Power, Disability, and High School Politics
Flight Path Theatre Break Boundaries for Inaugural Co-production
Marrickville’s Flight Path Theatre has partnered with the Melbourne-based Divergent Theatre Collective for the Sydney premiere of Mike Lew’s acclaimed play, Teenage Dick.
Since its establishment in July 2019, Flight Path Theatre has been dedicated to providing a platform for independent productions in the Inner West. While the theatre typically hosts productions with little creative involvement, this inaugural co-production marks a departure from their norm while still highlighting their commitment to fostering inclusivity and diverse storytelling.
A contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III, Teenage Dick delves into topics like perception, disability, and the treacherous path to power. Flight Path and Divergent Theatre Collective’s co-production sets itself apart with a diversity-identifying team, including four creative artists with disabilities.
The collaboration is helmed by Kate Bookallil and Siobhan Lawless, co-directors of Flight Path Theatre and Marrickville locals, and Roman Berry of Divergent Theatre Collective. We spoke with Kate about the innovative and boundary-pushing production.
What motivated you to put on the co-production? Did you miss the creative input of theatre-making?
Siobhan and I have been thinking about producing an in-house production since we took over Flight Path Theatre in July 2019. We had a fundraiser staged reading of a brilliant play we planned on giving a full season, and we just got too busy running the space. When Dan Graham pitched Teenage Dick to us last year, we were really excited by the play itself. At that stage, it had a producer attached, and we had scheduled Teenage Dick in our season. When the producer fell off the project, we knew we wanted to be involved. Creatively, we are fulfilled by our drama student productions through our education arm, Inner West Drama, but being able to co-produce our first in-house play feels very timely.
What influenced your decision to collaborate with Roman Berry, especially given his location in Melbourne?
While we were sure about scheduling Teenage Dick at Flight Path Theatre, we were both very busy. Siobhan and I were both cast in plays over the last few months and knew we would not be able to put in the necessary production hours involved. So when Dan said he had worked with a fabulous producer last year, we were keen to catch up with Roman. As soon as we met Roman over zoom, we knew that we wanted to work with him. His energy was positive and creative and totally can-do. The fact that Roman lives in Melbourne has not been an obstacle, and he has made a big effort to be in Sydney as often as possible.
Are there any themes or messages in Teenage Dick that inspired you to bring this play to your community?
Teenage Dick immediately jumped out to us during the pitch sessions last year because we had not encountered a play that highlighted in the cast description that actors with a disability must be cast. The story is based on Richard The Third and is set in an American high school. There are all the regular themes you may expect in a high school play, with a brilliant spotlight on being a teen with a disability. Richard has hemiplegia, and Buck is in a wheelchair. One of the exciting aspects of the play is that at no stage do we excuse any of Richard’s behaviour because he has a disability, and the playwright, Mike Lew, does not shy away from ensuring Richard is a full-rounded character with many of the flaws from Shakespeare’s text. So, to answer your question more directly, we are thrilled to present a play that brings disability front and centre.
How does this production align with DTC and your shared values around disability advocacy and representation of diverse experiences?
Flight Path Theatre is relatively young, but our philosophy is clear. We are a space for everyone. We have spent the last four years making our venue as physically and philosophically accessible as possible. We are still learning and open to improvements, as there are many things we do not know. We do know that our community is diverse and creative and we want to be as inclusive as we can. We are very proud to co-produce a play that celebrates individuality and difference. Dean Nash, playing Richard, is also our sound designer and Holly-Jane Cohle, playing Buck is our production designer, so we are beyond thrilled to be showcasing their multiple talents.
Teenage Dick runs from July 19 – August 5 at Flight Path Theatre, Addison Road Community Centre, 142 Addison Road, Marrickville.
Tickets and more information on the performances can be found at: www.flightpaththeatre.org/whats-on/teenage-dick
Director - Dan Graham
Assistant Director & Stage Manager - Pearl Junor
Assistant Stage Manager - Keira Fairley
Production Designer - Holly-Jane Cohle
Sound Designer - Dean Nash
Intimacy Director - Shondelle Pratt
Movement/ Choreographer - Roman Berry
Accent/ Vocal Coach – Robert Lewis
Flight Path Theatre - Kate Bookallil & Siobhan Lawless
Divergent Theatre Collective - Roman Berry (Production Manager)
By Tahney Fosdike