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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | August 5, 2021

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La Boite HWY Festival Celebrates New Theatre

La Boite HWY Festival Celebrates New Theatre
Claire Matthews

La Boite’s HWY Festival celebrates diverse new theatre and screen works, held at La Boite Theatre, Kelvin Grove, from 4-18 March.

The annual program includes ground-breaking new performances, challenging panels, workshops and masterclasses for aspiring creatives.

HWY tackles heavy issues — politics and arts, love, anarchy, culture, the future — in a robust dialogue between performer and audience.

This year’s lineup features works by established and emerging artists, including seven works in progress, stage-to-screen adaptions, the return of First-Ten-Pages, and more.

HWY continues La Boite’s dedication to a broad audience experience, through post-show meet-the-artists sessions, and educational and artistic development programs.

The Creative Issue had a chat with La Boite’s Creative Producer, Sanja Simic, ahead of the festival.

The Creative Issue: Can you give a brief overview of the festival?
Sanja Simic: HWY’s a two-week new work in development festival. This year, we’ve got over 100 artists who are participating in a range of readings, showings, conversations, workshops, and even a party. It’s an invitation for independent artists to showcase new works in various stages of development as part of our wider development program. We’ve also got a host of exceptional artists and practitioners in this year’s program who are delivering workshops and conversations.

TCI: What are some highlights in this year’s HWY program?

SS: There are many. This Sunday, Black Birds and Conscious Mic have curated a party to mark International Women’s Day, and the lineup is incredible, I’m really keen to have a dance! Next week, we’ve got back-to-back screen events, with playwrights pitching to develop their work for the screen. Then, we’ve got a reading of feminist horror filmmaker Katrina Graham’s, Tiger, Tiger, which sets a woman in the Sumatran jungle. In our final week, people can catch Kate Harman and Toby Angus in their show which explores motherhood and masculinity.

TCI: What’s the experience like for performers and audiences at La Boite?

SS: We’ve got an in-the-round venue. For HWY, we do the program in our thrust mode, with the audience central and then spilling out to the sides. We try to make the space comfortable and relaxed. HWY’s very much about walking into a theatre and it feeling like a theatre. The audience and performers are engaged with each other and with the work in its raw state.
TCI: What can audiences expect in workshops and masterclasses?
SS: Skills and knowledge exchange from industry heavy-weights. It’s a great opportunity to up-skill, recharge and refresh with like-minded artists and collaborators. Access to some of these practitioners who are involved with Highway this year, like our international artists, is pretty rare. It’s a one-off opportunity to extend yourself, your practice, and meet some great artists.

TCI: Which of the panels and speakers do you expect to facilitate the most discussion and debate?

SS: They’re all significant conversations. I think Stepping Aside is a necessary conversation for anyone working within the arts and First Nations. Let Me Entertain You is an important conversation about the future potential of theatre and the impact we can have. Working Within Communities is a conversation on the complexity of making art in a community.

TCI: Are you expecting a big turnout for HWY?

SS: HWY holds a really broad appeal. I’m hoping that the sector shows up to support their own. There’s a lot to be gained when the arts industry rallies together. Seeing industry at HWY always makes my heart swell. There’s plenty on offer for students, mid-career artists, arts and culture lovers, and for anyone who’s interested in the process of developing new work.

TCI: Do you believe there is a steady theatre culture and industry in Brisbane?

SS: Yes, absolutely. HWY is a testament to that. It’s chock-full of artists who are making really exciting work. I’ve been in Brisbane for three years now and I’m always reminded that the sector up here is rich and vibrant and full of artists who are champing at the bit to have their say.

TCI: Is there a strong market for investing in new Australian artists and works?

SS: There’s certainly an appetite for it. Companies are doing their best to support artists, often with limited resources. Highway is a response to a clear need within the sector. It provides a space, platforms, and opportunities for independent artists. We have a responsibility to do what we can within the broader Brisbane ecology.

TCI: What do you believe the future holds for theatre in Brisbane?

SS: Change, progress, and an ongoing drive to make important work. The world is in crisis and we have an overwhelming responsibility as artists and theatre-makers to use our platform with purpose. We need to listen, collaborate, and lead the ongoing fight for change.

TCI: Any final remarks on HWY?

SS: The two week program presents an opportunity to see a host of diverse artists at La Boite. The space is alive and active. We see so many new works in various stages which is really exciting. So, we can track where they go from here, some of them end up on our stage or other stages in this city and a range of featured works will go on to further development. Having the opportunity to meet work in this way is pretty special.

All our artists contribute such a diverse cross-section of ideas, through form, culture, and story. I hope people come and check it out.

HWY Festival celebrates new theatre and screen works, and is running until 18 March.

The Details:

What: HWY Festival, La Boite Theatre
When: 4-18 March
Where: La Boite Theatre, 6-8 Musk Avenue, Kelvin Grove, Qld, 4059.
How Much: Festival Pass $78, Single Shows $12, Workshops and Masterclasses $35/$75, Panels Free. Get tickets here.

La Boite’s 2020 season here

Images: Supplied.