Rex Cramphorn Theatre Fellow

Rosie Dennis, Artistic Director, Urban Theatre Projects. Image: courtesy Rosie Dennis.

Rosie Dennis, Artistic Director, Urban Theatre Projects. Image: courtesy Rosie Dennis.

Arts NSW speaks with acclaimed writer, performer and current Artistic Director of Urban Theatre Projects, Rosie Dennis. Rosie is the most recent recipient of the Rex Cramphorn Theatre Fellowship (2011) and we find out what it’s led to…

How did you start your career in the Arts?

My arts career started when I was at University of New South Wales (UNSW). The final work I made for my honours year (Can Fish Be Wives?) had a 3-weeks season at Downstairs Belvoir during Mardi Gras.

Why did you apply for the fellowship?

I applied for the Fellowship because I wanted to research a participatory model of making work. I wanted to do this across New South Wales and Northern Territory with young people living in metro, regional and remote locations.  I also wanted to look more broadly at participatory models internationally. Up until that point in time, most of my international travel was touring and performing which left little time to for on-the-ground research.

How has it helped in the development of your career?

I don’t think I would be where I am today if I hadn’t had 12-months to engage in artistic process without focusing on product. The project and research I undertook during the fellowship not only sured up my focus and intention as an artist but also the type of work I want to make and support the making of. There’s a current project we are seeding at Urban Theatre Projects (UTP) at the moment which is very much tapping into the research I undertook during my Fellowship.

Receiving a fellowship can enable an artist to take risks, develop new ideas and push boundaries. How important is risk-taking to you and how have you embraced this in your practice? 

Risk taking is extremely important in my artistic practice.  I try to create projects for myself that take me out of my comfort zone to push and innovate my practice.

You are the Artistic Director of Urban Theatre Projects, how do you find balance between your own practice as a celebrated international artist and leading UTP?

Good question. It’s not easy and sometimes there is no balance. For me it comes down to how I manage my time. I don’t have as much time these days, so I try to have clear boundaries around when I’m in office/admin mode and when I’m in ‘artistic process’ mode. I really value my commuting time (which is 2-hours a day) and use it to reflect, or think through ideas. It’s important for me to stay close to my artistic practice, as it informs the curatorial aspect to my role at UTP.

What have been the most influential moments of your career (to date)?

There’s certainly been some personal experiences that have played a strong hand in the decisions I have made in my career to date and  some pivotal opportunities in Australia and overseas.

I think, one of the most significant opportunities, and a real turning point in my career, was participating in Time_Place_Space 2 and meeting UK artist Richard Layzell. It was through this relationship and opportunity that a whole world opened up to me internationally which really allowed me to find my voice as an artist.

Another really pivotal moment was taking up the post of Live Art Curator at Campbelltown Arts Centre. Then, CAC Director, Lisa Havilah, really let me shape that role into something fantastic and rewarding. It’s certainly helped me in my current position at UTP.

What advice would you give to people considering applying for the Rex Cramphorn Theatre Fellowship in 2016?

Don’t play it safe. Think about a year of activity for yourself that puts you out of your comfort zone.

In 2016, what are you most excited by – as a practitioner, director or as an audience member?

I think for me, the year ahead is less about excitement and more about how and what our national arts ecology landscape will look like come 2017.


Applications are now open for the Rex Cramphorn Theatre Fellowship. For further information on how to make an application, please click here.

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