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.
Aarne Neeme started his professional theatre career in 1962, as a dancer in a Christmas pantomime at Melbourne's Tivoli Theatre. In an extensive career he has contributed as a director and a lecturer in both vocational and academic institutions, throughout Australia and in New Zealand and Singapore. Aarne has directed well over 300 productions covering the whole classical and contemporary repertoire; and specialising in new writing. He has been the Artistic Director of a number of organisations and has worked for most of the major theatre companies. Most notably, he has held the positions of Artistic Director of National Theatre Co. Perth, Hunter Valley Theatre Co., Hole in the Wall Theatre Co. and Head of the Theatre Department at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, and Senior Fellow at the National University of Singapore. He has also worked in television, directing on drama series such as Blue Heelers, All Saints, MDA, Home and Away, Neighbours and Out of the Blue. He has been the recipient of various awards in Sydney, Perth, Newcastle and Canberra. Most impressively an Order of Australia (AM) for his work as a director and educator in theatre and television. Aarne is a charming gentleman, a man of the theatre and an consummate artist. What a privilege to hear his insights. Enjoy! The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Kim David Smith has been described variously by The Wall Street Journal as 'slyly subversive' and Broadway World as the 'David Bowie of Cabaret'. The New York Times labelled Smith as the 'male Marlene Dietrich'. All are appropriate labels and signal Smith as a cabaret performer of incredible ability, nuance and sensuality. Departing Australia, he headed for New York City and promptly established himself as a cabaret artist of note. He crafted deft performances that celebrated the glitter, doom and decadence of 1920's Berlin in his show Morphium Kabarett. Smith's piano-based program, Morphium Kabarett, provides an intimate evening of German, French, and English repertoire, with many unexpected twists. Smith has toured Morphium Kabarett throughout Australia, earning a 2015 Helpmann Award nomination for "Best Cabaret Performer," while also enjoying performances in the NYC at Joe's Pub, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Café Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie. His cabaret style explores a repertoire of popular tunes and European song in an approach that is inspired by Weimar-era artistry. The fusion provides unique and intoxicating renderings of Minogue, Madonna and Marlene. He is masterful at bringing fresh interpretation to the repertoire of Piaf, Hollaender, and Weill. Kim David Smith's most recent cabaret programs Mostly Marlene and A Wery Weimar Christmas debuted at Club Cumming in New York, while Kim Sings Kylie premiered at Joe's Pub at the Public Theatre in 2018, saluting perennial pop goddess Kylie Minogue in an intimate cabaret fantasia. Kim Sings Kylie has since been performed at the inaugural Sydney Cabaret Festival. Kim starred as Salomé in Oscar Wilde's classic and controversial play at the Provincetown Theatre, and has also portrayed the Emcee in Hunter Foster's production of Cabaret at the Cape Playhouse. He recently released his new album Kim David Smith: Live at Joe's Pub. It is available on digital and streaming platforms and as a physical CD. More information at KimDavidSmith.com Kim joined Stages for a long overdue catch-up. We discuss the album, all things cabaret - and a little bit more. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Many production elements contribute to the success of a show. Whether that be the orchestra in a musical, the lighting design in a play or the set and costumes - each has a vital role in creating the world that we invest in. But how many of us notice and appreciate a smaller presence equally as important to demonstrate character and support the narrative? The properties, or props, used in a show give us access to character quirks and offer 'sign posts' to assist the story-telling. These items might include a basket for Maria Von Trapp, a parrot-headed umbrella for Mary Poppins, a phonograph that records for Professor Henry Higgins or a broom stick that releases smoke for the Wicked Witch of the West. To enlighten us about this role in the theatre, I am joined by Properties Master, Bruce Ferguson. Bruce has designed and built props for an expanse of shows that include Wicked, The Addams Family, My Fair Lady, 42nd Street, La Cage Aux Folles and Anything Goes. He also details a career that has embraced unique experiences in photography and hospitality; as well as his dreams for a Drag Museum in Sydney. Bruce shares fascinating insight to the journey undertaken in constructing and 'bringing life' to the objects that support the illusion in which we invest, when sitting in an audience. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
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.