It’s been a week since week 2 of Stories from the 428 closed- and I thought it would be nice/handy or interesting to write a little reflection on Week 2- and perhaps on the whole reflection of the project. I am in the process of de-briefing with all the directors about the project (and the process) – and this is always an important part of everything I do- it helps steer my projects, my design, my plan and focuses my passion for new work.

There couldn’t have been a more different experience for the bump in/tech of Week 2’s show. 5 directors completely prepared- wrangling blocking of a cast of 34- and 18 pieces overall. A bigger week- epic in cast and ambition. I can’t say I wasn’t a littel nervous about how this would appear. Double the cast of Week 1 (how DID that happen?) and more works. Where as Week 1 was more introspective (and contained more watery/rain references- yes the bus trips were taken in the rain)- Week 2 was a kaliedoscope of ensembles tumbling out like a morris minor filled with clowns. Two of the writers Lenton and Marlow especially responsible for the more sketch comedy style plays- fun/funny and very entertaining- a very different texture to the literary texts of Freidman and Janaczewska- or the stylistic adventurousness of Corin and Abela… or even the poetic of Erskine and Edgerton. Week 2 fulfilled the design of the project in a much more whollistic way- all writers travelled on the same bus at the same time together (this didn’t quite happen in Week 1) and the directors worked collegiately sharing actors and resources. So in the lead up- this process was working- perhaps the festival feel of the pieces helped this along? I don’t know- but the feel was very different. Not better. But different.

Tech happened. It was fun. Directors ready, clear and excited and ready to solve their own and each others challenges. And I must say that having 5 stagemanager types in the room (one actual, 3 directors who are ex stage managers and a Production manager who is a stage manager by trade) was wonderful and made everything easy.

Dress run with the actors was easy. A little weird having 34 actors to contend with- but wonderful none the less! I was scared I would look greedy or disorganised having that many actors on stage- that I was being indulgent or sloppy… and there were some decisions that needed to be made and I made them (like not having full cast on stage at all times). But it went brilliantly- actors stepped up- directors stepped up- and it was smooth and without a hitch.

Two tragedies happened that week, however. One: A director had suffered a personal loss- and had two funerals to attend in one day (wednesday) and as I had hoped- anything she needed the other directors pitched in and supplied. Two: after the dress rehearsal one night one actor (one of my favourite all time actors I have worked with) Mary Sherman, was in a motorbike accident and was rushed to the emergency department of the hospital. The director of the pieces rang me as soon as he heard and we went straight into solution solving- within 2 hours Mary’s role was recast into 4 actors who were in the cast- Cheryl Ward, Mark Dessaix, Matt Charleston, Lib Campbell came to the rescue… I went to the emergency room with a bag of snacks and foods and some of my favourite Little Golden Books to see my beloved Mary. She is recovering well and I have promised to work with her again when she is better- she is a marvellous and beautiful actor and a sublimely genuine and interesting person- the show was very different without her- but talent like her’s can’t and wont be kept down and I can’t wait to see her return to performing once she has had a full recovery.

Opening night glistened. Adrenilin/panic is an amazing thing- the evening was a rollicking adventure of a fountain of energy and fun and set up the week as one where we were turning people away at the door most nights… which was especially relieving as it was a long weekend AND daylight saving changed the times too! I couldn’t be more proud.

Of course the main thing about the 428 Project was the idea of a colleagiate team- a team who worked together to conquer an amazingly ambitious and multifacetted project which was about the community of commuters and artists who live in the area. The idea was about promoting bus travel- celebrating the good bad and the ugly of commuting. Recognising that Australian writers are up for a challenge and willing to work- and WORK HARD… that actors are brave enough to take a punt on a concept and on new work. That directors CAN work together… and really at the end of the project, the tail to this comet continues to streak across my heart.

Remarkably- it was the team who was spectacular- PJ Gahan- ever calm, clear and efficient (a multi tool triumvirate of Production Manager/Stage Manager/ technical Manager), Miles Thomas (Lighting designer), Alison Murphy -Oates (Stage Manager/mother/ friend/ Seamstress/ list maker/ legend), Gavin Roach (Sponsorship Coordinator/comic relief/ caterer/ friend), Julia Lenton (publicist/ marketing manager/ foyer decorator/ confidant/ door bitch/ list keeper/ venue liaison), Gemma Lark Johnson (Designer/ sign writer. prop maker/ costume maker), Karolina Novak (Artist/ graphic Design/ print manager), Jeremy Silver (composer/sound designer/ sound compiler/ APRA advisor) Rosie Chase (composer/ singing teacher/ musician/ counsellor), Grant Moxom (webdesign/cheerleader).

EVERYONE involved went above and beyond- and all I can say is that I am humbled by the energy, the passion, the professsionalism, the commitment, the humour, the community of artists which defied gravity and expectations and made Stories from the 428 what it was. And it is impossible to do anything but remember never to underestimate artists and their ingenuity, their drive, passion and focus- and I am honoured to keep such company.

Thank you to all who came along to support the show… and All the artists and crew on board (whether it was for three months or for one month) – Theatre is what you make it.