Q&A with Jo Porter
Jo Porter is a consultant in not-for-profit and commercial performing arts. Roles in Australia, UK and USA have included Executive Producer of Malthouse Theatre, General Manager of a range of commercial theatre productions and head of creative development at Richard Frankel Productions in New York and Head of Business Development at Really Useful Group in London.
Jo teaches Governance and Leadership in NIDA’s MFA in Cultural Leadership program, has guest lectured in arts management at the University of Melbourne and continues to produce independent theatre. Jo is very proud to be the Chair of Back to Back Theatre, a board member of Theatre Works and is an Observer at meetings of Live Performance Australia’s Executive Council.
What attracted you to want to work at NORPA?
The attraction of working at NORPA is about the people and the place. The team at NORPA is an extraordinary mix of talented people whose ties into the community in Lismore and around the Northern Rivers region are extensive. These ties give me the sense that making performance works at NORPA carries with it a responsibility for investigating and representing the things that are precious in the place where they’re made, while being thematically interesting to people from other places.
Since starting what is your first impression of the new work or ideas being explored at NORPA?
My first impression is that NORPA is bursting at the seams with new ideas and enthusiasm. Harnessing that excitement is a wonderful challenge to a producer. The efforts and dedication that the NORPA team makes to contribute to the quality of life in Lismore and the Northern Rivers region inspires me because it seems as if it is reciprocated.
Lindy Hume’s Currency Paper described regional theatre in Australia as a ‘sleeping giant’. Do you agree?
Yes I do agree, and I hope the giant doesn’t stay asleep because s/he is exhausted as a result of the challenges presented by diminishing funding, high costs and larger distances. For me, a lot of cities seem interchangeable – the same shops, cars, clothes, movies and even sometimes plays and exhibitions. I am inspired by the specificity of experience that feels available and possible in places where the natural environment is more immediate and people say hello in the street.
You have also started working as Producer for Centre for Culture in Regional Victoria? Can you tell us a bit about this gig?
In April 2016, the Victorian Government released Creative State, Victoria’s first creative industries strategy. Action 26 is the delivery of Victoria’s inaugural Regional Centre for Culture program:
“Establishment of Victoria’s first Regional Centre for Culture (RCC) program in 2018, including the development of grassroots community participation projects combined with opportunities to engage with some of Victoria’s most respected creative organisations and agencies, in a year-long celebration of arts, culture and community.”
My friend and colleague Elizabeth Walsh and I will be producing the RCC program in 2018 which will take place on some of Dja Dja Wurrung Country in the City of Greater Bendigo, Central Goldfields Shire, Mt Alexander Shire and Hepburn Shire. Elizabeth and I met when we worked at Circus Oz and later worked together at the Sydney Festival with legendary festival director Anthony Steel. We went our separate ways, Elizabeth to Ten Days on the Island in Tasmania and me to New York and London then back in Melbourne… but we’ve always been in touch and are relishing the idea of the RCC. The program will include participatory events, curated journeys, three newly commissioned works and of course a lot of work by the many artists and arts organisations who live and work in the region.
more about jo
Jo Porter is a consultant in not-for-profit and commercial performing arts. Her roles in Australia, UK and USA have included: Executive Producer of Malthouse Theatre, General Manager of a range of commercial theatre productions; Head of Creative Development at Richard Frankel Productions in New York; Head of Business Development at Really Useful Group in London.
Jo teaches Governance and Leadership in NIDA’s MFA in Cultural Leadership program, has guest lectured in arts management at the University of Melbourne and continues to produce independent theatre with artists including Samara Hersch, Little Ones Theatre and others. Recent and current clients include Arena Theatre, the Centre for Contemporary Photography, City of Ballarat, Chamber Made Opera, Arts House, the Australia Council, Hackman (NZ), Four Larks Theatre, Museum Victoria, The Australian Ballet, Theatre Works, and St Martins Youth Theatre. Jo is very proud to be the Chair of Back to Back Theatre, a board member of Theatre Works and is an Observer at meetings of Live Performance Australia’s Executive Council.
Image | Katia Molino in Dreamland. Photo by Kate Holmes.