Chairman of the Melbourne Theatre Company’s Board, Derek Young recently announced that after more than 10 years at the helm of one of the most successful theatre companies in Australia, MTC Artistic Director and Chief Executive Simon Phillips would leave his roles with MTC at the conclusion of the 2011 Season. Simon will continue to direct and program the 2011 Season whilst an international search is undertaken to find a new Artistic Director and Chief Executive for the Company.
"Today marks the end of an era, as on behalf of the MTC Board and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne Glyn Davies, I announce that Simon Phillips has decided to resign from his positions as MTC Artistic Director and Chief Executive at the conclusion of the 2011 Season. Simon began his long association with MTC as an Associate Director in 1987 before leaving to become the Artistic Director for the State Theatre Company of South Australia in 1989. Simon returned to the Company in 2000 to take up the roles of Artistic Director and Chief Executive for the Company."
Since joining the company Simon has chalked up a phenomenal number of achievements. He has played a fundamental role in the establishment of our $55 million, state of the art, award winning MTC Theatre on Southbank Boulevard, providing the first permanent home for MTC. Simon has been crucial overseeing the move to our new Head Quarters at 252 Sturt Street, Southbank.
During his time at MTC Simon has created inspiring seasons of plays and personally directed sixty productions for the Company, many of them award-winning and all of them thrilling and entertaining for audiences. Though Simon’s artistic leadership he has provided thousands of opportunities for actors, writers, directors and designers to realise their dreams.
He has directed works by most of the great contemporary writers: Albee (A Delicate Balance), Shepherd (A Lie of the Mind), Orton (What the Butler Saw/Entertaining Mr Sloane), McDonagh (The Pillowman), Churchill (Serious Money), Stoppard (Arcadia, Rock ‘n Roll) and Beckett (Happy Days), which took Ruth Cracknell to Alice Springs. His production of David Hare’s The Blue Room (with Sigrid Thornton and Marcus Graham) was seen Australia wide. Simon’s commitment to new Australian work includes that of Hannie Rayson (Inheritance, Two Brothers The Glass Soldier), Stephen Sewell (Dreams of an Empty City, King Golgrutha), Matt Cameron (Man the Balloon, Tears from a Glass Eye, Poor Boy), David Williamson (Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot) and Joanna Murray-Smith (Rockabye and Bombshells with Caroline O’Connor which toured both nationally and internationally, including the West End in London).
Among his many classical productions, Richard III, The Tempest, Julius Caesar,A Comedy of Errors and The Importance of Being Earnest (with Geoffrey Rush, Ruth Cracknell, Frank Thring and Gordon Chater) have all been seen around the country. Simon’s opera credits include: La Bohème and Falstaff for Opera Conference, L’Elisir d’Amore and Lulu for Opera Australia, The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni for Opera New Zealand (both transferred to Australia) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream andBilly Budd for Hamburg State Opera.
His many awards include: Green Room Awards for Best Direction and Best Production Lulu (Opera Australia 2004), Best Direction Proof (MTC 2002), Best Direction Bombshells (MTC 2001) and Best Direction of a Musical for Company (MTC 2001); Helpmann Awards for Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical for The Twenty-Fifth Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (MTC 2006), Best Play and Best Direction of a Play for Inheritance (MTC 2004), Best Visual or Physical Theatre Production and Best Presentation for Children for Twinkle Twinkle Little Fish (Windmill Performing Arts 2003). Bombshells won Best Solo Performance at the Theatregoers’ Choice Awards in London and a Fringe First Award at the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Simon along with his executive team, led by General Manager Ann Tonks, has been integral to the growth of the MTC Subscriber base. Through innovative and strategic programming Simon has increased the MTC Subscriber base by 75%, from 12,000 Subscribers in 1999 to over 21,000 Subscribers today – currently the largest theatre Subscriber base in the country.
Ten year ago Simon took the reins of a Company which had long held a place in the heart of Melbourne’s artistic community. Simon cemented that position and turned it into an incredibly successful company both financially and artistically. Through strong and inspirational leadership Simon has ensured the long term viability of the company leaving it in a wonderful shape for a new director.
Simon has been an inspiration to us all – his cheeky wit, charismatic charm and integrity will be sorely missed. We wish Simon all the very best with the next stage in his career.
In an announcement to MTC Staff Simon Phillips said: ‘It’s strange and sad to be leaving a company with which I’ve had such a long and passionate association. But it’s over a decade since I took up the reins and I feel it’s time someone else had a go. I’m not moving on to bigger and better things, because for me there is nothing better than the MTC. It’s simply the right time – the major goals I had for the Company have been reached, we have a theatre of our own, new premises for our administration and the highest subscription base in the country – so now it’s appropriate that someone with a fresh energy and vision take the Company forward into its next decade. The rewards of making theatre are inestimable, and I’ve been supported by an immensely loyal, hard working and cheerful staff, so there’s much I will miss, but I know that everyone (including me!) will grasp the opportunities of change with renewed excitement and vigour’.
An international search for a new Artistic Director and Chief Executive for Melbourne Theatre Company will commence shortly. The appointment will commence work at some point in 2011 to program the MTC 2012 Season.