For the past five weeks, Margot Morales Tanjutco has been working hard in her role as Associate Director for Torch the Place, supporting director Dean Bryant and the cast.
‘Watching how Dean communicates with actors, and how he works through new writing, has been a masterclass,’ says Tanjutco. ‘My role is about understanding the vision that we’re all trying to achieve and hopefully helping everyone getting there.’ That includes consolidating an ever-evolving script and keeping track of the many changes, prompting actors during runs, and actively listening to developing creative discussions.
‘It is truly such a thrill to have an all-Asian cast playing this hilarious and flawed family,’ says Tanjutco. ‘Benjamin Law has created a wonderful, bewildering world and the actors are breathing such distinct life into it. Dean has worked tirelessly to whip the show into shape and I can’t wait for the audience to go on this journey with them. And the set! The set will really transport audiences into the family’s world.’
In the rehearsal room at MTC HQ, Tanjutco has enjoyed watching the cast create their characters throughout the process. ‘The actors are so great at what they do,’ she says. ‘They still surprise me and make me laugh at jokes I’ve heard countless times – and then make me feel emotional during those quieter moments. I’ve found it really exciting to watch them craft and play with their characters in rehearsal.’
An MTC Ambassador
Tanjutco is no stranger to MTC HQ. In 2012, she was selected to be part of MTC Ambassadors, a year-long enrichment program for theatre-loving Year 11 students. Once a month, she and the other Ambassadors would visit MTC HQ for seminars with guest speakers from across the Company, then see an MTC production at the theatre. ‘I loved His Girl Friday and Red from that year,’ reflects Tanjutco. ‘So funny, but I remember getting to go on the His Girl Friday set and being amazed that they used real phones that weren’t made of, like, cardboard.’
‘I think the best thing I got out of the program was developing the ability to talk and think deeply about theatre. It helped demystify theatre for me.’
Tanjutco says the MTC Ambassadors program helped her feel like a career in theatre could be possible. ‘I think the best thing I got out of the program was developing the ability to talk and think deeply about theatre,’ she says. ‘It helped demystify theatre for me.’ Tanjutco is also still friends with some Ambassadors alumni, and fondly remembers the camaraderie of having like-minded “theatre friends” so early on. ‘Foyers can be terrifying when you don’t feel like you belong there. Thankfully, I’m horribly confident now.’
An MTC Associate Director
Since being an MTC Ambassador, Tanjutco has been prolific. ‘I wrote some shows, including Vanity Fair Enough, which is a solo hour of original songs, sketch and stand-up about sexy capitalism,’ says Tanjutco. Vanity Fair Enough played at The Coopers Malthouse for the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and will be heading to Griffin Theatre’s Batch Festival later this year. She also worked on several independent theatre shows, including Romeo Is Not The Only Fruit by Jean Tong (the Hungry Ghosts playwright from MTC's 2018 season) and completed a degree in Communications. ‘It’s been wild!’
Throughout the experience of being Associate Director, Tanjutco has enjoyed discovering the ‘detail-orientated process of fleshing out the arc of the show’. As part of MTC’s NEXT STAGE Writer’s Program, Torch the Place has been nurtured from page to stage by every facet of the Company. Reflecting on the rehearsal process, Tanjutco says ‘it’s such a special luxury to be able to leave no stone unturned because there’s time and resources to do so.’
Looking to the future, Tanjutco says she’s excited to use the lessons she’s learned at MTC in her future work. ‘Because this is my first professional theatre job, I just want to know if my instincts are somewhere in the vicinity of “correct”. I’m relieved to say that they sometimes are.’
Torch the Place is on at Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio.
Published on 13 February 2020