PROFILE | Zoe Street – Small Voices Louder’s Stage Manager

Posted by Cecile Lucas, March 23rd, 2017

Direct from its recent premiere at Perth International Arts Festival, Maybe (  ) Together’s participatory performance Small Voices Louder is all set to hit the road for a Regional tour across Western Australia next week. Taking part in this adventure is performer and anthropology graduate Zoe Street, whose first experience as Stage Manager has shed some light on a new career opportunity. I managed to catch up with Zoe just before she heads off to find out more about what this first experience has brought to her.


Cecile – Small Voices Louder is your first experience as Stage Manager, how did you become involved and what are some of the challenges that you are facing? 

It’s all about timing… I put my skills up for grabs when Performing Lines WA was on the look out for someone who was the right fit for the project. After a fairly unconventional job interview in a room full of bright yellow tents I found myself stage managing for the first time at PIAF with a show that I fell in love with on sight, so I guess I was the one for the job.

I’d say the biggest challenge would probably be getting to know the ins and outs of our wondrous set. The set is made of eight tents with a maze of paths connecting them and inside each tent there are miniature worlds. It’s all rather magical. However behind the magic there is an intricate tent construction process that involves arranging wooden frames with their matching inner layers, outer layers and bases, and a numerous array of peculiar props that bring the tents to life. After this season at PIAF I can call myself a cubby maintenance professional and the next big challenge will be taking it on the road.

Small Voices Louder is also quite different from the other productions you previously worked on, what do you like about it? Does that inspire you to pursue work in more participatory projects

Working on participatory performance projects was new to me so I loved observing the active exchange that occurs in the space. The work relies on responses from the participants and that’s what brings it to life and creates an impact on those participating and those who hear the voices in various public spaces.  As an anthropology graduate and artist this form of performance just makes sense and since being part of this project I’m left wondering why I didn’t find my way into this type of work sooner. Bring it on!


Next week you will be going on a regional tour with Small Voices Louder’s crew across Western Australia, what are you most excited about?

I’m really excited to get this work out to regional communities and hear what the children have to say about the way they see the world. The work provides a space for kids to think big and believe in their voice and also gives us adults such a startling insight into the wisdom they hold. Hearing the responses from the PIAF participants was very powerful and I’m looking forward to observing the similarities and differences that emerge as rural kids engage in the space. As we go to new places we’ll continue to build on the collection of children’s voices, which can hopefully capture a unique snapshot of the diversity of our state.


Are there any other productions you’d love to stage manage? Or any Artistic Directors you would love to work with?

Oh man this is hard, there are so many artists and companies I admire out there! Close to home pvi collective and Big Hart are two of my favourites. But I’m just going to go for gold here and say Bryony Kimmings and her current work The Boys Project would be a dream for me to be involved in. I saw Bryony’s work Fake It Til You Make It in 2014 and I left that show inspired and energised, so I always follow her work.

The Boys Project is a three year multi-platformed art activism project that works with young men from council estates in England. The project consists of a social campaign, theatre piece, education initiative and documentary, and this process of engaging with communities to integrate performance with social change initiatives is the type of work I believe in and would love to throw my energy into.


Do you have a favourite or most memorable experience from your career so far you would like to share with us?

I did a project a few years back where I interviewed Vietnam Veterans for a self devised show I wrote and performed called Speak to Me of War. I will always remember the camaraderie I felt as they invited me into their community and the generosity those men showed in openly sharing their experiences with me. It was such a privilege to hear their stories and I will always treasure that.


What do you have coming up after Small Voices Louder’s tour?

There are a few things in the works at the moment, but nothing I can really talk about just yet. I will say that I’m really keen to move in the direction of community arts work and socially engaged arts practice and see what that world has to offer. It’s all pretty new to me so I have some exploring to do but I’m drawn to projects that integrate social change initiatives with performance and participatory art.

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INTRODUCING… | Our new Associate Producer, Zainab Syed

Posted by Cecile Lucas, March 16th, 2017

Two months have passed since we welcomed Zainab Syed into the Performing Lines team as our new Associate Producer, and with her passionate and radiant personality, she has found her groove. Zainab has an impressive resume from working in the arts and humanitarian projects around the globe, and I couldn’t wait to delve into her history and discover what jewels lay underneath. In between her role at Performing Lines, and her many other engagements, she stopped for a quick, and eloquent chat with me…

Cecile: How did you first come across poetry and decide to become a spoken word artist?

As a Pakistani, poetry is tied to my very identity.  Allama Iqbal, the greatest poet of the 20th century in the Indian Subcontinent, was the one who once dreamed of Pakistan. If it wasn’t for him, the map would look very different today. So you can say, I was born into poetry, that it has been a part of my narrative long before I came into the fold.

As a young girl, I always carried a notebook so I wouldn’t ever forget the places and people I met living abroad, and the things I missed about home. Poetry for me, became a way to record my present, which was tied closely to my nostalgia for a past I kept looking for in ladybugs and mangoes everywhere I went.

When I went to boarding school in Wales (UWCAC) I first met people who loved words as much as I did and encouraged me to start writing. However, it was only when I went to Brown University, in the US, that I shared my poetry. In my first month there I saw a few poets “perform” poetry, which was new to me but had me completely enthralled. It seemed as though my love of poetry, and years of theatre suddenly got married and had a baby. I looked them up, attended the first meeting, was thoroughly intimidated but never looked back.

WORD! as it was called, became my home, and the poets of there, my family. I grew there as a writer, a performer, a person. They were my first teachers in love and loss, lessons I carry within me everywhere I go. After Brown, I took six months off to finish my book before I joined some kind of development consultancy, which didn’t really happen. Instead those six months turned into a year of touring and three years later…


Being a spoken word artist, is it hard to change between languages and still convey the same message, feelings or emotions?

I think speaking more than one languages adds a richness to expression that only strengthens my poems. The key driver of any poem, or performance is the sincerity with which it is written and then brought to a stage. If you are truly honest in your poem, even if it is in a different language, it will resonate with the audience. It is important to write what feels most authentic, otherwise it becomes archaic and the listener will sense the hypocrisy in your words.


You’ve traveled widely and experienced a broad range of performances. Is there a particular show or experience that still resonates with you today and why?

Wow, that’s a hard one! Life has brought so many experiences, and learning moments in my life. Perhaps one of the most significant one to date has been when I went on a retreat to Turkey in August 2015. I had been on tour for a year and just needed a place to stop, and breathe for more than a week. What I found at the retreat were treasures I am still unearthing. I was able to study with teachers who taught me the weight of words. The gravity of tradition. The richness of a legacy.

One of them shared a story from the Masnavi with me. In the story, the Persian poet, Rumi, points out that the world is in need of translators. People who can bridge communities, cultures and races in an attempt to celebrate the diversity in our thought and expression. Having had the honour of intimately knowing and loving many communities across the world, I have always been deeply humbled by the responsibility I have to portray the love, the resilience, the softness of the people I encountered. To use poetry as a mean to serve as translator. To share the untold stories, here and abroad. To be a vessel between people, between minds and between hearts. And then, to impart these universal human values to the next generation so that we can empower them to become even better translators.

Those three weeks shaped the kind of work I do, the poems I write and the way I try to live my life – open to love, in the face of hate, always, no matter how tender it may make me feel.


What were some career highlight/s before starting at Performing Lines WA?

In December 2014, and following a terrorist shooting in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, I was invited to coordinate the post terrorist attack response. The shooting had affected every student in Pakistan but no one paid enough attention to the long-term effects of such immense trauma. I feared the insecurity would cripple us if we did not create safe spaces that channeled the negativity into positive expression. After teaching art therapy and writing workshops in a few schools, I realised there was a huge need for safe and creative spaces for children to engage with the violence around them in a constructive manner. Creative spaces give breathing room. They tend to diffuse the negativity, and provide an alternative to violence.

My experiences in Peshawar and then in other cities in Pakistan were the catalyst for Pakistan Poetry Slam, a project under WORD Ink, a social enterprise I am lucky enough to have founded. The motivation for Pakistan Poetry Slam was solely to create a safe space for the next generation of Pakistani’s to articulate, express and respond to the violence around them in a non-violent manner. The aim is to empower the youth with language and revive the tradition of story-telling and poetry that runs through us. In its second year, we have expanded from one city to four and hope to continue doing so in the future!


You are primarily renowned for being an international performer, and you are now working for Performing Lines WA to help present other artists’ productions, is this your first step away from the spotlight or have you produced other shows before?

I had been curating spaces for creative expression in Australia, Pakistan and the United States before working at Performing Lines, however the roles were very diverse and not as formalized as this one. I am passionate about creating spaces that allow people to explore and express themselves through creative expression. Especially in the socio-political climate of today’s world I find it increasingly necessary to create such spaces because art opens doors between hearts and we need as many doors connecting as many hearts as we can.


What prompted you to expand to working with us, and how have you found the change from artist to Associate Producer?

I absolutely love it! I love the stage, but I didn’t realised how much I would also love being behind the scenes. It gives me a chance to really focus on nurturing and empowering other people to find voices, and occupy spaces in a meaningful and impactful kind of way. Instead of making my own way within the Australian arts landscape, which I have found quite hard to navigate as an outsider, I wanted to join an organization that was already established within the sector so I could learn and grow as a Producer. I couldn’t be luckier to have joined Performing Lines.


Can you tell us a bit more about some of the exciting projects you are working on for 2017?

Within my capacity as a Producer at Performing Lines WA I am currently working on the Small Voices Louder Regional Tour through Western Australia.

And I have a few other things up my sleeve for the second half of the year but I don’t want to spill all the beans!


You are also involved in a wide range of humanitarian works, where do you find the energy and time to do everything?

There is a saying in our tradition that the most successful people are those who are “ibn al waqt” which loosely translates as son of the moment. Which is to say, that in order to succeed one must be living in the present, fully. No procrastination. No to-do lists for the next day. But now, here, in this moment. A carpe diem of sorts.

There is so much to do in the world, and with the immense privilege I have been afforded, to always be engaged in endeavours that I absolutely love, I find it impossible to let life pass me by. I find that I must hustle, on all fronts, and offer what I can to the world. As much as I can. This is the only way I know how to show my gratitude for the myriad of opportunities I have been given.

If I work with that mindset, the energy comes, the blessings flow. I just have to keep reminding myself that it is okay to say “no” (twenty five years later I still haven’t learnt how) and that I don’t have to do everything or change the world even. As long as I’m working on being the best version of myself, I hope, one day that will inspire some small change.

Everybody loves a bit of procrastination and I am not exception but in those moments, I always remind myself of this poem:

And the days are not full enough

And the nights are not full enough

And life slips by like a field mouse

Not shaking the grass.

-Ezra Pound-

I hope to keep shaking the grass for as long as I have life in me.

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OPPORTUNITY | Navigating the touring jungle

Posted by Thom Smyth, February 14th, 2017

So you were one of the 750 shows that featured as part of this year’s Fringe World Festival. You think your show has legs, and you want another opportunity to revisit it and give it a further life. What do you do next?

There are many avenues for touring your show, but finding your way through the jungle can be a little daunting. Fear not – we’ve got a handy round up to help point you in the right direction for your work.

Our biggest tip – do your research! Jump onto some venue websites to see what they are programming – it’s the venues that make the ultimate decision what goes on their stages. Check out the showcase events and what sort of shows they are featuring. Have a chat to other artists who have toured.

Performing Lines & Performing Lines WA
At Performing Lines WA, we work with independent Western Australian contemporary artists to get their projects off the ground, including regional and national tours. Recent tours we have completed include Sensorium Theatre’s immersive production for children with disabilities, Oddysea, and The Skeletal System’s Great White by Will O’Mahony.

We also have offices in Sydney and Hobart. Our Sydney office works with artists and companies in any state, while Hobart focusses on Tasmanian artists.

Our focus is on producing contemporary performance – check out our artistic policy here. There are a number of other options that may be a better fit for more traditional theatre, comedy, circus and dance shows.


National Touring Selector
The first step to getting on the road is to head over to the National Touring Selector to register your production. The NTS is a virtual market for performing arts, bringing together producers and presenters, and offering a comprehensive list of resources and contacts. It is also used by many of the showcase events to take registrations of shows.


Country Arts WA
Western Australia has a number of options available to support and tour your production. Country Arts WA may be a good first stop for you. They offer an annual Shows on the Go program touring self-contained productions to a mix of managed and volunteer run venues. Want to know more?

Shows on the Go program
Shows on the Go promotes professional, self-contained productions, and is a community-driven touring model where regional venues vote for the productions they would most like to see performed in their town. An annual Shows on the Go Touring Menu is produced via shows registered on the National Touring Selector website. For information for touring in 2018, please contact the touring team at

Maybe (   ) Together’s Small Voices Louder successfully pitched at WA Showcase 2016.

This is a state-based showcase bringing together West Australian artists and companies with presenters and venues. The Circuitwest WA Showcase will be held on 10 til 12 May 2017 at the Subiaco Arts Centre. Circuitwest is the peak body representing Presenters and Producers in Western Australia.

At last year’s showcase, Alex Desebrock of Maybe (   ) Together pitched the aMoment Caravan and Small Voices Louder. Performing Lines WA picked up Small Voices Louder, and we’ve just opened the premiere at Perth International Arts Festival, while aMoment Caravan just completed a successful season as part of The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights program.

Submissions are open until 1 March 2017 and feature a variety of different categories to represent your work in the showcase. To submit your show for consideration, click here.

Not sure about pitching? We’d recommend attending a day to see how it all works and seeing if it’s an appropriate forum for your show.

Also – check out the Circuitwest website for a list of venues, news and more.


APACA PAX (Performing Arts Exchange)
The Performing Arts Exchange (PAX) is the Australian Performing Arts Centres Association’s (APACA) networking and tour development event. The accompanying APACA Conference also offers professional development opportunities with international guest speakers. This year’s event will take place in Sydney from 21 to 24 August 2017. Applications to present at the event will open in April.

Showbroker, a new performing arts market opportunity, will be launched in Adelaide from 27 February to 1 March 2017, during the Adelaide and Adelaide Fringe festivals. Producers of tour-ready work will be pitching – check out the full program here>>

arTour is Queensland’s state-based touring coordinator. It supports performing artists and producers from all around the country to tour work through regional Queensland. arTour runs an annual touring showcase event and will be hosted at the Redland Performing Arts Centre on 21 and 22 March 2017. Applications to pitch have now closed – keep an eye out for next year.

Regional Arts Victoria
Regional Arts Victoria are Victoria’s touring body. Partnering with the Victorian Association of Performing Arts Centres (VAPAC),  Regional Arts Victoria runs an annual performing arts marketplace Showcase Victoria – this year’s event will be held at Malthouse Theatre from 31 May – 1 June 2017. Applications to pitch have now closed – keep an eye out for next year.

Nicola Gunn’s Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster. Performing Lines secured a recent New York season at APAM 2016.


Australian Performing Arts Market
If you think your show has international appeal, the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) is Australia’s internationally focused event for contemporary performing arts. Held bi-annually in Brisbane, applications to be part of the 2018 program will open later this year.


A range of funding is available to individuals and performing arts organisations for touring.

The Department of Culture and the Arts (DCA)
The Regional and Remote Touring Fund (RRTF) supports performing arts shows touring to regional and remote towns and communities in Western Australia, and is available for performing arts organisation or artists with a ‘tour ready’ show who can demonstrate support from a minimum of two regional presenters, venues, or communities in regional WA.

Smaller tours may be possible through the Creative and Commercial Development grants system – click here for more info>>

Travel-only support is also available to assist with the costs of pitching at interstate showcase events. Check out the Commercial Development Grants Program for more info.

Australia Council for the Arts
The Playing Australia: Regional Performing Arts Touring program supports performing arts to reach regional and remote communities  across Australia. These grants are available for individuals and organisations to support the net touring costs associated with national (multi-state) touring.

Smaller tours may be possible through their other grants programs. Click here for more info>>


Both arTour and Circuitwest websites offer a collection of helpful resources, including tips, templates and videos, when planning a tour.

Still confused? Give us a shout! Shoot an email through to Thom Smyth, Marketing Manager –

NEWS | Rachael Whitworth reports on ISPA & IPAY

Posted by Cecile Lucas, February 9th, 2017

Our Producer Rachael Whitworth has just returned from a trip to the US, concluding her engagement with the ISPA Australia Council Legacy Program. She attended the ISPA Congress in New York, and the International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase in Wisconsin. Too excited to hear all about it, Cecile did not leave her time to catch her breath, and quizzed her on the international experience.

Cecile: You’ve recently attended the International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) Showcase in Wisconsin, as well as the International Society for Performing Arts (ISPA) Congress in New York. Can you tell us a bit about each?

Rachael: I have been an ISPA Australia Council fellow for the past four years. This has been an amazing opportunity to be a part of the global fellows program which fosters emerging and mid-career arts workers from around the world. The fellows come together for a day before the official congress and it is always my favourite part of the program. It provides insight and understanding of arts practice from around the globe and makes me feel very lucky to be living and working in Australia. Some of the fellows literally risk their lives in their quest to create and distribute art in their home countries.

There is a strong focus on leadership at ISPA: how can we make arts relevant to our communities and continue a legacy of the arts as a mechanism for inclusion and change? This year, the theme was ‘Currents of Change: Arts, Power + Politics’. This focal point was intensified by the state of politics around the world and sharpened the lens on the need for the Arts to provide a voice for those who are being silenced whilst offering insight and a different way of thinking for others.

IPAY is a market and showcase for theatre created for young people. This is a smaller gathering of about 200 people and everyone is extremely friendly and open! The program literally runs from 9am to 11pm every day, with full shows presented, break-out discussions around particular topics, 15 minute pitch sessions and an exhibition hall for meetings. It was pretty exhausting as the four-day showcase was packed but I met a lot of presenters and saw plenty of international work, both good and bad.

What have you found the benefit of these sorts of event to be for the artists you’re working with and for you as a producer?
ISPA is a professional development opportunity for me as a Producer. I have dramatically expanded my international network and have a better picture of how the arts industry operates in different countries around the world. Many of the people I have formed relationships with I may never work directly but certainly some of this network may lead to opportunities for artists. Indeed, we’ve a couple of exciting presentation opportunities in the pipeline….

Travelling to both ISPA and IPAY also provides exposure to a lot of performances that helps to benchmark arts practice in Australia. And so, this benefits artists that we work with at Performing Lines WA as I have a context for what is happening in performance practice around the world and how the work made in Western Australia may or may not fit in different markets.

Did you see any shows that were amazing?
There are lots of festivals happening in NY in January and I try to see as many shows as I can. You might expect everything you see internationally to be amazing when in fact, there is an equal amount of good and bad everywhere. I saw an amazing dance work for young people And then… by Claire Parsons Co (Sweden), The Polar Bears Go up by Fish and Game (UK) and Shh!  We have a plan by Cahoots (Northern Ireland) at IPAY.

And Then...’ by Claire Parsons Co

My favourite shows in NY were part of COIL Festival by PS122: Forced Entertainment’s Real Magic was incredible – it repeated a 10 minute section of a reality show over and over for 90 mins; and A Study on Effort by Bobbi Jene Smith, an intense dance work with a live violinist.

A Study on Effort by Bobbi Jene Smith

How does Australian work you’ve seen compare to the sorts of shows presented at these markets?
The good news is the Australian shows at both conferences were awesome, and some of the best in the program! Nicola Gunn’s Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster (produced by Performing Lines) and Antony Hamilton’s MEETING were standouts at COIL Festival, and Slingsby Theatre’s The Young King won the Victor Award for best show at IPAY as voted by attendees.

I think the standard of Australian work is very high. Much of the best work I saw, particularly in NY, has something very important to say about the world. Whenever I return to Australia, I always have a refreshed sense of making sure we work on projects that not only have artistic rigour but also a clear focus on what the work is trying to say or reflect about our society today.

So imagine I’m a producer from a small-to-medium and/or an independent artist. What advice would you give to me if I’m considering attending a big arts market like these, PAX or APAM?
If you can, I highly recommend attending before you go with something to sell. It’s a chance to meet people, see how other artists and companies represent their shows, and get a feel for how it all works.

If you are wanting your work to tour, you need to have that in your mind from the outset and create the work to be nimble and tourable. That doesn’t necessarily mean small, or cheap-looking, or that its fits into a suitcase, but that it’s smart and made with an eye to how it will pack up and hit the road. Australian work is very expensive to get anywhere, so really consider the set and your cast and touring party size. Good images and interesting description of the work is important in getting people to engage with your idea and form, in what is often, a very competitive and tiring environment.

I think it is always best for presenters to actually see work live which I know is not always possible at these markets. If you know why you have made the work and who you made it for, you can quickly and succinctly direct your work to the presenters who are actually interested.

Got other questions about pitching your work? We can help. Have a chat with Rachael, Fiona or Thom. Shoot us an email at
Stay tuned for our rundown of upcoming arts markets, and for Thom’s Top Tips for preparing tour marketing materials.

PROFILE | Alex Desebrock – Maybe ( ) Together

Posted by Cecile Lucas, January 31st, 2017


Small Voices Louder is an interactive show in two parts, where kids are invited to play and explore an installation that prompts them to express what they really think, with their frank, fearless and funny answers. The second part takes these recorded answers and delivers them to adult ears through radio and public space.

Leading up to the premiere of Small Voices Louder produced by Performing Lines WA at the 2017 Perth Festival, Cecile caught up with Maybe ( ) Together’s lead artist Alex Desebrock to find out why our smallest people can have the loudest voices.

Your works generally position children as the instigators and central figures in each performance. Has this concept always been inherent to your work or was there an impetus that sparked your interest in engaging young voices?

I’ve always wanted to create circuit breakers for people from reality. An opportunity to think big, connect and feel. I kept making this kind of works for adults – but kept getting programmed for children audiences.

I then had this moment in an early work called A Little Piece where six audience members were stuck together in a room with one child. They all LOVED having that child there to watch them open doors, react and made their experience of this immersive puppet world even more magical.

I also realised that children often tell me exactly what I need to hear. And that if you’re not around kids much, you wouldn’t hear their crazy, blunt, inspiring, honest, hopeful, guilt-inducing words.
And really – we need to think more about the next generation, right?

For the development of Small Voices Louder you worked with children in both regional and metropolitan Victoria. Did you find the responses differed between the two? How did that inform the show?

Not especially. It’s really hard to make generalisations about different children’s audiences when you only share the work with about 50 kids I think.

There is one question that asks them to describe their town/city to an Alien. This definitely provides differences and you hear what rural kids lives are like in comparison to city kids. Rural kids talk about space, the big city being the local town whereas City children talk about the attractions, the pros and cons of living in a city and things like that. I am looking forward to finding out more about this at PIAF and then on our regional tour later in 2017.

In the second part of Small Voices Louder, children’s responses are played to adults to elicit reactions and consideration. Do you find your work also triggers conversations amongst the children?

The children wonder through the first part in pairs. This means we do hear their conversations. You can hear their minds working as they try to find the right words for things, correct each other and add to their thoughts.

What was your first experience of participatory theatre? What made you want to become a contemporary maker yourself?

I always go back to The Angel Project by Deborah Warner which I saw when I was 16 at PIAF.  It blew my mind. I had this amazing experience of being in a secret poem in my own city. It made me see the world differently and I realised the power of audience autonomy in a work.

I believe art can provide the space for connection, new perspectives and ultimately better decisions. Life gets so busy we find it hard to stop and think big, daringly, boldly with values, ethics and consideration. Art’s complexity allows transcendence – and this is why I keep making art.

You recently came back to your home town, Perth, after working in Melbourne. Was this move motivated by a desire to be part of Perth’s evolving artistic scene?

Perth has certainly boomed over the last 10 years I wasn’t here! I was getting a bit envious of the fun things happening and those feelings I had when I moved of being in the Arts Capital of Australia had shifted.

But it wasn’t only this. I wanted to make art in a space with differing opinions and beyond a well-trained arts audience.

I also just wanted to be back with the salty air and blue skies. And my dog wanted the dog beaches here.

What do you find the most challenging in creating performances for and with children?

The thing with children is that they are often dragged or pushed into an arts experience. Either with their school, or well-meaning parent. So – you have to work very hard to make it engaging – because (of course) they will be very clear about it if they don’t like it.

I think this is the hardest part. Making it interesting for differing ages and personalities. It’s not easy!

Small Voices Louder by Maybe (   ) Together
Produced by Performing Lines WA | Presented by Perth International Arts Festival
10 February – 5 March 2017 | State Theatre Centre of WA

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