My feet keep bringing me back to my hometown, Bankstown, its artists, its stories, its people.
I was born, raised and trained as an artist in Sydney’s west. I was part of the final year to go through Theatre Nepean. We were informed of the closure of the course halfway through second year. No other graduates would pass through the high corridors and luminous spaces of building BD in Werrington. The theatre was stripped of its lights and fixtures and turned into a sports facility.
My biggest concern was: what is going to happen to the many young talented young artists living out west?
Since graduating from Theatre Nepean in 2008, I’ve witnessed many Western Sydney organisations provide avenues for training and storytelling: The Joan Sutherland Arts Centre with its residency programs and Q education programs; Powerhouse Youth Theatre with its educational programs and theatre shows; Sweatshop and its literacy movement Information & Cultural Exchange (I.C.E.); Casula Powerhouse; CuriousWorks; National Theatre Of Parramatta; Urban Theatre Projects and Bankstown Youth Development Services.
Bankstown Arts Centre, Blacktown Arts Centre and Campbelltown Arts Centre and many hardworking freelance artists have been nourishing and strengthening of our arts community out west.
I have been privileged in my career. I have had people take the time to see me even before I was brave enough to see myself. I’ve had people listen to me and hear the stories I’ve been too afraid to utter and then, somewhere along the line, those same people provided me with a platform from which I could speak, move and thunder all those wild things out.
I have mentored, run classes and shared my work via forums. I have worked as an associate producer, a stage manager and as a director out west. Put simply, the region is bursting with talent.
Part of my practice each year is to give back to the west and to support the many artists living there. Last year I co-created several developmental showings and forums with Apocalypse Theatre Company. We did this with the generous assistance of the Belvoir Artist Program (Belvoir St Theatre), the Bankstown Arts Centre and the Breakthrough Residency Program (The Joan Sutherland Arts Centre).
I also committed to work on my fourth show with director and writer Stefo Nantsou. For many years he has worked with the communities in the Western suburbs to bring to life the stories of the region.
His recent show, To Be Honest, created with Bankstown Youth Development Services and Youth Off The Streets, is a verbatim style show in which an ensemble of Western Sydney artists give voice to the many young people living on the streets.
What I love about this show is its transparency.
The characters you will see in the show are based on recorded interviews with Stefo. Not a syllable or word was altered. It allows young people living on streets in Western Sydney a platform to speak directly to you with no filters, no aggression, no expectations or need for sympathy. These stories are simply their truth. By god it is refreshing.
In a time where American and English classics are still be being hailed as the art that expresses our times I am so relieved when I see a new Australian play that my parents and family can relate to. These younger people living on the streets are the Shakespeare of my times.
But – and I guess my question is – will you travel 30 minutes to help make the connection between the inner city and the west?
Will you take the time to listen?
Will you see what I see?