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Building Microcosms with Crack Theatre Festival

The Crack Theatre Festival will commandeer vacant spaces throughout Newcastle this October, bringing patrons a range of new experimental performances from across Australia - including theatre, visual arts, dance, circus, comedy and much more. Presented as part of the independent arts festival This Is Not Art (TiNA), Crack Theatre Festival is an avenue for both emerging and established artists to present innovative works, free of charge, to audiences in non-traditional theatre spaces.

We caught up with the festival's Artistic Directors, Finn O'Branagáin and Hannah Strout, to find out what you can expect from this year’s program.

Can you tell us what Crack Theatre Festival is all about?

The Crack Theatre Festival is a place to talk, make and work. It also provides an avenue for artists to test new material in development, create new projects as part of residency programs, tour work as part of the theatre festival circuit, attend master classes, engage in a panel series that ranges from the more practical need-to-know discussions to a critical discourse series, meet artists from around the country and present work to a really diverse audience.

Our audiences typically range from people who have wandered in from the Newcastle streets to those who have travelled from all over the country to attend one or all of the three festivals part of TiNA. Invading the shopfronts, the streets and the buildings, the Festival is an ever growing, exciting festival that is welcoming and accessible for all to explore.

The Festival takes place across multiple venues in Newcastle – what makes Newcastle the ideal location?

Newcastle was the birthing place of TiNA - taking its name from graffiti on what was Newcastle's tallest building, so it already is completely at home in Newcastle!

Because it's a small city, it allows the Festival precinct to become its own microcosm - a safe place that allows people to expand their usual comfort zones. It’s also perfect because Newcastle is a city that’s renowned for its commitment to creativity and creating vibrancy through amazing organisations like Renew Newcastle and Octapod. This willingness to open doors means we gain access to buildings that might not otherwise ever see art inside them. We’ve had our Festival Hub (affectionately known as ‘The Crack House’) in places such as a long-empty sports store floor in a department store building, a recently-vacated discount variety store and empty office buildings.

The Festival encourages collaboration and participation – how can audiences get involved this year?

There’s a range of opportunities for audiences to become participants this year. Something new we’re doing is the 24HR Generator with Chris Ryan and Solomon Thomas from the University of Wollongong. This will be an intensive durational workshop that will take you from audience member to Festival Artist! You’ll meet new collaborators and at breakneck speed create a work that will be presented at the Festival.

Many of our programmed works are interactive too - for example, intallation piece Neverland (Well, This is Embarrassing) reimagines a teenage bedroom as an artifact which chronologises 50 years of collected items and the stories behind them. Those items can then be swapped for memories and objects from the audience’s life.

Connection Timeout invites audiences to step into the square with artist Bicky Lee and try with the time limit and challenge of three minutes to find a ‘true connection’. Press One4 Love puts the controls to the narrative in the audience’s hands – giving them an app on their phone, which allows them to collectively vote on the course of action that characters will take.

FriendQuest is a step even further, giving audiences the chance to join a stranger on a quest to become their newest friend.

And if you’re super keen to get involved, there are opportunities to volunteer with the Festival. We’re looking for people to work with festival staff, invigilate durational works, usher and greet audiences at the Festival Hub. Our volunteers help the Festival happen; they are a vital part of the ecology and we've got some fun rewards for audiences who want to help us out for a couple of hours.

What do you think audiences will appreciate most about this year’s line-up?

We’ve worked hard to create diversity within our programming giving audiences different options as to what they’re able to experience. There’s also a smaller Festival precinct this year, allowing audiences to easily walk from venue to venue, and feel connected to TiNA as a whole.

There will be moments to watch, to listen, to participate, to create, to talk, to walk, to dance, and to laugh - and that’s just in the foyer waiting for the shows to happen! When we curate our program, we also pay close attention to the themes, ideas, questions and forms that are popping up in works all over the country to make sure that the things that are interesting our artists and audiences today are represented in the Festival. And the line-up this year is no exception - with more opportunities to get involved, to ask questions and to collaborate, we think audiences this year will really feel a part.

What: The 9th annual Crack Theatre Festival at TiNA Dates: 1st to 4th October 2015 Where: Various venues across Newcastle Cost: Free Web: /

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