So we have seen how Theatre People came about, now we are going to see the growth and development of the website.

How exactly did a Head Honcho, an Administration Manager, a Financial Controller and two Editors grow into a team of eleven people; with a Webmaster, two Web Administrators, a Reviews Manager, and not one, not two or three, but FOUR Editors?! Not to mention the scores of regular feature writers and reviewers? Too many people to name! If I had to have a stab at the question I’ve just posed, I’d say… hard work and long hours. Not to mention a few controversies, a lot of gossip, and hundreds and hundreds of fine productions, with out which we would have nothing to write about!

Where we last left Tristan Lutze, he had taken over the editing reigns from Julia Sutherland, was updating ALL of the content on the site as well as generating editorial content. Come 2006, after five years of getting up at an ungodly hour to update (the things we Editors do for news!) it’s no wonder he needed to hand the mantle over. However, not without reflecting first! After all what would an Editor be without an Editorial?! “Theatre People started huge. Came out of the gates fast. So I’m not sure I can say that it grew an enormous amount during my time, but I consider it a huge accomplishment that, in an age of short attention spans and in a sub-culture with a high-turnover rate, that it didn’t drop. It stayed relevant. It kept changing based on what people wanted. Chris is incredible like that- he keeps his finger on the pulse and isn’t afraid of the big changes. My biggest personal milestone, I think, was the establishment of the TP Choice Awards. I’m also proud of the coverage of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, where we interviewed Jason Robert Brown, Georgia Stitt and Lauren Kennedy.”

Enter Adam Rafferty, plus supporting players… “I’d written a couple of reviews for TP, commissioned usually by the then Reviews Co-ordinator of the day, Sarah Cliff. I’d also known Hughesy for some years having performed in West Side Story at CLOC and Mystery of Edwin Drood at Heidelberg with both him and his now wife Sally back in 2001. I got involved with the site in an official capacity around June 2006, just as Tristan Lutze was standing down as Editor, when myself and Peter Phillips agreed to taking over from Tristan as Co-Editors of the site. At the same time Jonothan Sebastian took over all uploading work and moderation of TP Talk, which miracle worker Tristan had handled on his own along with all the writing up until that point. (It’s no wonder he had to stand down from the site, it must have taken up every free moment he had!)”

“After a short teething period of working on the site, we determined that the best way for Peter and I to balance the workload was for him to look after Amateur musicals and School Shows, while I would look after Pro Theatre and Amatuer Plays – I attempted to get Regional kicking too with a guy up in Yarrawonga who was keen to get involved, but that didn’t end up amounting to much more than a few articles. Peter stood down after a while and I looked after things on my own (with Hughesy’s contributions) before Mel and then Simon came on board.”

“What I’ve enjoyed most about working on TP has been the opportunity to stretch my wings in my other passion (beyond theatre), which is writing. The most exciting example of that for me was when I took the initiative to attend the press launch of the professional production of Spamalot, as both a ‘member of the press’ and a ‘photographer’! I pushed my way in to the photographic scrum on a cold morning in Fed Square and got some great shots (by my standards!) of the cast. Then I lined up and waited my turn behind the Herald Sun and The Age and the radio stations to interview all three cast members at the launch. It wasn’t something I was expected to do, but I was glad that I did as it taught me a lot about the interview process (by working with a couple of seasoned interviewees) and what was involved for the press and PR company in such an event.”

“That said, I also had super fun taking shots for one particular article I worked on with Jacqui Bunting about surviving audition rejection. I’ve also enjoyed, and often still do, attending opening nights at the MTC – even if sometimes it meant a difficult-to-write review was the price I had to pay! But those fun moments helped make the many nights of sitting in my flat on my lonesome, tapping away until the wee small hours, on an article that maybe only a handful of people read, worthwhile.” Around June last year Adam officially stood down as an Editor on the site – by which point he’d spent three years as an editor for Theatre People – but did agree to stay on as a regular reviewer, particularly for MTC productions, due the excellent relationship he established with them during his time as Editor.

So, this is the part where I come in… At the end of 2006, when TP were advertising for people to write in the newly launched Theatre People Paper produced by the immensely talented Gavin D Andrew, I wrote up a two page composition on ‘Why I Love Theatre’ or something of similar soppiness, and sent it off not knowing what to expect. It was so thrilling for a 21 year old to see her own words and stories in print! In 2007, I was so thrilled that Hughsey and thanked me personally for writing articles in his Christmas Message, I rang my Mum and told her. In 2008, when I joined the ‘real world’ after finishing Uni, Chris asked me to join the team as Musical Theatre Editor and I was just blown away. I wasn’t quite sure why he wanted me, but I loved writing for TP and this way I could write and help others write about what they loved too.

Initially, I constantly felt out of my depth! I remember the first time a reader complained about me (it wasn’t the last time either) I was just devastated. I wore my heart on my sleeve then! But as time wore on, with a lot of encouragement and advice from Chris and Adam, I am proud to have produced some excellent work with some fantastic writers. What have I learned? I don’t think I could mention every thing because we haven’t got all day! But I think that through working as Editor I have learned more about theatre, in both performance and production, by being exposed to so many wonderful shows. I have learnt about the varied types of theatre people who make up our weird and wonderful community, and I have met and befriended so many on the way. I have learned more about myself as a person and how I fit into our community.

I remember, early on, Jason Bovaird called me the “Paris Hilton of Theatre”. Obviously (well hopefully?!?!) he didn’t mean the awful reputation for partying and other things associated with her which I am too polite to mention… but that I was now a person of whom everybody knew about. A bit odd for a then 21 year old Uni student who lived in Belgrave, but his words turned out to be true. Even now I get introduced to someone in a foyer as ‘Mel’, but then when someone mentions my surname or Theatre People, this newly introduced person realises I’m “that Mel Trickey!”. To me, this means I have a position of social responsibility, and I take that very seriously.

It has been such a wonderful opportunity and I have been so lucky that Chris has continued to support me in such a way that I have been able to produce some excellent material, I’m very proud of what we do. In the two years that I have been Editor, we have expanded the site in such a manner that we at one stage had four Editors! When I first started, I handled all Amateur shows including youth companies and Plays. In 2009 when I just had Amateur Musicals to worry about, my work load still grew by 20%! So we are promoting more shows, and more types of theatre than ever.

Next Week: 2009 – a year of great expansion, reflections on the past, and looking to the future