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Melissa

Melissa Western

Year of Award: 2014 Award State: Queensland Arts - Performing > Theatre And Stage
To investigate improvised music theatre techniques and observe professional ensemble training - UK
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To investigate improvised music theatre techniques and observe professional ensemble training

This project investigates the artform of improvised music theatre whereby skilled “quadruple threats” (improviser/actor/singer/dancer), directors and improvising musicians collaborate to create original, fresh, vibrant, audience interactive events that are fully improvised and unique to each performance.

In order to better understand how we can generate a vibrant improvised music theatre scene in Australia I connected with over 20 different UK and US companies/troupes and attended classes, workshops and intensives, attended meetings, observed company rehearsals and interviewed ensemble members, musicians, workshop participants and audience members.

 Conclusions

 Improvised music theatre is a dynamic, engaging, super-hybrid artform which can re-invigorate and re-generate audiences. Mainstream appeal has been proven by the critical and popular success of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical in its debut West End season

 Successful companies like Showstoppers and The Maydays are characterised by entrepreneurial founder members and organic development over a long gestation period and extensive and sustained training over an extended period of time is necessary to develop the psychology and toolkit for effective performance in this artform

 Triple threat performers in cities like Brisbane have limited opportunities to practise their skills. Investing in this artform can lead to greater autonomy for artists and a vibrant new form to showcase and further develop their skills

 The development of this artform in Australia deserves financial investment from Government, arts and education bodies. This is an exciting opportunity to reinvigorate audiences, challenge professional performers and musicians to new heights and introduce a vibrant, fresh artform with a range of community applications

 Following an extended sabbatical I will host information sessions on my project at JMI (Jazz Music Institute), Griffith University - Qld Conservatory of Music (musical theatre students), Harvest Rain Theatre Company, Oscar Theatre Company and Brisbane improvisation group Impromafia. A dedicated section of my website will document extended notes from interviews and training experiences with the aim of generating an appetite for this artform amongst my industry colleagues

 Funding will be sought to begin development of a Brisbane-based improvised music theatre troupe comprising a core of professional “quadruple threats”, an offering of regular grass roots, drop-in style workshops and generation of a prototype training format for application in the Brisbane performing arts scene

 I strongly believe that the Australian performing arts industry, audiences, festivals and venues will benefit greatly by investing in the development of improvised music theatre. My intention is that this Fellowship and the activity flowing on from it will play a major initiating role in the generation of a vibrant improvised music theatre scene in Australia. 

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