Phoenix to live up to its name?

Interesting story by Kate McIlwain in today’s Illawarra Mercury:

In this age of stratospheric house prices, rising living costs and the ethical imperative to buy more pricey milk, there’s not much that still costs $1.

Half an avocado (in season), a Caramello Koala from the office fundraising box, maybe a pair of socks from Kmart.

And a community theatre on 1200 square metres of land about two kilometres from Wollongong’s city centre.

In a report to next week’s meeting, Wollongong City Council staff have recommended the Phoenix Theatre be allowed to buy the Coniston site it has occupied for the past decade for $1.

If councillors vote to approve the sale, it will not be the first time the Bridge Street building has changed hands for a gold coin.

It was sold by the council to community radio station VOX FM for $1 in 2006, then passed back to ratepayers for the same sum in 2014.

And before VOX took over, the theatre site was leased from the council by the region’s first professional theatre company, Theatre South, for $1 a year.

Now, after two years of deliberations over what to do with the property since VOX sold it back, staff have advised councillors endorse a proposal from Phoenix to buy the site for $1 (plus GST) to provide a community performance space.

Director Steen said the council recommendation was “the best thing on the face of the planet”, as he said the theatre had been in limbo for years…

See the Phoenix website:

The Primary objectives for the theatre are to:

  • Promote performing arts in the local area

  • Provide performance and rehearsal venues for professional and amateur theatrical groups in the local area

  • Promote arts which are incidental to, or associated with performance art in the local area

  • Promote and provide education and training in performance art and associated professions in the local area…

While studying in Europe, Steen attended many performances and workshops where he noticed the attitude to performance was totally different from the one in Australia. This was strange because the attitudes of Multiculturalism, resourcefulness and partnership are ideals held dear to most Australians and even considered by us as the Australian way of living. So why do we not see these ideals carried over into our performance culture?

Australians are the creative backbone of many performance groups overseas, we do it better than anyone else because of the way we live and the way we think. Our theatre workers are leaving home to find what they need to express themselves. Again why? Where is the source of the problem? When productions that have a more global perspective have happened they have been very successful, for example, the Lion King or Cirque du Soleil. Steen believes the biggest problem is support, and The Phoenix Theatre is going to try to address the lack of support for performers who want to take a more global approach to performance…



I don’t know how I missed that this was on, but last month Nevermore – Tales of madness from Edgar Allen Poe was the first production of the year for the Phoenix Theatre at Coniston. See A haunting play and uncertain future for Phoenix Theatre.

Steen is also one of the forces behind Ziggy’s House of Nomms, where Chris T and I shared Kuan Yin tea and dumplings last Saturday.