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.
Donna Lee comes from a long line of performers. Showbusiness is indeed the family business; with Donna being the fifth generation in her family, to embrace performance as a career. As a child she travelled the country and performed with her parents: her father Frank Cleary, a juggler and variety performer; and her mother Gloria Dawn, one of Australia's foremost actors in music theatre and drama. She has been acknowledged with a Green Room Award for her role as Ado Annie in Oklahoma and garnered several Mo Awards for her cabaret work. Extensive work in musical theatre has seen Donna feature in shows such as Les Miserables, Summer Rain, Fiddler on the Roof and Dames at Sea. Television work has seen her reside in Summer Bay, Ramsay Street and Wandin Valley. Donna is a font of knowledge and an exuberant guest.
Mitzi Macintosh is a much loved drag identity who worked in all the major Sydney venues over some two decades. Outrageous, subversive, a heart of gold and possessed with immaculate comic timing, she is the drag persona of performer Graeme Browning. Now residing in the UK, Graeme (and Mitzi) were back recently for his first one-woman show - Mitzi Macintosh - My Life in Lipstick - presented as part of the 40th Anniversary Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. His knowledge of drag as an art form and of a Sydney now past, is extensive. He is very much one of the custodians of the vibrant drag scene that existed through the 80s and 90s. He sat down with STAGES, 3 days after the Mardi Gras parade and party, to discuss his show, his process, and the art of the drag performer.
Paul Saliba was once described as a man of fire. His dance and choreographic work possesses a sense of energy, light and warmth. The man himself is excitable, committed and vital. A conversation with Paul is enlightening and re-affirming. He talks to STAGES about his time with The Australian Ballet, the car accident that could have put an end to his career, his work with The Sydney Dance Company and studying in New York with the iconic Martha Graham. His work is fed by a fascination with world cultures and their employment of dance as personal expression, as storytelling, and as history. Paul is one of our great custodians of dance in Australia. All who have worked with him recognise his brilliance and passion. So it was a great delight to talk dance with Paul Saliba.
In a career encompassing playwrighting, teaching, academia and directing, Grace Barnes has championed the female voice in storytelling. And ... working as an associate or resident director on original productions of SUNSET BOULEVARD, MARTIN GUERRE & THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, she has had a seat at the birth of seminal works of musical theatre and observed the creatives that made them. She was even present in the initial weeks of MISS SAIGON on Broadway. So how did a theatre obsessed kid from Scotland, escape the bleak countryside of Shetland and soon find herself amongst the bright lights of Broadway? Barnes has recently completed her PHD and has commenced her second book, a biography of Mina Wylie - the Olympic swimmer from Coogee who was a trailblazer of women's sport in Australia. Her first book is a reflection on the role of women in musical theatre. "If musical theatre reflects prevailing societal attitudes, what does the modern musical tell us about the place of women in contemporary America, the UK and Australia?" A fascinating read, posing much for consideration, is HER TURN ON STAGE by Grace Barnes.
Geraldine Turner has chartered a career spanning 4 decades and established herself as one of few bona-fide leading ladies of the Musical Theatre. A repertoire of high octane roles has seen her lead companies of OLIVER, ANYTHING GOES, CHICAGO, SWEENEY TODD and INTO THE WOODS; but there is one role, that has escaped her ... she ponders why that may be. An artist at ease in any form, she has mastered cabaret, plays, television and film - and has recently extended her accomplishments as a playwright and director. Always frank and armed with great warmth, Turner is the ideal guest and it was a great treat for STAGES to sit down with her.
Trevor Ashley follows in a long line of Australian stage larrikans that include Roy Rene, Barry Humphries and Reg Livermore - talents who created unique performance personas and gave us Mo McCacky, Dame Edna Everage and Betty Blockbuster. They all celebrated the outrageous and the particular of our culture, Ashley continues the biting and hysterical piss-take, serving it up to us in flamboyant and finely realised entertainments such as 'Fat Swan', 'Little Orphan Trashley' and 'Bodybag'. In addition, Ashley has also enjoyed worldwide success with his one-man shows LIZA ON AN E, LIZA'S BACK IS BROKEN and DIAMONDS ARE FOR TREVOR. He's also proved himself on the musical theatre stage with acclaimed performances in PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT, HAIRSPRAY and LES MISERABLES. Intent on embracing many roles, Ashley also wears the titles of producer, director, writer and musician. STAGES sat down with Trevor shortly after his recent hit for the Sydney Gay & Lesbian 40th Anniversary Mardi Gras - a variety show at the Opera House titled 'Trevor Ashley's Mardi Galah'.
Brian Castles-Onion has been described as 'Exceptionally Brilliant', 'Dynamic' and 'Fabulous'. He has been awarded the prestigious Churchill Fellowship to study conducting in Europe and has worked at The Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Rossini Festival in Italy. A longtime association with Opera Australia, 2018 sees him conduct his seventh Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour - Puccini's 'La Boheme'. He discusses growing up in Cessnock, the art of the Conductor and his production of The Great Australian Voices series of recordings - preserving our great vocal heritage.
In this episode of STAGES, we speak with Michael Norman - upon meeting Michael, you can be nothing but engaged. His exuberant personality leaps at you large, and his passion for showbiz is palpable. The son of performers, he entered the business working in television props and along the way served a stint as a model in the UK, ultimately returning to Australia to assume a career as a Company Manager - on the big commercial shows that tour the country and abroad. He's been called 'old school' and 'adored by all who have worked with him'. Company Management is a job for a people person. Someone who can represent the Producer's interest while attending to the day to day personnel matters of all on board a big show ... Michael does both with ease - ensuring that if you know Michael's managing the show - you're in good hands!
The term Showbiz Royalty is often used to describe performers of considerable success and longevity in the business. My guest today is the real thing. She's experienced great success across a range of mediums in a career that has spanned eight decades. She is the daughter of vaudevillians Joe Lawman and Stella Lamond, the sister of songstress Helen Reddy and the mother of actor, Tony Sheldon - she is of course Miss Toni Lamond. Toni is a woman of firsts. In a time when overseas stars were brought to Australia to lead local productions of Broadway musicals, Toni was first to be given the opportunity to lead an Australian cast in The Pajama Game. With husband, Frank Sheldon, she was the opening night act on Australian television going on to be the first woman in the world to host a tonight show, when filling in for the legendary Graham Kennedy. So, I am delighted that she completes another first today - the very first guest on STAGES.