NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts) was formed in 1993.
Words by Janis Balodis (2013) – writer, local legend and longtime NORPA collaborator
NORPA is twenty years old! No wait – make that twenty years young! You may think twenty years is no time at all, but it is several lifetimes for a regional theatre company. In the years that NORPA has spent developing and evolving its innovative model, sadly, most other regional theatre companies have disappeared from the Australian landscape.
NORPA’s survival, in a local and wider context, is nothing short of heroic. Pretty damn amazing! There have been hardscrabble times when it all seemed too much for exhausted staff, with impossible deadlines and no money to pay bills or wages. But it has all been worthwhile. There have been events like Michael Kieran Harvey’s playing of Messiaen’s enormous solo piano cycle Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus (“Twenty gazes on the child Jesus”); the joyous Aboriginal musicals, Bran Nue Day and Corrugation Road; Lyndon Terracini’s crazy turn as Mr. Barbecue; and last year’s triumphant sell-out season of Julian Louis’ Railway Wonderland.
Who could possibly forget the banshee howl of The Cars That Ate Paris that announced NORPA’s arrival in 1993, with ferals flying from the roof of Lismore City Hall (without safety harnesses!) to the roar of Harley Davidsons and stock cars doing donuts in Bounty Street? And how cute were the school kids in animal masks parading two by two behind Noah in NORPA’s, almost rained out (of course!), production of The Flood?
These are homegrown shows based on local stories and events, using local artists. The telling of local stories that celebrate our region has been NORPA’s philosophy since its raucous inception. There is much to look back on, from NORPA’s humble beginnings and the vision of its founders, through to the the ongoing commitment of its current custodians. NORPA has given us some truly unforgettable moments in the theatre, on the riverbank, the railway platform, and about town. The best news? There is so much more to come.
NORPA has earned a reputation for creating adventurous works that express regional perspectives and contribute significantly to the artistic identity of Australia. NORPA began in 1993 under the Artistic Direction of Lyndon Terracini. Highlighted original works include The Cars That Ate Paris (1995) and The Flood (2004) which were first glimpses into large scale works that connected with community and reflected the ‘culture of place’.
In 2007 Julian Louis took over as Artistic Director and immediately set to work continuing to forge an original identity for NORPA in the support, creation and development of new Australian work. Not like Beckett (2007), an absurdist one man show that explored Australia’s dark colonial past, and The Bloody Bride (2008), which was an original work written by Hilary Bell inspired by Lorca’s classic Blood Wedding. Louis has always believed in the generation of creativity through connection, collaboration and exploration. As a newcomer to the region, Louis saw the Northern Rivers as a unique environment that inspired all kinds of creativity.
Collaboration and exploration were essential to connecting with the region, harnessing the creativity that existed and transforming it into stories that were relevant, pertinent and accessible to the entire region, not just a traditional theatre going audience. It was with this in mind that Louis decided to set up Generator in 2010; program for creating new work with regional and national artists.
“The Generator program creates playful, site specific and physical theatre works. Our creative fuel is the region that we live in and the audiences that love our theatrical adventures.”
Julian Louis, Artistic Director
Recent Generator works include Railway Wonderland (2015), My Radio Heart (2014), The Home Project (2013), Railway Wonderland (2012), Beautiful Bones (2012), Open House (2011) and Engine (2010).