The play commissioned for 2009 was BURNT researched and written by STC Zeal collaborators Stefo Nantsou and Tom Lycos. BURNT explores the implications of drought in regional Australia, dramatising one family’s battle to survive and sustain their property. This initial investment in commissioning BURNT allowed the STC to attract other partners to create the company’s dynamic outreach program People of the Soil. Scaffolded around the performance of BURNT is a program of engaging activities created to support the discussion and reflections that the play brings to the surface for its audiences. In 2010 the People of the Soil project toured the country for 12 weeks. Over 5000 people had attended a performance of BURNT by the end of the year.
2010 saw the expansion of the commissioning program to encompass further script development support for STC’s participating playwrights. Financial support extended beyond the delivery of a script to encompass the essential research phase required before writing. Unfortunately this program did not deliver a new play for teenage students as envisaged. However, it created the seeds for Hilary Bell’s play The Splinter, which had a successful 2012 season at the Wharf 1 theatre.
In 2011 the Foundation supported the appointment of actor, writer, and director Jonathan Biggins to artistically conceive and curate a three play series for ‘Actor on the Box”, aimed at 3 – 8 year olds. The plays were The Loaded Dog (Henry Lawson), performed by Stefo Nantsou, The Tale Maker (Jonathan Biggins), perfomed by LuciaMastratone, and The Luck Child (Jonathan Biggins and David Collins), performed by David Collins. The Luck Child won a Sydney Theatre Award.
In 2012 Resident Director Stefo Nantsou created a new community production Look the Other Way as an evolution of the STC innovative regional and community theatre program, where STC artists co-develop stories that contain typical and/or social themes with local community leaders and members.
The script for this production was developed over six weeks through in-school acting and writing workshops with students from Sir Joseph Banks and Granville High Schools. It explores the universal urban issue of young male violence and community retribution (stirred by a recent local incident). These partnerships, as well as with the University of Western Sydney, were facilitated by BYDS (Bankstown Youth Development Centre). STC engaged with government and Casula Powerhouse, exploring the potential to develop the work nationally.
This model of community engagement uses community expertise in-house, and partnering with existing community organisations, local councils and service providers. It provides a useful example of how a large arts organisation can incorporate a community agenda into their business planning, staffing and programming.
For young people, the project offers insight into challenging issues, academic and social learning opportunities, plus exposure to the theatre-making process. Community participants will also have the opportunity to experience theatre, often for the first time.
Feedback from the participating students as well as the audience was overwhelmingly positive. Some students said it was a life changing experience.