships with a number of artists throughout Australia. I hope that very soon I no longer hear ‘ but it is south of the river’. I hope that the quality of the work presented here will make people ‘cross the river’. Seriously it is not that far!
Your favourite theatre experience?
It is really hard to choose one – but I loved, loved loved La Fura Del Baus’s M.T.M at Adelaide Festival in 1996.
What about a favourite scene, one that encapsulates what you love about the theatre?
Too many – but I thought I’d choose a hopeful and life-affirming moment – from the Beautiful Thing, by Jonathan Harvey, when the two boys start dancing to 'Dream a Little Dream' in front of everyone at their housing estate. One of many moments that have stayed with me.
Theatre Works launch their Men At Work Season as part of the Midsumma Festival on January 11. The season features Mother/SON written and performed by Jeffrey Solomon (New York) and The Year of Magical Wanking written and performed by Neil Watkins (Dublin). Both are making their Australian premiere at Theatre Works. There's also Melbourne actor and creator, Ash Flanders (of Sisters Grimm), presenting Negative Energy Inc, which sold out at Hares and Hyenas in 2012.