STAGES with Peter Eyers
Summary: STAGES is the podcast that accesses a variety of people whose professional life is about connecting with an audience. A host of creative artists and practitioners reflect on their career, their process and what matters – to them. Some have made the arts a lifetime pursuit, some explain how their career became a happy accident … but all describe the challenges and demands – and ultimately celebrate why there’s no business like show business! STAGES talks to talent from front of house and backstage - directors, designers, drag artists and doormen … performers, producers and publicists ... teachers, technicians and talent! Whatever stages it takes to engage and affect an audience – or whatever it takes to carve out a career in the arts – we’ll examine it in STAGES. STAGES is the recipient of the Best New Podcaster Award at The Australian Podcast Awards in 2019.
John Waters is one of Australia's most recognised and favourite actors. His theatre credits span productions in Australia and the United Kingdom. Demonstrating terrific versatility, John has taken lead roles in an array of plays and musicals. He made is debut as Claude in Harry M. Millar's production of Hair. Subsequent performances include Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, They're Playing Our Song, An Ideal Husband, The Woman in Black, A Little Night Music, Talk, The Sound of Music, The Graduate, Oliver!, The Rocky Horror Show, My Fair Lady and The Addams Family. As well as his 20-year involvement with the iconic Australian children's show Play School, his other television credits include City Homicide, The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, The Man from Snowy River, Singapore Sling, All The Rivers Run, Rush, All Saints, Underbelly: The Golden Mile and Division 4 for which he was awarded the TV Week Silver Logie for Best New Talent in 1975. More recently John starred as Darcy in five seasons of the hit series Offspring and Travis James in Mystery Road. His impressive list of feature film credits includes Stealth, The Sugar Factory, High Country, Breaker Morant, Eliza Frazer and Pino Amenta's Boulevard of Broken Dreams for which he received the AFI (AACTA) Best Actor Award. For 30 years he has been touring the self-penned Looking Through a Glass Onion - a part monologue, part concert that celebrates the man and phenomenon of John Lennon. The show has played throughout Australia, the U.K. and New York. As an accomplished musician, John has released a number of recorded albums and EPs, adding to his illustrious career. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Rachael Beck was always destined for a career on the stage. As a young person she was regularly performing at eisteddfods and keenly participating in school musicals. So enamoured with the magic of song and dance, she auditioned for the musical Cats at 13. Considered too young for the show, she subsequently scored the show in later years, as Rumpleteazer. Beck has of course gone on to become one of our favourite leading ladies, giving sterling performances in a host of stage shows; Beauty and the Beast, Les Miserables, The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Me and My Girl, Singing in the Rain, Next To Normal, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Barnum. She has graced our screens too in Hey Dad!, Home and Away, It Takes Two, Family and Friends, Postcards and Surprise Surprise Gotcha. Rachael's passion and humour are infectious. It was a treat to sit down for this conversation and learn more about her work ethic, her concern for the Arts and her brilliant journey, thus far. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Bob Peet is a consummate man of the theatre. He is genial, passionate and accomplished, having navigated many roles and positions over several decades. His professional theatre career commenced in 1959 when he joined the Tintookie Puppet Company as a trainee puppeteer, eventually being appointed Head Puppeteer. Bob toured Australia several times with the company and spent six months touring fourteen countries through South East Asia. He then moved into venue management and opened and managed seven performing arts complexes around the country. These included Ipswich Civic Hall, Orange Civic Theatre, The Araluen Arts and Cultural Centre in Alice Springs and the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre. Back in Sydney he became the Manager of the Sydney Lyric Theatre at the Star City Casino. Never one to sit idle, Bob returned to touring and embarked on a world first, touring the musical Cats in a 2000 seat big top! This fourteen month tour covered most of Australia, and led to further tours of Grease and Shout! The Legend of the Wild One. A four year period as Front of House Manager at Riverside Theatres brought Bob's professional career to a close. Bob has been Miranda Musical Society's resident designer for countless years. He has designed and created sets for over 40 of the company's productions. Simultaneously he produced sets for professional companies, community theatre groups and schools. In recent times Bob has directed productions of Les Misérables, Annie, Evita, Shout! The Legend of the Wild One, Beauty and the Beast and The Producers for MMS. Bob is now ready to take a break and recently announced his retirement. He will be missed by many of the folk who have had the pleasure to work alongside him; and by audiences who have appreciated the work conceived and delivered by this quiet and humble theatre-maker. Stages was thrilled to traverse Bob's story and to enjoy him recount a vivid and magical life on and around stages. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Maria Mercedes is a first generation Australian. She grew up in Carlton, surrounded by other Greek families. English was not her spoken language when she commenced school. She surmounted early obstacles to become one of our favourite stage and screen actors. Early participation in television talent shows, Young Talent Time and New Faces garnered the young Mercedes two significant wins and the attention of an industry keen to celebrate her glorious vocal prowess. Maria Mercedes has become one of Australia's most engaging and enduring performers. She has carved a stellar career as actor, singer and recording artist. Her voice captivates the listener completely. It has the unique ability to reach into an audience and grip them spellbound. It is equal parts power and vulnerability. A succession of theatre roles are the envy of any Music theatre performer. She has been celebrated as Luisa Contini in Nine, Grizabella in Cats, Svetlana in Chess, Mama Morton in Chicago and has electrified audiences in star turns as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard and Maria Callas in Masterclass. Film and television roles complete the resume of this accomplished story-teller. Maria's film credits include Head On, Patrick, Dreams For Life, Evil Awakens and The Taverna. And on the small screen in Bloom, Wentworth, Neighbours, Greeks on the Roof and Prisoner. Maria joined Stages to examine some of those performances and to relish the opportunities she has had in a challenging, surprising but always satisfying career. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Wesley Enoch is a man of the theatre. He is in his final term as Artistic Director of the Sydney Festival. It is a role that has been informed by an extensive resume in roles as Playwright, Director and passionate Advocate for the Arts. He is also a leader and creative force in navigating the theatre to frame our vital indigenous stories. The plays he writes and directs explore issues of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and the complexities of Australian race relations. Enoch is a proud Noonuccal Nuugi man. He grew up in Brisbane and trained in Drama at the Queensland University of Technology. He has been at the helm of a number of renowned Indigenous theatre productions, including The 7 Stages of Grieving with Deborah Mailman, Black Diggers, presented at Sydney Festival in 2014 and his most recent production, Black Cockatoo, which premiered at the 2020 Sydney Festival. He is Chair of Create NSW's Aboriginal Arts and Culture Board; Chair of the Australia Council's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy Panel; a Board member of Annamila and NAISDA; and a member of the AGNSW Aboriginal Advisory Committee. In the lead up to curating his final Sydney Festival, he has been presented with considerable Covid challenges, on top of the considerations that already present to the responsibility of Festival Director. Wesley shares some of those challenges and his great passion for telling stories on the stage. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Peter Ross is the Manager of Entertainment Venues in the regional city of Tamworth. He acknowledges that "A strong arts scene is recognised as one of the elements that attracts and keeps people in regional centres". He is responsible for programming and leading the city's live performance and conference venues - the Capitol Theatre Tamworth, Tamworth Town Hall and the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre. Ross has changed the direction of theatre in Tamworth and raised the bar on local theatre. Bringing outstanding artists and increasing audience numbers. In the home of Country Music he has also assumed the role of Executive Producer and Director of the Golden Guitar awards. And celebrated Community Theatre - an opportunity for community to express their artistic leanings and find a valuable social outlet. A self-confessed 'jack of all trades' his theatrical life leading to this position saw him navigate a variety of roles on and off the stage. Each has informed and given terrific insight to frame his work today. Growing up in Newcastle, he initially set forth studying visual arts. An opportunity presented itself for a Stage Manager at The Hunter Valley Theatre Company, which he took up with glee. This lead to onstage roles with the company and with the theatre in education group, Freewheels Theatre Company and the original production of Nick Enright's Property of the Clan. Study at The West Australian Academy of Performing Arts followed, in the Musical Theatre course. Ross developed his performance skills while also writing a musical and finessing his directing ability. He then juggled a series of personas as performer, producer, director and resident director on a series of productions that included Jon English's Buskers and Angels, Summer Rain at The Sydney Theatre Company, Mary Bryant at The Ensemble Theatre and Hugh Jackman's Arena tour of The Boy From Oz. Ross was 'on the ground' and took Producing and Directing roles presenting Musicals with the Kookaburra Musical Theatre Company. It was an exciting venture that promised great theatre experiences but sadly did not survive its rocky beginning. He speaks candidly of that period. Managing theatre venues is an enormous task, especially in this time of Covid-19. The safety of audience, performers and staff is paramount in any attempt to get theatres going again. Peter Ross is determined to make those experiences a reality and describes the measures now in place at venues, while also reflecting on a vibrant life working in the theatre. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Tony Bonner has a striking presence; he exudes abundant energy and maintenance of the matinee idol looks that propelled him onto an international career. His immediate fame came as chopper pilot Jerry King in the iconic television series Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. The series became universally acclaimed and brought adoration for the cast. But Bonner's extensive resume is more than Skippy. It boasts impressive work that spans several decades across stage, television and film platforms. The son of an actor, Bonner's early forays in the theatre saw him commence work as a dresser for J.C. Williamson productions. It was not long before he was seduced by the stage and the colourful folk who graced it. Musicals with 'The Firm' included The Sentimental Bloke, The Great Waltz and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. As an award winning actor his television credits extend through Australia, the U.K. and USA. These have included Cop Shop, Homicide, Skyways, Hawaii Five-O, Murder She Wrote, The Persuaders, The Box, Matlock Police, Carson's Law, Division 4, The Rockford Files and Neighbours. He has worked alongside and befriended screen legends Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Paul Hogan, Charles Bronson, Tom Selleck and Roger Moore in an impressive list of films that include Soldier of Fortune, The Man From Snowy River, Creatures The World Forgot, Quigley Down Under and The Lighthorsemen. The prospect of Agent 007 may have come his way if not for the dogged demons that persisted in his early years. Tony Bonner is candid in his reflection. He is brutally honest in recalling the triumphs and troughs of a colourful life. And he tells it all with immense charm, humour and survival. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Hugh Monroe has been delighting audiences since childhood in a range of entertainments. A long resume demonstrates success and exuberant performance across stage, television, drag performance and Audio/Visual production. As a child he appeared in productions of Shakespeare, directed You're a Good Man Charlie Brown and flew 'across the skies' as an impish Peter Pan. You may recall him as a congenial presenter on the highly popular television show, Simon Townsend's Wonder World - a news program produced for a youth audience in the 1980s. At the other extreme you might have been witness to his antics as regular host of the piano bar at the iconic Albury Hotel on Sydney's Oxford Street. Hugh could sing, on his head, on the piano! His skill in drag has also allowed him forays into the musical theatre joy of Pageant and La Cage Aux Folles. The past decade has been spent in Children's theatre, nurturing audiences of the future and informing them via various theatre-in-education projects. Touring the country he introduces the magic of theatre to thousands of young people each year. Hugh loves a chat. And a story. It was much fun to share the microphone with Hugh Monroe, in this naughty but nice, Stages conversation.
Dan Slater is an Australian DJ and Producer based in the United States. He commenced his career in performance of another kind; as a dancer in various commercial musical theatre productions touring Australia and Asia. These shows included Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You, Shout, Chicago and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert - the Musical. Dan's love of music eventually lured him onto the decks, first as a hobby. In 2012 he won the Sydney Mardi Gras Spin Off competition and soon was delivering beats and rhythms to enthusiastic crowds on dance floors around Sydney. Determination, invention and obvious talent propelled him on to sets and residencies at some of the biggest parties around the world. He has been bringing his upbeat, chunky house sound to dance floors across the globe, and his talent for sculpting the energy of a party is in a league of its own. He draws from the progressive sounds of the European club scene, as well as the Latino fire of South America as he moves seamlessly between house, circuit, tech and deep house. Dan's foray into the studio for production has seen him produce remixes for Cher, Alfie Arcuri, Samantha Jade, Carmen Elektra, Zoë Badwi, Tim Campbell, Nat Conway, Britney Spears, Paulini, Ultra Nate and Marcia Hines. His first release, 'Minute Of You' saw him collaborate with JimJam, and featured soul diva Nalaya. He released 'Sold My Soul' and 'Respectable' with Australian singer-songwriter, Zoë Badwi Their next releases are 'I've Been Waiting' and 'Dirty Little Secret'. Dan is charming, passionate and thrives on his work. He is a master at his craft - conjuring a magic that provides an atmosphere and sound, commanding a place on the dance floor. Dan joined Stages from his home in Miami to reflect on a most unique artistry.
Maggie Kirkpatrick holds a unique place in Australian entertainment. She created one of the most iconic characters in Australian drama television history and simultaneously evolved into one of the most accomplished and admired theatrical leading ladies. Maggie appeared as Madame Morrible in the original Australian production of Wicked, which toured nationally and throughout Asia for seven years. Maggie manifested Madame Morrible for the run of the show. She has worked extensively with Australia's leading theatre companies, including STC (Major Barbara, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Ham Funeral, A Delicate Balance, A Cheery Soul, The Cripple of Inishmaan), MTC (Emerald City), the State Theatre Of South Australia (Farewell Brisbane Ladies, The One Day Of The Year) and Perth Theatre Company (A Passionate Woman). Maggie was directed by Michael Blakemore in Death Trap and has shared the stage with Sir Michael Redgrave (in JC Williamson's Voyage Round My Father), Susannah York (Shoehorn Sonata, London's King's Head Theatre) and Topol (Fiddler on the Roof) among others. Maggie's musical repertoire includes stellar turns in Irene, Anything Goes, Songs from A Side Show Alley, Singin' in the Rain and the West End production of Prisoner: Cell Block H; The Musical, not to mention several highly successful and long running, one-woman cabaret shows, The Screw Is Loose and Maggie Kirkpatrick...Still Here. Her television credits include, All Saints, Blue Heelers, Water Rats, GP, Home and Away, The Pacific and of course, Joan (The Freak) Ferguson in Prisoner. Maggie's feature film roles include Welcome To Woop Woop, Lillian's Story, Billy's Holiday, The Night of the Prowler and The Getting of Wisdom. Maggie has long been actively involved in raising awareness of gay rights receiving a DIVA Award for fund raising for the fight against HIV/Aids. She is a proud member of Actors Equity since 1961. Earlier this year Maggie released her memoir, The Gloves Are Off - The Inside Story from Prisoner to Wicked. It is a terrific read recounting a brilliant career, while also chronicling our vital stage history. Maggie is a treasured guest in this special edition of Stages - episode 150!
A young performer's passion is frequently ignited through their engagement with the Arts, at school. Performing Arts teachers recognise and nurture a passion in their students that may one day lead to a professional career in dance, music or drama. A performing arts experience at school also supports the child whose ambition may lie in other industries, providing essential social, personal and analytical skills. The role of the Drama Teacher is immensely fulfilling but equally demanding. It exists beyond the curriculum in co-curricular programs, experiences and productions, generously offered by teachers to foster an appreciation of theatre, culture and the joy of play-making. Jane Simmons has over 25 years teaching experience. She is embraced as a leader in Drama education and is recognised as a generous source of advice, encouragement and practice. In her present role as Performance Officer at The Department of Education Arts Unit, she has produced State drama festivals, camps, ensembles and workshops. Jane has coordinated professional development courses and is an experienced director, administrator and marker. In 2011 she created a social network site, Drama Peeps. The site is a valued resource for the Drama teacher, offering support of pedagogy and nurturing community. Jane also has extensive stage experience. She has performed sold out shows at the Sydney Comedy Festival and is a dynamic presence at Theatresports competitions. For a period she wrote an insightful blog reviewing theatre, called Shit On Your Play. The blog garnered a wide readership from discerning theatre goers and many practitioners from MainStage and Fringe companies. In 2015 Jane received the Australian Council of Teachers leadership award, recognising her excellence and expertise in the arts. Jane joined Stages in a celebratory conversation of the Drama teacher and illuminating reflection on what lead her to a career in arts education.
Dolores Dunbar possesses an energy that equals that of her teenage students. In her role as Head of Musical Theatre at the McDonald College of Performing Arts she contributes to the development of the next generation of performers with a knowledge garnered from extensive industry experience in a variety of roles. A first foray into the business came from an extensive tour with Slim Dusty. The 'smell of the greasepaint' ignited her passion and confirmed her ambition to work in the theatre. She made her professional stage debut in the Australian company of Funny Girl for J.C. Williamson's. A stack of shows followed for Dolores, including My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Chicago, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Les Miserables and Shout. Other creative roles have seen her choreograph the immensely successful Australian production of Nunsense, that saw several companies and endless 'nuns' perform and tour the work. She has served in Company Management roles, saved the show with script in hand and directed productions of Eurovision, Copacabana, Sweet Charity and Grease. She is always ready with an amusing and celebratory anecdote, that serves also as a brilliant history lesson. Dolores is a walking encyclopaedia of our musical theatre past and the many characters who have inhabited its stages. She is terrific company and a passionate supporter of young talent. Dolores Dunbar is today's special guest on Stages.
When Tim Chappel was 13, he was mesmerised by the beauty and creation bursting from the pages of an edition of Vogue. This awakening steered the young artist away from aspirations of becoming a botanist and pointed him towards the alchemy of a hot glue gun and glitter, fabric and fabulousness; and into the world of costume design. Tim Chappel is one of Australia's leading costume designers and has designed for feature films, TV series, theatre, musicals and music video clips. He was awarded the Academy Award, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award and an Australian Film Institute Award for his costume design of The Adventures of Priscilla , Queen of the Desert. For the stage musical adaptation, Chappel was rewarded again with Broadway's coveted Tony Award for his inspired design and creation. His extensive design credits include the films Miss Congeniality and Today You Die; Television product such as Australia's Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars; the stage productions Gypsy and Funny Girl and Music Videos for Cher, Missy Elliott and Matchbox 20. It is a career that has reached beyond Australian platforms to be showcased in the West End, on Broadway and in the celluloid splendour of Hollywood. Chappel continues to create vivid worlds on various canvases. He relishes too, the opportunity to train a new generation of costume designers, imparting a knowledge built on invention, spectacle and an inimitable style. Stages was thrilled to meet Tim and to garner a unique insight into the art of the costume designer and to reflect on a celebrated career. The Stages podcast is available from iTunes, Spotify and Whooshkaa.
Lee Young was born James Stevenson Young in Scotland in 1928 His mother was a concert soprano and his father an amateur actor. Lee became stage struck at a very early age, fascinated by his father's make-up box and collection of false beards. An unsuccessful audition for the Entertainment National Service Association (he was too young), brought him to the eye of an auditioning agent who was handling Scottish Variety dates. He booked Lee's dance act to appear at the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr. Keen to appear in a West End show, he successfully auditioned for the legendary Windmill Theatre and subsequently commenced a career in London theatres, clubs and revues. He has anecdotes aplenty concerning a galaxy of stars that he has either worked with or been on close terms. These include Frankie Howerd, Richard Burton, Marlene Dietrich, Benny Hill, Terry Thomas, Danny LaRue and Mrs Mills. In 1953, Lee made what may have been the first rock and roll record issued outside the United States when he recorded the song Rock, Rock, Rock. Lee settled in Sydney in 1971 and quickly established himself as a much loved and respected part of the show business fraternity 'down under' in theatre restaurant, revue and as a popular headline cabaret performer on the club circuit. As a theatre performer his credits include Stepping Out, Blithe Spirit, King Lear, Dad's Army - the musical; and Arsenic and Old Lace where he toured with Gwen Plumb and June Bronhill. Lee is a much-lauded member of the distinguished theatrical group The Glugs, who in 2019, awarded him the Rodney Seaborn Lifetime Achievement Award. An hour in his company is a valuable history lesson and contagious inspiration. Ladies and Gentlemen .... Mr Lee Young.
Jordan Shea is a Filipino-Australian writer and teacher working across theatre and screen. After debuting his first play, two days shy of his twenty first birthday, he went on to write plays across the independent sector. He then secured a place at the VCA in Melbourne, to study his master's degree in playwriting. Relocating back to Sydney, he has become a distinguished Asian-Australian voice in the performing arts. His credits as a writer include: Kasama Kita, The House at Boundary Road, Liverpool, CAGE, Barbaric Truth, Last Drinks, Little Differences, Cascadia and many more that have been developed by major companies, and independent collectives. He is currently one of the Philip Parsons Fellows for Belvoir Theatre. Jordan also worked as a producer, in venues such as the Chippen Street Theatre, the King Street Theatre and the Kings Cross Theatre. As a Director, he was responsible for Keating! which opened the Bryan Brown Theatre, Bankstown as part of the Bankstown Arts Festival. His passion for telling stories is palpable, along with an impressive appreciation of theatre history in Australia and abroad. There is no doubting his commitment to the work. And glowing reviews indicate a talent to watch. Jordan has also worked as a producer and director on several projects and today he is our enthusiastic guest on Stages.