Crack Theatre Festival is pretty special – not only is it an avenue for independent and emerging performance artists to showcase their work, it also is an opportunity to develop new material and discuss practical need-to-know information about the Australian theatre industry.
The festival started as an offshoot of the National Young Writers Festival, and now is a stand-alone festival under the This is Not Art (TiNA) umbrella. Each year, TiNA sees thousands flocking to Newcastle in New South Wales to take part in the festival, test out new work and exchange ideas about emerging arts in Australia.
Associate Producer of Crack Theatre Festival, Marcel Blanch-de Wilt, sees the festival as an opportunity to present new work to a critical audience.
‘It’s free to participate in, and it is a place where artists are able to try out new ideas in a safe space with no financial risk. The Crack Festival and TiNA has a fantastic reputation that attracts a large and enthusiastic audience eager for new work. The audience is also full of artists. A critical audience is paramount in an artist’s development.’
Now in its eighth year, the Crack Theatre Festival is set on establishing itself as a national contemporary performance festival. Setting the Stages, an initiative funded by the Australia Council, is helping make that happen by bringing together independent emerging artists from each state and territory. The curated program delves into some of the best ideas from around the country. Blanch-de Wilt sees this initiative as giving Crack Theatre Festival ‘a point of difference that sets it apart’ with the intention that the festival is ‘designed to be accessible nationally for all artists.’
The initiative was set up to directly support emerging presenters, with one main goal in mind: that the work is innovative in form and content. One of the projects that received funding through the initiative is Darwin based group Theatre of the Found, who are staging TheFrankenstiened Monologues. A work that begins with one typewriter and asks the audience to help write the story. Their ideas and thoughts are stitched together in what Theatre of the Found call “corpse theatre”.
This type of innovation is exactly what Setting the Stages is all about, says Blanch-de Wilt.
‘They are challenging themselves to create a work from work contributed by audiences via a typewriter left in certain places. The work is bold, new and exciting which every Setting the Stages show should be.’
This project and the seven others from the states and territories were supported in a number of ways, from covering transport and accommodation costs, to the establishment of an artist fee, an almost unheard of notion for emerging artists. Funding for Setting the Stages will continue over the next two years, and will be an exciting avenue for artistic collaboration and discovery that isn’t confined to one state or territory.
TiNA and Crack Theatre Festival runs from the 2 – 6 October in Newcastle, NSW.