At the start of Wesley Enoch’s Philip Parsons Memorial Lecture on the weekend, he stated that his brief from Belvoir was to be incendiary. During his lecture, Wesley drew on a broad range of ideas and asked many provocative questions. One of his questions asked whether it is ethical for theatre companies producing main stage work to run independent programs where the producers and artists involved work on a profit-share basis. Wesley mentioned Griffin Theatre Company briefly among a number of companies around the country who run various independent programs.
Unfortunately this brief statement has been given a level of attention disproportionate to its context within the Lecture. Griffin Theatre Company’s position is that it is not helpful to inflame controversy without first having a clear understanding of the diverse range of relationships and support being offered to independent artists.
Griffin’s core company values are respect and collaboration. We actively advocate for the rights of artists and provide development pathways for artists at all stages of their careers. We also work closely with theatre companies around the country, and believe that collegiate and respectful relationships between companies are crucial to the health of our sector.
Griffin does not make a profit from its Griffin Independent season. Rather, we see it as our responsibility to share the resources and expertise of a main stage company with the wider theatre sector. It’s an additional activity for our company – something we are committed to investing in, on top of our core remit to produce a main stage season of Australian plays.
Wesley’s comment that this trend within the sector “has led to increased competition without boosting overall audience numbers” is not the experience in Sydney. In fact, this is the opposite of our experience at Griffin. Through Griffin Independent we have grown audiences for independent work at Griffin by more than 50% over the past four years. Griffin’s Main Season subscribers are now purchasing twice as many tickets to independent shows than they were four years ago.
The support that Griffin provides to teams of independent artists means that they have access to the quality of resources and skills that are essential for producing professional theatre. Over the last few years, Griffin has received 40 – 50 applications each year for the 4 or 5 slots in our curated independent season. The demand from independent theatre makers for high-quality presentation opportunities is evident.
Griffin Independent is a highly successful program and a vital part of Sydney’s theatre ecology. We expect that it will remain a much-loved and rewarding experience for artists and audiences in the future.