Q44 Theatre Company founder Gabriella Rose-Carter is inspired to tell stories about the human condition that all people can relate to.
Rose-Carter tells me that her inspiration to start a theatre company happened at a Q&A in 2001 with the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. "An actress asked him how she should get an agent, explains Carter. "To which he asked ,'Have you worked as an actor?' She replied, 'No.' He then said: 'what I suggest you do is go out there and create your own work. Let them come to you.'"
The seed was then planted for Rose-Carter who is inspired by Hoffman's own Theatre company, Labyrinth; by Chicago based theatre company, Steppenwolf as well as a long rehearsal process and text driven plays.
"Through this inspiration I created Q44 to tell stories about the human condition that all people can relate to," she says. "Producing plays with high levels of skill and artistic integrity that are accessible. New York inspired me, gave me confidence, hope and a real hunger for culture. It was there I was introduced to all these brilliant playwrights and it was important for me to bring them back home, to Melbourne, where theatre is more alive than it ever has been. I feel proud to be joining this already thriving community."
Rose-Carter is an alumna of the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York where she lived and worked for 10 years. In 2012, she had the honour of working with fellow alumnae, Ellen Burstyn in her Melbourne Masterclass. In 2013, she had been invited by Burstyn to become a permanent observer of the Actors Studio in New York.
On her return to Melbourne, Rose-Carter started teaching and was fortunate to meet an actor she was coaching for his web series. This was a fortuitous meet indeed as the actor (through his mum) supplied a 'cool' studio space for Rose-Carter to work out of. A month later she started Q44. "One of those moments when you're in the right place at the right time" she acknowledges.
Rose-Carter credits the actors in the ensemble (Mark Davis, Boris Granolic, Lelda Kapsis, Michael McCormack, Ashley McKenzie, Nicole Melloy, Gareth Reeves, Anthony Scundi and Rose-Carter herself) with having been so receptive in taking responsibility for themselves with the only challenge so far having been who to choose for what season.
"How this challenge was resolved was the ones that weren't in this season have generously volunteered their time to be involved and practice the art of collaboration and get better at it," she says.
The very provocative naming of Q44 was inspired by the American playwright John Patrick Shanley who – Rose-Carter informs me – as a young man, observed life while he rode the Q44 bus from the Bronx to Queens. "He realised it had no last stop and that it goes on forever. He believes acting is like the Q44. You miss it and you miss life."
Rose-Carter has a very clear vision and philosophy for her new theatre company and has carefully chosen works for the launch season with that in mind.
"This season I wanted to explore woman stepping into their strength and men revealing their broken hearts which I believe the first two plays of the season do beautiful. Dolores by Edward Allan Baker and Orphans by Lyle Kessler."
"From there we explore the power between the sexes, which I believe Theresa Rebeck's Spike Heels does beautiful in her contemporary take on the Pygmalion Classic."
"The season ends with Kafka's monkey. A report to the academy in which an ape lectures the esteemed members on his transformation into a cultured European man. The message here is how we instinctively transform purely to fit it."
Works are chosen by Rose-Carter and a big criteria for a work to be chosen for Q44 is based on emotion. "When I read a play it has to move me," she says. "What moves me is the writing. In the rhythm in which a writer writes. I believe the greats need to be heard because they're wonderful story tellers."
Q44 also have a very clear and committed mission statement as well as integral philosophies for all creatives which include: Text driven plays; Long rehearsals; Physical and vocal strength; Every ensemble member learning the art of collaboration; Producing -directing-writing-acting; Telling stories about the human condition that ALL people can relate to; To produce plays with high levels of skill and artistic integrity that are accessible.
Rose-Carter is also responsible for choosing the collective and attributes her ability of being observant as well as her training as keys to finding the right fit. "I watch people and learn from their actions rather than their words," she says. "I trained at the actors studio in New York. What Lee Strasberg created was a place where actors can grow and learn together. Even now, actors like Ellen Burstyn, Estelle Parsons, Harvey Keitel,Al Pacino and Melissa Leo pass on what they have learned and are moderators at the studio. When I came back to Melbourne I started teaching. With certain creatives you speak a language that is some what a sixth sense. I observed actors that worked hard, that had a love for telling stories and that were unafraid of finding themselves in the characters in which they played."
Through Q44, Rose-Carter promises to offer a piece of New York to the local indie theatre landscape of Melbourne. Perhaps Q44 will also stand apart from the rest because of its good fortune in having a home where the work is developed so the space doubles as a kind of laboratory as well as performance space. Or it may just stand apart because of the passion of its founder as well the commitment and shared enthusiasm of its ensemble of creatives.
Whatever the reason, Q44 promises an intimate theatrical experience with consistently good story telling and characters with whom the audience can engage. And that, my friends, is what theatre is all about!
Q44 launches with Dolores starring Gabriella Rose-Carter and Nicole Melloy May 1 – 18