Q and A - Joanne Hartstone

Q and A - Joanne Hartstone


Posted 2021-02-18 by Temafollow

Fri 19 Feb 2021 - Sun 21 Mar 2021

South Australian performer, playwright, director, producer and teacher Joanne Hartstone has built herself an illustrious career since first participating in Fringe festivals in 2006, which include (but are not limited to) achievements around:
- Made In Adelaide Award (inaugural winner)
- Holden Street Theatre Award (winner)
- Best Theatre and Event Awards for Adelaide Fringe (winner)
- Frank Ford Award (2020 recipient)
- Class of Cabaret via the Adelaide Cabaret Festival (mentor)

Now, the fellow Fringe lover is back this year with a lineup of over 20 shows and I was fortunate enough to score an e-interview with Joanne to find out what audiences can expect from her performances this year - have a read of our exchange below:

Tema: You've had quite a colorful journey that has made you get to the prestigious title of an Artistic Director and Producer - would you like to share with us a bit about that journey, Joanne?
Joanne: Becoming a producer happened by accident. As an emerging actor, I was not thrilled about having to wait for the phone to ring in order to perform. I knew I had to create my own opportunities to propel my acting career, but producing was not taught at drama school. A couple of childhood friends and I planned to do an Adelaide Fringe show (which I directed, rather than performed in) and at the same time, wrote a cabaret with two Drama Centre friends to perform at the same venue. I was thrown into the deep end of producing and it was hard and expensive. During that season, I met Guy Masterson (Edinburgh Fringe veteran producer and master of the solo-show) who offered me a job in the UK performing with him in a tour of David Mamet's Oleanna, and as a publicist with his company in Edinburgh. I learnt a lot! I was particularly fascinated at how Guy would program multiple shows under one umbrella to mitigate some of the costs and create more of an impact. Guy and I spent years working together – in Adelaide, London and Edinburgh – where I learnt the art of Artistic Direction and viable producing. In 2014, I made the leap into producing under my own umbrella, and brought Jethro Compton's The Bunker Trilogy to Adelaide. This was also my first time taking over a non-theatrical venue and converting it into an immersive WWI dugout, as well as running a bar and box office. It was a huge success – we won that year's Best Theatre Award and influenced the Adelaide Fringe landscape moving forward. After that year, I produced a show about Paul Robeson at La Boheme, then set my sights on taking over The Queens Theatre as a multi-venue performance hub. I also brought back The Bunker Trilogy, but with a new location in the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The Adelaide Botanic Garden would become the site for my new pop- up black-box style theatre. I wanted to create a space that I (as an artist) would want to create and perform in. I wrote my first solo show, and built a theatre and season of shows around it – once again to mitigate the costs and create more of an artistic impact. This activation has evolved into what is now 'Black Box Theatres' and established my career as an Artistic Director. I have also been described as "a fringe version of the old-school actor-manager" which I think is very accurate.

Tema: What attracted you towards the world of performing arts?
Joanne: I've always thought that being a performer was never a choice – it was in my blood. As a very young child, I would mimic the performers I watched on television and begged my parents to send me to a dance class. I was a very theatrical child, and didn't shy away from attention. In hindsight, enrolling me in dance classes was exactly the right thing for my parents to do, as it gave me an outlet and focus for my expressive nature. I loved dancing and performing and at one point was attending 8 dance and drama classes a week as well as having singing lessons through my school. I wasn't set on it becoming my career until I successfully auditioned for Flinders University Drama Centre and I realized that I could be good enough for it to be my life's focus. I loved disappearing when creating new characters and worlds, and I had so much to learn.

Tema: How did you get involved with the Adelaide Fringe?
Joanne: My first Adelaide Fringe season as a participant was in 2006, when I was cast in Jen Lusk's comedic farce 'Fitting Rooms' as a kleptomaniac pregnant woman. It was a large cast of 8 and directed by Joh Hartog, and performed in a room in the Masonic Lodge. We rehearsed in my parent's garage – the tiny stage marked out with masking tape on the floor between cars. We had a great audience response, a few nice reviews and made a profit: an elusive triumvirate of Fringe success. The best thing about Fringe is that anyone can register a show, so despite moving to Sydney later that year, my housemates and I decided to give it a go. That next season gave me the final reason to do fringe – touring! I have participated in every single Adelaide Fringe since then, and have no plans to stop.

Tema: I see that you have 3x shows coming up as part of this year's lineup - would you like to tell us a bit about them, please?
%%Joanne: The Reichstag Is Burning is a postmodern cabaret for a world on fire inspired by the Weimar Kabarett tradition. My one woman show offers a transportative trip to old-world Europe through sultry musical numbers, exceptional theatrical design and a storyline that follows the purge on culture that heralded the rise of Nazi Germany. Audiences will experience a night of decadent Weimar Cabaret – fusing traditional era songs and reimagined modern music in a visual explosion of counter-culture and rebelliousness.

Hatch, Match and Dispatch is a celebration of life's milestones as told (or sung) by Cabaret star/Funeral Director/Marriage Celebrant Fiona Talbot-Leigh and Opera Singer/Midwife Annie Slade. The two performers have been friends since high school and have been wanting to bring their show back to Adelaide for a decade. Given the focus on Adelaide artists for this year's Fringe, I told them I would produce them if they would agree to perform. Their show is fun, moving, harmonic and informal, and gloriously nestled in the International Rose Garden in the Open Air Theatre.

The Thought That Counts is an interactive digital experience for solo adventurers or small groups. Immersed in a retro arcade theatre, your team follows the adventure of a hero caught up in their own thoughts. Through live negotiations, you must decide on the thoughts, rather than actions, of the hero. Created by Josh Kernich (Big Man Little Stories) and with production design by Tom Kitney, The Thought That Counts is inspired by the pixel videogames of the 1990s. It is part of Hartstone-Kitney Productions' digital offering for the Adelaide Fringe 2021 season.
These are just 3 of the 20 shows that make up Black Box Theatres' diverse program.%%

Tema: What are you anticipating from this year's lineup at the Fringe?
%%Joanne: Local acts will feature heavily in the Fringe landscape this year, which is an inevitable result of the Covid-19 pandemic but also a silver lining to remind South Australian audiences of the calibre of our homegrown performers who are often overshadowed by international names and budgets. Black Box Theatre's program is 85% South Australian, with a couple of Victorian shows and one Canadian show, and it is terrific line-up.

Venues face the largest challenge this year – with reduced capacities and the extra expenses involved in creating socially distanced performance spaces, their vital role in the Fringe ecosystem has never been riskier. Black Box Theatres have created management plans to ensure the safety of audiences, staff and artists should we encounter community transmission, and yet we too risk being closed at a moment's notice should it be mandated by Health SA. To mitigate this risk, we will be live streaming 47 shows through our new online platform #BlackBoxLive. Audiences from around the world can experience our Adelaide fringe offering with watch-from home tickets. This also creates an opportunity for enhanced accessibility to the performing arts for those who find it tricky to travel to the theatre.%%

Tema: What do you hope for your audiences to experience when attending your shows?
Joanne: At Black Box Theatres, our audiences are in safe hands. Our 4 venues have been designed to accommodate social distancing without losing the intimacy or refinement that we have become known for. Our mission is to create great theatre and push the boundaries of experience. Our program of shows has something for all demographics, with each production executed with exceptional production values and top-quality performances. We want our audiences to celebrate coming together, experience a reflected truth with mirth or wonder, and have the opportunity to flex their imaginative muscles.

Tema: What in particular attracted you to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens as a venue and what is the story behind #FringeGetsClassy?
%%Joanne: The location has to be the best part of activating our venues in the Adelaide Botanic Garden. Not only is it conveniently placed (with a car park) around the corner from Rundle Street and the East End Fringe hubs, but the gardens themselves are stunning. We are surrounded by thousands of roses, a creek, rolling lawns, tall trees (that we turn pink after dark!) and the Bicentennial Conservatory ("The Pasty" as it is locally known). The Noel Lothian Hall that is home to our flagship Black Box Theatre is a perfect blank canvas for a small performance space and has air conditioning! And our newest venue – The AmphiTheatre – is right next door, built into the Wetlands of First Creek giving us a stunning backdrop from which to create theatrical worlds.

#FringeGetsClassy emerged as a tagline for our Botanic Gardens activation in 2019. This was just before our hub found it's name of Black Box Theatres and I was describing the "experience" of the activation. It was the year when my partner Tom Kitney installed blue light bulbs and chandeliers outside, and our bar was a blue caravan with wooden furniture and candles… "It's where Fringe gets classy" I proposed. And it stuck as a hashtag. I like to think of our offering as Festival quality on a Fringe budget, and I know this reputation is appealing to many arts lovers.%%

Tema: Can you please shed some light on the impact of COVID-19 on your career and work and how you managed to get through the chaotic pandemic-ridden energy of 2020?
Joanne: I had a rather different 2020 planned, which included a tour of South Australia with my solo show 'The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign'. Initially, I had hoped that our tour in September 2020 would be spared, but quickly everything was cancelled. It was confronting in many ways – especially because the value of the arts to society has always been a soft political question and our industry funding has been fragile for a long time. My career was dispensable, and as was that of my partner Tom. We diversified our practice and adapted as best we could. Tom and I began our journey with digital theatrical creation. We were generously sponsored by the Muriel Matters Society with funds for a camera set up and Tom put to good use his Bachelor's Degree in Media Arts. However, theatre makers are not necessarily filmmakers, and we had a great deal to learn and a lot of equipment to somehow source. We built a small studio out of my brother's garage and created the first steps towards audiovisual recording of our theatrical stage. Tom then developed a multi-camera Blackmagic streaming system that we could run from our venues at Black Box Theatres, and Black Box Live became our 2021 fringe goal. We will be broadcasting 47 shows across 5 weeks, making us the largest live-streamed venue in Australia, and potentially the world. Black Box Live will create another revenue stream for artists, and make our work even more accessible – and can continue to operate in case of further Covid restrictions. It has been a motiving plan for such uncertain times as these.

Tema: Is there anything else that you'd like us to know about you and/or your show?
Joanne: Making theatre is a team sport and part of what makes it so magical is that it is an enormous coordinated collaboration of so many people. It might just be me on stage, but there is a dedicated team working to create the show, execute the performance, run the box office, manage the venue, promote the season and live-stream the production to audiences at home and around the world. Many of these people are invisible, especially if they are doing their jobs right. This year, Black Box Theatres have over 55 performance artists gracing our stages and have created arts work for over 40 crew and creatives. It is inspiring to see this orchestration come together after months of planning and a privilege to be the conductor.

!date 19/02/2021 -- 21/03/2021
211831 - 2023-06-16 06:40:03


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