Tag Archives: arts

An interview with Emma Wood

OVERCAST AND empty was the mood in Warrandyte when I met Emma Wood on Referendum day in the local Now and Not Yet Café to chat to her about her plays, directing, her writing processes, A Hit and Miss Christmas, and a variety of other topics too personal to make it into this article.
As I await Emma’s arrival, I order a loose-leaf oat chai and look through my research notes for a last bit of preparation. Emma has written and published three 15-minute one-act plays: Real World 101, Voices, and Women of the World, and five full-length plays: Water Child, Mr Bennet’s Bride, A Hit and Miss Christmas, The Third Act, and Piece of Mind — which incidentally is being performed in February next year at Lilydale Atheneum, directed by Susan Rundle.
She also recently collaborated with Warrandyte Theatre Company and Ballarat National Theatre Company, producing A 2020 Vision — an online curation of lockdown experiences “constructed entirely from the words of local residents” and wrote a verbatim script called Turning Points in collaboration with stroke survivors, performed in 2019.
Before she moved to Warrandyte, Emma worked, lived, and wrote in Newcastle, New South Wales, where her play Water Child won Best New Play at the 2012 City of Newcastle Drama Awards.
Women of the World won the Audience Choice award at Short and Sweet Manila 2017, and A Hit and Miss Christmas and The Third Act have been finalists in UK and US competitions.
Not a bad feat for someone who wasn’t planning on being a writer.

I’ve chosen a seat at the window near the door, and I take Emma by surprise when she enters and looks around.
I’m sitting there like a gremlin, grinning up at her.
“Hi!” I say with a wave as she takes a step back to get me in focus.
She gives me a big smile and hug and joins me at the table.
She orders a turmeric latte, and we share a raspberry, apple, and white chocolate muffin.
What strikes me about Emma the most — apart from us being tall lady buddies — is her reflective nature in her writing and her personality.
She is always interested in making sure she’s creating a safe and open environment for people to share and feel comfortable, especially in the acting and directing space.
Perhaps that is a monocle of her high school Drama teaching style, but I feel it’s an intrinsic element in her general, good-humoured nature.
A Hit and Miss Christmas will be the first time Emma has directed one of her own scripts.
During their first table reading at the hall, Emma was sure to make the distinction to her cast that she wanted them to see her as the director and not the writer.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the cast to be going here’s the script, and then next week, so here’s the script, and I’ve just got these changes.
“No one is ever in a play and doesn’t have some things where they are like, ‘ugh, this is hard to work with’.
“I want them to be able to say to me as a director so I can put aside my writer feelings and go ‘okay, cool, let’s work this as director and actor’.”
Emma went on to say co-directing with her friend Anika Means allowed her to focus on directing.
“You can sometimes have blind spots in your own work, and we’ve known each other long enough that she can be quite frank with me.”
Emma wrote her first play, Water Child, when she was 35 with a one-year-old.
“I woke up one morning with an idea.
“It was burning enough to get me out of bed at 4am and start writing.
“You know, when you’re in a flow, it just feels really good; I was absolutely in the zone.”
Emma credits ideas as “just coming to her”.
However, as she talks, it’s clear that her unconscious and conscious observations of subjects and experiences that ignite her passions seem to ruminate around in her mind until a story starts to form.
Playwriting is her way of expressing what she sees in the world.
She shares them as plots and characters on a journey of transformation that an audience can relate to.
Allowing for a contemplation of the watcher’s own life through the lens of a relatable or un-relatable character and being entertained by it.
And that’s exactly how A Hit and Miss Christmas “dawned on” her.
It was a combination of “being around community theatre companies long enough to realise that there’s quite often a bit of a scramble for a festive feeling play [at the end of the year], and there just aren’t that many to choose from.”
She said that while looking at the American community theatre scene, she noticed that many theatre companies would just do A Christmas Carol every year — and that’s where the idea came from.
She said there is always tension in theatre companies between people who want to bring something more contemporary and edgy, and the champions of the bums-on-seats classic who don’t care if it has been seen 10 times; they need to fill the coffers.
“When I wrote A Hit and Miss Christmas, my intention was to write just a laugh-out-loud comedy with absolutely no meaning, and I couldn’t do it! [Laughs]
“So eventually what came through was a desire to write something that was genuinely festive, but I suppose in a way it’s also a bit of a love letter to community theatre.
“There’s always argy-bargy, but there’s also friendship, and there’s sometimes potential for transformation.
“And I’ve always thought that was a beautiful thing about theatre, so I just thought I’d explore that a bit too.”
I’m pleased to say that Emma’s passion and energy for writing, our drinks, and the warmth of Now and Not Yet Café effortlessly cast out the surrounding gloom of the day.
I hope you have been as uplifted as I was by her humour, insights, and willingness to share so deeply and frankly about her process.
A Hit and Miss Christmas is premiering for the first time in Victoria later this month at Warrandyte Theatre Company, with eight performances over six evenings and two matinees between November 17 and December 2,
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End of an era

THE STONEHOUSE Gallery and Shop closed on August 31, 2023.
The Makers’ Gallery, which has been operating for 51 years, operated by a collective of local artists, has found it increasingly difficult to run the gallery in recent years due to a diminishing membership.
“It was a heartbreaking decision,” said painter and ceramicist Jenny John.
“It had become increasingly difficult for the small number involved to be both artists and run the gallery.
“Despite sustained efforts to attract new members, we were not successful,” she said.
While the Warrandyte arts scene has made a significant comeback in recent years with spaces such as the Now & Not Yet Café’s NaNY Gallery and the regular Pop-Up Exhibitions hosted by Warrandyte Community Association and Warrandyte Artisans, Stonehouse Gallery and Shop was the only dedicated gallery space in Warrandyte.
Yarra Ward representative Councillor Carli Lange said she was “heartbroken to hear the Stonehouse Gallery is closing”.
She told the Diary she was unaware of the future of the building:

“Planning permission would be required for any change to the use of the land from a shop or alterations to the existing building.
I wish all the talented artists who display and sell their work from the Stonehouse Gallery all the very best with their arts and culture careers, and may they know their talented work will be very much missed.”

Established by eight like-minded potters in 1972, the Stonehouse Gallery has been the heart and soul of creative Warrandyte.
This collective of passionate and diverse artists and craftspeople has been an amazing supporter of the broader and upcoming arts community.
Owned and run by member artists, the Stonehouse Gallery showcased and sold quality Australian fine arts and crafts. Originally located at the eastern end of town, at the old Selby’s Store, now the Yarra Store, on the corner of Tills Drive, the gallery moved to its home, the old Gospel Chapel at 103 Yarra Street in 2005.
Over the years, member artists and consignees represented a wide array of creative arts and craft disciplines.
They supported and inspired each other.
The Stonehouse Gallery has influenced and changed many lives.
At the celebration of the arts collective’s 50th anniversary, former member, Marg Perry, encapsulated the essence of Stonehouse.

“We have supported one another through family joy and happiness, tragedy and heart ache, illness and celebration. We have shared our successes and our failures.
Some members have moved on quickly, others have stayed longer…. each person leaving their imprint on our lives and hearts.
Our gratitude is endless to those eight women who had the courage and the foresight to take the risk and place their hopes and ideals on the line, to make a name for themselves and for us, for the pottery world and all the wonderful creative arts people whose work is on display, worn, admired and loved by our customers and supporters.
Some of us wondered how long we would stay — whether twenty or forty years, it seemed like half a lifetime or the blink of an eye, depending on where you are looking from.”

Like the clay that has passed with care through the hands of its many talented cooperative members, Stonehouse craft has evolved as each generation has picked up where the previous one left off.
Times and place may have changed in the past fifty years, but the spirit of Stonehouse continues: a group of creative women dedicated to making fine Australian Art and Craft, determined to directly connect the maker with the collector.
This journey was chronicled in the book Stonehouse Gallery celebrating 50 years (2022, Focus Printing) by Cliff Harding. Staffed by the member artists, a visit to the gallery was not only an opportunity to peruse and purchase beautifully crafted jewellery, textiles, glass, ceramics, and paintings but also a chance to interact with the makers directly.
From the early days, the Gallery hosted monthly exhibitions by local and member artists.
Many were embellished with magically evoking titles such as: All Smoke and No Mirrors; Celebrating our First Christmas; Journey to India; The Carpet Bus; Planes Trains and Elephants; Arabian Nights; Tuscany Re-visited; and Birds of a Feather.
Since 2017, the Gallery has also hosted the Melbourne Teapot Exhibition.
The Stonehouse Gallery rescued this quirky and enchanting annual exhibition from its creators, Studio@Flinders, when that gallery was forced to close in 2016.
The property was sold in late 2022.
And while the Stonehouse Gallery artists may no longer use the space, there are hopes, the building will continue to operate as a gallery.

Countdown to The Pottery Expo 2023

POTTERS AND ceramic enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting The Pottery Expo as it returns to the banks of the Yarra in Warrandyte for its 23rd year.
Ceramic artists across Victoria, New South Wales (NSW), and Western Australia (WA) have been working in their studios preparing for Australia’s biggest ceramics festival which comes to the banks of the Yarra on February 25–26.
The exhibitors will present work that uses various making and firing techniques, including hand building, wheel throwing, raku, gas and electric firing, and a range of clays from fine porcelain to stoneware, terracotta and earthenware.

New for 2023

There will be a special exhibition of guest artists from WA featuring influences from the WA coastline and local flora and fauna, with work ranging from large-scale and sculptural work to fine-detailed pieces.
Clay Connections, a three-day Pop Up exhibition by Valley Potters, will be in the Warrandyte Artspace, 168 Yarra Street, starting Friday, February 24, from 10am with the official opening Friday evening as part of the new Twilight Trail event.
The exhibition comprises works including sculptural, functional and decorative pieces.
Warrandyte Art Space Coordinator Denise Keele-bedford explains:

“Each artist derives inspiration for their work from different places, such as their surroundings, their loves, their passions, and their imagination.
As each pair of hands has different experiences and works with the malleable clay in their own way, each piece is unique and holds a piece of the artists DNA and soul within it.”

Twilight Trail Friday night will feature a new event for The Pottery Expo and be part of the walking tour and exhibition openings in Warrandyte ceramic galleries.
It begins at 5:30pm at Stonehouse Gallery, which recently celebrated 50 years, then continues to the official opening of the Clay Connections exhibition.
The final stop is Warrandyte Pottery Studio Gallery for the opening of a new exhibition by ceramic artist Josephine Cassar.
This is a free event. however, bookings are essential.
Follow The Pottery Expo on Facebook and Instagram for more booking information.
The Pottery Expo Throw Down will be held at the expo on Sunday — hosted by Northcote Pottery Supplies.
Potters are invited to get ready to show us their best on the wheel as they respond to the challenges set by the judges.
A highlight will be an installation by artist Danni Bryant, who works mainly with the ceramic medium.
For The Pottery Expo, Danni is creating a site-specific work responding to the surrounding landscape by the river.
Comprised mainly of raw, high-fired porcelain, the work is stark and bright, inviting curious viewers to look closely at its intricate nature.
Ballan ceramic artist Larissa Taylor will also feature a site-specific sculpture with suspended and hanging figures.
On Tuesday, February 28, WA Potter Bernard Kerr will be running a special one-day workshop at the Warrandyte Neighbourhood House for potters focussing on creating large pots, using coil and throwing methods with slip decoration techniques.
For more information, contact Jane Annois on 0422 942 216.

Expo favourites

Children’s clay activities return, presented by Warrandyte Pottery Studio and Clay Talk Montsalvat and supported by Northcote Pottery Supplies.
There will be live music sponsored by Warrandyte Community Bank featuring Rick Ozimo with Black Cat Bone, Neeko and Cath Rutten with Velvet Lounge.
Saturday features artist talks and presentations.
The Cups to Go stand will again offer an enormous range of cups by the potters for sale right by the coffee and food vans.

Entry to the expo is free, and visitors can enjoy delicious food by Scrumdiddely, PoppySmack, coffee, drinks and snacks from Now and Not Yet, wine, beer and more by Hops and Vine.
For more information, visit the website www.potteryexpo.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Pottery parking

By JAMES POYNER

WARRANDYTE can often seem like the victim of its own success as hundreds of out-of-towners flock to the riverbank, cafés, and restaurants on sunny days.
Traffic frustrations are often exacerbated during “events” where the usual influx of visitors increases significantly.
In recent years, the Pottery Expo has suffered from this success, with its hundreds, possibly thousands, of visitors struggling to find somewhere to park and congesting local streets.
“While a great local event, the influx of visitors and, often, careless parking causes significant egress difficulties for locals throughout the weekend.
“This is particularly applicable for Webb Street residents,” said a nearby resident.
The Diary raised these concerns with Pottery Expo organisers.
Jane Annois provided the Diary with the following statement.

“We always work with Manningham Council to manage the parking and find the best possible solutions.
In the past, we have used signage and bollards on Mitchell Avenue and Webb Street, advising NO PARKING.
The problems have greatly decreased, and last year we received no complaints, but thanks for our efforts.
Unfortunately, the issue of an impatient parker moving a bollard is beyond our control.
This year in consultation with Manningham Council, the Pottery Expo has engaged with a local traffic management company to recommend a strategy for dealing with traffic flow over the weekend.
Their recommendations specifically target parking in the Webb Street/Mitchell Avenue area, and we will be implementing their recommendations.
We have signs indicating parking areas in Warrandyte and will have bollards and No Parking signs on Webb Street, and Mitchell Avenue will have No Parking signs.
We have formalised the use of parking at the Warrandyte Café [Police Road] specifically for Potters.
This process will be managed and will therefore ensure that upwards of 80 parking spaces will be available to the public.”

Ms Annois also advised that public transport options were listed on the Pottery Expo website and official flyers and that the organisers “have a social media/ information campaign to promote the use of the existing public transport system”.
“The system is in place and perfect for the needs of the public travelling to Warrandyte,” she said.

Calling all Warrandyte artists aged 18-25, be in with a chance to receive a $10,000 cash award to help you develop in your artistic field. Simply click on the QR code or visit the following link and fill out the simple form.

Entries close January 20, 2023.

It’s festival time in Warrandyte

It’s got music. It’s got soul. Even designer ducks! Warrandyte Festival is coming your way March 20, 21 and 22. CHERIE MOSELEN walks you through the weekend that has it all.

BATTLE

Local youth bands amp it up in a battle for the top prize – a day in a recording studio – from 6pm on Friday March 20 at Stiggants Reserve. Feature headliners this year are Cash the Madmen and Selling Time. Soft drink, water and BBQ will be available for cash purchase on the night. This is a drug, smoke and alcohol free event. Admission is FREE.

ART

Enjoy Warrandyte Rotary’s 31st exhibition of work by local and interstate artists. Preview the art and join in the festivities at the gala champagne opening 7pm – 11pm on Friday March 20, at the Warrandyte Community Church in Yarra St. Tickets cost $25. The Art Show opens on Saturday and Sunday from 10am. A $5 ticket includes catalogue. Student entry is free.

ROAD CLOSURES

Yarra St, between the Kangaroo Ground Rd bridge roundabout and Harris Gully Rd roundabout, will be closed to traffic from 10.30am until about 12pm on Saturday March 21.

PARADE

This year’s festival monarchs and “Smart Arts” ambassadors, Cherry and Joff Manders, will lead the street parade from the Mechanics Institute in Yarra St to Stiggants Reserve. The official ceremony gets underway on Saturday March 21 at 11 am. Community groups, schools, sports clubs, vintage cars, fabulous floats to beat the band – don’t miss it!

MAIN STAGE MUSIC

The music starts at 12.15pm with local school and bush bands and continues with quality acts Winter Suns, Jakubi and Nudist Funk Orchestra among others. Sunday’s program features a variety of talent from 11.30am, including Wishful, The Solicitors and Davidson Brothers. Bring seating and a picnic, or buy food and drink across the weekend.

RIVERBANK STAGE

Uptown Brown kicks off the entertainment at noon on Saturday, followed by a diverse line-up including Sideglance, Tristan Bird and FLAXXON. Sunday’s program starts with everyone’s favourite Pet Parade at 9.30am. Triple J Unearthed High Acts will give music lovers plenty to look forward to in the afternoon.

DRESSED UP DUCKS

Pop in to the Top Tent, Upper Reserve, on Saturday between 10am – 5pm and Sunday 9am – 12pm to vote for your favourite designer duck in Warrandyte’s Most Decorated Ducks competition. Trophies awarded. Official winner announced Sunday at 11.45am.

RIDES

The Family Bike Ride meets at the Netball Courts in Taroona Avenue at 9am. Enjoy a leisurely ride through the festival precinct and Black Flat. Riders must provide own safety equipment and a responsible adult must accompany children under 15. Registration can be completed on the day. For rules and regulations visit the website www.warrandytefestival.org

BILLY CARTS

Have you got the ‘metal’ to join the billycart hall of fame? Carts line up at the top of Police Street from Sunday 9.30am. Registration takes place between 8.30 – 9.15am for children aged eight to 15 years. The event features a parent’s race, trophies and great prizes. Carts MUST meet strict safety criteria. For inquiries call 0418 357 282 or email contact@warrandyte festival.org

DUCK RACE

Up to 1000 plastic ducks take the plunge on Sunday at 2.30pm – the first to make it downriver from Police Street to Stiggants Street wins. Ducks can be purchased beforehand for $3 from local schools, or during festival weekend from the Information Caravan. Spec-quackular!

DISPLAYS

Discover a range of opportunities through local groups and service providers, including: Aboriginal art exhibition, Combined Emergency Services, Parks Victoria and Friends of Warrandyte State Park, Reconciliation Manningham, Warrandyte Community Garden, Warrandyte Community Association, Climate Action Now, Warrandyte Toy Library, local council, stationary and steam engines, miners, blacksmiths, woodcrafters, Animals on the Move, reptiles, and solar/ electric bikes. Warrandyte Tennis Club return with mini nets and radar gun.

SMART ARTS CENTRAL

On Saturday, this tent – located downhill from the Community Church – will give audience members an opportunity to get involved with some of the stage performers. Check out the Funky Monkeys children’s music and circus show from 12pm, followed by ukulele and African drumming workshops and pro- fessional storyteller. All for FREE!

NATURE ARTS PLAY

This popular activity, which returns with the help of Manningham council, can be found at Smart Arts Central this year. Children can build a unique play space of cubbies, nests and sculptures influenced by local flora, from 12.00pm on Sunday only.

FOLLIES

Written and directed by Warrandyte Theatre Company members, A Penny For Your Follies! is just the ticket to tickle your funny bone. Comic sketches and musical numbers will be staged on: March 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 and April 9, 10 and 11, from 8pm at the Mechanics Institute Hall.

READ

In its 18th year, The Grand Read’s feature guest is Alex Skovron, author of five collections of poetry and a prose novella. Enjoy the work of quality poets and writers at Warrandyte’s annual literary night of nights from 7.30pm on Tuesday March 24, upstairs at the Grand Hotel. Tickets cost $20 (Concession $16) and include a light supper. Please purchase in advance from Warrandyte Neighbourhood House on 9844 1839. For more info visit the website www.warrandyte neighbourhoodhouse.org.au

Check out www.warrandyte festival.org for information including: program details, accessibility info, road closures, maps and registration forms. Facebookers can search ‘Warrandyte Festival’ for regular weekend updates.