40th Anniversary Concert. Credit: Daniel Boud.
Brendan O’Connell is an early career producer and theatre maker who was a 2013 recipient of the Early Career Residency grant. He was previously the Program Executive for Come Out Festival in Adelaide, and the Artistic Director of Tantrum Theatre in Newcastle. He also collaborates as part of theatre collective Big One Little One, who have presented live art at Brisbane Festival, Melbourne Fringe and Adelaide Festival.
Brendan undertook his Early Career Residency at the Sydney Opera House, and has recently accepted a contract position there as an Associate Producer. He talked with the team from the Early Career Artists and Producers program about his residency and how he’ll make the most of his new opportunity.
Applications close for the next round of Early Career Residencies on Monday 24th February.
How did you start the conversation with SOH to ask them to be your residency host?
I had a working relationship with Opera House staff through my time at Come Out Children’s Festival, and so approached them with the idea of undertaking a producing residency – it was fairly straightforward, and they were very keen and open to start a dialogue.
What has been your favourite project to work on during your residency at SOH?
Tough call as I had a really great variety of projects during the residency! I’d have to say that the most challenging but rewarding was the 40th Anniversary Concert on the Forecourt, if only for the sheer scale and complexity of the event.
Your previous work as Program Executive for Come Out focused on arts programming for schools and children – how have you brought that experience to your work at SOH?
While my residency has been focused on producing, I’ve had opportunities to discuss programming ideas with the Children, Families & Education team, and utilise my existing relationships in the sector when dealing with companies we’re presenting. I’ve recently been appointed as the Associate Producer in that team, which is a very exciting opportunity for me, and I’m sure will provide more opportunities to draw on my past experience.
What skills, experience or knowledge do you anticipate transferring to your independent practice once you’ve completed your role?
Probably better budget management! I now have a greater awareness of the complexity of large-scale projects, which I hope to bring to bear on my future practice as a freelance producer, and I’ve also developed some key tools in my producing practice which are readily transferable to the world outside the Opera House.
How did your residency evolve over the 12 month grant period, and how has this lead to your extended role there? Did SOH create the role in order to keep you?
The residency was originally for five months and I had a discreet set of projects to work across; as time passed, I picked up some other projects and helped other producers with a few projects, which led to SOH extending my contract twice beyond the end of the residency. As my time was finishing up, two new Associate Producer roles were advertised, one of which I applied for and got. I wish I could say they created the role for me, but it was definitely something they already had on the cards – I guess it was a lucky case of right place, right time!
What are you most excited to be working on in the next 12 months?
In the Indigenous program, we’ve just launched Homeground – a free weekend of First Nations music, dance and culture that will take place on the Western Broadwalk on the first weekend of April. We’ve assembled a terrific program of artists that will offer a really diverse and enriching two days for the whole family.
In the Children, Families & Education program, I’m really looking forward to working on the Australian premiere season of Theatre Lovett’s The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly, a fantastic little show I saw in New York a year back which we’re also live streaming to schools across Australia as part of our Digital Program.