HWY Development with La Boite: Sanja Simić
Amidst the upheaval of the arts in Australia, La Boite is reworking their artist development program to aid creatives during these uncertain times.
We recently had a chance to talk to Sanja Simić, the Creative Producer at La Boite Theatre Company about how the HWY initiative will help bring creative works back to life moving forward, with up to a $30,000 grant available for successful applicants.
To begin, we asked Sanja what La Boite’s HWY initiative is all about. “This initiative is a part of a wider program of artist development that we roll out annually, and this year we’ve decided because we’re in this specific moment in time with COVID-19 we were thinking about what we could do to support local artists and nationally, and we started to focus on research and development.”
“We also explored timeframes we might be able to work in, and we settled on a three-month opportunity, a six-month opportunity, and a twelve-month commission, depending on the kind of work people are thinking about and wanting to develop during this time.”
The hope that drives initiatives such as HWY are guiding lights during these dark and trying times, we wondered what Sanja’s hopes for the impact of HWY could be for those selected few creatives who are successful in applying. “It is kind of twofold, these are all paid opportunities, so it is a great opportunity for artists to earn a little bit of money for the work that they are doing, which is important.”
“Every single one of the opportunities, there’s a fee attached and it’s also a chance to respond to our contemporary context. With everything that’s happening now on a global scale, not just COVID-19, we’re seeing civil unrest in parts of the world, and large-scale events happening and having Australian artists respond right now is critical.”
“The arts is such a significant platform, everything we do is inherently political, and artists who have something to say and have urgent voices, who have diverse voices, those are the people that will be standing out and being given these opportunities.”
Speaking more broadly, we asked Sanja, in her opinion, how COVID has impacted live theatre.
“I mean, COVID has devastated our sector. We’re seeing venues and organisations and companies that have closed their doors around the country, and in this time, in the last few months, everyone is trying to recalibrate and find ways to move forward.”
“For those of us that are lucky enough to still have jobs, and still be making art at this time, we’re really committed to making it work and to still provide access to work.”
“When COVID kind of kicked off, a lot of people took to digital platforms and jumped into online spaces and started producing content. That’s what’s incredible about artists and theatre-makers, they’re responsive and resilient, and they found ways to occupy platforms and have their stories heard. But an online or screen-based experience doesn’t replace the “liveness” of theatre, and that’s something we’re really conscious of.”
“These opportunities are a way to really lean into that and kind of go “Come back into our spaces, and not just our theatre spaces, but our foyer, our studio, the site around La Boite and make work with us that people can come in and experience”, you know with or without the restrictions of COVID.”
We wondered to Sanja what her hopes for the future of La Boite and theatre, including the effects of this initiative, are.
“I’m hoping that through this initiative we’ll see some brilliant new work, I’m hoping that we’ll get some applications from artists we haven’t had a chance to work with before. We’ve opened up and broadened the scope, so we’re calling out not just to theatre-makers and playwrights, we’re calling out to visual artists, architects and people who work in other art forms to come in and collaborate with us and explore that intersection between theatre practice and other forms.”
“’I think there’s a really great opportunity to diversify the kind of work that we’re producing and seeing come out of La Boite over the next few years, this is an investment with longevity and we’re looking at where we can take this work from here.”
“These applications and these opportunities will be developed, all of the work that comes from these opportunities will be developed this year and into next year, but some of them won’t have the opportunity to go up onto our stage for some time or some of them may get picked up by other venues or organisations. One of the opportunities is to seed something, in the beginning, at the start, but it’s really exciting to be having those conversations.”
To ensure that those applying are in with the best chance of being able to make their works come to life, we asked Sanja for some hint as to what a successful applicant may look like, in terms of the types of work that La Boite is looking out for.
“It’s pretty broad, in terms of what we’re open to receiving. It really depends on the opportunity. For something like the (twelve-month) commission, it’s not only open to singular playwrights, it’s open to groups, or people who write in collaborative partnerships.”
“We’re really interested in shifting these models so that they’re not so rigid and opening up the possibilities of form to work that is contemporary work that is really speaking to now, to what is happening in the world. Stories that we haven’t heard, or different perspectives on things that we have talked about a lot. That’s really the written components.”
“If we’re looking at activations of space, it’s such an exciting moment for people to think about how they align with La Boite, and what La Boite is about and what their “in” might be. It’s truly an invitation to collaborate for people that come in with that mindset and are excited to make a new work with a company like ours and can speak to that, those are the people who will really be in with a shot.”
In closing, we asked Sanja for some final thoughts to round off the interview.
“In terms of HWY, this is the first time in my time at the company that we’ve done a call out of this scale for new work, so I really would encourage people, if they haven’t had a chance to engage with La Boite in this way, to hop online, read about the opportunity and get a sense of the criteria.”
“If they have any questions, I am absolutely available to answer them, and we’re really interested in reciprocal dialogue, so we’re happy to talk to people before they apply, but also see what people are thinking about right now, and what they’ve got a drive to make in these spaces.”
Applications close on the thirteenth of July, so be quick, and best of luck to all who approach this fantastic initiative to bring some much-needed breath back into live theatre moving forward.
For more details, and to find out how to apply click here.