Artistic Developments at Company B Belvoir

Company B Belvoir has outlined some significant changes to be implemented under the incoming Artistic Director Ralph Myers in 2011. For the first time in the Company’s history all actors, directors, playwrights, designers and stage managers will be fully paid for the work that they produce.

Under existing arrangements, artists working in Belvoir St’s intimate Downstairs theatre – as part of the B Sharp program – are employed by independent theatre production companies and receive creative and administrative support from Company B Belvoir staff. They are not remunerated for their time by Company B Belvoir, but typically share the box office revenue amongst the cast and crew, which can amount to less than $1000 dollars per person for the whole period of rehearsal and performance.

As the Company shifts away from its parity pay policy (where administrative staff, front of house employees and artists were all paid the same hourly rate), it has become increasingly important to ensure all creatives working for the Company in any capacity are also remunerated. From the beginning of 2011, all artists producing work in the Downstairs theatre for Company B Belvoir will be fully paid.

The new program for the Downstairs theatre will be curated as part of Company B Belvoir’s 2011 season by Ralph Myers and his artistic team. In its first year there will be at least four productions, with the intention to expand in following years. Between productions, there will be a range of one-off events including play readings, creative development sessions for new scripts and other productions.

The season will build on the strong relationships B Sharp has cultivated with emerging artists by continuing to provide a showcase for new work by emerging writers, directors and actors from the independent theatre world. It will also capitalise on the opportunity provided by the intimacy of the Downstairs theatre to program works better suited to small spaces, a process begun this year by current Artistic Director Neil Armfield with the acclaimed The End (directed by Eamon Flack).

Ralph Myers said, ‘Until the creation of B Sharp in 1998, Sydney didn’t really have an independent theatre scene – certainly not one to rival Melbourne. Now, twelve years later, thanks largely to B Sharp and other programs in small spaces, we have a thriving and vigorous community of passionate and talented artists. I am really excited to offering these artists a salary to produce their work in our Downstairs theatre.

‘Under the inspired directorship of Lyn Wallis and Annette Madden, B Sharp produced some of the most exciting and innovative small-scale theatre in the country and became a model for how a theatre company can support the work of emerging artists. Over 12 years it developed a reputation as a proving ground for new artists in the industry, and for introducing new actors, directors and playwrights to the mainstage companies of Sydney. I am dedicated to carrying this ethos forward into the new program for Belvoir St Downstairs theatre. I am delighted that we will be able to invest in artists in this way.’

In addition, as part of Ralph’s vision for the future of the Company, Simon Stone - one of the most interesting directors currently working in Australia - has been appointed as its first Resident Director. From the start of 2011, he will work full time for the Company and will be dedicated to directing new productions as well as working with other directors to develop new works for the stage. This reflects the Company’s move away from an Artistic Director who directs a number of shows each year, to a more curator-focused model under Ralph Myers. Simon Stone’s appointment in this capacity formed part of Ralph’s original application for his role, in response to the panel’s invitation to applicants to come forward with suggestions for a model for Company B Belvoir.

For the first time, the Company will also be looking to appoint a full time Literary Manager who will be tasked with working on new scripts with playwrights and facilitating creative developments.

Company B Belvoir will hold a forum at the theatre on Monday 12 July, 6.30pm for artists and producers to discuss these changes, and to answer any questions they may have.

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