La Boite Theatre Company
|Founder||Jeremiah Joseph Stable & Barbara Sisley|
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
|Todd MacDonald, Artistic Director & CEO|
La Boite Theatre Company is a major Australian theatre company based in Brisbane, Queensland. La Boite was established in 1925 and now is the second largest theatre company in Queensland. It is known for its bold, contemporary approach towards theatrical texts, and its development of new Australian work. Its declared mission is to "produce and present exhilarating theatre that is alive to the present, extends and inspires artists, and invigorates the hearts and minds of audiences".
La Boite's mainstage production series is augmented by presentations of independent theatre work. In 2010, there were eleven productions, as well as various creative development and education programs.
La Boite is based at Brisbane's Roundhouse Theatre, Australia's only purpose-built theatre-in-the-round. Located in the Kelvin Grove, Queensland. It seats 400, or 340 in thrust staging. The company moved into this new venue in February 2004, leaving its former smaller theatre-in-the-round building, the La Boite Theatre Building, in Hale Street, Milton, where it had been since 1972.
La Boite's programs
Apart from its main season of productions, La Boite runs a number of creative development and participation programs.
La Boite Indie
Begun in 2010, under the new direction of artist director David Berthold. La Boite Indie is a curated season of four independent productions, each of three weeks. The space is offered rent-free to independent theatre companies and artists, and La Boite contributes financial, technical, marketing and artistic assistance. It has become a new platform for independent work in Brisbane.
La Boite Learning & Participation
This program creates opportunities for people to take part in theatre making. The company offers 32 weeks of acting master classes for adults, school holiday workshops for young people aged 6–18, professional development workshops for teachers, curriculum-based workshops for school students, internships for tertiary students and recent graduates, and corporate learning workshops for those in business.
La Boite's Ambassador program
This is a year-long program for almost 200 high school and tertiary students. Ambassadors attend all productions for free, meet with creative teams, enjoy free workshops through year, learn about La Boite programs, and take a leadership role in introducing the work of La Boite to their peers, schools, and families.
The Festival of Australian Student Theatre
FAST is a national festival of theatre made by students in tertiary institutions. It was hosted by La Boite in 2010 and returns in 2011. This was the first FAST in almost two decades. Twelve productions from universities across Australia made up the festival in 2010, and fifteen productions in 2011. FAST is run in association with La Boite and QUT Creative Industries. 2011 FAST runs 30 Sept-2 Oct.
- The White Earth based on the novel of the same name by Andrew McGahan (23 Feb-21 March)
- Blue Love devised and choreographed by Shaun Parker (28 April-9 May)
- Statespeare by Nelle Lee (19–29 May)
- Oodgeroo by Sam Watson (30 June-11 July)
- The Pineapple Queen by Norman Price (28 July-8 August)
- The Kursk by Sasha Janowicz (1–12 September)
- The Gruffalo based on the picture-book of the same name by Julia Donaldson (11–29 January)
- Hamlet by William Shakespeare (6 Feb-14 March)
- Stockholm by Bryony Lavery (28 April-22 May)
- The Chairs by Eugène Ionesco (5 June-4 July)
- I Love You, Bro by Adam J A Cass (17 July-8 August)
- Engine by Janis Balodis (25 August-12 Sept)
- Gwen in Purgatory by Tommy Murphy (27 Sept-24 Oct)
La Boite Indie
- Michelle Miall presents Colder by Lachlan Philpott (22 Jun-10 Jul)
- Dead Puppet Society presents The Harbinger by David Morton and Matthew Ryan (13–31 July)
- Umber Productions presents Water Wars by Elaine Acworth (3-21 Aug)
- The Danger Ensemble presents The Hamlet Apocalypse (24 Aug-11 Sept)
- The Gruffalo's Child based on the picture-book of the same name by Julia Donaldson (5–23 January)
- Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (12 February-20 March)
- boy girl wall by The Escapists (30 March-17 April)
- Statespeare by Nellie Lee (28 April-6 May)
- Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness by Anthony Neilson (20 May-12 June)
- Ruben Guthrie by Brendan Cowell (8 October-13 November)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
- Samson starring Ashleigh Cummings
- Medea by Euripides in a new adaptation starring Christen O'Leary
- Prize Fighter, a collaboration between La Boite Theatre and Brisbane Festival 2015
Establishment and early years (1925-1956)
La Boite was founded in 1925, under the direction of British teacher of speech and drama Barbara Sisley and English literature professor Jeremiah Joseph Stable. Known as the Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society, it is one of the oldest, continuously operating, theatre companies in Australia, operating under Sisley's direction until her death in a road accident in 1945. Sisley had directed fifty-seven productions for the company including a number of Australian plays. After Sisley's death, the Brisbane Repertory Theatre Society survived from 1946 through to 1956 under the energy and passionate drive of Tom Stephens, Alex Foster, Cecil Carson and Gwen MacMinn.
Relocation to Hale Street and the first 'La Boite' (1956-1969)
Babette Stephens succeeded the position of Council President in 1957, before accepting the first formal title of "Theatre Director" in 1959. As a prominent professional Australian actor and director, she helped to create the first permanent theatre for the company when she succeeded in getting the company to purchase four cottages in Sexton Street and Hale Street in Petrie Terrace and the creation of the first "La Boite". The suggestion was made to convert one of the cottages into a "theatre-in-the-round" theatre space similar to Hayes Gordon's Ensemble Theatre in Sydney. In the lead up to the launch of the theatre's new season in Hale Street in 1967, Brisbane Repertory Theatre adopted the new name "La Boite", The French translation of "the box". La Boite's intimate, 70 seat space attracted a new audiences, and a group of directors and actors, including Jane Atkins, Eileen Beatson, Ian Thomson, Barry Otto, John Stanton and Muriel Watson. The repertoire of the company changed to a more radical, non-mainstream one. Australian plays became a regular feature of the season.
Second relocation and company expansion (1969-2000)
Jennifer Blocksidge became Honorary Director in 1969, and remained in the role until 1975. In 1972, La Boite's second in-the-round performance space was established, with the purpose-built, 200 seat theatre-in-the round, award-winning Blair Wilson designing the new La Boite Theatre Building (now heritage-listed). Blocksidge established her eventual aim to make La Boite a professional theatre company through the establishment in 1973 of the first professional 'theatre-in-education' team in Queensland, the Early Childhood Drama Project (ECDP), and the 1976 appointment of La Boite's first salaried Artistic Director, Rick Billinghurst. Billinghurst embarked on a program of Australian and overseas works.
Malcolm Blaylock was appointed artistic director in 1980, when La Boite became a "pro-am" theatre company. The early 1980s was a buoyant time for La Boite and for the pro-am or professional community theatre companies funded by the Australia Council. Blaylock programmed innovative, risky, and politically challenging Australian and non-Australian plays. The appointment in mid-1982 of Andrew Ross as Artistic Director brought La Boite into more professional main-house repertoire. By 1983, the company had lost both state and federal funding[why?]. The following years were considered financially trying for La Boite, but a huge effort by the Council and "resident directors" Mike Bridges and Mary Hickson kept the company and theatre afloat. The 1986 appointment of Jim Vilé as both artistic director and CEO was a time of a more "open door" programming at La Boite where "every day and evening of every month of the Theatre's year was accounted for with a production of some kind…"
Patrick Mitchell took over from Vilé as Artistic Director in 1990. By 1991, the stress of running such a vibrant pro-am theatre company proved too much and David Bell took over as Artistic Director later in that year. Bell's innovative cross arts approach to theatre saw the beginning of La Boite as a professional company and produced performances which blended circus, opera and modern dance with theatre. Although the innovative fusion of Bell's work gained critical and artistic success, La Boite once again was financially floundering. However, the appointment in 1993 of Sue Rider as Artistic Director saw a period of unparalleled growth once again bolstered the performance of new Australian and Rider's commitment to Queensland artists.
Third relocation and present-day (2000 – present)
Sean Mee had been one of Brisbane's leading actors for many years and he had started his career at La Boite with the Early Childhood Drama Project in the 1980s. He took the company in new artistic directions. The company left the theatre it owned and moved to the new La Boite Theatre – the Roundhouse Theatre, a larger replica of the second La Boite Theatre. It was built in the Creative Industries Precinct of Queensland University of Technology's Kelvin Grove Campus. Mee's Artistic Directorship saw the company both artistically and financially reap the benefits of embracing primarily programming new Queensland works commissioned through La Boite. In 2008, Mee relinquished his position of Artistic Director. Despite the initial trials with the company, including the Australia Council cutting funding to the company, David Berthold took up the position of Artistic Director, and under his leadership the company has broadened its scope to include international works in its programming whilst retaining the company's over 85 year commitment to fostering Queensland and Australian theatre. Berthold's efforts with the company have been heralded as having "completely repositioned a Brisbane institution [La Boite]", and has garnered several prominent awards, including numerous winnings of the prestigious Matilda Awards.
Leaders and artistic directors
- Barbara Sisley (1925–1945)
- Tom Stephens
- Alex Foster
- Cecil Carson
- Gwen MacMinn
- Babette Stephens (1946–1968)
- Jennifer Blocksidge (1969–1975)
- Rick Billinghurst (1976–1980)
- Malcolm Blaylock (1980–1986)
- Jim Vilé (1986–1990)
- Patrick Mitchell (1990–1991)
- David Bell (1991–1993)
- Sue Rider (1993–2000)
- Sean Mee (2000–2008)
- David Berthold (2008 – 2014)
- Chris Kohn (2014)
- Todd McDonald (2015–present)
- Sorensen, Rosemary (9 October 2008). "Berthold to Direct La Boite". The Australian. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
- Turner, Tonya (17 October 2008). "David Berthold follows his instincts to head La Boite". The Courier-Mail. Archived from the original on 20 October 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2008.
- "Biography of Barbara Sisley". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 10 September 2011. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- Comans, Christine A. (2008) La Boite Theatre Company: A Distinctive History. Australasian Drama Studies 52.
- "The New Wave: A Brisbane Perspective: La Boite Theatre Company's Distinctive Contribution". Double Dialogues. 22 February 2010. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- "La Boite Theatre (entry 602171)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- "Patrick Mitchell". Griffith University. 11 September 2011. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- "Sue Rider". Australian Stage. 8 September 2008. Archived from the original on 3 April 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- "La Boite Theatre Company to be headed by David Berthold". The Australian. 9 October 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- "La Boite Loses Funding". The Courier Mail. 28 October 2008. Archived from the original on 24 May 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- "Matilda Awards winner David Berthold". ABC Brisbane. 8 March 2011. Archived from the original on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- "Matilda Awards for Brisbane's top theatre". Queensland Government. 8 March 2011. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011.