5 Questions with Tessa Leong


We’re excited to announce the appointment of Tessa Leong as Griffin’s new Associate Artistic Director, a new (and much needed) role that has only been made possible by generous support of the Griffin Women’s Initiative! Before Tessa starts with the Griffs next week, we sat down with her (virtually, of course) to talk about the role, her previous work and what she’s looking forward to bringing to Griffin! 

Tell us a little about yourself and the work that you do!

I’m a theatre director. I love new work. I love building long-term relationships with other artists and dreaming up ridiculous possibilities and trying desperately to make them happen. I have an indie company in Adelaide called isthisyours? which is a ridiculous name for a theatre company which I run with my most ridiculous friends.

You’ve had history with Griffin before as a Studio Artist—what was that year like?

The pleasure of being paid to be an artist will never escape me and within a company such as Griffin, which is close-knit and passionate, it provided great insight into what it means to run a company. I remember it being a rollercoaster. It was the year Donna Abela‘s Jump For Jordan won the Griffin Award, a year that I met a lot of artists, read a lot of plays, sat and chatted with Lee Lewis through general auditions, and got pretty familiar with the local coffee shops.

This year has been, to put it lightly, unconventional, for Australian theatre makers. How has your creative practice been affected in 2020? What are you doing to stay creative?

Very sadly, isthisyours? had to cancel a presentation season in Bendigo of our work Angelique that we created with Duncan Graham and our favourite artists ever, which we were absolutely thrilled at the prospect of bringing back to life. It’s a work that took us over three years to make and this would’ve been its second season after a two-year hiatus. It’s seems small compared to losses experienced by many others, but it feels pretty devastating.

While I have been spending so much time talking to artists and planning/un-planning events, I actually have felt the need to slow down a bit. I postered my walls with my favourite theatre programs of all time and then decided to read lots of books!

Why do you think new Australian stories matter at this current point in time?

Australian stories always matter. It’s how we talk to each other, how we document, how we remember and how we choose to forget. It allows us to pin down and dream up what is happening and what could happen. Through stories, we decide who is important and who needs to be captured, so they don’t fall through the cracks. New stories allow us to write history as it happens, align ourselves to new fantasies and reveal the desires we keep hidden just beneath our collars.

What are you most excited for in your new role as Associate Artistic Director at Griffin?

Everything? Is that an answer? I am so excited to create new work, direct great shows, program inspiring artists, and dream the future of Griffin with Declan and the team.