Elena Carapetis, Miranda Daughtry, Geoff Cobham, Nathan O’Keefe, Rachel Burke, Dale March, Geordie Brookman, Rashidi Edward and Anna Steen. (ABC News: Tony Hill)
The State Theatre Company South Australia’s move to establish a professional ensemble provides a beacon of hope in a sector dominated by out of work actors.
The company has employed a group of actors and off-stage experts for 20 weeks a year for two years, the only major theatre company in Australia to currently do so.
The move was a dream for Anna Steen, who like so many actors has had troubled times finding regular acting work in the 16 years since she graduated.
The fact that she can plan her next two years, bring in a regular wage to her family of four and further her acting career is a dream come true.
“[To] not have the panic about when one show is done, there might not be another one for a long time, there might not ever be one, that can be the uncertainty of the industry,” she said.
The ensemble is the brainchild of artistic director Geordie Brookman.
He said Steen was a particular target and had been “criminally underutilised” for years.
Brookman acknowledged it was a hefty financial cost for State Theatre, but said it was a risk well worth taking.
“We’ve had to stretch a little bit to do it and I think we’re only able to do it because of the way the company’s grown and the success that it’s had over the last three or four years,” he said.
When Rashidi Edward was studying at the Adelaide College of the Arts, he was often told of the chronically high level of unemployment actors faced in Australia.
But he was one of the lucky ones, successfully going through a two-day audition for the ensemble not long after graduating.
The Congolese-born actor was blown away when told he’d been selected.
“Oh couldn’t believe it. I went crazy, I was like, what, I literally couldn’t believe it,” he said.
Also part of the new ensemble is locally born, but National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) trained Miranda Daughtry.
Miranda Daughtry has great potential according to the company’s artist director. (ABC News: Tony Hill)
She was spotted in a NIDA production by Brookman, who was quick to recruit her when the ensemble was given the green light.
Like the other five actors, the job offer and resulting financial security was a godsend for her.
“It’s such a, I don’t know, treat, not to have to worry about making ends meet,” Daughtry said.
Brookman said she is a rising star of the Australian stage.
“She has those, kind of similar mercurial qualities that have you know the Judy Davis and Sarah Snooks and I suppose the [Cate] Blanchetts of the world have.
“Look at her on stage and go, somebody with this level of technical skill this early in their career, she could go anywhere really,” Brookman predicted.
Daughtry’s currently starring in the classic A Doll’s House, which is playing to rave reviews.
The ensemble will also feature in the company’s next production, the classic Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
For Steen it will mark another milestone moment as she plays the role of Lady Macbeth.
Brookman hopes the creative ensemble, which also features Rachel Burke, Dale March and Nathan O’Keefe, can run beyond the initial two years.
State Theatre last used the ensemble initiative in the 1980s, which fostered the careers of the likes of Geoffrey Rush.
Dale March is part of the State Theatre Company of South Australia’s ensemble. (ABC News: Tony Hill)