Sydney Theatre Company today announced that it has engaged Richard Evans of REA Consulting (and a former head of the Australian Ballet and the Sydney Opera House) to search for a new artistic director, confirming that current artistic director Andrew Upton will leave at the end of 2015. The company is expected to make an appointment within the next six to eight months and the new artistic director will begin immediately, planning for the 2017 season.
Upton, who has spent eight years at the company (five with co-artistic director Cate Blanchett and three solo) will program his final season for 2016. The successful candidate will be STC’s sixth artistic director, following Richard Wherrett (1978 – 1990), Wayne Harrison (1990 – 1999), Robyn Nevin (1999 – 2007) and Blanchett and Upton (2008 – 2012).
While Upton and Blanchett had their detractors at the beginning of their tenure (including controversy over the decision to end the STC Actors Company), ticket sales steadily rose over the course of their directorship and the company became more global with international tours and visiting international artists. A spokesperson for STC told Daily Review that the recruitment process will be open to international candidates.
In a media release, STC chairman David Gonski said: “Andrew Upton has been an exceptional Artistic Director on all fronts, evident in part by the response from our audiences: subscription renewals for the 2015 season are up 21% on the eight year average and this year’s program is already breaking box office records. Needless to say, Andrew’s are big shoes to fill and finding his successor is a key priority for the board.”
While being the artistic director of STC is arguably the most influential theatre gig in the country and there’ll be plenty of candidates putting their hands up, we’ve compiled a list of those we think could be (and who we would want to be) front-runners.
Lee Lewis, the current artistic director of Griffin Theatre Company, has a strong record of bringing diversity and Australian work to the stage. She’s still well-known for her provocative and influential 2007 Platform Paper about cross-racial casting and changing the face of Australian theatre. Her recent production of David Williamson’s Rupert played in Washington last year and is likely to open in London within the next 12 months.
Sam Strong is no stranger to leadership roles in large theatre companies, currently serving as associate artistic director for Melbourne Theatre Company. He recently renewed his contract for that role (although MTC has not confirmed how long he is contracted for). His previous experience as the artistic director of Griffin Theatre Company would surely place him as one of the favourites, with good relationships with a variety of artists and an understanding of local audiences.
Simon Stone/Barrie Kosky/Benedict Andrews
These three divisive auteur directors have had their fair share of conflicts with local audiences and have all had their work picked up in Europe. While the Board would probably regard any of the three as ‘too risky’ (and Kosky currently has a plum job at the Komische Oper Berlin) for such a large theatre company, any of the three could potentially provide a kick of energy and necessary provocation.
Pamela Rabe has extensive experience with STC, both as an actor and as a director. She was also one of the three artists brought in to program MTC’s 2012 season when the company was between artistic directors.
Kip Williams may be seen as a little too young to take on such a big role, but his work as resident director for STC has been extremely popular with audiences. He’s also worked successfully with some of our most well-regarded actors (Hugo Weaving in Macbeth and Robyn Nevin in Suddenly Last Summer), and would surely be able to continue to attract them to STC.
Sarah Goodes has also proven her talents as a resident director at STC, particularly in her recent, lauded production of Joanna Murray-Smith’s Switzerland. Her experience with the company, particularly on successful new work, could work in her favour.
The current theatre company artistic directors: Kate Cherry (artistic director of Perth’s Black Swan Theatre Company), Ralph Myers (outgoing artistic director of Belvoir), Marion Potts (outgoing artistic director of Malthouse), Wesley Enoch (artistic director of Queensland Theatre Company), Geordie Brookman (artistic director of State Theatre Company of South Australia).
The ‘star’ artistic directors (a la Blanchett): Geoffrey Rush (was once approached to be MTC’s artistic director and declined), Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette.
There’s also the possibility of multiple artistic directors, or a more collaborative approach, like the one currently employed at MTC where Brett Sheehy is artistic director having previously run numerous festivals in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.