Coming from a rich and varied background as a director, creator, producer, programmer, writer, event manager, workshop facilitator and French interpreter, Sally Blackwood recently began her latest role as Associate Director in Residency for Patch Theatre Company.
Blackwood’s appointment to the role is the second in a series of three seven-week positions offered by the South Australian children’s theatre company, with director and arts educator Naomi Edwards filling the first position in 2013, and the third appointment set to take place between June and September 2014. The highly-coveted position involves creative development in new and existing works, consulting on expenditure and budgets, overseeing rehearsals and performances and reporting regularly to the Board of Management.
With her experience working with children’s and youth productions and her innovative style, Blackwood was an obvious choice for the second appointment, according to Patch Theatre Artistic Director Dave Brown. “It is a joy to share the artistic comings and goings of the company’s day to day activities with Sally who is astute, passionate and talented”.
Blackwood began her career in film production before moving into the performing arts, where she produced for the Sydney Opera House from 2002 to 2007. Since then she has worked with acclaimed companies such as Jigsaw Theatre Company and C!RCA Contemporary Circus, in addition to collaborating on many other events and projects including the Sydney and Melbourne Festivals.
Although the Associate Director in Residency has introduced Blackwood to many new experiences and challenges, she says that her diverse background has given her a unique perspective on the process at Patch Theatre Company.
“I think, because I work as a producer and a director, I believe the skills of an artistic director are both of those things; understanding the budgets, understanding the schedules and the timelines from the producer’s point of view, and having the artistic creativity and being able to dream and get in the rehearsal room and run a rehearsal and create something beautiful is the other side of it,” she said.
“I think my skills on both sides come together with this… it’s good to have the next step and be able to take all of that and put it into a big, main stage company.”
Currently about halfway through her appointment, Blackwood describes the experience as “fantastic”, both because of the fast-paced learning environment and the excellent opportunities for networking and learning from members of the Patch Theatre Company such as Artistic Director Brown.
“Dave is so generous with his time, allowing me to be a part of every conversation and the development of things that will be down the track, maybe next year or maybe a couple of years after that.” she said.
Although this is the first time Blackwood has been an official member of the Patch team, Blackwood has been working with Patch, and Brown, for over ten years through her engagement with the Sydney Opera House. After producing her first ever show with the Opera House, Patch’s Who Sank the Boat in 2002, Blackwood says she fell in love with their individual, detailed approach.
“The work is beautiful. It’s very detailed and very specifically aimed for 4-8 year olds and within that they’ve created a niche really, and they create inventive, beautiful work for children,” she said.
After her appointment ends in just under a month, Blackwood will return to a busy schedule of independent projects, including an operatic double bill for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music of Mozart and Menotti, and work in Berlin with Sasha Waltz and Guests. However, Blackwood says she plans to maintain a strong relationship with Patch Theatre Company and hopes that the theatre company extends its current programme for Artistic Directors in Residency.
“I’m really glad that Patch Theatre Company is doing this and I believe it’s much more than a succession plan for the company; I think it’s incredible mentoring for upcoming artistic directors. They’re looking to continue it and I hope they do … I think it’s brilliant for the industry to have some mentoring in place. I think it’s a really important thing.” she said.