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.
If you happened last year, to catch the phenomenon that is Fangirls, you are no doubt aware of the brilliance of Yve Blake. The musical, created by Yve, celebrated the cult of fandom in a most exhilarating and engaging story-telling. The show broke box-office records and guaranteed her place as a theatre-maker to watch. Yve is an award winning writer, composer and comedian. She is an alumna of the Royal Court Writers' Programme and has completed residencies with Griffin Theatre, the ATYP National Studio, Old Vic New Voices, the Barbican, the National Theatre and Princeton University. Her debut play SUGAR SUGAR premiered in 2015, and Yve has also created several internationally touring solo shows, including the acclaimed THEN which played to sold out crowds at the Soho Theatre in London. She was the recipient of the 2016 Rebel Wilson Theatre-maker scholarship at ATYP and a member of the 2017 Belvoir Artists' Workshop. Yve was one of just 17 speakers at TEDxSydney 2019, and has also spoken at the Women of the World Festival 2018 at London's Southbank Centre. Yve is currently adapting Fangirls for the screen, co-writing a Screenplay for Aquarius Films, adapting an Aussie kids book into a musical, and developing a podcast musical about Mary Wollstonecraft. So much to talk about, so let's get going in this awesome episode of Stages. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Opening at The Lyric Theatre in Sydney next week is the Broadway revival of Stephen Schwartz' musical Pippin - the coming-of-age story of a young man searching for his place in the world. Ryan Yeates and George Holahan-Cantwell share the role of Theo. The two young actors have amassed considerable professional engagement in their burgeoning careers. Ryan is 15 and George is 12. Young actors are a regular presence, and often an awe-inspiring addition, to the narratives in much of musical theatre. Contemporary commercial offerings have necessitated a corpse de ballet of dance hopefuls in Billy Elliot or a class of school brats in Matilda - the musical. But it's a tradition that has long been present on stages - we've gaped at the talents demonstrated by the Von Trapp children in The Sound Of Music, the tenacity of the orphans in Annie and the stamina of the workhouse boys in Oliver. Sometimes, the creators have even thrown in an animal or two, to increase the charm factor. Star turns by canine characters have given us Sandy in Annie, Chowsie in Gypsy and Toto in The Wizard Of Oz. Pippin has both of these. A beguiling boy actor to play the role of Theo - and a duck! George enjoys everything involving music and you will often find him singing, playing the piano and producing his own music. A talented performer with a passion for musical theatre, George recently completed the Sydney season of School of Rock playing the role of the keyboardist Lawrence, and before that, the role of Benji in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Ryan returns to the stage after recently playing the lead role of Charlie Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the role of Noah in Caroline or Change for the Hayes Theatre Co. He trains in all forms of dance and has won many State and Australian titles in Irish Dancing. A regular performer with The Wiggles on TV and DVD, Ryan features as the Junior Purple Wiggle, in the ABC series Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle; as well performing in the Emma series. Stages is fascinated by the extraordinary talents expressed by young triple threats in the navigation of these narratives. How does one so young achieve such detailed, mature and skilful performance? George and Ryan provide an insight to the work, commitment and drive of these young thespians. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Ditch Davey is a charming bloke and a terrific actor. Following study at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts he cut his teeth on a series of commercial and series work with All Saints, Above The Law, Water Rats and the telemovie Do Or Die. It wasn't long before her arrived permanently on our screens in the guise of Constable Evan Jones in the police drama, Blue Heelers. This stint garnered him the Logie Award for Most Popular New Male Talent. Davey went on to host Channel Seven's Police Files - Unlocked before leaving to work on Sea Patrol. He played SAS officer Jim Roth on a semi-regular basis. He portrayed Romeo in the 2012 Australian Science-Fiction Film Crawlspace. He featured in the final season of Spartacus: War of the Damned. Film engagements have followed and a role as Dr Ian Bickman in the US produced series Black Box; a medical drama which screened on the ABC network. Davey starred alongside Terry Kinney and Vanessa Redgrave. Ditch Davey can presently be seen in Home & Away as Summer Bay's new medic, Dr Christian Green. It had been a few years since I last caught up with Ditch. Nothing had changed. He possessed the same charming, funny and contagious spirit that has obviously propelled him into a triumphant career on screens and stage. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Chris Edmund is a director, teacher, writer, and painter. He was Head of the Acting Department at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), where he had a significant role in developing the world-renowned acting and directing training over 30 years. Actors who trained under his guidance include Hugh Jackman, Frances O'Connor, and Jai Courtney. He is a published playwright with his work receiving high critical acclaim and as a painter he has had several exhibitions, most recently at the Brunswick Street Gallery, Melbourne. His play Dirty Laundry which he also directed, was performed at the Smock Alley Theatre Dublin in 2014. Chris commenced his career in London where he directed for the Gate Theatre Notting Hill, the Riverside Studios, the Kings Head and New End Theatres. He also directed for regional companies. In Australia he continues to direct professionally. He recently opened the play The Other Place for the Fremantle Theatre Company in Perth. He also directed his own play Bacon and Eggs at the Old Fitz Theatre, Sydney. He has been both Dramaturg and Director for the Australian National Playwrights Conference. Chris has been Visiting Fellow at the National University of Singapore, directing a new play by Singapore Playwright, Chua Tze Wei, taught a series of Master Classes at the Gaiety School Dublin and directed The Caucasian Chalk Circle for Middlesex University, London. His production of The Pillars of Society was performed at the International Theatre School Festival in Amsterdam. In 2015 he was honoured in New York by Hugh Jackman and Master Card with a scholarship in his name, The Chris Edmund Performing Arts Scholarship. He presented the scholarship in 2015 in a ceremony at WAAPA. In a varied and vivid career he has also completed a stint at The Pronouncer on the highly successful Channel Ten reality show, The Great Australian Spelling Bee. Chris is a super bloke and a consummate artist and teacher. In this conversation he demonstrates exactly why. Enjoy! The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
Michael Tyack has been a vital presence in the Australian Musical Theatre industry for several decades. His extraordinary contribution has seen him provide guidance and leadership in a variety of musical roles - audition and rehearsal pianist, pit musician, accompanist, musical arranger, composer and Musical Director. He began working as a professional musician in 1974 for J.C. Williamson's in Melbourne and entered the world of Musicals via their celebrated production of A Little Night Music. He moved to Sydney to conduct the Sydney Theatre Company's production of Chicago then was Musical Director for their productions of The Stripper, Four Lady Bowlers, Jonah, Company, Merrily We Roll Along, Falsettos, Miracle City and Summer Rain, whilst also providing music for several of their plays. He has contributed to the production of many prominent commercial musicals. A vast list includes Cats, Phantom Of The Opera, Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, Singing In The Rain, The Lion King and Wicked. He has musically directed productions of Side By Side By Sondheim, Chess, The Twenties and All That Jazz, Gershwin, The Wizard of Oz, Jerry's Girls, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, High School Musical, The Boy From Oz, Tivoli, The Witches of Eastwick (for which he was awarded a Green Room Award), Eureka, Spamalot and the Hugh Jackman tour of The Boy From Oz. Further shows at the helm of the orchestra cover The Production Company's Dusty, Brigadoon and The Boy From Oz. He garnered another Green Room Award and a Helpmann Award for the musical direction of the Disney/Cameron Mackintosh production of Mary Poppins. Michael's cabaret and concert credits are extensive too, having worked with Australian and overseas artists including Sutton Foster, Betty Buckley, Trevor Ashley, Toni Lamond, Michael Ball, David Campbell, Geraldine Turner, Caroline O'Connor, Nancye Hayes, Michael Crawford and Judi Connelli; both here and abroad. Michael is passionate about his work and has amassed an extraordinary list of experiences. He has often been on the 'ground floor' of much of the musical theatre product produced and created in Australia; and has enjoyed a front row seat to much extraordinary creation. It is indeed a pleasure to welcome 'MyTy', at last, to Stages.
Joan Carden was born in Melbourne in 1937 on the anniversary of the great composer Giuseppe Verdi's birth. After understudying June Bronhill as 'The Merry Widow' in 1960, Joan Carden sought tuition in London studying with her major musical influence, London-trained and based, West Australian-born, multi-lingual, expatriate vocal coach, Vida Harford. Joan Carden appeared in opera and concerts in Europe before initially joining The Australian Opera in concerts in 1970. The following year marked her stage debut with the company as 'Liu' in Turandot and 'Marguerite' in Faust. After much acclaim in Australia as 'Gilda' in Rigoletto she was invited to repeat the role at Covent Garden. Engagements ensued throughout the United Kingdom and United States. Joan Carden has sung virtually all the Mozart heroines. Her performance of 'Violetta' in Verdi's La Traviata has been noted for the moving interpretation. Her voice in 'Violetta's' famous aria, is on the sound track of the film Priscilla, Queen of The Desert. She has sung more than 50 major roles from the 18th century through to contemporary works , including: 'Desdemona' (Otello); 'Leonora' in both Il Trovatore and La Forza del Destino; 'Elisabetta' (both Don Carlos and Maria Stuarda); 'Rosalinde' in Die Fledermaus, 'Feldmarschallin' (Der Rosenkavalier) and 'Ellen Orford' (Peter Grimes); 'Tatyana' (Yevgeny Onyegin)- in Russian and English. Other title roles include Alcina, Lakme, and Adriana Lecouvreur. She has embraced Musical Theatre performances as Mother Abbess in the Gordon/ Frost Organisation's The Sound of Music and Ida Strauss in Titanic. In 2003, she took on a last role for Opera Australia - 'Public Opinion' based on controversial political figure, Pauline Hanson, in a satirical new version of Orpheus in the Underworld. Joan Carden is engaging grace and charm. She reflects warmly on a career that has not only brought audiences great joy but also rewarded her, in the ability to gift the art of song. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
In any history of the Australian stage, my guest today would figure significantly. Terence Clarke has contributed to a myriad of theatrical fare - as Director, Actor, Composer, Writer and Teacher. Clarke directed the world premieres of John O'Donoghue's A Happy and Holy Occasion and Janis Balodis' Backyard. Together with Nick Enright, he wrote the musicals Variations, The Venetian Twins and Summer Rain - repertoire visited regularly by theatre companies and celebrated by new generations of performers and audience. In this episode he speaks extensively of his writing partnership with Enright and the geneses of their celebrated works; musicals that have become classics in the Australian musicals canon. His appointments have included Associate Director of Perth's National Theatre Company, founding Artistic Director of the Hunter Valley Theatre Company, Artistic Director of the National Playwright's conference and Head of Directing at The National Institute of Dramatic Art. In 2007, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia. Terence is tremendous company and is a fine raconteur. An hour in his company is a valuable history lesson and brilliant instruction. What a joy to sit down with Terence Clarke for this special episode of STAGES. The Stages podcast is available from Apple podcasts, Spotify, Whooshkaa and where all good podcasts are found.
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.