Date: August 19 2012
Since taking over as artistic director and chief executive of The Street Theatre in 2006, Caroline Stacey has dreamed big.
Now her grand vision for the theatre is coming to fruition, with work underway to extend and upgrade the venue.
For the passionate performing arts campaigner, theatre is an important way to connect artists and audiences. She sees The Street Theatre as a conduit for local talent and a place to share Canberra’s stories.
“There’s a sense of connecting across communities to build community, to give us a stronger sense of who we are as Canberrans and how we sit, not just here, but nationally and also internationally,” Stacey said.
The upgraded Street Theatre is one of three arts hubs proposed in the Loxton Review into the Arts. The others will be a music hub at Ainslie Arts Centre and the controversial visual arts hub at Kingston Cultural Precinct.
The $3.18 million extension and upgrade to the current facilities will provide Canberra its first custom designed rehearsal space.
The extension will become a place for performers, writers and directors to come together and develop local theatre.
Encouraging local talent has been Stacey’s biggest achievement since she arrived at The Street Theatre.
It was her vision to move the theatre from basically being a venue for hire to being a centre for independent artists with a focus on contemporary performances.
Stacey sees the theatre’s role as providing the support for artists to tell new stories and explore different mediums.
“We have a process that goes from the glimmer of a first idea to creating a work that’s production ready and produced,” she said.
“We’re still in a process of really opening up as many voices as possible.”
When completed, the extension will include a custom-designed rehearsal space with a sprung floor, storage spaces, and administrative spaces including meeting rooms and offices.
The upgrade will also address issues in the existing building with new sound proofing, an upgrade to dressing rooms and the external courtyard, and a basic landscaping treatment. The foyer will also be extended, the cafe and box office will be moved and the current office space will be expanded.
The office space will allow staff to move out of the demountable building currently used for administration.
“We’ve really sort of outgrown the building as it is,” Stacey said.
Once the physical development is complete, Stacey will turn her focus to attracting more specialist skills to the team such as producers and production managers.
“We’d love to have two or three producers more, more producers in-house to really support a myriad of careers,” she said.
With a sprung floor, the new rehearsal space will allow performers to work on different forms of theatre and Stacey hopes it will lead to further collaboration.
Without support from Canberrans though, local theatre will continue to struggle to fund ACT-produced works.
“It’s important to be able to give people work and it’s important for people to be able to earn a living from their artistic practice,” Stacey said.
“We’re not at a point in Canberra’s life where many artists in the performing arts can be confident of sustaining themselves through their art making.”
As well as marking Canberra’s 100th birthday, 2013 will also ring in The Street Theatre’s 20th year of operation.
“We’ve got a right to be accepted as a grown-up, sophisticated city and clearly The Street Theatre’s a space where that should be reflected,” Stacey said.
“The centenary is a real rites of passage moment that will allow us to really move through all of the baggage into perhaps another way of being as a city.
“There’s a vibrancy and there’s an energy and there’s a momentum.”
Some interior work has begun in the theatres, including recarpeting and upgrading seats. Construction on the extension will begin in September.
The Street Theatre extension is set to be completed by March 2013 and Stacey hopes it will be completed in time to celebrate Canberra Day.
“I feel very privileged to be living in Canberra at this time,” she said.
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