What exactly does HWY (pronounced HIGH-WAY) mean?
HWY was born out of a desire to give artists a pathway to the La Boite mainstage and opportunities to work with the company. The HWY program is a trajectory, a platform, a stepping stone to future work and engagement with us as a producing house for new work.
Can you explain how HWY began and how it has evolved since your role as Creative Producer?
I was lucky enough to inherit the HWY program when I arrived at La Boite in 2017. Glyn, my predecessor, had delivered the inaugural HWY the year prior, so the Festival was very new to the city and artists were still getting their heads around the opportunities it presented. Fast-forward three years and four HWY festivals later, I am deeply excited and incredibly proud of the growth we have seen during this time.
From 2021, we’re shifting the model – HWY will become a program of events throughout the year, intersecting with our Artist Development platforms and offering ongoing opportunities for audiences and the wider arts sector to engage with the development of new work and theatre practice, in Brisbane, in real time.
As a ‘pipeline for new work and ideas’, can you give us an idea of what type of work is trending right now?
Many a monologue about COVID-19! Virtual play-readings, some really fun/interesting experiments on Zoom… some artists really seized the moment and went hard on digital platforms. It was such a joy to consume so much art during a weird and unsettling time. As we pivot and start thinking about what theatre looks like in our spaces in both near and distant futures, it is becoming apparent that producers and programmers are looking for work that hits a range of interest areas. I’m not in a position to speak on behalf of other organisations, but we’re certainly taking into consideration relevance and/or responsiveness, social and political engagement, scalability, form etc.
What influenced you to develop these new programs for HWY? Was this developed to fill a gap in the market or devised from a vision for La Boite’s future programming?
A bit of both, really – we are leaning into the moment while we are in a holding pattern with our doors temporarily closed, focusing our efforts on research and development. We are lucky to be able to offer a suite of development opportunities for local artists to generate new ideas and works, as everyone recalibrates during this next phase of COVID-19. Every opportunity that we go out with takes future programming into consideration, but we were also conscious not to double-up on existing opportunities, while really honing in on the kind of work that aligns and has potential to land within (and outside) our walls in the future.
Given your background as an independent theatre-maker, what does HWY mean to you?
When I was freelancing, these were exactly the kind of opportunities we would throw our collective and individual hats in the ring for – paid gigs of this kind are few and far between. I absolutely would have jumped at the chance to work with a professional theatre company to develop a new work/project, and that hasn’t changed, to be honest. It's an immense privilege to sit on the other side and engage with people’s ideas in this way; I’m excited to see where this EOI process takes us over the coming weeks. HWY is such a necessary part of our output as a company and a critical pathway/platform within Brisbane’s wider arts ecology.
How are you feeling as a producer trying to develop works and programs such as HWY in this time of uncertainty?
I swing between hopeful and unsettled daily – I know how lucky I am to keep doing the work that I am doing, and for that I am deeply grateful. It has been a wild three months of large-scale change within the organisation, from cancellations through to future plans, and the biggest thing we’re learning is how to sit in this moment in a productive and focused way. Yes, things might change, but with every new bit of information we’re getting better (and perhaps quicker) at responding to what the future might look like. COVID-19 forced us to take a step back and reconsider what we can do in an active and public facing capacity during this time.
HWY is at the forefront of our current offerings, and I am feeling optimistic and excited about the artists who’ll come into the company over the coming months as a result of these programs.