Arena Theatre Company's Robot Song to premiere in Bendigo on Wednesday, July 11

DRAMA: Jolyon James and Sharon Custers with a prop from Robot Song.
DRAMA: Jolyon James and Sharon Custers with a prop from Robot Song.

Arena Theatre Company is ready to unveil its first production since moving to Bendigo last year.

Robot Song has been in development for two years but will enjoy its world premiere at The Engine Room in View Street on Wednesday.

Arena’s artistic associate Jolyon James said cast and crew were adding the finishing touches to the production.

“There’s just a bit of painting here and there and some adjusting of the set to do but it looks amazing. It is really shining at the moment,” Mr James said.

“It has been an absolutely beautiful process. Everyone is really invested in it and for a new work, it is in a really good place.

“This is our first premier since moving here, the arts community is mind-blowing with a lot of clever people who are passionate. There are so many people in Bendigo in the company, we feel we have been welcomed in and we love it.”

Robot Song follows a young girl named Juniper who is on the autism spectrum and who struggles at school. Her artistic parents help create resources to give Juniper the skills she needs.

“After a particular incident at school, which is huge for her, Juniper’s parents have to muster everything they have to help her find a path through it,” Mr James said.

Robot Song will have its world premiere in Bendigo on Wednesday.

Robot Song will have its world premiere in Bendigo on Wednesday.

Arena Theatre Company executive director Sharon Custers said the team was excited to show Bendigo what they can do.

“Rather than talking about it, the best thing is to get as many people as possible to see what we do and why it’s different,” she said.

“We basically produce original work for young audiences. It is exciting to be based in Bendigo, producing in Bendigo and taking all over the world.” 

Mr James said Arena’s productions look at issues that young people have to deal with.

“We are dealing with big and important issues for young people,” he said.

“None of the work we make in any way talks down to kids and there are big issues we grapple with.

“We are a rare company, there are only about four companies in Australia that are similar to Arena.

“Arena is a 50-year-old company. In that time we have built so many fantastic relationships with artists and actors.”

Mr James said Arena prided itself on being at the forefront of work made for young people.

“We have main productions like Robot Song but are constantly going into schools, having residencies and hosting workshops,” he said.

Robot Song is on at The Engine Room in View Street from July 11 to 19.

Head to www.thecapital.com.au/Whats_On/Robot_Song for more details or to book tickets.

Arena hopes to provide opportunities for local theatre community

Engaging the region's theatre community and providing opportunities is a priority of Arena Theatre Company.

Arena's executive director Sharon Custers said since announcing their plans to relocate to bendigo in September last year, the company worked to connect with Bendigo performers.

"We started moving over in December and were officially moved in by April. From there we starting hiring local staff," she said.

"We have been overwhelmed by how welcoming the local theatre community has been. We have met with Bendigo Theatre Company, Nexus Youth Theatre and Props Theatre, among others, and have been welcomed with open arms."

Arena Theatre Company's executive director Sharon Custers.

Arena Theatre Company's executive director Sharon Custers.

Ms Custers said Arena wanted to provide opportunities for local thespians and engage with schools.

"We are very passionate about connecting to local schools and have a number of interesting workshop programs that we can bring into in schools so that (students) work with professional people (from the industry),"

"We also feel strongly that we want to work with as many local people as possible and provide opportunities that weren't there before. We have started to do that."

Opportunities for locals stretch beyond acting and performing.

Ms Custers said she hoped to provide a chance to develop people's skills in all aspects of theatre.

"I'm talking about writers, designers and perfomers as well," she said.

"Opportunities will be there for all aspects of theatre that  go in to creating a show. Lighting, set and costume designers, even directors. 

"In the long term, the idea is that we can develop skills in people who may not have that experience previously and also be part of developing an industry that creates more opportunity."

Showing career pathways in the arts and entertainment industry is something close to Ms Custers' heart.

"For me personally, it is really important. I grew up in a small town and didn't know you could be paid to work in the arts," she said.

"By showing young people these opportunities exist, there is a chance to start small and grow their skills first.

"We were really interested to see Bendigo Theatre Company was also running workshops. That's really great and it's something there should be more of."