Slingsby Theatre’s 10th year is looking to be its most successful to date, and this will be achieved without co-founder and former executive producer Jodi Glass, who left the independent company to move to the State Theatre Company in late 2016.
With a new general manager/ producer, artistic director Andy Packer says 2017 feels like Slingsby Mk II in some respects, as he and Jodi Glass founded the young adult theatre company in 2007 and then ran the company together for nine years. Replacing Glass is Stacey Baldwin, who moved to Adelaide from Melbourne after working at organisations including Back to Back Theatre and the Melbourne Festival.
“Stacey will bring – from the great companies she’s worked with – a lot of methodology and thoughts and less preconceived ideas of what we are and how we can be at Slingsby,” Packer says. “It’s a really great opportunity to grow and build on from what we’ve achieved so far.”
Baldwin’s full-time role is slightly different to Glass’s which was part-time. The new appointee will be a general manager and producer rather than an executive producer.
She says the company’s aesthetic made her want to cross the border.
“They make beautiful work, profoundly beautiful work,” Baldwin says. “Very intelligent [work] for an audience that is often underappreciated.”
Last year, Slingsby, riding high on the success of its Adelaide Festival production The Young King, had its Australia Council funding cut before interim funding from the state government secured its short-term future. Soon after, Slingsby travelled to the US and won the IPAY Victor Award in Wisconsin for The Young King.
Packer says they were planning for Glass to go full-time last year after losing their national funding.
“For us to continue to be viable, we needed to increase our activity and grow our audiences. Having a full-time general manager/producer was really integral to achieving that. The plan was for Jodi’s role to expand but she’s expanded it in a completely different way,” he laughs.
“Jodi, I and the board were in a very reflective frame of mind at that time. It was: should we continue with the company? Should we round it off and go ‘that’s been great, let’s rule a line under it and move on?’ Each of us came up with different answers to that question, and I came back very much feeling very excited and invigorated about the vision for the company and what we can do. Since making that decision, there’s a whole lot of touring and international activity that’s spring-boarded from that. Jodi, I think, came back, quite understandably, saying ‘I’m ready for a new bigger challenge’. Then the State Theatre Company opportunity came along.”
Packer says this year will be the company’s most successful in terms of audience and turnover.
“That is a mix of local, national and international [audiences]. It’s a great reflection of our ambitions, and I can already see that 2018 will grow on that as well, certainly from an audience and turnover.
“The statistics that are important to us are the number of audiences that we get to and the quality of that experience; the quality of the performances that our artists are able to deliver to those audiences.”
Baldwin says she will push Slingsby into inclusive and accessible work as the company has embraced her disability; she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2011.
“I openly say I am a person of disability,” she says. “They proudly put that forward, which not a lot of companies do, and I have come across some difficult issues with that before. They see it as a strength and not a weakness, which totally aligns with my values.”
At the moment, Slingsby are preparing their new work, Emile and the Detectives, which will premiere in July, as well as getting ready for their 10th anniversary concert in September, which will celebrate the decade of music Quincy Grant has made for the company.
“That will be at the Queen’s Theatre on the ninth of September,” Packer says. “That will be a beautiful birthday party to bring together our audience and community of artists and listen to 75, 80 minutes of beautiful music that Quincy’s written for the company.”
Photography: Jonathan van der Knaap