There is a new kid on the indie block in the form of Salty Theatre – a joint venture between Melbourne theatre, dance and cabaret veteran, Sarah Louise Younger, and Canadian theatre and screen vet, Ashley Taylor. The duo are passionate and excited about their collaboration and are champing at the bit to launch their first show, People Suck, at the Butterfly club March 11 – 16.
Salty Theatre began with a recent discussion between the two and the rest, as they say, is history. Explains Taylor: “The genesis for Salty occurred as Sarahlouise and I shared a dressing station together during a show this past October. We were discussing both the frustrations and rewards of working in theatre in Australia and what we imagined the perfect theatre community for artists here would look like.”
“We were righting the wrongs of our Artistic world, as only Artists can,” further explains Younger. “Ash was telling me all about these fantastic repertory companies over in Canada, particularly the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, both of which Ashley’s performed for (so I naturally was already star-struck) and the idea while grand, to create something like that over here in OZ as our goal was so seductive, I just had to jump right in. Also, I never shy away from a challenge, which most of the time is one of my bad qualities.”
With many indie theatre companies to compete with, Salty Theatre’s mission is to create a repertory company that challenges the status quo. “Salty Theatre is a company that embraces diversity without highlighting its difference,” says Taylor. “We support artists who are passionate about their work, have stories to tell and who are underrepresented. We realize we are early on, but we truly look forward to nurturing and perfecting this vision as we grow in order to make it a reality.”
And competing in the heavy indie market, both partners are aware that Salty Thetare must add a unique view – a view that will capture the theatre goer now and going forward. An edge is the thing, so when asked what Salty Theatre might add to the independent theatre community within a very competitive market, Taylor and Younger become pragmatic and layered, considering their options with all of the passion on which their theatre company has clearly been built.
Younger: hmmm, this question I will admit made me stop in my tracks. Because as an Artist your very first reason for creating anything, is to not compete with others but to tell stories. However, the realist in me knows that if our ultimate goal is to give Salty longevity within the Australian Theatre Industry, we have to know why we are here and why we believe we have something to say.
Taylor: Exactly. I guess from our point of view this is two-tiered question because we are both bringing our own experiences to the table both the good and the bad. For me, my turning point came (as I think it does for many Performers but majority of the time women) where I faced the challenge of wanting to start a family, lay-down some proper solid foundations and not have that interrupt my flow of getting work. Having worked in both Canada and the US and being privy to the multitude of paying, professional theatre opportunities, there is this juicy regional theatre middle ground where you aren’t touring (OS) but you’re still getting paid and working regularly throughout the year while also being able to create roots and have a family. In the year and a half that I’ve been here, I’ve noticed that this type of repertory theatre is missing here. There is a market that needs to be cultivated, I think, that is full of possibility.
Younger: When Ash told me this idea and the way these Rep Companies operated in the US and Canada I had to jump on board. The idea of a season operating for 8 months where a company of Actors and Creatives work on two shows (a Musical and a Play), rehearsing one, performing the other, it really spoke to the Choreographer in me and the way Dance Companies work. Basically, if say a company like MTC and Production Co had a baby our Company would be it…. when I said our plan was GRAND, I meant it lol.
Taylor: So Grand!
Younger: The other part of this two-tiered answer for me comes from personal reflection of my experiences in Australian Entertainment so far. I did my first show as a child and entered the industry officially after graduating from BAPA in 2006 as a 23-year-old. Honestly it was heartbreaking. I didn’t get picked up by an agent right away which meant I didn’t have much opportunity to try for paid work, as I’ve gotten older, I have seen a decline in Open Auditions, and seen many independent companies screen their applicants. I recently read about an actor from New York who spoke about the multiple auditions she had just THAT week, five in a day or something like that…I’m lucky if I get 5 a year. You combine that with being a multi-racial person, full-figured and a woman (in her mid-30’s) and it’s an uphill climb. Times are changing the conversations around women in theatre and ethnic diversity are starting to happen, but I really do want us women and we who are culturally diverse to be leading it as opposed to being apart of a “think-tank” that we are not running. I’m really committed to Salty not compromising talent because of out-dated notions of marketability.
The collaborators met working on a production of Dusty the Musical with Babirra. Both coming from a background of working professionally in theatre from a young age Taylor admits to seeing how the industry works both locally and abroad, as a woman at 18,25 and 30 plus…and how it changes. “We’ve also both taken time off and in so doing learned how easy it is to fall behind and how difficult it can be to get your finger back on the pulse of it all,” she says. “So, with this mutual understanding and appreciation of theatre and the industry itself, we clicked. We realized quickly that a career in theatre, telling stories and touching audiences was important to us and not something either wanted “put-away” or have as a “Hobby”. Also, she hasn’t annoyed me…yet.”
“Give me time,” quips Younger who acknowledges that she and Taylor are open to challenging each other and that she has met someone who really says what she means and does what she says. “Finding someone to collaborate with let alone start a company with is very, very hard,” she says. “Many people will say that’s what they want and have all these ideas, but fear will always get in the way. Ash is open to being…afraid with me. Ash is a creative but also an intellectual which I like. I like to come at performance from an Academic perspective, I’ve embraced that fact that I am very intense and earnest about my work and Ash compliments that.”
So how are the duties of running the theatre company divided? Pretty much even and down the middle suggests Taylor: ” I’m kind of the contracts, legal, media releases and organizational half of the partnership. SL is the marketing and social media Queen. We both bring the creative ideas and strengths to the table! I can be a bit of an over thinker and people pleaser and SL can be a bit brash and to the point. So, we keep each other in check and help each other see opportunities and challenges from different angles. We really have found this perfect balance between the two of us, we got lucky!”
There are, of course, challenges in setting up any business, and the theatre business can be particularly fraught with danger – most of which is financial – see Younger’s quote below. But, at the same time, a mutually beneficial and fulfilling partnership can result in a very pleasurable outcome. Both are discussed below.
Younger: The big challenge in a nutshell is finance. As Ash said before I pretty much get to the point right away. And I want to be upfront about that for others who want to take on this endeavor. You need to be realistic about the money you’re going to spend and the reality that “breaking even” as opposed to profit is going to be your bottom line.
Taylor: Yeah. We both work full-time jobs and we call each other up ten times a day, at least!
Younger: On our breaks OBVIOUSLY.
Taylor: Haha. But those calls are about funding every little thing in a show, contracts, marketing, skype meetings, media releases…
Younger: Then you have the creative job of being not only a Producer and Director but performer as well. We are up all hours dissecting the script, going over the last rehearsal and seeing how we can improve the work and then focusing on our job as a performer learning our lines and lyrics making sure we are not only an outside eye to the show but locked into the cast as well.
Taylor: Basically we don’t sleep. We have to be each other’s Cheer Squad, keep the fires burning as it were. Maybe that isn’t a good analogy in Australia…?
Younger: Correct. But you know it is all worth it for this little reoccurring moment when Ash and I knowingly say to each other “I think we are on to something here”, when you can feel the buzz of the start of something great. And knowing one day we are going to look back on this and know it was all worth it.
In a nutshell, Taylor and Younger are a pair that is not afraid to take risks. “We put on new work, we are willing to be controversial, we are gritty and expressive and artists to our core,” states Younger. “We don’t Pigeon-hole ourselves or our Actors. If you’re someone who has longed to see someone like you represented on stage if it be in a Musical, Cabaret or Dance then we are for you and if you don’t see yourself enough in our work tell us we are open to the conversation…also here are 2 free tickets;)”
And as for the future, the company is to take a leap with the opening of their debut production PEOPLE SUCK on March 11th. “Once we have “birthed” (I’ve been there, it’s terrifying and exhilarating all at once) this show we can focus not only on next years festival circuit plans but also SL’s own work (can she be more talented?) which is in the first stage of development,” says Taylor
And adds Younger: ” Yes…the very first stage. The next piece that we are looking at is in the genre of classical theatre. Very different to PEOPLE SUCK but something we have both wanted to have the intense challenge of doing and working on for a long time. Watch this space.”
March 11 – 16
Tickets: via – https://thebutterflyclub.com/show/people-suck-a-musical-airing-of-grievances