West Side Story Announcement: "Hold my hand and I'll take you there. Somehow. Someday. Somewhere..."
At CenterStage, we have a role in creating stories that reflect the diversity and authenticity of the world in which we live. To that end, and in an effort to deliver more diversity in Australian musical theatre, CentreStage members will, wherever possible, include and engage with diverse thinking and actions in all aspects of the casting process. In our pursuit to stage the highly acclaimed production of West Side Story, we strived to enable the casting of actors from all backgrounds, regardless of socio-economic status and to engage with producers and directors to create opportunity and access. The team will continue to engage in collaboration and discussion around the subject of diversity with our industry colleagues and other professional organisations. We are currently working alongside the City of Greater Geelong to increase access to the arts promoting diversity and inclusion for Geelong thespians.
"Working with CentreStage has been a truly incredible experience. The high standard of artists auditioning was a testament to the immense talent within the Wadawurrung / Geelong region and I was honoured to be a part of it. It's been a privilege to be associated with a company and team that places such a high value on cultural representation and authenticity." - Robbie Carmellotti- Director
"The lengths CentreStage has gone to in the effort to stage West Side Story in 2023 are to be commended, as is the integrity to stand by the decision to not stage the show if it could not be cast in a way that would do justice to the story. It is one thing for companies to say they support equity, diversity and inclusion but it is another to actively pursue it and acknowledge when something isn’t right rather than making excuses. West Side Story was not our story to tell this time around. But maybe someday." - Jessica Zintschenko - Assistant Director
At the forefront of our planning, CentreStage pledged to authentically cast the productions of West Side Story, honouring the cultural diversity, minority representation and within the parameters of community theatre.
After completing our initial auditions, the creative team are saddened to announce that the planned production of WEST SIDE STORY at Costa Hall in June will not proceed as planned.
"Throughout the development and audition process of this project the production team wanted to stay true to the storytelling and voices of West Side Story and to honour the integrity of these stories by casting in a diverse and authentic manner. We are saddened that this production is not able to proceed, however we are grateful to those who came forward and offered their talents in the auditions. We are also grateful for the collaborative and mature approach that the company and production team has taken to ensure our theatre world continues to evolve to honour the stories of cultural adversities and those who are a minority in the wider community." - Tania Grant (Vocal Director) and Brad Treloar (Musical Director)
During this lapse of rehearsals, CentreStage will offer free weekly dance classes to all individuals who auditioned, as a way to remain connected with each other and Geelong Theatre. These sessions will be run weekly by the talented Jesse Simpson (Frozen) and Samuel Allsop (Urinetown). Sessions will focus on technique and various dance styles including Broadway Jazz, Tap, Contemporary and show fitness.
"We wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to those who auditioned for us in the past weeks. Although disappointing, this is a necessary step to ensure that theatre - even at a community level, is cast equitably and accurately represents and reflects the diversity the show requires." - Jesse Simpson and Ali Simpson (Choreographers)
We understand that this news may cause heartache and disappointment to our auditionees, creatives and volunteers, many of whom have spent the last 6 months working on this project. We continue to encourage our network to actively engage with the Arts Wellbeing Collective (a complimentary service) and Beyond Blue for assistance whilst navigating this difficult situation.
We thank you for understanding during this tough time and encourage you to not give up on the arts. Love theatre, be creative and support those that take the risk to stage musicals throughout Australia. Stay safe, look after each other and spread positivity and love. David Greenwood and Michele Marcu Producers
Download the press release below for circulation