A decade on, Watch This has established an enviable reputation, consistently delivering acclaimed productions of scale – Pacific Overtures, Company, Merrily We Roll Along, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods and most recently the world-first, all-female reworking of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – in Melbourne and beyond, touring many of their works to regional venues in West Gippsland, Geelong, Ballarat and Sale.
The company can boast twenty-seven Green Room Award nominations with four wins, alongside multi-million dollar commercial and state sponsored productions. They’ve also piloted a platform for nurturing the next generation of music theatre makers with their FreshMint initiative with a specific focus on diverse voices and stories, composer/ lyricists Vidya Makan and David Ouch being the first two development recipients.
In March 2020, to coincide with Sondheim’s worldwide 90th birthday celebrations, they had been due to realise a gallery exhibit. A partnership with Darebin’s FUSE Festival, this was intended to be a close, behind the scenes look at the design work that goes into each production. Instead, Melbourne’s first lockdown was called and this project was lovingly translated into a five-part digital documentary series, The Art of Making Art.
Over the past ten years, Watch This have collaborated with well over 250 artists on and off the stage including some of Australia’s leading lights: Nadine Garner, Anne Wood, Fiona Choi, Raphael Wong, Cherine Peck, James Millar, John O’May, Jackie Rees and Johanna Allen to name a few.
Many emerging and mid-career artists, including directors, music directors and stage/ production managers, have gone on to helm or star in commercial / mainstage shows. To date, they have delivered $740k to artists/ creatives in fees and wages – a significant achievement.
Yet for all its many accolades, the task for current Artistic Co-Directors, Dean Drieberg (Resident Director, Hamilton International and Australian/ NZ tours) and Melanie Hillman (Director, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) of keeping the company afloat is a challenging one.
To this end, the company is marking its celebratory milestone with a $10 For Ten Years crowdfunding campaign with the aim of raising some much-needed support to see them into the decade beyond.
Those who can contribute a bit more are “more than welcome” says the team: “Independent music theatre is a vital part of the industry. A space where artists can take risks in bold, immediate reinventions,” said Dean Drieberg.
“Donations are the lifeblood of indie organisations and allow Watch This to continue reimagining Sondheim’s extraordinary work for and with contemporary artists and audiences,” said Drieberg
“Our company philosophy embraces equality and opportunity. We champion artists from the full spectrum of society and ensure independent voices and perspectives are heard and celebrated,” said Melanie Hillman.
“With our FreshMint and educational programs, Watch This nurtures the development of new Australian stories and introduces students to the exceptional craft and artistry of Sondheim’s canon,” said Hillman.
Perhaps the author of this press excerpt summed it up most succinctly: “Watch This feeds our need for Sondheim and introduces new audiences to the painful joy of his work. Now, can someone please give them some money!” – The Music, 2017
Image:A montage of Artists who have performed with Watch This over the past 10 years – courtesy of Watch This