The First Garden – Director’s notes and Creatives

Director’s Notes

What a fascinating individual Olive Pink was – perfect character for a play really. Olive was very much her own woman, uncompromising and driven.

When I was invited by Chris and Natasha Raja to direct their play, I, like many Central Australians, had scant knowledge of Olive Pink other than the fact that we have a botanical garden named after her and the old rumours of a rifle-toting mad woman walking around our town in a pith helmet and Edwardian dress.

This play, although essentially a work of fiction, gives insight into the motivations and passions of the woman. It also explores her relationships with some of the unique Australians like Johnny Tjampatjimpa and Henry Wardlaw who knew and supported her.

Our desire to set the premiere production of this play in the Olive Pink Botanical Garden has presented us with many challenges, but it has been worth it and we have certainly enjoyed our outdoor rehearsals. I deliberately chose to use nature as the backdrop, natural lighting and acoustic sound in order to affirm the beauty of the Garden and exploit its theatrical potential. Sure, this decision was a risk, but live theatre is a risky business.

This production has been blessed with three talented actors and a clever and enthusiastic production team who have united their talents and created this play for you tonight.

Based on fact, transformed into a story, open to interpretation, confronting, moving, entertaining and blatantly theatrical. I love that; hope you enjoy it as well.

Steve Kidd
Director

The First Garden Biographies

Playwright- Christopher Raja
Chris Raja migrated to Melbourne from Calcutta in 1986, and almost twenty years later he moved again, further inland, living and working in Alice Springs since 2004. Chris was co-guest consultant editor of Meanjin’s Australasian issue in 2004 and since then has been a regular contributor to Quadrant, Southerly and Art Monthly Australia. His short story ‘After the Wreck’ was adapted for radio and broadcast on ABC Radio National’s Short Story Program in 2007. His play ‘Drew’s Seizure’ was performed at Araluen Arts Centre, Alice Springs in 2009. Chris worked as the NT Correspondent for Art Monthly Australia from 2010 to 2011 and he is currently a History and English teacher at St Philip’s College, Alice Springs. He and his actor wife Natasha co-wrote ‘The First Garden’ with the assistance of a grant from Arts NT. Chris has been selected for the Australian Society of Authors 2011/2012 mentorship program.

Director – Steve Kidd
Steve is the Director of Performing Arts at St. Philip’s College, Alice Springs. A Graduate of N.I.D.A., he has combined the past thirty years of professional acting and directing with teaching of the craft. Theatre acting credits include the national tours of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Anything Goes, Bran Nue Dae, I Do! I Do!, the world premiere of Only Heaven Knows and the Australian premiere of Assassins. He has also performed here in town as Johnny Skidd and in Nunsense, POW, The Perfect Christmas Lunch and A Close Shave. Directing credits include Bus Stop, Annie, Evita, Sleuth, Assassins, The Music Man, Chamber Music, A Streetcar Named Desire, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Loot, A Chorus Line, Anything Goes, Tailleur pour Dames, Guys & Dolls, The Boyfriend, The Importance of Being Earnest, Burger Brain, The Mikado, Fiddler on the Roof, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Back to the 80’s,  Johnny’s Christmas Wish, Frankenstein, Bye Bye Birdie, Get Johnny Backtherat, Jake’s Women, Hello Dolly, A Jubilee, Disco Inferno, The Odd Couple, Nunsense and Les Miserables (as well as creating the original concept of I Do! I Do!). Television and film credits include The Sullivans, Prisoner, The Last Resort, Anzacs, Waterfront, Neighbours, Neil Lynne, Book Bug, The Alice and Blue Heelers. Commercial C.D’s Bran Nue Dae and Paris, talking books Eye of the Shadow and Brilliant Lies. Steve was the co-founder of the Playing Around Performing Arts Workshop For Young People in Sydney and previously taught acting at Swinburne University in Melbourne.

Actors

Miss Olive Muriel Pink and Co – Plarwright: Natasha Raja
In 1984 Natasha Raja was born in Port Adelaide and began performing shortly after. In 2000 Natasha moved to Alice Springs and continued to perform at local events. After matriculation, she spent five years looking after the elderly and disabled both in town and on remote communities in the APY lands and Yuendumu. In 2007 the birth of her daughter Harper inspired Natasha to embark on a creative journey. She coordinated Alice Springs’ first short play festival “Bite Sized Theatre” performing in one of the plays as Eric, a precocious embryo. Natasha has been the dulcet voice of Wearable Arts for the past four years. In 2010 she was Jill Tanner in the production “Butterflies Are Free”. More recently she has encouraged her husband Chris to get involved in theatre and together, whilst waiting for the arrival of their daughter Jala, they have written The First Garden.

Johnny Tjampitjinpa and Tasman: Eshua Bolton
Eshua is a 37 year old Murruwarri Man from Brewarina.  He started acting at the age of five and has had the acting bug ever since.  He spent 17 years on stage performing in musicals, plays, rock eisteddfods and choirs.  Eshua has a degree in psychology and majored in Indigenous Australian modern history. Eshua has played leading roles in Romeo and Juliet (Mercutio), The King and I (The Krala Holm), Oliver Twist (Bill Sykes) and The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Beedle Banford).  Eshua is also an accomplished didgeridoo player and has performed locally and overseas.  A highlight of his musical career was his inclusion in the opening of the Whale Dreamers (Documentary) at the Cannes Film Festival for Julian Lennon.  Eshua particularly enjoys physical theatre; a confrontational and evocative style of theatre that exposes the underbelly of society.

Captain Harold Southern and Henry Wardlaw: Scott Fraser
A born and bred Centralian, Scott was educated at St Philip’s and later studied at the Flinders University Drama Centre. After graduating in 2005, he performed in childrens’ theatre and original works for the Adelaide Fringe and Feast Festivals. In 2007-2008, a highlight of Scott’s career so far was a stint in possibly Australia’s longest running play ‘The Ship That Never Was’ in Strahan, Tasmania.  More recently he has become involved in tourism, working as a guide for young people in Paris in 2009 and currently for French-speaking visitors to the Red Centre. Scott is thrilled to be performing once again in Alice, in a production about one of its most formidable characters. Next year he will be moving interstate once again to study Drama Education and language.

Production Manager: Kirryn Willkinson
Kirryn has been involved in theatre and dance in Alice Springs from an early age. She has performed in numerous productions including ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead’, ‘Last Love’, ‘The Territory’, ‘Harvey’,’Three Bags Full’,’Fiddler on the Roof’, ‘Back to the 80’s’, Bite Sized Theatre ‘You Only, Only You’. Kirryn has also directed ‘Malcom’, and directed and production-managed ‘Butterflies are Free’.

She is also involved with dance events in Alice Springs including Dance Jam 2010 and many Flashmob performances and dances with Dusty Feet Dance Collective.

Technical Director: Kallum Wilkinson
Born and bred in Alice Springs, Kallum began acting very early with the Araluen Youth Theatre, graduating from NIDA in 2003 and moving on to stage manage and teach at the University of Western Sydney. Kallum has had a diversity of roles in his career, working as a Production Manager, Stage Manager, Director, Technical Manager, Lighting Designer for many companies throughout Australia. Productions include ‘Emergence’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Twelfth Night’, ‘Duchess of Malfi’, ‘Long Voyage Home’, ‘Playing with Fire’, ‘Waiting for Lefty’ and ‘Riders to the Sea’. He has recently directed ‘Butterflies are Free’ and ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ at the Totem Theatre with recent performances in ‘Harvey’ and ‘Three Bags Full’.

Production Designer: Kristina Kidd
Kristina started her working life as a dancer/singer treading the boards for Tommy Steele and in such musicals as They’re Playing Our Song and Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. She worked for a number of years as a freelance dancer with highlights including sharing the stage with Peter Allen and June Bronhill and playing to British Royalty (Charles and Diana) in a Royal Gala performance. Once the dancing bug left her system she turned her talents to singing, studying classical singing at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melba Conservatorium and the Sydney Conservatorium. She has performed in operas such as Madame Butterfly, The Merry Widow and Rigoletto. Kristina completed her Diploma of Teaching at Sydney College of Advanced Education. Another career change saw Kristina working for a number of years as a desktop publisher/graphic designer for the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. Her artistic hobbies have allowed her to be involved in set and costume design. She has designed sets for musicals in Melbourne, Darwin and here in Alice for St Philips College and F-Troupe. The largest set she designed were the sets for Les Miserables for the Darwin based musical company, Superstar Productions. Since moving to Alice, Kristina has put her singing skills to use, teaching Voice at St Philip’s College. In 2009 she took on the role of Music Tuition Co-ordinator, administering the College’s instrumental music program.

Musical Director: Christopher Brocklebank
Christopher describes himself as a community musician. He has played in several groups, including a Greek band, South American band and the duo “A Bed for Katrina’. He studied at the Conservatorium of Music, Adelaide University, where he completed Honours in Ethnomusicology (Music of other cultures).  He lives with his family in Alice Springs.

Musicians:
Bill Pechey came to Central Australia in 1987 and spent 5 years teaching in the Papunya region. He’s lived in Alice Springs since, and now has a family of five plus garden, dogs and chooks. He’s played in the occasional band and likes best to unwind learning new riffs on guitar.

The First Garden is a play written by Christopher Raja and Natasha Raja and produced by the Alice Desert Festival and Olive Pink Botanical Garden in partnership with CAP: The Central Australian Producers Program (an initiative of Arts NT).

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