With more than 30 productions to her name and stints as artistic director of the Lyric Ensemble at the Lyric Hammersmith in London, resident director and associate artist at Belvoir and director in residence at Malthouse Theatre – to name just a few – our new Artistic Director and Co-CEO Anne-Louise Sarks is exceptionally equipped to lead MTC through its next artistic evolution.
Settling into her new role with the Company – which included a move from London, with a short pit-stop in Sydney – Sarks is delighted to be back in Melbourne. ‘I have really missed the strong artistic community in Melbourne. Audiences are so engaged with work in Melbourne in a way that’s really different to some of the other places I’ve lived and worked.’
While she was living in London and working back and forth between Australia and Europe, this often played on her mind. ‘I’d started to think about how I could engage more with the community … and I really wanted to participate in the broader cultural conversation.’ And then, at the beginning of 2021 while visiting Sydney from London, the perfect opportunity appeared: relocate to Melbourne to artistically lead the state theatre company of Victoria. ‘To me, the role of Artistic Director and Co-CEO is to serve the Victorian community, audiences and artists … and to really be shaping the kind of conversations we’re having about theatre, and about the world that we’re living in.’
Since beginning at MTC, Sarks has not only been busy planning and shaping the 2023 season, but also the programs and activities MTC can offer to the next generation of artists. Sarks fondly remembers two opportunities MTC gave her early in her career. In 2010 she was Emerging Resident Director at MTC, and two years later she was offered the opportunity to direct a production of The Seed by Kate Mulvany. ‘That was my first mainstage job, which was 10 years ago. I never would have imagined that I’d be sitting here now, 10 years later, when I directed that show,’ she reflects from her office at MTC HQ.
It’s these types of opportunities that Sarks is determined to foster at MTC. ‘I really can’t overstate the importance of being given those two opportunities as a young woman and being brought into the Company. Those opportunities shaped the trajectory of my career.’ After Sarks directed The Seed at MTC she became resident director at Belvoir, and worked with Mulvany again on a show that is still her most favourite to date. It was an adaptation of Medea, a retelling of the classic from the perspective of two young children, which she directed and co-wrote with Mulvany.‘That was a really life-changing show because I was really testing something out and Belvoir were generous in letting me experiment.’ The experiment paid off. Medea won five Sydney Theatre Awards, was nominated for three Helpmann Awards and has since been produced locally and internationally in London, Switzerland, New Zealand, Poland and across the Nullarbor in Perth.
‘My greatest hope is, when my time at MTC is done, that I have really nurtured and supported the next generation of artists.’
This is something the entire MTC community will play a part in, but perhaps none more so than our passionate and engaged donors. ‘It’s everything in terms of the economical investment,’ says Sarks. ‘But it’s more than that – the work that philanthropists do in Australia to nourish and support artists is just so important and I’m so grateful for it.’ When the arts can sometimes feel quite peripheral in Australia – compared to the investment in sport, for instance – Sarks has been blown away by the support of MTC donors. ‘The thing that really excites me every time I get to meet our donors and talk to people who want to support the arts, it’s that we have this common love and passion for theatre and storytelling. It’s such a delight to be about to share that.’
All of these experiences are shaping Sarks’s vision for MTC. ‘My greatest hope is, when my time at MTC is done, that I have really nurtured and supported the next generation of artists.’ She’s also determined to build on MTC’s reputation as the top destination for artists and audiences. ‘I hope that MTC can be the pride of Melbourne; that it is the most exciting place to visit and that we are sharing stories that people can really relate to. I think the more we’re able to make that kind of tourable world-class theatre we can start expanding our reach not just across Australia, but to the rest of the world.’
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Published on 26 April 2022