In 2015 MTC plans to be out and about as never before, continuing and extending all the initiatives of the past two seasons which have been so successful in reaching out to new audiences in Melbourne and beyond.
As a major not-for-profit theatre company and an artistic flagship for our state, we feel a strong sense of duty to reach beyond our dedicated subscriber audience to embrace as many Victorians as possible. Our ongoing Education productions and workshops, our NEON Festival of Independent Theatre, our MTC CONNECT Ambassadors and our Women Directors’ Program, and our co-productions with companies with different audiences, such as Arena (Marlin) and Chunky Move, Melbourne Festival and Brisbane Festival (Complexity of Belonging), are all positive efforts to cast our net for a more diverse and therefore representative Victorian audience. Already, we have witnessed the positive results from such projects, but we recognise that their scope is limited by how much we can spend on them – which is never enough.
So, it was thrilling for us recently to announce Sharing the Light, a major new five-year project in partnership with Crown Resorts Foundation to bring the transformative power of theatre to thousands more Victorian young people and families. The project is designed to overcome two main hurdles to attending theatre for many: cost and access. We know that theatre is too easily seen as an expensive luxury for those with limited income or live outside inner Melbourne. Beginning in January, Sharing the Light will address these issues by providing disadvantaged youth and families subsidised tickets to live theatre; touring education productions to regional Victoria; and providing Indigenous scholarships for learning and career development.
An outreach program such as this has been a dream for MTC for a long time, but it has only now been made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Crown Resorts Foundation to provide $2.5 million dollars in funding over the next five years. We cannot forget that the same foundation contributed $18 million to the building of Southbank Theatre, so we are doubly pleased that their substantial bricks-and-mortar investment has been followed up by this, their first major arts program in Victoria.
Sharing the Light has four key components. Firstly, the Crown Resorts’ Student Theatre Pass will provide up to 10,000 disadvantaged students each year with subsidised $5 tickets to MTC Mainstage and Education shows, with some travel costs covered for those from outlying areas. The second part targets families, with the Crown Resorts’ Family Theatre Pass providing families and children in outer Melbourne suburban areas with $5 tickets to MTC’s family shows. The third part, MTC Education on Tour, will help fund a regional tour of one of MTC Education’s productions. And finally, the MTC and VCA Indigenous Scholarship Program will help create career pathways in theatre for Indigenous students. Also, we will be working with the University of Melbourne to develop a longitudinal study to evaluate the program over its five-year course.
Studies here and overseas clearly show that investing in the cultural learning of young people reaps wholesale benefits in later life – though I don’t suppose I need convince Subscribers to MTC about the transformative power of theatre. If you are like me, you enjoyed your first theatre as a young person and you nurtured that first thrill into a life-long interest, perhaps even passion. The real excitement of this new venture is that more young Australians and their families will have access to that first transformative experience of live theatre.