Arena Theatre Company have joined the Victorian Government and the City of Greater Bendigo to announce that the company, one of Australia’s oldest and most exciting theatre-makers for young people, will re-establish itself as a regionally-based theatre company in Bendigo.
In a bold and innovative move, the Melbourne-based company has worked closely with the Victorian Government and the City of Greater Bendigo to forge a new direction as the first resident theatre company at Bendigo’s Capital Theatre complex.
Long-established as one of the country’s most significant theatre makers for young audiences, Arena faced an uncertain future beyond 2016 due to loss of Australia Council funding. Rather than scale back its ambitions, the company explored alternative ways to further develop its long-term engagement with artists and audiences.
Arena’s school workshop program has been instrumental in developing strong relationships throughout regional Victoria in recent years; so consideration of a regional home for the company was a logical extension.
The relocation to Bendigo will allow the Company to work with local artists and audiences, develop and premiere new work, deliver high quality, innovative arts programs to schools, and bring national and international collaborations to the region.
Arena Chair Virginia Lovett acknowledged the Victorian Government’s unflinching support for the Company’s new direction. “The vision for arts and culture in regional Victoria is exciting and Arena is very much looking forward to contributing to the cultural vibrancy of the Bendigo region,” said Lovett.
Artistic Director Christian Leavesley, who will relocate to Bendigo, is thrilled to be able to introduce Arena and its work to the local community. “This will be a wonderful challenge and an incredibly exciting opportunity to create original and artistically ambitious theatre at our new home in Bendigo,’ says Leavesley. “The move offers a world of endless possibilities including local employment, artistic collaborations and engagement with new audiences.”
The central tenet of Arena is its commitment to working with young people as both audience and artist. This principle remains at the company’s core and will allow for continued success. “Arena draws direct inspiration from the forms of creativity that resonate most with young people,” says continued Leavesley. “All our works involve young people in their creative development and our aim is to speak with them, in languages they understand, in the spaces they occupy, but in ways they never thought possible.”
Lovett heralded the move as an exciting new chapter. “This move is a brave move on many levels – and it will be a model for the rest of the sector. Arena has collaborated with many people to ensure it will be successful,” said Lovett. “The support from the Victorian Government, the City of Greater Bendigo and the management of the Capital Theatres in Bendigo have made it possible. It is going to be an exciting ride.”
City of Greater Bendigo Deputy Mayor Cr Rod Fyffe said Council was very pleased Arena Theatre Company had chosen to make Bendigo its new home. “Bendigo has a very strong arts and culture reputation and Arena’s move will strengthen our already thriving arts and culture sector,” said Cr Fyffe. “This announcement shows that Greater Bendigo is a regional leader in the arts and creative industries.”
Image: Arena Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Christian Leavesley (centre) with Bendigo school students (supplied)