Ordinary Days. Music and lyrics by Andrew Gwon. Directed by Jess Osvald. Musical director: Lucinda Antcliff. Collective Theatre. Belconnen Community Theatre. December 7-9 at 7pm. Tickets $20/$15. collectivetheatre.org.
Collective Theatre bills itself as Canberra's newest theatre company, and it's almost certainly the youngest in terms of its teenage members' combined ages.
One of them, Andrew Howes, says, "It was a passion for musicals that brought us together."
All the members, Howes says, are graduating from Canberra public colleges this year - he's from Dickson College - and came together at the behest of director Jess Osvald to put on an end-of-year show that was fresh, accessible and affordable. They felt that even amateur theatre in Canberra was often beyond the budget of many young people like themselves.
Their choice of show was American composer-lyricist Andrew Gwon's chamber musical Ordinary Days, which premiered in England in 2008, New York in 2009 and Australia in 2012. They're mounting ther production at Belconnen Community Theatre next month.
Ordinary Days is a musical that follows the lives of four characters in New York City and how their lives connect Claire (Osvald) and Jason (Howes) are a couple with a somewhat stormy relationship and Deb (Jett Chudleigh) and Warren (Mark Zatschler) meet and help each other with their problems.
All the cast are involved in the nuts and bolts of the production - besides Osvald directing, Chudleigh is artistic director, Zatschler is head of marketing and Howes is production manager - and the show is largely self-funded. Howes says they're doing it for "love, not money", budgeting it tight to keep ticket prices low: "We want people to come."
They've received help from several quarters including friends who've chipped in as volunteers, the theatre, which hired the venue at community rates, and lighting and sound company Side Stage Productions, which gave them a discount.
Chudleigh plays the easily stressed postgrad student Deb in the show who loses the notes for her thesis on Virginia Woolf which Warren finds and returns to her, beginning a friendship and helping to give her a new way to look at life.
"He has hidden depths," she says.
Her role as artistic director, she says, involves "keeping our vision focused" although as the company is a small collective, all the members have a say in what happens. She, like Howes, went to Dickson College musical director Antcliff, Osvald and Zatscher were at Gungahlin College. However, they all knew each other and when Osvald came up with the idea to mount the production - "It's her favourite musical," Chudleigh says - they all came together quickly and turned their minds to the challenge of pulling it all together.
"We did think it would be hard to find people but it turned out everyone knew someone who knew someone - it was easy to reach people," Chudleigh says.
After Ordinary Days, Collective Theatre have some other,smaller projects planned in January but then the future for the company is less certain as its members make plans for their individual futures. Both Howes and Chudleigh hope to gain admission to performing arts courses next year but have contingency plans if this doesn't happen Both say they would take a gap year and Chudleigh says she might study environmental science at ANU; Howes is interested in psychology and Indonesian at the same university.
With the initiative and enterprise they're showing it seems safe to say the members of Collective Theatre are setting themselves up well for the future, wherever they end up and whatever they do.