This is the first edition of our online publication, a melange of thoughts, news, images and ideas that we hope will give you insight into the theatre NORPA is creating in regional Australia. We will explore the issues that spark, challenge and inspire us. You’ll hear from a diversity of voices. You’ll be invited into our rehearsal room, our venue and our community.

NORPA is one of the few remaining professional theatre companies based in regional Australia that creates and produces new Australian work. We also present an annual Season of performing arts from leading and emerging national companies. And we manage Lismore City Hall as a cultural hub and venue in a newly formed cultural alliance with Lismore City Council.
Creating new Australian theatre is at the heart of what we do. That is our passion and we want to share it with you.

Patrick Healey
General Manager
Julian Louis discusses how NORPA approaches making theatre...

Little Boxes
by Patrick Healey
General Manager

The arts funding distress over the last year has proved that the arts sector isn’t very good at advocacy. Our sector needs to do more to explain the importance of arts to the Australian community. For those of us in regional Australia, that is even more the case as we tend to be out of sight and, perhaps, not as proactive as we could be.
That became especially apparent when I read the submissions made by arts sector organisations and companies to the Parliamentary Committee on Public Broadcasting and Live Performance to Regional Australia. Two things stood out...

Rhoda Roberts is a co-devisor and director of Three Brothers, a contemporary NORPA work in development inspired by a Bundjalung creation story. Rhoda is a NORPA Board Member.

Rhoda is an Australian journalist, broadcaster, actor, producer, director, writer, arts advisor, and artistic director. She is a significant force on the Australian arts scene and was recently awarded an Order of Australia.

What is your connection to the Northern Rivers NSW?
I have long family connection to the Northern Rivers for two thousand five hundred generations. It’s always been our home, it’s where I grew up, heard the stories of the past, went to school. It’s where I belong as a Widjabul woman, it is the waters and the mountains of my ancestors. It’s where my family gave...

Dreamland is our new site-specific devised work celebrating the special place small halls occupy in regional communities across Australia. Local halls are gathering places that carry the marks of how our communities have changed, and are changing.
The floorboards of the old halls in the Northern Rivers have been danced upon by young lovers in the '50s, stomped on by barefoot hippies at wild, full-moon gatherings in the '70s and stilettoed by drag queens at the first Tropical Fruits parties in the '80s. They are the gathering places for celebrations of births, deaths and marriages, of sporting victories and defeats, of concerts and picture shows, of debutante balls, blue light discos and school Christmas concerts, with scones and lamingtons and gallons of tea. 
From this fertile ground Dreamland is created.

We are presently immersed in research and development, out in the field (sometimes literally) gathering stories from the community like bower-birds. These starting points will then be taken into a two-week creative development and explored through character play, physical theatre, dance and song.

We're thrilled to announce the Dreamland creative team includes newcomers to the NORPA family - Toni Scanlan and Darcy Grant as performer/devisors. They will join performer/devisors Katia Molino and Phil Blackman, and director Julian Louis and and writer/devisor Janis Balodis who all worked with NORPA on Railway Wonderland. 

Dreamland will be performed in November in the beautiful Eureka Hall in the Byron Bay hinterland. It is inspired by the Eureka community and is a NORPA production in association with Arts Northern Rivers as part of their If These Halls Could Talk project.

Learn more ]
Above | For more insight into local halls and their significance in the Northern Rivers, check out If These Halls Could Talk project by Arts Northern Rivers, with whom we are partnering for Dreamland
Photo courtesy of David Hartley.
Top image | Megan Louis
NORPA have partnered with the Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Lismore, to create an innovative new work, engaging with local primary school students.

Journey To An Unnamed World is an immersive, site specific work that takes primary school students on a design-led adventure, exploring themes of self and identity in a fun and interactive form. Its aim is to allow teachers and students alike to celebrate English syllabus texts in a completely new way, thereby revolutionising their connection with writing and theatre. 

During July, NORPA's creative team are out and about across the Northern Rivers running workshops that will evolve into an interactive and immersive theatre installation to be presented during Book Week in August at Lismore City Hall. Inspired by the work of author and illustrator Shaun Tan, the students will develop their ideas and imaginings with NORPA’s creative team to see their fictionalised world come alive. 

"This is not passive promenade theatre, but an experiential theatre journey whereby the students will find magic in unexpected moments, will contribute to the story in new and surprising ways, and will interact with characters and environments in a world that will ignite them, offering a memorable experience of literature, theatre and the imagination."
Suzy Miller

Creative team
Directors Julian Louis and Valley Lipcer
Writer Suzie Miller
Production Designer Edward Horne
Costume Designer Charlotte Haywood
Sound Designer Phil Downing
Performers Kimberley McIntyre and Neil Young

[ Learn more ]

Image | Shaun Tan  'The Red Tree'

Inspired by a Bundjalung creation story, Three Brothers is a universal story of family legacy and cultural identity, which will be expressed through dance, song, storytelling and imagery. Renowned Aboriginal theatre and dance practitioners including Kirk Page, Romaine Moreton, Rhoda Roberts, Tibian Wyles and Guy Simon are collaborating to develop this powerful new work. 

During the performance each son reveals very different stories of what it is to return home; of custodial obligations and individual quests to understand who and what they are, or could become. The Rivers’ are reunited and together they discover the beauty and pain of their uncertain future, all against a backdrop of a town that heaves with the silent guilt of theft and injustice.

The loss of our dear friend David Page has impacted the creative team deeply. While we have been hurting, we are not giving up and creative development will continue in loving memory of our brother and dear colleague.

Learn more ]

Images | Kate Holmes

By Rhoda Roberts
Mr Page was an artist and a vital part of Bangarra Dance Theatre as well as one of NORPA’s cherished creatives with the Three Brothers project, as a composer and artist. He was also a tradition-bearer, a new knowledge-keeper, a man of great depth and obligation. When you have to carry so much history, it’s inexplicable sometimes how artists cope.
Every day his work involved our old music and songlines of ancestors and the old ones. He exposed the world to our Dreaming, to our voice, devoting himself to reviving culture and making it meaningful to us today. Through his music Mr Page healed so many of us.
As an actor he had great depth and craft, he had that cheeky cheeky smile, and it was his comic timing and ability to mimicry that established him as one of our great stage performers.

As a friend, sister and colleague I cannot fathom the pain that Bangarra, Stephen Page and the Page family is going through; there are no words to comfort in this very sad passing, but there is love and there is commitment to ensuring this great artistic leader is honoured for his profound contribution not only to the Indigenous community but to the Australian community.

Image | Rebecca Rushbrook

NORPA’s Associate Director Kirk Page and Artistic Director Julian Louis have developed a physical training program for local professional performers. Aptly titled Training Ground the program is now in its second round. 

The first round brought together twelve performers in a series of workshops over seven weeks. Led by Kirk and Julian, the two-hour sessions focused on strength and conditioning, play building and ensemble boot camp.

Training Ground is investing in the development of a core ensemble of artists and performers that embrace devised and physical theatre making.

Training Ground participant Darcy Grant (pictured above with Julian Louis) will be joining the creative team of Dreamland as a performer. Neil Young and Kimberley McIntyre will be joining Journey To An Unnamed World as performers.

Images | Darcy Grant 
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