Theatre 451 is an independent theatre company promoting new writers and creatives in the just-left-of-centre parts of Melbourne. Lisa Inman from Theatre 451 spoke with WV theatre intern John about their upcoming season.
Tell us a little about A Play, A Pie & A Pot.
PPP is our first major venture and signature event. The aim was many-fold; to bring theatre to new spaces thus providing access to new audiences who perhaps wouldn’t even consider a night out at the theatre; to promote new writers, works and actors; to promote relationships between the arts and business: arts isn’t just about securing grants, a partnership can be of benefit to all involved. Working together to put a theatrical production on each month has been rewarding and challenging; hard work but it’s great to be proving that preconceptions can be wrong!
Theatre 451 productions are performed in alternative venues. What does this do to the audience’s experience?
Early on, no one knew what to expect, but I’m very happy to say that we must be doing something right, as we’ve had eight sell-outs from eight shows so far. There’s been the odd criticism, such as being unable to reserve seats or a less-than-perfect sight line (both from seasoned theatre-goers) but on the whole, expectations have been more than met. We have many repeat offenders who attend the show then leave having booked tickets for the next one. To us, that demonstrates an interest in new/unpublished writing. The audience is always treated to an end-to-end professional experience, which is quite often marveled at when our volunteer status is considered.
There’s a level of informality – it’s great seeing patrons eating pies, having a beer, talking and laughing and enjoying fantastic work. The Q&A session after each performance is something that was created to enable writers, directors and actors to gain direct feedback from patrons. Some of the Q&A sessions have continued for longer than the play itself!
Theatre 451 loves to support new and emerging theatre writers. What’s it like constantly interacting with fresh material?
On a high wire without a safety net! It’s always difficult to know how an unknown work is going to be received. It keeps the momentum up not having older, sometimes over-performed or ‘safe’ standards on our program. It’s interesting watching the different reactions of audiences from different areas. With many of the PPP performances to date we have had a pre-show audience attend a rehearsal in order to taste reactions before the work is presented to a wider audience. This feedback is invaluable to the project as you can often lose sight of what works and what doesn’t.
Some of our new writer friends will be back and we’re hoping there’s a collaboration or two in the pipeline, which is a great feeling: our aim is to produce yet more new work (something that, as all writers will tell you, doesn’t happen overnight).
How can playwrights and writers get involved?
Have a chat with us. firstname.lastname@example.org is a good place to start, as is Facebook for a good idea of what we’re about. Submissions for the PPP project will be taking a short break until early 2015. It’s not just writers and actors we’re looking for either; directors (needed for August!), technicians, front of house staff and general hands are always useful. Positive outlook and good sense of humour required – we’re not going into theatre spaces; rehearsal to performance is a 6-week turnaround. It can be tough!
Your advice for someone thinking about writing for stage?
That’s an easy one; read lots to familiarise yourself with conventions and styles, go see live theatre (or come and see a PPP so you know what we’re about) then write and write and write some more. Finally, send it to us!
About Theatre 451
Formed in early 2013, Theatre 451 is a not-for-profit ensemble theatre company based in Northeast Melbourne. They aim to provide accessible, affordable theatre a little off the beaten track.