Milk Crate Theatre Ensemble artists Graham Stoney and Leanda performing in the creative development showing of This House Is Mine. Credit Patrick Boland
Since its establishment in 2000, Milk Crate Theatre has played a unique role across both the arts and community sectors through its work with an Ensemble of artists who have experienced homelessness or social marginalisation. Its cross-sector presence and strengths-based approach enables them to provide a safe, creative space for the Ensemble to create authentic and transformative theatre that challenges, inspires and brings communities together.
In 2013, Milk Crate Theatre received Australia Council for the Arts’ Community Partnerships support in the Key Producer category. The Key Producer category is for organisations who have demonstrated outstanding success and leadership in community arts and cultural development, producing high quality art both in and with communities.
The funding provided between 2014 to 2019, supports Milk Crate Theatre with three key strategic deliverables:
- Visual Theatre – exploring accessible theatre forms that are visual and digital,
- Touring – generating new, national audiences; and
- Advocacy – developing national strategic arts and non-arts partnerships.
In February Milk Crate Theatre held the creative development showing of This House Is Mine. The development showcased the initial ideas and stories of the company’s 2015 large-scale company production which explores our relationship with our most precious of possessions – our mind.
John Feneley, NSW’s first Mental Health Commissioner opened the intimate event, giving a clear and passionate address on the importance arts and creativity plays in the lived experience of mental illness and recovery as well as to individual and community health and wellbeing. John, who was joined by a broad diaspora of representatives from the arts community, enjoyed what was the result of an exploration of ideas, characters and narratives around private and public nuances of the Ensemble’s personal reflections on identity, sanity, mental health, imagination and recovery.
Feneley says ‘The work of the Milk Crate Theatre Ensemble and artistic team is to be commended. Together they are providing a safe space where people with the lived experience of mental illness can explore important concepts, as part of their own recovery, and to provide a powerful insight for audiences into their experiences’.
Working with digital artists’ Sean Bacon and Sarah Emery, the showing incorporated digital content and imagery, including collage and documentary style interviews. The development of the digital content enabled more of the Ensemble to participate in performance and the creation of work, as well as enabled the creative team involved to create strong visual narratives and explore new perspectives to the characters.
This is the first step of a 14-month journey for Milk Crate Theatre as they develop an artistically vibrant and accessible theatre production that is visible, relevant and affective on a national arts and advocacy platform.
Frank Panucci, Director of the Australia Council’s Community Partnerships section says, ‘Milk Crate Theatre produces inspiring, emotive and deeply engaging works which makes them one of the leading community arts and cultural development companies in Australia. Their collaboration with people who have experienced homelessness or social marginalisation contributes to an Australian arts and cultural ecology where all Australians are able to actively participate in developing new artistic and vibrant cultural expressions.’