By Ian Williams
Jodi Glass, the newly appointed executive director and producer at the State Theatre Company of South Australia was only 11 years old when she first came across the master of illusion and visual theatrics, Philippe Genty. The unwitting role that celebrated French puppeteer played in helping forge her own inspiring career in theatre Jodi describes as “deliciously ironic”.
The show was staged in Geraldton’s high school gymnasium in Western Australia – the first piece of live theatre that Jodi had ever experienced. And she was entranced.
“It was this most extraordinary puppet theatre show – I laughed, I cried, there was a scene where a marionette cut its own strings and fell to the ground and I sobbed,” says Jodi.
“It was really an incredibly powerful experience – it was literally like a light switch and I knew then that’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to be in the theatre.”
Fast forward 15 years and Jodi was on a programming fellowship at the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust when boss Rob Brookman asked if she was busy. If not, could she run the national auditions for an international co-production?
“It was an extraordinary opportunity and so deliciously ironic and amazing because he was talking about Philippe Genty,” says Jodi.
“I was the most junior member of the team but I ended up producing the show with a million-dollar budget – and I pretty much operated on sheer terror the whole time.”
The coincidences continue, with Jodi now taking over from Rob who is retiring from his position at the State Theatre Company after five years in charge.
It’s another significant role for Jodi who has become one of the most influential and successful performing arts administrators in South Australia since arriving in Adelaide from Geraldton’s Queens Park Theatre in 1993 to take on a graduate position at Tandanya.
After making Adelaide her home she gained experience in various roles before being appointed associate producer with the private company Reckless Moments. This introduced her to extensive touring around Australia and overseas, including New York.
Jodi’s next big break came in 1999 when she was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Adelaide Fringe and led it through a period of rapid expansion to solidify its position as the second largest fringe festival after Edinburgh.
“We realised it had the potential to become a truly major event– it just needed another burst of growth,” says Jodi. “We stayed very much true to the Edinburgh model of being an independent festival for independent artists – the stick by which we measured everything.”
In 2007 Jodi co-founded Slingsby, producing theatre for children and adults, and helped turn it into another export success with its shows touring the world.
A strong touring focus and forging new partnerships with other theatre companies is also high on the agenda for Jodi now she’s at the State Theatre Company.
“That’s been the signature of Rob Brookman and artistic director Geordie Brookman over the past five years and is critical for our success. It’s absolutely about finding those opportunities and going for it.”
Image credit: Groundplay, Greg Healey and Gregg Mitchell, Custart, Lion Arts Centre. Photograph Don Brice.