When Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett took up their positions as Artistic Directors of the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) in January 2008, the eyes of an industry were on them. Questions were about to be answered – was Upton experienced enough? Was Blanchett’s appointment simply a case of Star Power? Would the duo’s focus be on the company or elsewhere?
Fast forward to January 2010 and as the Sydney Theatre Company enters a bold new era, those questions and many others have been answered. The company is emerging from what was a questionable artistic presence into the leading theatre company in Australia once again, with its 2010 season as edgy as it is artistically impressive.
And the year has started with the news that Upton and Blanchett have re-signed with the STC until the end of 2013.
STC Chairman Ian Darling – who will depart the company soon – said Upton and Blanchett have made a huge impact on the company since the departure of long-term Artistic Director Robyn Nevin at the end of 2007.
“In their first two years they’ve transformed the Company and the way many people feel about it,” Darling said.
“I’m pleased they will stay to build on what they have already achieved in terms of quality and diversity of productions, artform development and education.”
Amongst those diverse productions is the edgy Broadway musical Spring Awakening, which opens next month. AussieTheatre.com first revealed plans were underway for a production of Spring Awakening two years ago, and it has proved a major drawcard for the 2010 season.
Recently, it helped the STC break its one-day box office record when 2010 subscriptions went on sale.
Financially, the appointment of Upton and Blanchett has also been a coup. They have secured several big deals, including a major sponsorship with Audi which was renewed this week.
“We’re extremely pleased to continue our partnership with Sydney Theatre Company as Principal Sponsor,” said Audi’s Managing Director, Joerg Hofmann.
“Following on from a very successful relationship that began in 2006, an additional two years will see Audi and STC forge an even stronger bond between our great brands. Our goal is to ensure that the sheer progressiveness of both Audi and STC is highlighted by the sponsorship.
“We believe that it’s incredibly important to give back to the community that supports us through our cultural sponsoring program, and with five years of record growth under our belts, we remain committed to bringing progressive performance to the stage with STC, and in turn, to the Australian community.”
Whilst the re-signing of Upton and Blanchett as Artistic Directors and the secured sponsorship with Audi gives the STC stability, there will be some changes happening at the Wharf.
General Manager Rob Brookman is leaving in May. As the longest serving person ever in that role, it will mean some day-to-day changes at the STC as new and fresh ideas are implemented.
For Brookman, it will be an emotional time.
“Deciding to leave Sydney Theatre Company has been an enormously difficult decision,” Brookman said.
“The years that I have spent with the Company have been some of the most challenging and fulfilling of my life. When I joined the Company in 1999, I never thought for a minute that I would stay for a decade because a job such as this is one that both stimulates and burns you up in equal measure. While my passion for the Company is undiminished, I know that the right time to jump off this particular locomotive is while my energies are still high.”
The success of 2010 seems confirmed, with only reviews left to determine the artistic and cast decisions that have been made for productions.