Exporting theatre to the world

By Ian Williams

Taking South Australian theatre productions to the regions and the rest of the world is a key priority of the State Theatre Company’s new Executive Director Jodi Glass.

A beefed-up export agenda that could include foreign language productions will be supported through partnerships with other successful theatre companies both in Australia and overseas.

Among the plays hitting the road in the next few weeks are Sista Girl, which will tour regional South Australia, and a return of the hilarious The Popular Mechanicals which has a substantial tour throughout Australia starting in Sydney in April.

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The Popular Mechanicals

“South Australia has a small population but with great ambitions in the arts and, in terms of our brand, we need to be visible outside of our state to bring export dollars through,” says Jodi.

“The English markets are critical but I also want to explore opportunities for doing other languages.

“China, for example, is a massive market and South Australia already has strong connections there through our universities and businesses.

“If we could do new titles or remount them in Chinese that would be incredible and open up so many opportunities.”

Jodi plans to build on her own experience in exporting theatre and the strong touring platform left by her predecessor Rob Brookman and current artistic director Geordie Brookman.

Their recent successes include Things I Know To Be True, co-produced with UK-based theatre company Frantic Assembly, which had a fantastic run in the UK after its world premiere in Adelaide.

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Things I know to Be True

Pinocchio was another critically acclaimed show that played to over 35,000 young people around Australia and the world, including a sell-out season at the New Victory Theater in New York, after opening in Adelaide in 2012.

Jodi also plans to capitalise on the export opportunities through its education program.

“I think both Sista Girl and Gorgon could have a good touring life on the education circuits, particularly in North America,” she says.

“Getting Australian voices and Australian stories in the theatres around the world is critically important but you really have to think about the markets that you are targeting.”

The export approach has helped State Theatre Company more than double its turnover from about $4.7 million five years ago to more than $7 million today.

Jodi says developing partnerships with other theatre companies is also critical to the bottom line.

“Even though the production costs are more, the share for each party is actually less, so in financial terms it helps us do more business for less resources and extends the life of a show,” she says.

“The artists also end up with longer contracts because we get to perform more often. It’s a tough life being an artist going from contract to contract, so if we can offer them more consistent work that’s a real bonus.”