This year we have a 'new' International Arts Festival to add to our calendar, The Tasmanian International Arts Festival (TIAF) which opened on Friday 6 March with a free spectacular at the the Speigeltent in Hobart. TIAF is a new name for Tasmania's biennial multi-arts statewide festival, previously known as Ten Days on the Island and first held in 2001. Jan Chandler recently spoke with Artistic Director, David Malacari, about the name change, the challenges of mounting such a festival, and what we can expect over the coming weeks.
The arts have been central to David Malacari's life for many years. He describes himself as a “failed lawyer” (he dropped out of his law studies at unviversity) and an actor who discovered a great love for stage management and lighting design. He was lighting designer with the Sydney Dance Company for many years and became their production manager. He later joined the Adelaide Festival as production manager and then program manager. Before joining the Ten Days team (this is still the name of the organisation as such) he was AD of the Parramasala Festival in Sydney, and the list goes on.
Malacari is excited by his move to Tasmania; the TIAF is particularly appealing to him because of its commitment to sharing the artistic experience with audiences outside the major cities. When I expressed disappointment at the 'loss' of the original name for the festival, Malacari was convincing in his arguments in favour ot the name change. The festival is now the only biennial festival in Australia and there is so much more going on in our lives that it has become more difficult to maintain the festival's relevance to audiences, both Tasmanian and national, as well as artists, across a two year cycle, he explains. Ten Days on the Island has been mistaken for a car rally or a bike race, now there is no confusion, the new name says it all, “we're an arts festival” – the conversations becomes quicker and easier.
So how do you put together a festival whose events are spread across an island? Economics necessarily comes into the equation, along with instinct. Logistics is one of TIAF's biggest challenges; the need to be in many places at once with a very small budget. Malacari strongly believes that audiences in the north and north-west, who actually make up a population almost equal to that of Hobart, deserve to have access to the same high standard shows as the capital, including international, national and local performances.
Malacari has been working in programming for many years and is well aware of the numerous people and organisations whose needs demand acknowledgement and respect - government, funding organisations, sponsors, critics, and audiences. The latter can be as many and varied as the shows that are programmed. The real challenge is to create a program that reaches the widest possible audience. Enterainment offers people a great night out but it is also a good way of 'luring' people towards the more provocative or transformative art forms, ones which leave you thinking or changed in some way by what you've seen; the challenge is to create a program that reaches as wide an audience as possible whilst still being recognisable as a festival of the arts.
So what can audiences expect from this year's festival? I asked Malacari which performances he was most excited about. Top of his list was Hamlet, De Los Andes which sees Bolivian music combined with traditional theatre forms to create a distinctive interpretation of Shakespeare's much loved tragedy. This will be the first visit to Australia by Teatro de Los Andes one of Latin America's leading companies. Malacari assures me that works like this, along with Rising (Aakash Odedra Company UK) and The Cardinals (Stan's Cafe Theatre Company UK) would not be able to be seen by Tasmanian audiences without the umbrella of a Festival.
The most ambitious work this year is the world premiere of a local work, Blue Angel by Australia's Big hArt Inc, a co-production with Adelaide and Melbourne Festivals. Because of the scale of the work it will only be seen in Hobart however Malacari hopes that it may tour to Launceston or Burnie in the future, not to mention around the world. Other local shows include Alzeimers Symphony (theatre), I Think I Can (puppetry), Made in China, Australia (visual arts), TYO Five-O Celebration Concert (Tasmanian Youth Orchestra), Watermark (Queenstown Heritage and Arts Festival and Neil Cameron), 6000 TO 1 (Stompin), The Body as a Riddle (Tasdance).
This is just a taste of an impressive and wide ranging program which doesn't get fully underway until mid March so there's plenty of time to check out the program. Go to the website for more information and bookings.