When Kaye Weeks left Windmill for the Adelaide Festival four years ago, the children’s theatre company presented four shows locally each year alongside some touring. Now, she returns to an organisation that has conquered film, Broadway and is looking at new mediums.
The last 12 months have seen Windmill’s young children’s production Grug and the Rainbow tour China and the US, Pinocchio hit Broadway for two weeks and its debut film Girl Asleep win the Grand Jury Prize at the Seattle Film Festival. The next six months are just as exciting: Rumpelstiltskin will premiere in Adelaide in October, Girl Asleep will screen nationally in September and the Windmill team are creating a new work. For Weeks, who is Windmill’s executive producer, she returns having been involved in writing the business plan with artistic director Rosemary Myers to grow the company from an acclaimed local children’s theatre company into one of the country’s premier creative organisations that makes work for children. “We were mapping out how to grow the international touring and move into film,” Weeks says about the plan from four years ago. “And to see the company do those things, have its debut on Broadway and make a film that’s gone so well, has been really satisfying to watch from the outside. To be back and co-leading with Rose is fantastic.” Weeks says international touring is a major focus for the company. “One show will have incredible success overseas and then the venues we visit want the next one. We’re continually building on our international touring network as a huge priority, focussing on creating new work as much as we possibly can. We’ve deliberately made a move away from presenting other companies’ work to focus on house-made product, and then touring that around the world. We want to make another film, if we can, off the back of the success of Girl Asleep.” Girl Asleep was part of the Windmill Trilogy – which included School Dance and Fugitive – that was presented in full at the 2014 Adelaide Festival. Windmill are looking to film School Dance. “That’s something that we’re very keen to pursue,” she says. “We’re also considering dabbling in a bit of TV and possibly a web series as well. I think one of the challenges for live theatre is the on-demand era we live in. People are so used to watching high-quality product wherever they want, on a mobile device or a TV screen, so I think one of the things Windmill has done very successfully is take their theatrical product into other mediums but still maintain a really strong theatricality. Girl Asleep did that very successfully and we’re very keen on continuing to explore how we can do that: maintaining a theatrical edge to the product but have it on-demand.” With her new role, Weeks will effectively be the co-CEO with Myers. “Rose’s job is to dream up the work, choose the artists she wants to collaborate with, commission writers, and then actually direct a lot of the house-made products herself. She directed the film; she’s directing Rumpelstiltskin and a lot of our big work. Largely she’s responsible for the artistic vision of the company. My role is to make it happen. Get the work around the world as well as the general management of the staff.” Windmill have expanded their education program thanks to funding from the Lang Foundation, which will allow students to be involved in the process of making new work and for artists to visit schools and run workshops with students. “There’s a lovely dynamic and energy between the imaginations of artists and the imaginations of young people,” she says. “We want to leverage and explore that as much as we can.” Off the back of the successful early children’s productions Grug and Grug and the Rainbow, Windmill are currently creating a brand new work for young children. “We should be ready to announce that later in the year and that will be presented in Adelaide next year,” she says. “We don’t have a name for it yet because it’s in development. That one won’t be based on a book; it will be a new work from the team that made Grug.” Girl Asleep opens in cinemas on Thursday, September 8 Rumpelstiltskin Dunstan Playhouse Tuesday, October 11 to Saturday, October 29 windmill.org.au