We interviewed Michelle Kotevski, the Executive Producer of Urban Theatre Projects and Queen Street Studio’s previous chairperson, about Buried City, a co-production with Sydney Festival and Belvoir which is showing now at Belvoir’s Upstairs Theatre.
You’ve been the Executive Producer of Urban Theatre Projects two and a half years now. What’s the most rewarding / exciting / frustrating (maybe don’t answer that!) thing about working for the company?
The breadth of the work we do is by far what makes my working life exciting. I love the layers and complexity — for instance, you’re on the ground researching a new major site based work in London looking at what it means to be working poor, whilst sending emails about a new show made by two really young artists from Western Sydney — a cooking show no less, planning a workshop program with another artist for a football work and then picking images for another festival new work. But, if I had to summarise, the most exciting and rewarding aspect of the work for UTP is the cultivation of an environment and a network for younger artists, particularly those who live in the West and have non dominant cultural backgrounds…
Tell us about Buried City — UTP’s fourth Sydney Festival production in as many years. What can audiences expect?
I think people can expect Alicia Talbot’s trademark grit and authenticity and to walk away with images that keep coming to mind for weeks after. It’s beautiful… and that might not be what some audiences will be expecting when they find themselves sitting in a ‘building site’… but it is beautiful, from the set to the script to the performance. I think we have an amazing and very charismatic cast — I think audiences will fall in love with them… I have been all through rehearsal!
UTP has become well known for staging performances in backyards and other unexpected spaces but Buried City is coming to the Upstairs Theatre at Belvoir St… does this create a different sort of pressure for the company? Has the show come together differently because of its more traditional theatre setting as opposed to a typically urban setting?
Definitely, its changed a lot for the company and especially for Alicia as a director in how we’ve approached this work. Essentially though, we’ve treated upstairs Belvoir as a site… and strangely, sites are so much easier in one way than an existing building. I was watching the dress rehearsal last night with a friend of mine, and she was blown away by how much she felt like we were in a site. The stories and references within the show about the immediate area of Surry Hills, Redfern, Waterloo made it feel really site specific for her. So I suppose, like all our works, it’s certainly of a place.
Buried City takes place in a “gutted building primed for development”. As the previous chair of Queen Street Studio you’re obviously familiar with empty spaces that are waiting for re-development — what do you think it is about buildings or warehouses in such a state of flux and transition that can be inspirational to artists?
Ha! Well Sam Chester knows that very well… for a long time she (and the rest of us) were inspired by that quote from someone about the potential of space… I suppose change, flux and transitions are really at the core of many artists’ work, or at least their inspiration. I think real estate is ALWAYS inspiring in a place like Sydney where change to the use and nature of buildings is really like a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for what is happening socially, economically and politically in any given locale. One of the basic premises of Buried City is that the people who build the city don’t get to live in it.
What’s the most exciting thing about being part of the Sydney Festival?
Ahhh, audiences. It’s the audiences the festival brings to our shows and the company that are the most exciting thing. The festival also brings so many friends and colleagues into town — so it’s such a great time to catch up with people, preferably in the Speigeltent garden!
And lastly, what else should we be keeping an eye out for from UTP in 2012?
Ohhh– LOTS… I can’t even begin to tell you…
We have one double pass to giveaway to Buried City on Saturday 14 January at 2pm, in the Upstairs Theatre at Belvoir. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to get your hands on the tickets (only the winner will be notified). Click here if you would like more information on Urban Theatre Projects.
Click here to head to the Sydney Festival website and find out more about the show.