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Julian Louis: Arts Leaders Program

Jan 15, 2020

Julian is a theatre maker, dramaturg and Artistic Director/CEO of NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts), a theatre company based on Bundjalung country in Northern NSW.


What attracted you to the Leadership Program?

This is an opportunity to connect with others in the sector at a time when our company is undergoing big change and requires new approaches. Having time to reflect on your job is prescious. To be challenged to think differently (or more deeply) about leadership is important. To date, I’ve considered the artistic aspects of my job but the CEO component requires renewed focus. How do these dual roles inform each other and the organisation as a whole?

Why do you think it is important to develop Arts Leaders?

Arts leaders need to help shape (or at least reflect) the world we want to live in. It’s easy to get burnt out in this industry, to buckle under the weight of expectation, or under financial pressures and I guess arts leaders need to develop resilience and the skills and stamina to carry on and do important work.

Are there ideas around leadership that need to change for our sector to thrive? Are the current notions of leadership still relevant?

At NORPA I have not been the sole leader, there have been others that lead in the organisation from GM’s to  associate directors, artists and producers. They lead various aspects of the company. I have an overall responsibility, but if I’m doing my job well there are many leaders in the company. Leadership needs diversity – diverse cultural backgrounds, ages, genders and views – of course there has been such dominant male leadership particularly in theatre, it is essential that this changes, as it is. And while I have some privilege and some resources in our small company in Lismore, I look to play a part in developing our sector and the people around us and to respectfully reflect and embrace the whole community.

What are the top three qualities of leaders that inspire you?

Imagination, inclusiveness and fearlessness.


Julian is a theatre maker, dramaturg and Artistic Director/CEO of NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts), a theatre company based on Bundjalung country in Northern NSW.

For NORPA Julian has created highly successful original works that engage the community – creating place based works such as Railway Wonderland, Dreamland and Wildskin. The company has fostered new works by several associate artists and established national and international collaborations.

Julian has a passion for dramaturgy for dance and co created the highly acclaimed Cockfight (The Farm/ NORPA) which toured internationally and nationally in 2017/2018.

Julian has directed opera, circus, children’s theatre and community projects, he has led the theatre company State of Play in Sydney, creating works for touring and for the Sydney Festival. Julian is a Graduate of Charles Sturt University BA Theatre/ Media, National Institute Dramatic Arts (NIDA) Directors Diploma and trained as a performer in London with Philippe Gaulier.

Learn more about the 2020 Leadership Program participants.