As the company edges towards 30 years, Darlinghurst Theatre Company is thrilled to unveil a new two-pronged leadership team with our current Co-Artistic Director Amylia Harris promoted as sole Artistic Director and founding CEO Glenn Terry taking on the newly created role of Executive Director.
This restructuring is accompanied by Terry’s announcement that he plans to retire in early 2022, signalling the start of a search for his successor.
“This is a huge moment for us, with our founder and leader stepping aside,” said Chair of the DTC Board, Vicki Middleton. “Glenn made his intentions clear to me some time ago, so it’s a day we knew would come and have been working towards.”
“We arrive at this point following a period of exponential growth under Glenn’s leadership. In order to continue to facilitate this growth, strengthen our company, responsibly manage our artistic and business priorities and look after our people, we are transitioning to a new dual leadership model, under an Artistic Director and Executive Director of equal rank.”
“In Amylia Harris we have an exceptional and worthy successor as our new Artistic Director, and we couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Ms Middleton.
For Glenn Terry, this has been a long time coming, and the culmination of many years spent searching for the right person to whom he could entrust his legacy – someone who understands that social inclusion is part of the Darlo DNA.
Inclusion has been a hallmark of Glenn Terry’s work, since the 1992 establishment of Darlo Drama, an acting school for adults of all ages and from all walks of life. The following year he presented an all-female staging of Waiting for Godot, before founding Milk Crate Theatre, which is celebrating 21 years of theatre making specifically by and with people who have lived experience of homelessness, mental health issues and disability.
In 2005 Terry established Critical Stages Touring to deliver outstanding independent productions to every corner of the nation, and in 2009, after many years of lobbying for a larger space, the City of Sydney invited Terry to collaborate on the design and construction of the 200-seat Eternity Playhouse, which became the home of Darlinghurst Theatre Company in 2013.
The company’s former home, which Terry had also fitted out at the Reginald Murphy Hall in Potts Point, now houses the Hayes Theatre. Few people can claim to have given a city two brand new theatres and founded four unique performing arts organisations that continue to thrive.
Glenn Terry has done just that. With all these achievements behind him, Terry is confident he can finally hand over the artistic reigns to a new Artistic Director and begin the process of transitioning out of the company he’s spent the last thirty years building.
“Amylia’s arrival six years ago was the final piece of that puzzle,” said Mr Terry. “She really gets what the heart and soul of Darlo is and, more importantly, she can take it to the next level. Not only has she figured out ways to keep producing, but she’s also led the way for the development of our cultural policy.”
In 2020, Terry handed the creative reigns to Harris and it was her ground-breaking programming that allowed ‘Darlo’ to successfully weather the impact of COVID-19 and be one of the first theatres anywhere in the world to reopen after the first lockdown.
Beginning with Red Carpet Cabaret in June last year and the subsequent Bloom Festival, Harris reactivated the theatre space and uncovered new ways of engaging artists and audiences as government restrictions on public gatherings eased.
In doing so, she transformed their home – the Eternity Playhouse – into a scalable cultural hub combining live entertainment with indoor and outdoor dining in a truly immersive experience.
Prior to the most recent lockdown, productions in this year’s season continued that trend with a three-day body positive burlesque festival titled Big Thick Energy; the transformation of the downstairs foyer into a New York-style piano bar and the birth of Sydney’s newest jazz club with Darlo Underground and open-mic Thirsty Thursdays; a variety show cum visual statement The People of Cabaret: We Are Here celebrating the diversity in the cabaret industry; and the smash-hit Australian premiere of jasmine lee jones’ seven methods of killing kylie jenner.
With a program that boasts everything from cabaret to newly-developed Australian works and innovative new productions of well-known musicals, such as the smash hits Once and A Chorus Line, the company has also taken a stand for radical empowerment and inclusion, committing to a diversity of representation across its entire structure.
“Now the theatre really is a meeting point in which an exchange of ideas can take place,” said Mr Terry. “Amylia has demonstrated incredible leadership by employing artists to plan and expand a future for the company we want to become.”
“For me, theatre is a communal celebration,” said Amylia Harris. “It is a destination for people to gather around an idea. Radical change can be achieved through art, but you’re not going to do it on your own or by playing by the rules.”
2022 will still be very much a year of recovery and there is much to be done to transition from survive to thrive. Harris plans to contribute to the post-COVID comeback with joy.
“I see joy as an act of resistance. It can promote resilience and break down barriers and that really excites me,” said Ms Harris.
Harris has been described as impact driven rather than form driven, and she agrees. “I like to surprise and be surprised,” she says. “’I’m interested in the exploration of form and the magic that can occur in the intersection of styles and practices. There are thousands of ways to tell a story.”
“If you build trust with your artists and your audience, you can deliver an experience quite unlike anything that’s gone before. I’ve developed my high curatorial standards through continual learning,” said Ms Harris.
In taking on these curatorial responsibilities, Harris has the complete confidence of Terry and the Board. “Amylia has a really good artistic eye, from the exploratory to the commercial,” said Mr Terry. “None of her choices are just about her – she’s all about the people.”
“Through respect and deep listening, I can find myself invited into spaces where it’s possible to discover new trends developing. If a work is being lauded by community leaders, that is something I must take note of.”
“Often these new ideas can develop and inspire cultural shifts and artistic movements. I like to expose myself to as many different ideas as possible, selecting those that will be celebrated by a broader audience,” said Mr Terry.
Harris’ plans to cater to the mainstream while challenging ideas and form don’t preclude more commercial titles from her program. “Such shows are part of our roadmap,” she says. “You could say they’re our tools of survival. For example, our playwright development program is funded by our commercial revenue.”
“That’s not to suggest that we produce commercial musicals just to make money, we must be unwavering in our commitment to champion inclusion and belonging.”
“Both Once and A Chorus Line have challenging ideas – cultural inclusion being just one of them – and they’re exceptional works produced by artists of the highest calibre,” said Ms Harris.
This proven track-record of excellence that Harris looks for in others is also what the Board sees in her and has led to this latest appointment.
“Amylia is a visionary, creative, deeply generous artistic leader who will continue to shape the company under her own vision in its next era, whilst staying true to the values and ethos instilled by Glenn that makes Darlo so special; a legacy we look forward to celebrating and upholding.” said Vicki Middleton
Amylia Harris will lead the 2022 artistic program and planning process. More details regarding the search for a new Executive Director will be made available on the Darlinghurst Theatre Company website in mid-October. For more information, visit: www.darlinghursttheatre.com for details.
Image: Amylia Harris – photo by Clare Hawley