On the Couch with Tyran Parke

AMTF-Tyran-Parke-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Tyran Parke?
Well, it must be stated that I have been ‘on the couch’ before and here I am five years later still without a definitive answer. Last time I answered this question, I was not a Festival Director which is has been one of my greatest adventures… who knows who I will be in another five years? Hopefully just still here, engaging in stories and music and collaborating with awesome artists… it’s always good to surprise yourself!

What would you do differently from what you do now?
A few years ago, Pella Gregory (producer at Opera Australia) and I travelled South America together and I was OBSESSED with the turtles at the Galapagos Islands. Ever since, I figured if the house of cards fell over, I’d head there and volunteer at the Turtle Sanctuary. Also, my partner is a funeral director and I’m full of admiration for people who offer insight and comfort at end-of-life moments. Whatever it is, it’s gotta be meaningful; turtles, funerals, or emoting through song … I’m up for any and all of it!

Who inspires you and why?
I am in awe of the intelligence, humour and the commitment to excellence. He is a great example of how art can influence lives. He always features in the Festival and I am about to direct (and sing in) a concert in Auckland with a big orchestra and a dream cast of singers. He makes the theatre about what it is to be human. Hallelujah!

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I think we all have a grave awareness of how big the challenges of the world are becoming. While I can’t solve the environmental, social, economic challenges of the present, I am more and more aware of the small gifts of kindness and the power they can have. I recently had a difficult theatrical experience and those around me held me in a way that was gentle and amazing and helped me make sense and see the project as a massive positive in my life. The industry can be tough so I’m always in search of how to make it easier for others.

During the pandemic, I got assistance from the Melbourne Theatre Company to access their recording studio. I recorded a beautiful setting of Dr Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go as composed by Christopher Harley. I sent out five books and the accompanying recording every week of lockdown via mail, so people could lose themselves for a moment and engage in a story of hope. Again, didn’t change the world, but it offered a moment of lightness, which – combined with a laugh – go a long way!

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Gili Islands in Indonesia. It’s where I go to stop. I have explored all aspects of the island, so my sense of adventure is curbed, and I am forced to sit and dream.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Depends which town – I’m always in transit. Right now, no matter where you are, you’d best get to Tasmania. It’s so stunning and with MONA in the South and the Australian Musical Theatre Festival in the North, it’s upcoming above its weight culturally! (Not to mention the food, wine, scenery and PEOPLE! Amazing. )

What are you currently reading?
Patti LuPone’s memoir! There’s a show in the festival called Cut Outta Town which celebrates all the WONDERFUL songs CUT from Musicals. Brilliant songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Stephen Schwartz etc and Patti tells great stories about the song Meadowlark from The Baker’s Wife which was cut. Ironically, no one’s ever seen the show, but the song is a classic! I’m working out how I might read sections of the book to chart the turbulent experience of shows in development, as one of our brilliant singers tackles the massive song. It will be a showstopper in a way it never allowed to be in The Baker’s Wife!

What are you currently listening to?
Musical Theatre (of course! – Spotify generated playlists are a constant surprising source of delight) and orchestral music – it helps me focus as I pull together all the festival logistics.

Happiness is?
Connection. Hence theatre – it is connection on a massive scale daily. Performer, Chloe Dallimore was at the festival last year and she said something I will never forget, It’s not a festival of Musical Theatre – it’s a festival of connection. Best review ever!

What does the future hold for you?
The weird thing about a festival is while you are doing one, you are already in planning meetings for the next. There are over fifty events in five days, so it takes a lot to pull it together and I’m delirious about the future of it. I also think it’s time for a certain fox to come out of hiding. (My own company, Clovelly Fox Productions was shelved during the pandemic). Now there’s a good reason to see you on the couch again! Catch you in another five!

Tyran is the Artistic Director of the Australian Musical Theatre Festival – which takes place in Launceston: 17 – 21 May 2023. For more information, visit: www.amtf.org.au for details.

Image: Tyran Parke (supplied)