Discover La Mama

Acknowledgement of Country

La Mama Theatre is on the traditional land of the Kulin Nation. We give our respect to the Elders of these traditional lands and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people past, present and future. We acknowledge all events take place on stolen land and that sovereignty has not been ceded.

Discover La Mama Theatre

La Mama is valued for championing artistic individuality and freedom and it’s continued advocacy of those seeking to explore beyond mainstream theatre. With its rich history spanning over fifty years, La Mama stimulates work that is adventurous, vigorous, relevant and reflective of a vital range of needs and voices. Treasured nationally and internationally by artists and audiences alike, La Mama provides the integral foundational resources and support for both new and experienced theatre makers. La Mama ensures artist remuneration, celebrates diversity, community and creative risk and pedestals the development of vibrant new work.

community gathering at La Mama Theatre

La Mama makes me happy as an artist, whether I’m sharing a story, listening to a story or performing a story, I always want to engage with La Mama because they are connected to community and understand the importance, that no matter who you are, you have a voice and a story to tell.

-Glenn Shea, Playwright and Traditional Custodian, Wathaurong/Ngarrindjeri
The Uncle Vanya team at Adelaide Festival

The hospitality of the La Mama team throughout is exceptional, particularly in the sweltering heat. […] Unrushed to the point of feeling time-warped, this Chekhov has been “slow cooked” and the result is mouth-watering.Uncle Vanya at The Cedars is a magical, intense and extraordinarily special experience.

Gordon Forester, Limelight Magazine 

La Mama Model

Our unique model provides each production with a modest production budget and the infrastructure to allow artists to focus on their art. This continues to be an attractive proposition to artists at all stages of their career and is in increasing demand.

La Mama’s model of giving artists upfront funding to present work in a rent-free venue, with 80% box-office return, is unique in Australia. This model supports a high artistic risk/low financial risk proposition for artists and encourages a high volume of activity.

In addition access to rehearsal and meeting space, administrative, marketing and technical support and ticketing means for artists, lack of money and infrastructure is no barrier.

La Mama seeks to identify projects, productions and programming opportunities which give a forum to a diversity of theatrical forms; play with, question and extend contemporary performance practice and aesthetics; redress social inequity by promoting social and cultural diversity; challenge, enlighten and empower audiences. La Mama seeks to prioritise new Australian works, created by theatre makers from all backgrounds.

La Mama facilitates the development of people by providing opportunities, pathways and creative empowerment on an incomparable scale. Emerging artists see La Mama as an entry point to the industry, established artists return to La Mama for the unparalleled freedom and artists and audiences from around Australia and the world come to be part of the iconic institution.

La Mama is a good place to understand creativity in more concrete ways. Perhaps the first thing to note is the number of people who have worked there…
For [Andrew] Bovell, one of Australia’s most renowned playwrights and screenwriters, it was a decade-long creative experiment from Whiskey to Lantana in which La Mama played a crucial role…
This is how value in theatre actually accrues. It is embodied and enacted through relationships, and these relationships are enabled by the institutional structures that support them. The relationships exist only as a potential until a company like La Mama gives them a concrete place in the world. When considering La Mama’s value proposition, or the value proposition of any theatre company, we should resist the temptation to ignore history and context and focus on just numerical outputs. Numbers are only an indication that something is going on, an invitation to investigate further. And when we do investigate, what emerges are stories of imagination-in-action, in La Mama’s case, literally thousands of stories. Bundled together they create a meta-narrative that is exciting, unstable, incalculable and rewarding – in short, creative. 

-Julian Meryick, The Conversation, 2017

Working with La Mama Theatre was a wonderful experience. The team are professional, supportive and invest genuine thought and time into their visiting companies. As a London based creative I had not performed or produced a show in Australia in several years, I was navigating uncharted waters (difficult at the best of times when creating Independent Theatre) and La Mama made this a smooth and stress free experience. La Mama gave me the platform to explore new work and opened up opportunities within the Australian theatre industry, that I would not otherwise have had.

-Bj McNeill, FLAWED____like a b_y, Midsumma Festival January 2019

La Mama In Figures

Due to the fire in 2018, our 2017 figures below best represent a regular year of operations! 

2017 AGR numbers snapshot

La Mama Alumni & Future Leaders 

La Mama’s list of Alumni reads like a who’s who of Australian theatre including such greats as David Williamson, Cate Blanchett, Jack Hibberd, Patricia Cornelius, Susie Dee, Graeme Blundell, Judith Lucy and Julia Zemiro. La Mama is proud to play a crucial role in fostering the distinguished careers of so many established and emerging Australian artists.

Each year, works presented at La Mama go onto to have repeat seasons in a multitude of contexts. Artists come and go, spending a lifetime developing and refining their artistry at La Mama while advancing a career representing national festivals, major companies and following all sorts of international opportunities.

Recent examples include: a Malasian presentation of Tales of A City by the Sea, New Zealand presentation of HART, a national tour of Hallowed Ground, a Blue Room Theatre (Perth) presentation of Madame Nightshade’s Poison Garden and #romeoandjuliet, and the recent Adelaide Festival production of Uncle Vanya at The Cedars.

Patricia Cornelius headshot

The invaluable experience, exposure and learning that thousands and thousands of theatre practitioners have gained from making work at La Mama is unquestionable. The number includes playwrights, directors, actors, designers, creatives and crew. They have cut their teeth with the support from this essential company.
I’m a playwright who has benefited immensely from making work at La Mama. My first play with the company was Witch. It gave me great insight into my craft and an understanding of the power of a small theatre and the relationship to audience. Another play, Lilly and May, had its premiere at La Mama. It was a work that was later developed into a play called Love, which has been performed across Australia and internationally and is travelling to the Venice Biennale in July this year having been programmed for the Theatre Festival.

-Patricia Cornelius, Playwright and Windham-Campbell Prize for Drama

La Mama allowed Little Ones Theatre to take risks, explore, and build a show from scratch, as though we were artists in residence – giving us full license to develop our devising skills on a style of work we had never attempted before.
Getting to respond to the history and charm of the tiny and inspiring La Mama Theatre was a godsend that made my practice as a director richer. It showed me the beauty of time and space and how artists should be given more opportunities to inhabit space to build new works in this country. La Mama knew we needed this and provided it tenfold. They are the supporters of independent art – and that isn’t about lip service, it is about their passion and bravery when it comes to the facilitation of new voices in Australia.
The team showed absolute support of my company Little Ones Theatre and housed us as though we were part of the family. This kind of respect and nourishment of artistic practice does not occur anywhere else in this country and I shall be eternally grateful for the chance to work within this iconic theatre company. They made me fall in love with theatre again – not a statement I make lightly.

-Stephen Nicolazzo,  Theatre Director and founder Little Ones Theatre

My own artistic career could not have happened without La Mama, and could not have continued to develop and grow without the collaboration and support of La Mama. I first staged Woman in the Wall there with our new theatre company, Hildegard, in 1992. Since then I have acted in, directed and presented a number of projects: White Neda(1998), Spinning, Weaving, Trees and Songs (1998), andSarajevo Suite by Helen Lucas (2011), Of Cows, Women and War (2014-6), both of which toured as part of La Mama Mobile.
From 2014 – 2019 La Mama has produced the Uncle Vanya project with Bagryana Popov: a site-specific, durational version of Anton Chekhov’s play, adapted to the Australian landscape. The work has been presented in Eganstown and Bundanoon. In March this year Uncle Vanya was presented by the Adelaide Festival to sold out audiences and five star reviews.

-Bagryana Popov, Theatre Director

The best theatre I’ve seen in Melbourne has been at La Mama, and the best work I have made thus far has played there. Undoubtedly this is because La Mama is a safe, supportive place for artists to take creative risks. It is not just a venue: it is a community, an open door, a family. The staff are generous, the audiences are generous, and therefore the art produced there is generous too. La Mama has had a profoundly positive effect on my career trajectory. As a result of presenting work there I have been offered touring opportunities, programmed in curated seasons, received glowing reviews that have facilitated support for the development of future works, and made lasting industry connections.
Lily Fish and Kimberly Twiner created #romeoandjuliet which has had two seasons since it’s premiere at La Mama in 2018 under the name Not Romeo and Juliet including a follow up, sell out season at Melbourne Fringe 2018 and a successful, 5 star reviewed season at Perth Fringe World as part of The Blue Room Theatre’s curated Summer Nights program.

-Lily Fish, Theatre Maker, ensemble member Po Po Mo Co

La Mama Turned 50

In 2017 La Mama turned 50, an occasion marked with a gathering of 300 La Mama community members, a season of alumni and the production of a 50th anniversary commemorative book, published by Melbourne University Press and received national recognition for our contribution to the arts.

In 2017 La Mama celebrates its 50th anniversary. It has been a constant in Melbourne’s artistic scene since actors first trooped onstage in the former underwear and shirt factory in Carlton in 1967 to perform Jack Hibberd’s Three Old Friends. Australian culture as we know it is unthinkable without it. […] In that half-century, this tiny theatre has nurtured generations of talent: not only theatre artists but also musicians, filmmakers and poets. […] With La Mama, it’s always personal. Thinking about this anniversary, I realised that La Mama has wound through my entire artistic life.
La Mama was doing gender equity long before it was hip, pioneering the work of Val Kirwan and Tes Lyssiotis in the 1970s and ’80s, and has long had a policy of Indigenous representation, most recently a prominent association with Ilbijerri Theatre Company. […] La Mama was, and against all the odds still remains, the place that says “yes”.

The Monthly, Alison Croggon, 2017

Every time I go to see yet another performance at La Mama, I can’t help but marvel at just how fortunate we have been in Melbourne to have such an unconventional, off-the-wall, eccentric and downright idiosyncratic theatrical space in our midst for nigh of fifty years.

-Jean Taylor, La Mama audience member

La Mama Fire

The La Mama Fire of Saturday 19 May 2018 was ignited by an electrical fault. Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade and key insurers QBE found no evidence of arson or negligence. The electrical fault is thought to have been caused by old wiring. The overwhelming response from the community was strengthening. It was made clear that La Mama is an essential creative institution that must rise from the ashes. Immediately following the fire, we re-housed the next six productions programmed at La Mama at generous venues around Melbourne. From there, we created our own theatre space at Trades Hall, presenting eight La Mama productions up until early October 2018. In doing this we honoured all the artists that we had committed to. We postponed our Explorations 2018 season to 2019 and reduced our program from October 2018. We will continue to operate from the Courthouse, with the exception of Explorations 2019 being held at The Burrow, up until La Mama on Faraday Street is rebuilt.

Screenshot from La Mama Chair Richard Watts Facebook. Click picture to go to original post
Screenshot from Peter Kahlil MP responding to the fire on Twitter. Click picture to see original post

La Mama is a Melbourne masterpiece, a critically important part of our theatre history and living performance ecology. It can and must rise again though its new form is yet unknown. The message to our dear friend Liz Jones and the La Mama team is that when you have finished grieving deeply as you must – and we all grieve with you – it will be time to gird the loins, harness the support that wants to be told how to give, and begin the journey to some better future. It is a very hard road – there are false starts, dead ends, muddy crevasses and seemingly impossible peaks to be scaled in the midst of appalling storms – but many will want to help you along the way. Find the trail or make the trail and ask for help. You have lost so much, but kicking through the stinking black ashes you will discover new green growth.

– Daily Review, Carrillo Gantner, 2018
Screenshot of La Mama on Channel 9 news. Click image to view original news segment

La Mama Explorations

La Mama’s Explorations season has been supporting works in development since 1980.

Creative exploration is at the core of all works produced and presented at La Mama, however the annual Explorations’ season of works in development is a special time of year when productions are given three nights in the space to explore their practice and develop their theatrical pursuits.

Nine Explorations from our 2017 season and twelve Explorations from our 2016 have already gone on to have fruitful lives. Hallowed Ground (Shift Theatre) has recently completed a national tour, The Rug (Ben Grant) and Jeremy and Lucas buy a Fucking House (Natesha Somasundaram) have both been nominated for 2018 Green Room awards, Conversations With Dead Relatives (Flaxworks) has toured New Zealand extensively, A Figure Walks into An Empty Room (Smiljana Glisovic) went on to have a season at the NonfictionNow conference in Texas, and Madame Nightshades Poison Garden(Anna Thomson) has continued to be in high demand with multiple return seasons including a Best Theatre Nomination at Perth’s Fringe World.

La Mama is the beating heart of Melbourne’s independent theatre scene: its supportive and open minded approach strengthens the fabric of Melbourne’s civic life. Without its developmental Explorations arm, I would not have had the opportunity to produce my solo shows which directly contributed to my collaboration with Robert Lepage on Jeux De Cartes: Coeur from 2012 to 2015.
Ben Grant’s performances and sound designs at La Mama include Rich And Creamy, Lord of Misruleand his solo work The Shrink and Swell of Knots which was first performed as part of La Mama’s 2011 Explorations. Along with a full season at La Mama the following year, it toured regional Victoria and was presented as part of the 2014 Brisbane Festival. Ben’s 2018 solo work The Rug has been nominated for three Green Room awards.

-Ben Grant, Actor and Theatre Maker

Every aspect of making this show for Explorations comes at a time when spending money on making art is an extreme luxury for me (from a financial point-of-view) so the support from La Mama is hugely appreciated and, in fact, making possible what would otherwise not be possible.

-Andi Snelling, Theatre Maker

An Inclusive La Mama

The La Mama Access Program aims to engage the participation of artists and community members who face challenges in accessing arts and cultural opportunities.

As part of our commitment to improving La Mama’s accessibility, we are currently implementing a Disability Action Plan to welcome all audiences.

For this purpose, La Mama is dedicated to implementing, maintaining and reviewing its Action Plan in order to create positive discrimination for patrons with a disability and encourage their ongoing involvement in the arts.

This Disability Action Plan has prioritised strategies that are realistic and achievable with the current resources and in the actual operating environment, while producing the greatest benefits for the everyday experience of patrons and artists with disability as well as staff members.

La Mama is focusing upon 4 key strategy areas:

Increase participation of people with disability through better access to La Mama.

Reduce barriers to persons with disability obtaining and maintaining artistic opportunities and employment.

Create audience development by making performances inclusive and accessible.

Lead changes in attitudes and practices that will enhance access for all.

The initiatives contained in this Action Plan will deliver benefits for all patrons and artists as well as demonstrate to the community that improving access is an ongoing organisational commitment for La Mama Theatre.

You can consult the online version of our Disability Action Plan HERE.

In 2018 we launched our La Mama For All campaign . 2018 shows increased initiatives for access including community tickets, Auslan interpreted and Audio Described performances as well as tactile tours and improved website facilities.

The campaign was regrettably interrupted by the fire, however the money raised contributed to  two Auslan interpreted performances. We will also be using the funds raised to implement new programs across 2019 and 2020.

The La Mama Courthouse is now fully accessible for all patrons. As we rebuild or La Mama, we are working towards making our Faraday Street venue universally accessible.

La Mama encourages all artists to make shows here as accessible as possible, and seeks to engage with various communities about their access preferences for works.

La Mama accepts Companion Cards and assistance animals are most welcome.

La Mama for all illustration with various inclusion symbols

La Mama’s Sustainable Future

Green is the new black here at La Mama with our Sustainability Action Plan in full force. We work to reduce our ecological impact with implemented strategies which lower our consumption of water and energy. Among our achievements are:

Reducing the number of our printed season brochure, which is printed on 100% recyclable paper

Offering the option of online show programs

Lowering our building’s energy and water consumption

Reducing the use of paper for administration work and using recycled paper when required

Raising artists’ awareness about their energy use and encouraging them to make more sustainable choices

Advocating for our audiences to choose more sustainable modes of transport

Stocking our venue with Who Gives a Crap 100% recycled toilet paper and tissues

Planning to rebuild La Mama Theatre as an energy-efficient building

An illustration that reads 'La Mama encourages you to travel sustainably'

Download 2017 AGM