“THEY’VE employed me to start some fires and bring the theatre into its next life,” incoming artistic director and programming manager at Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, Jordan Best says as she settles into her new job.
When we meet, Best, who took up her position just before Christmas, has been ratting around among the 12 years of assorted posters and programs, many of them signed, from The Q’s 12 years of memories. In between learning the ropes of “a huge job”, she’s been hell-bent on making the pristine Q foyer look like a real theatre by pasting the posters up wherever she can.
It makes a fascinating read as you can now view, on the walls, the extraordinary eclecticism of her predecessor, Stephen Pike, whose choices of everything from “Hair” to “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” are there for all to see.
Best has nothing but praise for Pike.
“Stephen’s been a part of my career for the last 19 years,” she says, and looking over the postcards he’s received has proved, to her “what a dramatic impact he has had on the theatre in our region… he was supportive of people both local and all over Australia and he’s built an extraordinary theatre”.
As Best arranges her office upstairs in The Q, she’s full of optimism.
“I believe in people having a good time,” she says, outlining the relationship that’s been established with comedian Chris Ryan, who did the season launch late last year. That’s part of a regular comedy program to be called “Q the Laughs!” usually in the adjacent Bicentennial Hall, now refurbished as a comfortable entertainment space.
While the directorship of The Q was considered a plum job by the theatre crowd, it has one drawback – she doesn’t get to create her own program until a year on, since everything’s already been set up for 2021.
Happily, though, there are a few gaps this year, and she’s learning how to fill them with some add-ins.
“I’m interested in getting people here who might not normally come to the theatre, so I am keen to fill up comedy, music, storytelling and yes, there will be surprises,” she says.
Gin might feature on warmer evenings, but the colder months seem made for whiskey nights, where she can showcase local acts, with the bar open both before and after shows. The benefits outweigh the cost, she says, and if they can offer local wines, that would be an added drawcard.
Best is operating on a tight budget, with a brief to bring more people through the doors, but she has a plan.
“The Q has the opportunity of bringing in small independent productions people may not be aware of, so that instead of the Sydney Theatre or Melbourne Company or Belvoir, we can bring in something you may not have heard of but we think you should, maybe like the Old Fitz Theatre in Woolloomooloo,” she says.
“I’m also really interested in local Queanbeyan artists.
“It’s risky to program in big productions, so my dream for 2022 is that it can be full of local talent, where we can hear not necessarily from famous people, but from interesting people.”
As if she didn’t have enough on her plate, Best is also directing Hilary Bell’s Aussie murder story “Wolf Lullaby” for Echo Theatre.
That’s the first coming up at The Q, with a February 17 opening following Eddie Daniels’ tribute to Roy Orbison and Gene Pitney, and Darren Coggan‘s popular tribute to Cat Stevens.
It’s been quite a learning curve and her budget doesn’t extend to having what they call “Covid cover” for actors who are sick and can’t come to work. But it’s exciting to be back into theatre, she says.
As a veteran stage director, Best rejects the idea that you can’t direct both a theatre and a play in its season.
“Combining administration with directing is what I’ve been doing for the last 17 years, as well as parenting and working in hospitality,” she says.
“I wouldn’t count me out.”
Visit theq.net.au for details of the 2021 Q season.