Meeting Daniel Clarke is always a pleasure. His warm, gentle nature combined with his obvious passion for the creative process turns the usual ho hum 10am, eye-widening coffee into a truly inspiring experience.
Although Theatre Works has had a long involvement with the Midusmma Festival, this is the first time they’ve produced their own Midsumma season. Daniel now resides as the Creative Producer/CEO. He seems far too young to be a CEO, but he ticks all the boxes on the creative front. After speaking with him for only a few minutes it’s immediately apparent that creativity is (and some would say must be) the driving force behind the Theatre Works 2012 season. He rattles through the current Midsumma offerings with gusto and I’m particularly impressed with his precise ability to describe every aspect of each show in rich detail. He knows every performer, their background, every theme, the technical challenges and can even pluck lines from each show as if he’d directed them himself. He also stands behind the work – he sells it and he’s willing to defend it. And so he should, he hand picked each piece and it’s resting on his shoulders to produce a season that’s not only artistically successful, but financially viable.
The Midsumma season is a great mix of international work, including the Irish one hander (please forgive the pun) – The Magical Year Of Wanking (✭✭✭✭ review here) as well as showcasing some home-grown talent like Negative Energy, and even dance piece Unanswered for good measure. The key is balance. Daniel and his team set up a curation panel so that work could be submitted for Theatre Works’ Selected Works program and assessed objectively: “It’s really important that the work we produce or represent on behalf of the artists we work with deserves to be there. You can’t just have mates offering work to mates. That’s just not how it works. We had over thirty entries for our Selected Works Season which will be announced in Februaury and each one of them was assessed on their merits and suitability to fit within the season overall.”
Wearing his PR hat, he pitches each show to me and, to his credit, they all sound like a clever mix, but when I dig down on ticket sales he’s incredibly tight lipped. We move quickly onto the rest of 2012 and what theatre works has in store. I’m embargoed on a couple of season announcements (more details on Feb 6), but after hearing the line up, it’s apparent that Theatre Works is taking a much more aggressive attitude towards growing their reputation of producing new and innovative work. “I want Theatre Works to be known as a place where artists from around Australia and around the world can come to develop their work. We offer them a space and the right support and environment for them to do that. Our 'in the works' programme, for example, can support up to eight projects simultaneously and that’s growing each year as we continue to lobby for more funding. One of our recent grants has meant that we are able to support up to two companies for two years. ”
In addition to his role as CEO/Creative Producer at Theatre Works, Daniel has just finished a season with the MTC on The Importance of Being Earnest as Assistant Director to Simon Phillips. He also lets it slip that he’ll be joining the State Theatre Company of South Australia to direct their upcoming season of Pornography by Simon Stephens. With a hectic year ahead I ask him how he’s going to pack everything in. He just shakes his head and laughs. “I don’t really know. Work hard and try and be as organized as I can. I’m lucky to be surrounded by good people. Professionals who know what they’re doing. That makes a big difference.”