TIE & Touring Theatre
Theatre in Education (TIE) was an important element of the company’s artistic creative work, reaching vast audiences and influencing many lives over a long period of time.
One of QTC’s major objectives was to stress the “Queensland” part of its title by serving not just the capital city but the entire state and regularly to rural NSW. From the beginning, as part of its charter, the QTC reached out to the entire state. More than any other state company.
They were also aware of the need to cater for young people with various schools programs, at one time the ensemble called the “Young Elizabethan Players” (led by David Clendinning, Carol Burns, Michael Ferguson, Susan Day and Russell Thomson) also toured 4 theatre-in-education programs all across Queensland.
From its inception QTC’s touring activities have been conducted in conjunction with the Arts Council of Australia (Queensland Division) now the Queensland Arts Council.
In 1970 before he opened the doors of the SGIO Theatre, Alan Edwards sent a team of actors around the 7,000 mile Queensland school circuit placing Theatre-in-Education at the forefront of QTC strategy.
In the first year of operations a four-week Theatre Training School in Theatre Techniques, was conducted with the assistance of the Australian Council for the Arts. Ten scholarships were made available to members of the Company, and twenty-five other students attended. This was the first time any State Company had conducted full-time training school and the students reported a rewarding and satisfying experience.
For six years the QTC had been running a live-in Drama course for teenagers— Theatre Experience Week.
The unfortunate fact is that since this line of work is, by its very nature, conducted outside the mainstream, even QTC’s regular audiences are mostly unaware of it. At the end of 1970, with the aid of a grant from the A.C.A., Murray Foy was appointed as the first Education Officer (and later Associate Director). Murray instituted the Youth and TIE programs and was one of Alan’s first and most significant appointments at the time. Alan Edwards believed in the importance of education and training for the company and to encourage young people to the theatre.
This meant that from then on a program especially devised for primary schools could tour each year as well as the secondary schools’ program. Murray Foy also organized an ever-increasing number of workshops and seminars in creative drama for both city and country groups and teachers’ training colleges.
In 1975, the TIE teams chalked up what was considered a major breakthrough in presenting for the first time a program written specially for its own audience the youngsters of Queensland. This program Springle, written by the Company’s own Bille Brown did much to stimulate and re-evaluate the role of theatre in the Education process.
The QTC was very active in the Theatre-In-Education movement, presenting programs and projects for Secondary and Primary School students under various brands including ROADWORK. In a state the size of Queensland this presented enormous logistical and artistic challenges — the difference in climate, lifestyle and taste between say, Cairns and Cunnamulla is often as wide as the distance that separates them. It also ran training schemes for Artists, Adults and School students. The TIE commitment were often as much as 6 months’ duration. Sometimes they average 3 performances a day in conditions which were, to say the least, unsophisticated. Special tours had been mounted to cater for the specific needs of children in the remote areas of Arnhem Land and Central Australia.
By reason of its extended activities, 1977 became known as QTC’s “Year of Youth“. Much of the resources went into these areas, achieving rewarding and long-range results. Project Spearhead funded by the Schools’ Commission, was a long-cherished ambition of Murray Foy. It was a sophisticated who scheme, relying on teaching-actors conducted long-term workshops and productions within youth groups in both the metropolitan and country areas.
Robert Kingham, proposed a way forward to enhance the program to offer more than just technique —The Darling Downs Youth Theatre Project was born which workshopped all aspects of theatre with some forty 15 to 18 year olds drawn from six centres on the Downs, producing a new work from the ground up, prior to a tour.
This was the first step ever taken towards the founding of Regional Community Theatre in Queensland and was indeed the first theatre of its kind in Australia. Some sixty teenagers were recruited from six centres on the Downs to create, under professional guidance, a theatrical production, which would then play in each of those centres. Since the youngsters were involved in all administration, aspects, from scripting to this was not only theatre for young people but theatre by young people.
Their first production, appropriately named GENESIS, told from a contemporary theatrical viewpoint rather than religious one, was an enormous success, a tribute to the teenagers themselves and their advisors of Robert Kingham, Rick Thompson, Lloyd Nickson and Jim Cotter. The following year another ambitious production, BOTTOM’S ELECTRIC SUMMERTIME DREAM was mounted with equal success. The Darling Downs community itself responded in a very positive way with support and assistance of every kind, including donations of busses, and which provided a blueprint for similar ventures elsewhere. [See more images of QTC’s Genesis]
In 1977, the QTC established the Darling Downs Youth Theatre, the first founding of a Regional Community Theatre in Queensland and was indeed the first theatre of its kind in Australia. Some 60 students aged between 15 and 18 were recruited from 6 centres on the Downs to create, under professional guidance, a theatrical production, which would then play in each of those centres. Since the youngsters were involved in all aspects, from scripting to administration, this was not only theatre for young people but theatre by young people.
The TIE teams were asked to spend 6 months or more on the road, averaging three performances a day in conditions which were, to say the least, unsophisticated. Day after day they traveled, performed, traveled, performed across the map of Queensland, setting up, dismantling and packing the sets themselves. There have been as many as three of these teams on the road at once, so the administration and funding of the undertaking occupies a large portion of the QTC’s time and budget.
Lloyd Nickson took over from Murray Foy and Arthur Frame took over the education program including the Roadwork program Queensland YouthTheatre Theatre Experience Week and Theatre Techniques Week In 1984. ROADWORK programs continued until 1986. Although QTC had lost its funding for the 1986 program, they still toured 4 productions. Tours often ran for 9 months from March to November.
TIE activities like Theatre Techniques Week, Theatre Experience Week, and ROADWORK school touring programs, collectively showcased the extraordinary youth activities of the company. Alan Edward’s vision for training, education and regional access to arts experience for young people found its heartbeat in TIE.
Continuing its commitment to Education and Youth, QTC mounted its usual extensive tours through Primary and Secondary Schools, and also conducted a tour to remote areas which played mainly to aboriginal audiences. Again the scripts used in these tours were commissioned from local writers, with special focus on the specifics of Queensland schoolchildren. One of these Tufff… by Bille Brown — a successor to Springle – was subsequently produced in London.
Not only for the future talent pool development, but also future audience development, we honor the education officers Murray Foy ★ Arthur Frame AM ★ Lloyd Nickson ★ Christine Campbell and pioneers Cliff Simcox and Robert Kingham along with the dozens of actors and stage managers that slogged their way zig-zagging the state doing everything, plus the many artisans behind-the-scenes that helped bring theatre to the outback.