For those participating in Crimson Rosella’s first community workshops last month, March 2023 was a moment for stepping out of comfort zones. We were thrilled to welcome the nine adventurous souls at Candelo Town Hall who had signed up for three afternoon-long sessions in Candelo designed to include members of our creative community in the making of Crimson Rosella’s first project Dead Horse Gap. Five were returning after the previous week’s workshop, which led into a performance at a Dead Horse Gap information session at the Cobargo Folk Festival.

For all of us, this workshop was a leap into the unknown, amply rewarded by the ideas, imaginations and skills of a fabulously inventive, generous and resourceful group of people. Alongside talented colleagues, actor/teacher Tracy Mann, musician/songwriter Heath Cullen, and participant Lee Pemberton (who also lent her beautiful movement skills to the process by giving the warmup at the start of each session) we threw ourselves into a series of creative exercises and devising tasks, gradually co-creating two key scenes which will eventually be integrated into Dead Horse Gap.

The weekend was also an opportunity to challenge myself. Developing scenes in co-creation with equally curious colleagues has been on my mind for ages, as was breaking some of my own directorial patterns. Rather than standing in front of a group of artists and, well, directing them, devising and co-creating scenes engages the group as a ‘hive mind’ of ideas, personalities, character and movement possibilities. For me this was a welcome shift away from my professional practice as an opera director in which the expense, scale and hierarchical nature of the artform means the director must be super-decisive and strictly efficient with time, to the point of assigning each 15-minute chunk of rehearsal time to a specific amount of action to progress.

Opportunity for experimentation is limited in such a highly calibrated environment. Of course, artists will bring their own ideas and impulses to each scene, imbue the production with their own identities and physicality. The success of a production can rise or fall purely on the positive energy of the rehearsal process, so the director of a large production with a headstrong cast must be disciplined: keep everyone focussed, don’t allow one’s authority to wobble or let momentum flag. It’s high stakes, which can be exhilarating and terrifying. I love this work, and it’s an enormous privilege to be invited to direct opera all around the world.

All artists need to shake things up sometimes. Over the last few years, as my creative life has evolved, I’ve longed for time and space to try new things, test theories, mess around with a crazy idea, explore for its own sake. Just to see what happens. To try methodologies from contemporary dance, film, or physical theatre, be inspired by a visual artwork or piece of writing. A director can’t do much in isolation, so this workshop was an extraordinary opportunity to play around with ideas while we co-create scenes, while connecting with brilliant colleagues and real people from my own community, all interested in making new performance. What a treat!

For Crimson Rosella, this will be the first of many such community engagement projects. Each will be uniquely designed around the creative work at hand, underpinned by healthy methodologies and principles; like these four guidelines for the Cobargo and Candelo workshops:

  1. A COLLABORATIVE ENVIRONMENT: Create a mutually supportive and collaborative environment for skills development, exploration and co-creation.
  2. AN ETHOS OF AUTHENTICITY: Introduce, practice and build skills to support an acting ethos that is authentic, emotionally truthful, physically centred, musical and poetic rather than “performative”.
  3. CONFIDENCE AND BRAVERY: Encourage an ethos of creative confidence, skill and discipline, freedom and bravery in each cohort of participants,
  4. REWARDING AND MEANINGFUL PROCESSES: Develop iterative creative processes that are – individually and collectively – rewarding, meaningful and connected to place and community.


So that’s a wrap for Crimson Rosella’s first round of community workshops! A huge thanks to Tracy Mann, Heath Cullen and Lee Pemberton, and to the fabulous participants – assorted “residents” of Dead Horse Gap: Dennis Stanton and Darcy Mullens from Bega, Ali Taylor, Michael Nicholas and David Newell from Cobargo; Amber Little from Merimbula, Skye Etherington from Wallagoot, Eva Mills from Bournda. And a big shout out to my colleague Andrew Gray and the excellent Rosie Yee for all the other stuff – producing, catering, administration, organisation, cleaning up afterwards.

Lindy Hume
Creative Director