Simon Phillips and Martina Murray

Featured Faces: Martina (Associate Producer)

Martina’s first experience with MTC was (as you’ll read below) in 1990 as a child actor. As well as working with many other major arts companies around Australia, she has filled multiple roles at MTC, including a secondment, stage manager, production assistant, exhibition curator, artistic administrator, and currently as Associate Producer/NEON Festival’s Managing Producer.

What was your first performing arts experience?

With parents in the industry, my first performing arts experience was probably in a rehearsal room or wings of the old Playbox Theatre in Exhibition Street, prior to its burning down in 1984. Apparently the first full production I saw, Camelot, was also in that year at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda. Story goes, I sat on my father’s knee mesmerised for the whole 2.5 hours, though given I was only a toddler, I have a feeling the memory has been romanticised a bit, as even now, I’m not great at sitting still for 2.5 hours.

My first employment experience in the performing arts, was at the ripe old age of 7 with MTC, when I was in Roger Hodgman’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the Playhouse. Not a lot of people know this, so I like to confuse people with comments such as ‘I first worked for MTC in 1990’ which given I am in my early 30s always gets a double take. I am particularly looking forward to the near future when I can say that I first worked for MTC 25 years ago!

Can you briefly describe a day in your role at MTC?

My day to day role can vary significantly depending on the time of year and the company activity at the time, though it always starts with a coffee and quick chat with Norma or Anita in the MTC café, and often ends by attending a show, be it an MTC production or an independent show in a shed somewhere.

As Associate Producer, I work closely with Brett, Virginia and other members of MTC management on the logistics around the main stage program, from script assessment and performance rights to schedules and budgets etc. I then liaise with all departments, as well as agents, producers and other presenters, nationally and internationally. In addition to the mainstage, I work with the artistic team on artist development and spend time seeking ways of strengthening relationships and offering opportunities. This leads to my role as Managing Producer of NEON, MTC’s Festival of Independent Theatre. Within NEON, I act as a central point. I work with the independent companies on ways to best utilise MTC’s resources, and work with MTC staff on ways we can support the companies and artists, ensuring that the needs of both parties are being met. I also program and manage the NEON Extra activities.

I have held various other roles within the company over the years, starting in Stage Management, so I like to make myself an honorary member of most departments and give my opinion on things whether it’s asked for or not. The Production and Marketing departments often humour me with this, which is kind.

What is one of your favourite MTC productions?

This is almost an impossible question to answer. The ‘correct’ answer would be they are all my favourite, but you would all know that can’t possibly be true!

There are a few MTC productions that have been significant in their influence on my path to the here and now, that I guess would legitimise their being among my favourites –

A Flea in her Ear by Georges Feydeau, directed by Simon Phillips & Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare, directed by Simon Phillips
Growing up with a dad who pretty much only worked on new Australian plays, I hadn’t really been exposed to classics, international revivals etc. and had a rather limited perspective of what theatre was and capable of being. I loved it, loved the live storytelling, the magic of the make believe, but with the exception of a few, it was all so serious! I now realise how important those works are, but as a child it was rather dark. I was determined that I wouldn¹t follow in my parents footsteps and I would find a career path outside of the arts, but then we received tickets to A Flea in Her Ear. Sitting in the Playhouse, watching what felt like hundreds of actors (think it was actually 16) running on and off stage, with Tony Tripp’s colourful and elaborate design, I realised the fun that could be had. I had only really seen musicals and operas of this scale and, not being huge fans of those, I was thrilled to see that text based theatre could be like this. I then had a very similar experience a few years later when attending Comedy of Errors and realised that there was no point denying it, I wanted to be part of a team that made magic happen.

Frozen by Bryony Lavery, directed by Julian Meyrick
I was seconded to the Stage Management team (Alyson Brown and Christine Bennett) of Frozen in my final year at VCA, and then went on to be employed by STC the following year when it toured. This was my first experience with contemporary international work, and sparked my love for contemporary work in general. With its detail, emotion and clear level of research involved, this exploration of humanity, through such an inhumane act as serial killing, had me hooked from the first read. The conversations around the work were inspiring and the production beautifully realised. Julian Meyrick and the entire Frozen company were incredibly generous with their time and the way in which they included and welcomed me into their process from the very first day. The encouragement and support I was shown by all involved was pretty amazing. Having said that, even if I wasn’t involved, I think this production would definitely be on my favourites list.

Blackbird by David Harrower, directed by Peter Evans
This was the last play I stage managed for MTC before moving into Arts Admin, and what a play to go out on. Like Frozen, This was the kind of theatre I LOVE, both as an audience member and to work on. Again exploring the complexity of humanity through the unpalatable, this two-hander (Alison Bell and Greg Stone) was a no fuss production that left you emotionally exhausted, yet thoroughly satisfied. Leaving you torn between empathy and morality, I have often thought about this production, and just writing this makes me want to see it again! Remarkable when you think I watched 50 times.

All NEON 2013 Productions
I guess the NEON productions aren’t technically MTC productions, as they were created and presented by the participating independent companies, so I’m not sure I can add them to the list, but if I could, then I would add all five of them. They were all different, and whilst not all were for everyone, I found each of them a thoroughly rewarding, inspiring and engaging evening in the theatre.

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