LA MAMA STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT 2023
LA MAMA holds a unique and essential place in the theatre ecology, being the portal through which almost all new works and new writers are born and allowed to grow. More than ever the La Mama’s of the world are essential to the wellbeing and vitality of the sector, ensuring a strong and vibrant future. There are so few opportunities and spaces to experiment, to take risks, to know what works and what doesn’t–this is the only way to learn. For an independent artist there are so few path ways and La Mama is one of the main ones.
La Mama with the recruitment of Glenn Shea as the First Nations Producer, is addressing the desperate need to attract and engage First Nation artists in all aspects of the performing arts from Producing, to writing to design and marketing. First nations mob are encouraged to pursue whatever their interest is and get hands on experience through attachments and mentoring. As a non-first nations organisation–it’s easy to get this work wrong, but with the recruitment of and guided by Glenn, La Mama is ensuring the cultural safety of participants and this is reflected in the growing number of First Nations artists getting involved with La Mama.
I have been very concerned by the constant vulnerability of this organisation and the uncertainty of their funding – Given this is an institution that the sector could not exist without, it baffles me why this is the case. I would ideally like to see this organisation put on permanent long term secure funding so they can just get on with doing the amazing job they’ve been doing for more than 50 years.
We need La Mama, we need to be able to learn by trying it out, by making mistakes in a low-risk environment. It may mean that not all work that is presented is brilliant – BUT THAT’S THE WHOLE IDEA!! There’s only one way through to greatness and that’s-being allowed to play, to fall in the mud, wipe yourself down and get back up again. I hope the funding selection panel see to it that La Mama is able to continue the critical work that they do for the health and well-being of the sector and in ensuring a strong and vibrant future of amazing Australian theatre.– Rachel Maza AM – Artistic Director ILBIJERRI Theatre Company
As a playwright and actor that works internationally, I know of no other theatre in the world that has the legacy of empowerment and connection that Melbourne’s La Mama has for its artists and audiences. Globally renowned for its brave and brilliant work, La Mama has provided countless artists with the platforms and pathways to present their ideas, their voices, their stories, their songs, their authentic selves. Such artistic freedom and community engagement – onstage and off – is a rare, rare gift, and one that must be supported and sustained. It is vitally important that these voices and stories don’t ever fall silent, and that audiences can continue to be thrilled by the experience that makes every La Mama show so unique, so powerful, so accessible and so inspiring.– Kate Mulvany OAM – Actor, Playwright, Screenwriter
La Mama is for Melbourne not simply a theatrical institution at the forefront of so many of our timeless productions over decades. Rather it represents the faith and love for an art form in one singular building through the unrelenting efforts of a vibrant and committed community. It has provided not only the artists of Melbourne and beyond a place to workshop, interrogate and mould ideas into a myriad of forms, but offered audiences a welcoming place to come and engage in a truly participatory creative process. A place where we all feel we are part of something new and exciting. La Mama is one of Melbourne’s great cultural icons and with the continued application of artists from a hugely diverse pool it will remain a shining light of hope for all theatre lovers. I am proud to say I have had the privilege to be a small part of this history.– Louise Siversen – Actor
La Mama is the space to experiment, take risks, to be naive and to learn what is possible to do in theatre. La Mama was also the place where I saw the first theatre production that spoke to me directly, made me dream that theatre could be part of my life. I discovered Jean Genet and Tess Lyssiotis and John Romeril through La Mama: I will be eternally grateful for that. We need La Mama so that people can keep discovering the new and the possible. La Mama also produced some of my first plays, allowed me to risk failure, which is ESSENTIAL to a continuing vocation as an artist. It’s a lifeblood for us artists here in Melbourne. I can’t imagine my city without it.– Christos Tsiolkas – Writer
La Mama is regarded, quite rightly, as a institution and is a much beloved centre of Melbourne’s performance culture. Its long and distinguished history is well known: since it was founded in 1967, it has launched the careers of an astonishing number of Australia’s performance artists, from luminaries such as Cate Blanchett and Jack Hibberd, to thousands of lesser-known artists who have gone on to create the backbone of Australian performing arts.
Its generous open-door policy means that La Mama has long been – modestly but strongly – at the forefront of issues of representation, from championing theatre by women to First Nations artists, queer theatre, disability arts and more. And it has always been host to the strange, the alternative and the avant garde. Without La Mama over the past half century, Australian theatre would have been immeasurably poorer. Without secure funding, its necessary project of providing a space to nurture new and non-mainstream artists becomes all the harder. As Australian performance recovers from the bleakest years I can remember, that project has never been more necessary. I strongly urge you to favourably consider restoring its multiyear funding and to nurture a theatre that has done – and continues to do – so much in nurturing our culture.– Alison Croggon – Writer, Critic, Arts Editor The Saturday Paper
While there are youth theatre companies who support young artists and writing programs at university – the gap between these two formalised training opportunities is stark. Mainstage theatres do their best to offer opportunities, but nothing at the career point that La Mama proposes to be working with.– Petra Kalive – Director, Dramaturg, Associate Director MTC
Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative’s support for La Mama’s funding application to expand their First Nations Programs
I write this letter in support of La Mama and their First Nations theatre, in particular their funding application to grow their First Nations programs. La Mama provides opportunities for our and other Aboriginal community members to share stories, songs, and dances within our own cultural context, while building capacity and expertise in all aspects of theatre production. La Mama’s First Nations Strategy was developed by our own Uncle Glenn Shea, a well-respected member of the Wathaurong community. As La Mama’s First Nations Producer, Uncle Glenn oversees and supports/mentors all Indigenous content, which gives us confidence in the direction the Indigenous programs take.
We also support La Mama’s commitment to increase Indigenous audience participation, which has already resulted in a project partnership between Wathaurong and La Mama where we recently ran two live stream screenings to our community of Uncle Glenn’s own theatre production ‘An Indigenous Trilogy’. This allowed us to introduce theatre and Uncle Glenn’s story to a new audience but within a safe and supported environment.
So it is for these reasons that we support La Mama’s funding application for strengthening their Indigenous theatre programs.
Nyatne, gobata (thanks, take care),– Simon Flagg – CEO Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative
My first play to be staged in Australia was Tales of a City by the Sea. The play is a love story set in Gaza, the city of my birth. We had a reading at La Mama Theatre in 2012, and I remember someone pointing out to me that the woman sitting in the back row was their artistic director, Liz Jones. I had no idea who Liz was until I later met her and learned of the incredible role she plays in supporting new and emerging writers. I also discovered how brave she is. It takes bravery to platform a Palestinian love story, knowing the kind of reaction anything Palestinian can trigger. Liz programmed Tales of a City by the Sea at La Mama in 2014, and again in 2016. It was that play that entered me into the Australian theatre scene. Without Liz’s support, I may never have been given a chance. The sell-out success of both seasons is a testimony to the power of storytelling and its ability to uphold humanity above politics and to triumph above racism, discrimination and hate.– Samah Sabawi – Palestinian Playwright, Scholar, Commentator, Poet
No one in the theatre world needs me to tell them that La Mama can stage absolute rubbish. Even Betty Burstall had sharp views on some of the work staged in the theatre she established. And yet La Mama is a remarkable institution because it’s in it for the long haul. It recognises that theatre must be allowed to fail if it is to break new ground, and every so often, a work comes along that succeeds in ways no one was quite expecting.– Cameron Woodhead – Theatre Reviewer, Senior Theatre Critic, The Age
Shout out to projects and companies like Australian Digital Theatre, La Mama, and The Motley Bauhaus who are all pioneering digital access.– Dr Robert Reid - Playwright, theatre historian, immersive performance designer, critic
It just is amazing – it’s better than ever. We have just been so supported and looked after. And the facilities and the infrastructure that just wrap around you as artists… and you go – ohh, this is what it feels like to be supported in an arts context! It’s just amazing! I can’t sing the praises highly enough.– Kirsten Von Bibra – Director
I’m delighted to be included in La Mama’s Winter Program. It remains one of my favourite theatre companies in the world. Its importance to the theatre landscape in Australia is huge.– Stephen House – Actor, Playwright, Director
It was a big night. After initial panic and despair at the news of the fire, then months of fundraising and construction, the newly rebuilt La Mama HQ finally staged its first show last night. Whilst the space is renewed, it’s still the same La Mama. As we were led into the new theatre, for the premiere of From All Who Came Before as part of the Midsumma Festival, I could see previous parts of the space, that to me were iconic La Mama nooks and crannies, had been kept. The black brick walls, with several doors camouflaged into them, were back. The same staircase at the back wall of the space led down onto the stage, where various props and set pieces awaited the performers. The theatre was as intimate as ever- a blank page for all creative minds and viewers to project onto. The same can be said for the show itself.– Greta Doell
A spirited jaunt through the history of Australian theatre proves a fitting entree to the first season at the rebuilt La Mama headquarters in Carlton. The building itself has a storied past. In previous lives, it was a shoe factory, and more racily a silk underwear workshop. In 1967, inspired by New York’s experimental theatre of the same name, Betty Burstall transformed it into an incubator for Australia’s new wave, led by playwrights such as Jack Hibberd and David Williamson. Their confidence and determination to forge a distinctly Australian style of theatre had more obscure forerunners, and as Robert Reid’s whirlwind lecture shows, even La Mama’s more recent travails – it was destroyed by fire in 2018 – are hardly without precedent.– Cameron Woodhead – Theatre Reviewer, Senior Theatre Critic, The Age
Finney had been involved in La Mama, the tiny Carlton theatre that launched the careers of Jack Hibberd, David Williamson, Graeme Blundell and others. In the first two years after it was launched in 1967 by Betty Burstall after she and her husband Tim had been inspired by the off-Broadway scene in New York, the boutique theatre staged 25 original Australian works, and the response was enough to suggest the time might be right for Australian filmmaking too. “People used to come to La Mama to see Australian actors and actresses performing Australian stories,” says Finney. “So why not on screen?”Karl Quinn – Alan Finney, ‘godfather of Australian cinema’, passes the baton
Next door is La Mama Theatre, a fixture of Carlton since the suburb’s bohemian 1960s. Recovered from a 2018 fire and months of shutdowns, the theatre, known for its cutting-edge productions, now stands tall with a new look. “Thank god we’ve got it there,” says Di Stasio. “Carlton would not be the same without it.”Ronnie Di Stasio’s guide to Lygon Street, Carlton – Good Food Guide
La Mama has been a back bone of my early development in the arts. I couldn’t have done it without the assistance or Betty and the mob giving us the chop out. They were great heady days and I always felt welcomed. I didn’t really feel as though I was on the fringe once I was doing production stuff here. The biggest highlight of working with La Mama has been in recent years when we did Corankerrk. It’s become significant now, a testament to La Mama’s eyeballing significant moments in Victorian Aboriginal history.
It allows people like people like myself, the first black fella, the first black fella to come in here and start working.– Uncle Jack Charles – Actor, Performer, Activist
It’s such an essential stepping stone for so many people, I certainly feel like it was for me.– Judith Lucy – Comedian, Writer
La Mama Theatre creates something that no other creates. It creates up, close drama, the audience is right there on top of you, the acting style has to real, it has to be urgent and pressing. It offers energy and a playing style that is totally authentic.– David Williamson – Playwright
For me La Mama is the perfect theatre makers, performers, practitioner’s incubator.– Dure Dare OAM – Musician, Activist, Businesswoman
There aren’t many places where you can feel you can belong and that you can muck in and be a part of even for a short while to give you meaning. The big thing I learnt from working at La Mama was how big I could be. La Mama affords you the time and the space to try again…It’s that sense of feeling warm, and feeling ready to see something and feeling held because it is a small space.– Julia Zemiro – Actor, Presenter
I have worked at La Mama directing and performing since 1985, most recently in 2022. It was and remains our unique treasure, the most experimental and helpful theatrical laboratory in the country. Providing seed money and 80% of the gate to artists is simply the most generous arrangement on offer. Further, and equally importantly, the staff offer friendship, experience and intimate understanding of the travails of the creative artist. It is convivial and rigorous. Companies have complete freedom to pursue their vision. I have witnessed countless individuals and groups find their feet at La Mama and celebrate their entry into an artistic pathway that would otherwise have been unattainable.– John Bolton – Teacher, Performer, Director
La Mama is crucial in our cultural ecology. For creative output, opening doors to artists and support for practice, it is unparalleled. My own artistic career could not have happened without La Mama. I began in 1992 and I have been supported to wonderful artistic achievements. La Mama co-produced my site-specific, environmental Uncle Vanya, which was presented at Adelaide Festival 2019. It couldn’t have happened without La Mama. I directed THEM, by Samah Sabawi, which was presented by La Mama in 2019 and was nominated for multiple award nominations, including Best Director and awarded for Best Writer. Last year it had a national tour. This couldn’t have happened without La Mama. I am among hundreds and hundreds of artists that La Mama has launched and supported over the years.
La Mama is inspiring and relevant. It has a vision that is artistically exciting, diverse, inclusive and artist-centred. It is efficient and prolific in its output. It is a place where artists tell moving stories and debate burning issues. It supports nascent work and world-class work to be done and seen. Without La Mama our cultural landscape would be impoverished. La Mama is the heart of Melbourne theatre. It is crucial to the survival of performance in Australia. It came through the fire, was rebuilt, and is looking ahead with vision and dynamism. It is desperately needed. Please support La Mama to continue their amazing work.– Bagryana Popov – Director, Writer, Actor, Dramaturg, Teacher
La Mama is, and has been for a long time, the most important theatrical hub in Melbourne. Without La Mama there would be no grass roots support for the development of new Australian work. There would be no venue to nurture theatrical experimentation. There would be no place for new and undiscovered theatre makers to produce their work with support. There would be nowhere that fledgling playwrights can see their work performed, learn from it, and move on to the next work. And nowhere for experienced playwrights to return to rediscover the intimacy of playing in small and demanding venues or to create works that are edgy and tough which unlike most theatre companies, La Mama is happy to support.
I’m a playwright who has benefitted immensely from making work at La Mama. My first play with the company was “Witch”. The experience was electrifying. It gave me great insight into my craft and an understanding of the power of a small theatre and the relationship to audience. Later another play, “Lilly and May,” had its premiere. It was a work that was later developed into a work called “Love”, which has been performed across Australia and internationally and travelled to the Venice Biennale in July 2019 being the first Australian work to be programmed for the Theatre Festival. La Mama’s contribution to the making of very fine theatre practitioners and making very fine theatre is unquestionable. I urge you to support this wonderful and vibrant theatre.– Patricia Cornelius – Playwright, Screenwriter, Novelist
I was fortunate to be awarded the ‘Australia Council Theatre Award’ last year and I firmly believe that my career as a ‘freelance’ Independent Theatre Director/Performer/Devisor for the past 40 years has survived and flourished because of my early works that were supported and produced at La Mama Theatre. La Mama welcomed me and writer Patricia Cornelius in a very early work, a play called Lily and May. We had applied for financial support through the funding bodies but were unsuccessful- we went to La Mama with no funds, but they supported our production and even gave us financial/marketing support. From this small season we were picked up by a major company-Playbox Theatre (now CUB Malthouse) and the show was remounted in the Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre. We then went on to tour this show to Europe/Canada/America for over 3 years. Many productions at La Mama have gone on to tour, win awards and change peoples’ lives- not just the artists lives but audiences a plenty.
I believe La Mama is the most important theatre/ cultural institution we have, not just in Victoria, but in Australia. La Mama is essential, not just for emerging artists but to ALL artists. La Mama plays a crucial and vital role in our industry. I whole heartedly recommend that La Mama gets the support they need, so they can keep supporting the plethora of emerging and established artists that are hungry and keen to make work that shakes us up, provokes us and entertains us.– Susie Dee – Performer, Devisor, Director
La Mama itself is iconic as the place in the late 1960s and 1970s where new Australian writing took Australia by storm. David Williamson and Jack Hibberd amongst the great playwrights who have called La Mama home. Known for its open, democratic and welcoming base, and as university drama departments close, and humanities courses skyrocket in price, La Mama is an ideal home for development of new work by diverse artists across age, gender, culture and language. La Mama is woven into the warp and weft of Australian theatre. Without talented writers coming out of the seeding ground of La Mama, the Australian theatre industry, both state and commercial, will be all the poorer.– Rosemary Johns – Playwright, Vice-President Women Playwrights International
La Mama is the spiritual home of Australian theatre. I first worked at this wee theatre in 1978 after graduating from NIDA, and have since watched with great affection, gratitude and awe the support given to the emerging talent in our very special community of creative artists – many of whom have gone on to wider success. La Mama has a unique history that deserves very careful preservation to continue its vital work in the Melbourne theatre scene.– Debra Lawrence – Actor
As an award winning playwright, theatre maker and educator with a practice spanning 25 years, starting out in the performing arts as a singer, La Mama is where I, and literally hundreds of other working theatre artists started out, many of us still going! I don’t know where else I could have received such encouragement and opportunities as was offered to me. Just one example is my play Bare Witness that toured nationally with Performing Lines on the back of a wildly successful first season through La Mama. This year I am thrilled to be coordinating La Mama’s new Pathways program with their First Nations Producer Glenn Shea. Twelve emerging and mid career theatre makers will be given the opportunity to develop concrete skills via nuts and bolts training, alongside vital industry connections and mentoring. At the time of writing we are inundated with applications – no greater proof of the vital and necessary role that La Mama has to play, both now and in the future. La Mama is the most significant training ground and engine room of our theatre industry; it is ESSENTIAL to the theatre arts ecology in Melbourne and Victoria.– Mari Lourey – Playwright, Dramaturg, Theatremaker
La Mama provides a safe space for experimentation in the arts and performance and is part of the future health and sustainability of our arts industry in Australia. La Mama’s resilience, resourcefulness and connection to community has birthed thousands of artists and productions from all over the country into the industry. La Mama gives independent artists what they need at all stages of their career: a space, an audience, a chance to experiment, the belief that they can do it. I manage a mentorship / career development program for queer artists with disability. In November 2022, I took a group of artists to visit La Mama, including interstate and regional artists and they were all welcomed with open arms into the space and community of La Mama. Some of these artists have never had access to a space to stage their work. In La Mama, these emerging artists found community and potential. From the 40+ Midsumma Pathways artists from around the country over the past 3 years, I can attest that the feedback is consistent year on year. Artists need spaces to explore their work and ideas. Disabled artists need spaces that are set up to support and champion their art. La Mama is unique and lasting in their commitment to independent artists and experimentation. An investment in La Mama is an investment in the next generation of art and its makers.– Harriet Devlin – Performer, Director, Artist Development Manager Midsumma Festival
La Mama Theatre is currently a significant partner organisation with the Royal Children’s Hospital Festival for Healthy Living program called Deadly Dreamin’. This program aims to promote positive mental health for Aboriginal young people in the outer North Western suburbs of Melbourne through the performing and visual arts. Within this context, La Mama provides crucial links with Indigenous artists, an important location for young people to understand the significance of theatre as cultural expression, while offering them an accessible and culturally sensitive way into performance both as a performer and as an audience. The partnership with RCH is indicative of La Mama’s importance in the theatre and mental health and community wellbeing ecology now and into the future.– Dr Anna Loewendahl – Artistic Coordinator, Festival for Healthy Living
As one of the oldest independent theatres in Melbourne, La Mama Theatre has been, and continues to be, the heart for many actors, writers, and directors. The Student Experience team at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Melbourne have collaborated with La Mama to run student programs about embedding diversity, access, and equity into practice, and finding career pathways and employability in the arts. La Mama has created a safe space for our students to be part of the theatre community by facilitating an environment for expression, growth, and a sense of future. La Mama is a legacy to creativity and community.– Katie Neumann – The Student Experience team, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, The University of Melbourne
Union House Theatre is the creative hub for extracurricular student theatre and performance at the University of Melbourne. Based in Carlton, just meters down the road from La Mama Theatre, we provide a rich environment in which autonomous and diverse student theatre can flourish, supporting an ecology of high-impact, student led creativity. La Mama Theatre is one of our key partners for industry pathways – together we provide students with the chance to formalise their passion, curiosity and connection. Students work with UHT at the commencement of their creative careers – here they are introduced to (and become excited by) the possibility of what they are capable of. Partnering together on Explorations seasons, Writer in Residency Programs, Award Opportunities, Mentorship and Internship programs provides students with the tools, skills and networks that support them to take the next steps in their career beyond university. We both believe in taking steps: small steps, big steps, steps into the unknown, risk taking, care, autonomy – La Mama is an essential partner for university artists and emerging makers in allowing them to take the steps they need, at the pace which works for them, as artists and as cultural beings.– Xanthe Beesley – Artistic Director Union House Theatre, University of Melbourne
I write to you as Joint Program Coordinator of the Bachelor of Performing Arts undergraduate degree at Federation University Australia in Ballarat, where I have been employed since 2001 as the Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts. Concurrent to this is my continuing practice as one of Australia’s leading theatre directors. My association with La Mama commenced with my production of Andrew Bovell’s first play, AfterDinner , I took the proposal for the first production of this play to Liz Jones as a part of my first Australia Council application, a Director’s Development Grant, and she agreed, based on a 15-minute sample. The application was successful and the play was presented in1988. This production kick started the careers of both Andrew and me. I have returned to direct at LaMama on a number of occasions since then. This is not for sentimental reasons, but rather to take advantage of its cutting-edge capacity to support new work, operate as an artistic incubator and elevate the practice of a cross-generational community of amazing artists La Mama’s capacity to rise again from the ashes matches its future potential to help Victoria’s theatre community to rise again post-COVID. I consider it to be the most important theatre in Australia for its supportive engagement with artists and writers, and for its democratic invitation to respond to the future whilst celebrating culture now.– Associate Professor Kim Durban – Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts, Federation University
La Mama Theatre is a great over-achiever in the field of theatre practice in Melbourne. La Mama Theatre actually sets an example for the sort of engagement that other Melbourne venues should be inspired by. La Mama’s open door policy has never disappointed myself or my associated peers. It is common practice for La Mama to welcome independent artists, new people, risk takers, brave poets, under-represented folk and stories into their programming. Anyone will notice that La Mama leaves no programming gap unfilled. Their turnover of high quality, experimental and new works sew seeds for artists at all stages of their careers. La Mama is crucial to the creative landscape of Australia. La Mama should undoubtedly be assisted by the Australia Council for the Arts in order to sustain a future of innovative new theatremakers.– Kimberley Twiner – Performer, Teacher, Director Melbourne Physical Theatre School
I am an independent theatre maker based in Melbourne, who rides the strange middle ground of being a highly skilled professional performer and theatre maker, but also an independent practitioner juggling the creative process alongside producing, managing meagre finances, attempting to follow creative vision and impulse in new and brave territory, and hunting for space, support and resources. La Mama’s Explorations program gave me the humble and profound gift of theatre space, trust, and logistical support, and in return only asked for me to leap into making theatre that truly excited me. Very few other organisations are so committed to fostering artists from the ground up. La Mama is an crucial part of the Victorian and Australian theatre ecosystems, and must be supported to continue this work.– Phoebe Mason – Performer, Theatremaker, Playback Theatre
La Mama is vital to the Australian Arts community because, over and over again, it performs the herculean task of protecting and fanning the creative spark of arts creators from diverse backgrounds and aesthetics. It provides a launching place as well as a home for revisiting works. It promotes voices that would otherwise not have the opportunity to reach a wider potential audience. There is nowhere else I know that offers such support for script development, production, technical needs, marketing and venue management. La Mama makes work possible that can explode the edges of theatre and performance and propel the Australian Arts community into a bolder, brighter future.– Susan Bamford Caleo – Vocal Coach, Performer, Singer, Actor
I am writing to give my unreserved support for La Mama Theatre. As an audience member and as a musician, composer and sound artist working both at local, national independent theatre and in international experimental / interdisciplinary projects, I experience La Mama theatre as a crucial, vital epicentre of theatre-making in this country. I am indebted to La Mama for the many years of support they have offered me as an artist, from an emerging artist to now. La Mama provides a platform and a community from which I continually develop my skills, in which I can take creative risks, hone established skills, deepen creative collaborative relationships and where I am introduced to new collaborations. La Mama provides an invaluable, precious point of continuity, a supported, diverse, strong community of intergenerational creating and creators, in what is an often fragmented industry (in the independent performing arts). La Mama is an invaluable, crucial part of this country’s cultural ecology. Supporting La Mama enables our emerging, emergent stories to be discovered and told and is a vital part of our nation’s living culture.– Elissa Goodrich – Sound Artist, Musician, Composer
For more than 50 years, La Mama has maintained an open-door policy to welcome an extensive range of experienced, mid-career and emerging theatre- makers, poets, designers, theatre technicians, cabaret performers, children, theatre practitioners musicians and other creative souls. Like the hub of a wheel it draws in a diversity of artists to its intimate spaces, financially supports, enables, nurtures and encourages all efforts of theatrical experimentation and risk-taking, and then spirals them out to the broader Arts community. Without La Mama there would be a giant black hole at the heart of the Melbourne theatre scene.
The La Mama Learning Program is a vital part of the education of secondary students, providing opportunities for students and educators to attend performances, forums and tours, and the opportunity to connect with artists and theatre-makers at Melbourne’s home of Independent Theatre.– Maureen Hartley – Performer, Writer, La Mama Learning Producer
La Mama supports local artists and new works. We deliberately choose La Mama where possible to support the theatre and to support local artists, and to enable our students to see contemporary performance work in a very intimate setting. Students are then encouraged to see La Mama as a place to visit after they have left school. In La Mama’s school program we are offered a range of supporting documentation – the ability for the students to have the script to work with is excellent and allows the students to look deeply into the piece of work they have experienced live. To discuss the work with actors and directors in the after-show forums is wonderful. Students attending La Mama also become a part of our rich cultural heritage and in class we discuss the importance of La Mama in the development of Melbourne’s cultural history. On a basic administrative level, La Mama are so professional to work with and yet so friendly and accommodating. La Mama staff are consistently friendly and supportive for the students. I thank La Mama for offering not only a range of amazing theatre for students to see but for being a truly humane and wonderfully supportive and supporting environment.– Cath Garrett – Head of Drama Presbyterian Ladies’ College
I have had the absolute privilege of producing and performing in two vastly different shows at La Mama HQ and Courthouse venues. La Mama is the single most important theatre venue in Melbourne and possibly Australia; nowhere else are artists given the autonomy, support (financial and creative) like they are given at La Mama. La Mama is integral to giving new Australian work a life without the financial burden that often comes with producing work. It is accessible and transparent – all you have to do is send a proposal email or script to be considered – truly refreshing application process unburdened by countless questions associated with other models. La Mama has been an invaluable pathway for me personally and I cannot support this theatre and the team enough. Our art’s industry depends on it.– Madelaine Nunn – Playwright, Actor, Theatre maker
I first worked at La Mama in 1985 in Making The Jump. I can still vividly remember how challenging and exciting it was to work in the intimate and unique space, that La Mama is. It was my first professional gig and I loved it. Since then I have performed in numerous plays at La Mama and the Courthouse over a 40 year career. I keep returning. It has been a hugely important part of my professional life and that of many of my colleagues. Ongoing friendships and collaborations have been forged there. It’s a place to try new work, or older work in new ways, experiment without financial risk. The support and endorsement from the La Mama staff and the opportunity for theatre makers to present work in all stages of their careers is amazing and unmatched. It is an essential and critical part of Australian theatre fabric, providing much needed pathways for emerging artists and validity to the established artist, not necessarily on the Main Stage. La Mama is as relevant now as it was in the beginning. Long live La Mama. Thank you for all the great multitude of career moments you have given me.– Carole Patullo – Actor
La Mama could perhaps be described as Poor Theatre, not in the strict Grotowskian sense, but rather in how it manages its finances. Its financial model means that it is possible for theatre practitioners to mount a small-scale production with a reasonable expectation that they will be able to cover their costs. Those involved won’t be making a fortune, certainly, but at least they won’t be obliged to hassle their parents into taking out a second mortgage just to cover their debts. As a result, risk-taking is permissible. And it is artistic risk-taking that is perhaps La Mama’s greatest strength. By allowing the possibility of failure, you increase the chances of success. Over the years, La Mama has helped launch the careers of countless Australian writers and, in the process, the careers of theatre-makers of all disciplines. There is an ethos to La Mama which is supportive, encouraging and stimulating. In these times, never has it been more valuable or necessary for artists to be able to benefit from the environment it provides. Long may it continue!– Phil Roberts – Actor, Director
La Mama is the beating heart of theatre in Melbourne, providing a space for emerging and new artists to find their voice and for seasoned professionals to stretch their muscles. La Mama has been entirely responsible for me discovering my own unique practice, supporting me from my graduation project at VCA (and my first ever play) in 2016 through to an award-winning trilogy of plays I’ve since written, to be presented together in 2023.– Olivia Satchell – Writer
As a Theatre-maker at La Mama since February 1988, as theatre companies and ensembles come and go, and performance styles go in and out of fashion, La Mama is the singular constant in Melbourne’s theatre scene. After more than 50 years it remains a place for experiment and complexity, for individuality and community, for intimacy and spectacle, tragedy and hilarity, hope and consolation. Without La Mama we flounder in a world of creative competitiveness and tribalism. La Mama gives us a home where all artists and audience are welcome. We all come from La Mama!– Laurence Strangio – Director, Dramaturg, Theatremaker
La Mama Theatre is an important company based on Wurundjeri country in Melbourne. It is a culturally diverse and safe space for artists and creatives to collaborate and create important works. La Mama is essential as it promotes and gives voice to First Nations people and stories. Under the guidance of Uncle Glenn Shea, they are continuing to tell important stories, and pathway emerging and exciting new artists in the creative space. The company’s contribution to supporting and engaging First Nations artists highlights that they have an important role in Melbourne’s cultural and arts precinct going forwards and into the future. I worked with La Mama late last year as a performer in Uncle Glenn’s play Some Secrets should be kept secret, as part of (An Indigenous Trilogy). I very much had a great experience working with him and the team at La Mama, and felt supported by the staff and team. I have been fortunate to be mentored as an emerging writer by Uncle Glenn Shea and Mari Lourey in developing a new play, The Whisper that debuted at Melbourne Fringe in 2022. Glenn and Mari were the co-dramaturgs for my play. I was grateful to meet regularly at La Mama during this development process and observed the culture of inclusion for First Nations artists, such as myself.– Brodie Murray – Wamba Wamba playwright and performer
I moved from El Salvador to Australia eight years ago. The first show I ever directed was eight years ago, at La Mama; and my first written and self-directed show was presented last month, at La Mama. La Mama is not just a theatre, it’s home. Every theatre practitioner in Melbourne knows about La Mama and most likely has done a show in one of its venues, it is because artists are respected in their developments, it’s a place where artistic experimentation is welcomed, not judged by a ‘how-many-tickets-can-we-sell-from-a-show-like-this?’ mentality. Radical ideas are welcomed. Crazy crews are welcomed. Humanity is welcomed. Stepping into La Mama stage is stepping into floorboards with history, a history that encompasses important artists that shape the cultural ecology of this city. In my personal experience, as a migrant, as a performer and theatre maker (with a Salvadoran accent), that navigates and communicates in his second language, La Mama was fundamental to develop my artistic craft. Their unconditional support has strengthened my practice. La Mama, more than any other venue in this city, believes in theatre, and the important change that creates in people. I hope for every artist that arrives to this land to have the same welcoming experience I received when I was a young man striving to create a show eight years ago, with no experience, without knowing any other performers, but with the full support of Liz Jones and Caitlin Dullard that helped me create a show with two consecutive sold out seasons. That experience has definitely shaped the last eight years of my life.– Rodrigo Calderón Tobar – Performer, Producer
I wrote my first full length play Breeders that went onto be multi award winning and enjoy a sold out Premiere season at La Mama Theatre in early 2021. Any support or funding that can help La Mama facilitate the development and mentoring of young and/or emerging creatives would be an invaluable contribution to contemporary theatre.– Vanessa Di Natale – Playwright
I have been curator of La Mama Musica since mid-2019, continuing a tradition of exploratory music, sound and interdisciplinary performance extending back to the earliest days of La Mama. Musica continues to fill the gap between the pub, the gallery and the concert hall, providing coveted performance spaces and resources to support performers, composers, improvisors and sonic artists in-training or emerging, through mid-career and beyond. La Mama HQ’s new rehearsal hub has also generated further opportunities to engage new and local audiences on Faraday Street through outdoor performances by culturally diverse musicians (presented through partnerships with Casa Cultura and The Boite).
In my own experience, I was invited to present my Master of Creative Industries major project at La Mama Courthouse, enabling me to accommodate a 10 piece ensemble with site-specific sound and video installations in a 70 minute production exploring the intersection of jazz, classical and electronic music with theatrical storytelling. I would not have been able to present work at this scale and quality without La Mama. The support that La Mama provides to artists stretching the boundaries of form and interdisciplinary collaboration is rare indeed, across Australia. Independent artists work in such a competitive environment, and the value of the opportunity to test big ideas is invaluable to the career trajectories and public profile of the artists we work with through La Mama’s multi-arts programs.– Gemma Horbury – Musician, La Mama Musica Curator
I’ve spent most of my life in training. Most recently, I graduated from the Bachelor of Acting at the Victorian College of the Arts and, upon graduating, I was fortunate enough to work with LaMama on their site-specific, durational development of The Seagull by Anton Chekov. At the end of last year, we packed up and headed out to Nyerimilang to undertake what I can only describe as a life-changing experience and, in my case, a very affirming one. LaMama gave me the opportunity to grow and hone my craft in ways I hadn’t even considered possible. They brought together a group of magnificent artists and a beautiful yet challenging story, through which they expressed their undying love for the theatre and its utmost importance in the world today. It is LaMama’s passion for story-telling and willingness to say “Yes!” that makes it so vital to the arts. They have provided me, a young artist with big and intimidating dreams, with an experience I will carry with me into all of my work going forward. They are essential to Melbourne’s vitality and vibrance.– Frazer Shepherdson – Actor
With the support of La Mama, the work I was able to partake in with the team of The Seagull was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an actor. I had never engaged in a production of this nature, and the facilitation to be on site at Nyerimilang, provided by the company, was essential to its success. La Mama is at the forefront of independent theatre, and I have no doubt it will continue to create and support work that is challenging, new, and unique within the Australian theatrical landscape. As a young performer, the experience I had working with La Mama will be a touchstone of my career, and a guiding star that continues to help me reflect upon the kind of work I want, and am able to make, as an artist in this country.– Lucinda Howes – Actor
The role that La Mama has played in helping me reach my current position within the industry has been massive. I still have quite a ways to go in terms of establishing myself but La Mama has given me space and opportunity to create, present and collaborate on work that has been vital to shaping me as an artist thus far. I strongly believe that La Mama has been an essential part of that growth for me and that it has the potential to do the same for countless emerging and mid-career artists into the future.– Artemis Munoz – Performer, Writer
I have been in the performing arts sector for over 30 years. As a young theatre-maker and performer, La Mama was (and still is) the only place for exploration, creative development, and experimentation with new works. The impact of La Mama on my career has been that several works I have created that began at La Mama have gone on to tour and/or moved to bigger venues and audiences. Example: In 2009 La Mama approached me, enquiring about a children’s work. I had none in repertoire, so devised a work, Short Pants No Holes (SPNH) for La Mama’s children’s season. SPNH went on to tour Victoria through the Regional Arts Victoria touring platform and was remounted and presented at festivals and theatres in Victoria and Tasmania. The work had its last performance in 2019 (stopped by the pandemic). This work culturally enriched thousands of young people, improving literacy and comprehension skills, as well as collaborative processes, each of which are significant on the Victorian Education Learning Standards curriculum goals. Moreover, SPNH provided economic stability the artists involved, and the work fed the revenue of the work’s many presenters. This is one example only. La Mama is a cultural beacon and icon, that represents the incredible imagination, risk, storytelling and skill of our theatre-makers across Australia.– Penelope Bartlau – Theatre Maker, Artistic Director Barking Spider Creative
Recently, La Mama reinstated its Explorations program after four difficult years for the theatre (La Mama HQ’s reconstruction post fire and covid years). I was fortunate enough to have my piece LIMBO in this season of works. Without this opportunity I would not have been able to present this work in its developmental stage to an audience. Not only did I not have to pay theatre hire fees, but La Mama provided a production budget for my work as well as receiving the entire box office. Creating a platform for creative risk taking is essential for the broader Australian arts landscape and La Mama has done this for over fifty years. Without institutions like La Mama (and they are few and far between) we will lose more artists, independent theatre companies and ultimately, we risk diluting the Australian voice to only those who can afford to share their stories.– Isabel Knight – Actor, Theatre Maker
La Mama has given me many opportunities both as an artist and arts administrator and producer. I am forever grateful for the commitment and leadership La Mama demonstrates to support the arts ecology on many levels. I truly believe that without La Mama many artists and arts workers would not have the same opportunities to develop and thrive within the arts sector. They are a small organisation with a big heart and a mighty output!– Sophia Constantine – Actor, La Mama Kids Producer
La Mama is a safe space for artistic freedom. As front of house staff, I have gained an invaluable amount of knowledge, heart and connection. Seeing a new show each week is a testament to the wide array of talent La Mama supports. As a writer, I owe a great deal of my growth to La Mama. They encourage staff and creatives to create. Whenever I meet an emerging writer, my first piece of advice is always, “Go to La Mama.” I have made lifelong connections thanks to La Mama, and credit the theatre to my artistic and personal growth.– Dani Hayek – Writer
Independent theatre is a huge and vital part of Melbourne’s art scene. And La Mama – that delightful, nurturing, tiny space in Carlton – is the very essence of independent theatre. It fosters creativity, inclusivity, innovation and artistry. Witness how the community rallied in support after the heart-breaking fire in 2018. I remember standing before the burnt-out building the next day in shock, feeling as though I had been punched in the gut. It was simply unthinkable that La Mama would be no more. And it came back from the flames. Please reinstate La Mama’s Australia Council funding. Melbourne needs La Mama, and La Mama needs you. The money could not go to a better place. Viva La Mama!– Natasha Broadstock – Actor, Director
Without a place like La Mama, the number of new Australian works that exist would suffer. The support and generosity of this company means that new works and talent are constantly nurtured, no matter whether it is someone’s first show or their 50th. As someone who has been seeing shows at La Mama for over 20 years, I simply cannot imagine living in a city where a company like La Mama doesn’t exist – its accessibility, kindness and spirit makes it an integral part of not just the Melbourne arts scene, but the arts scene all over Australia.– Myf Clark – La Mama FOH
I am writing to express my support for La Mama theatre and all it does for the local and wider theatre community. I am a young theatre maker and watcher who is currently studying theatre at uni. Since Covid, theatre was obviously very inaccessible and I spent my first two years trying to access the industry/community remotely. La mama was by far the most accessible and welcoming theatre for me even though it is not my local theatre. I was accepted into a volunteering position along with many others who I have known become good friends with and who have equally been fostered and welcome through la mama since the start of last year. I was then very generously introduced to working there and I have been working there for six months now. I have never felt so included and valued in a theatre space, let alone a workplace and I feel immensely grateful for the opportunities that La mama has presented to me out of complete generosity. I feel very lucky to be a part of the long-standing La Mama community. I know many other theatre makers feel the same, and that La mama is recognized as a place for up and coming theatre makers to be given space to explore. La mama is particularly special to me because of the unique space that it holds of being such a long-standing theatre community. So the diversity of different ages is particular special and great for fostering new and old theatre. I hope La Mama is recognized for the immense work it does for the state wide theatre community, as people often come from across the state to see shows.– Ella Bradwell – Actor, Theatremaker, FOH
La Mama, is the air that many emerging and mid-career artists need to keep sustaining them and their art. For writers, performers, designers, sound artists, theatre makers of all kinds, La Mama provides opportunities to explore, present and showcase new work and has been the propulsion point for many incredible careers. We need La Mama, and La Mama needs to be financially supported. Don’t build more buildings, or pay more administrators who do not directly support artists. Please fund La Mama!– Ruth Katerelos – Actor, Singer, Writer