One of Australia’s great cultural leaders and directors, Lee’s key achievements at Griffin Theatre Company include collaborating with Australian writers to bring dozens of new works to the national stage; unprecedented critical success and audience growth; bold, risky and ambitious programming; gender parity and diversity across programming, casting and staffing; and cultivating the next generation of Australian writers and creatives.
“Lee is an incredible artist and leader of the highest integrity, who leaves Griffin in extraordinary shape,” says Bruce Meagher, Griffin Theatre Company Chair. “Under the six years of her directorship the company has gone from strength to strength, delivering extraordinary work, nurturing new and original voices, and reaching and inspiring new and diverse audiences.”
“While we are very sad to be losing Lee, we are delighted she will be continuing to play a central role in shaping Australian theatre. The staff and Board wish her every success in the future,” he added.
Current Queensland Theatre Artistsic Director, Sam Strong, said he was delighted that Lee Lewis would be the next Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre.
“Lee Lewis and I have shared an office, we’ve co-directed shows, and we have sat together with playwrights into the early hours of the morning talking about their work, and now we will have passed the baton of custodianship of two great companies in Griffin and Queensland Theatre,” he said.
“Lee is an artist and a leader of the highest integrity and intelligence. I’m incredibly proud of how Queensland Theatre has transformed in the last few years, and I can’t wait to see where Lee, in collaboration with the Executive Director Amanda Jolly, take it in the future,” he added.
Many of Lee Lewis’ productions have been nominated for awards but most notably, Angus Cerini’s The Bleeding Tree won three Helpmann Awards including Best Play, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Director.
Lewis’ directorial successes are many. For Griffin she has directed The Bleeding Tree (Best Director at the 2016 Helpmann Awards), Splinter, Prima Facie, The Almighty Sometimes, Kill Climate Deniers, Gloria, Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography, The Homosexuals or ‘Faggots’, Rice, Masquerade (co-directed with Sam Strong), Emerald City, A Rabbit for Kim Jong-il, Replay, Silent Disco, The Bull, The Moon and the Coronet of Stars, The Call, A Hoax and The Nightwatchman.
For Griffin and Bell Shakespeare, she directed The Literati; and for Bell Shakespeare, The School for Wives and Twelfth Night. For Belvoir her directorial line-up includes That Face, This Heaven, 2000 Feet Away, Half and Half, A Number, 7 Blowjobs and Ladybird, and for Melbourne Theatre Company, Gloria, Hayfever and David Williamson’s Rupert, which toured to Washington DC as part of the World Stages International Arts Festival and to Sydney’s Theatre Royal in 2014.
For Sydney Theatre Company, her roll call includes Mary Stuart, Honour, Love Lies Bleeding and ZEBRA!; for Australian Theatre for Young People, Battlegrounds and Citizenship; for Darwin Festival, Highway of Lost Hearts; for NIDA, After Dinner, Big Love, Shopping and Fucking, and The Winter’s Tale, and for WAAPA, As You Like It. She directed the revival of Max Lambert’s and Katharine Thompson’s musical Darlinghurst Nights for The Hayes.
Growing up in country New South Wales, Lee started as an actor in regional theatre. After completing a BA (Hons) at the University of Sydney, she moved to New York to study under Andrei Serban and Anne Bogart at Columbia University completing an MFA (Acting). A successful New York career as an actor saw her working on and off Broadway with the great directors Julie Taymor, Robert Woodruff, Andre Gregory, Andrei Serban, and Tina Landau.
Returning to Australia in 2001, she was the first person to receive a Masters of Fine Arts from NIDA in Directing. Her thesis was published by Currency Press as a Platform Paper under the title Cross-Racial Casting: Changing the Face of Australian Theatre.
Lee said leading Queensland Theatre artistically was exciting because of the enormous potential for growth rather than change. “The company needs to continue to commit to the directions and ideals laid down in the last five years so that the home audience can start to deeply own and celebrate the achievements of its theatre company,” she said.
“Because that is what we all want in the end isn’t it? Great nights in the theatre watching great actors telling great stories in surprising ways that make you want to rush home and insist that your daughter, your son, your best friend, your aunt who is a nurse and doesn’t have a lot of time off, must buy a ticket and see it. Building audience means making sure every show counts,” Lee added..
Lee will commence with Queensland Theatre in January 2020. The Board of Directors of Griffin Theatre Company will begin the search for a new Artistic Director in the coming months. For more information, visit: www.griffintheatre.com.au or www.queenslandtheatre.com.au for details.
Image: Lee Lewis (supplied)