The announcement comes on the day of MTC’s return to the stage with the first of its sold-out Summer Series performances, after ten and a half months offstage due to COVID-19.
In announcing his departure to the MTC team, Sheehy said, “It has been an honour to lead this extraordinary Company for the past eight years, and I am so proud of all we have achieved together,” he said.
“As MTC emerges from the darkest year in our history and looks towards the future, now is the right time to transition to a new artistic director to take MTC forward for the next years of its life.”
“I will leave this year with certainty that the 2021 program we have set for our recovery will see MTC survive and thrive, and again confirm our place as one of the pre-eminent arts organisations of the nation,” said Sheehy.
Over the nine seasons and more than 100 productions Sheehy has programmed for MTC, the Company grew to have the largest subscriber base of any theatre company in the country.
Under Sheehy’s direction, MTC also cemented its place as a company invested in its city and its artists through the introduction of industry-leading artist development programs, award-winning cross-artform collaborations, and a commitment to programming for young audiences.
“I have accomplished what I came here to do,” Sheehy added. “In addition to the brilliant works that have filled our stages, I am particularly proud of seven key initiatives that were part of my initial vision, and which I feel have made a positive and lasting impact on our broader cultural landscape.”
Highlights of Sheehy’s legacy include:
- The Company’s advancement of Australian playwrights with its landmark NEXT STAGE Writers’ Program, resulting in 50% of MTC’s programming now being new writing
- Championing the careers of women in the arts industry with the establishment of MTC’s Women Directors’ Program, which grew to become MTC’s Women in Theatre Program
- The dynamic shift and growth in diversity on MTC’s stages and amongst its writers – 41% of MTC’s 27 commissions since 2017 are by First Nations writers and people of colour
- Opening the Company to fresh, independent artistic voices with the national-first NEON Festival of Independent Theatre and its subsequent evolutions
- Seeing MTC’s work on multiple international stages including Rupert at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and Complexity of Belonging and North by Northwest in the UK, Europe and Canada
- Presenting stellar international productions on MTC’s stages – One Man, Two Guvnors, Once and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
- Cross-pollinating artforms through collaborations with artists from other genres including visual artist Callum Morton to design sets; television and film writers Working Dog and Benjamin Law as playwrights; co-creating works with dance company Chunky Move, Arena Theatre Company and Dead Puppets Society; and engaging songwriters Missy Higgins, Tim Rogers, Kate Miller-Heidke and Tim Finn as composers
Sheehy concluded his announcement by praising “the outstanding Chairs and Boards I’ve been honoured to work with, led by Derek Young AM, Terry Moran AC and Jane Hansen AO respectively; my tremendous MTC colleagues, in particular our co-CEO Virginia Lovett and our associate directors over the years; and the literally thousands of exceptional artists who have been and always will be the core and heart of all our endeavours.”
“It’s been a highlight of my life to serve this city since 2008 by leading two of its foremost arts organisations – first its international arts festival and then its flagship theatre company,” said Sheehy.
“Brett leaves a long and lasting legacy on MTC and we thank him for the outstanding contribution he has made to Victoria’s state theatre company,” said MTC Chair Jane Hansen AO. “He has overseen a great period of evolution at MTC, and we look forward to celebrating his achievements over the course of the year.”
“The search for his replacement will begin immediately as we look towards a new era of the Company,” said Hansen.
Act 2 of MTC’s 2021 program will be announced on Tuesday 16 March, featuring a subscription season of six new productions. For more information, visit: www.mtc.com.au for details.
Image: Brett Sheehy AO – courtesy of Melbourne Theatre Company