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Inspiring Through Independent Theatre

Who are the people behind independent theatre?

This extraordinary art form gifts its actors and audiences with an immediate sense of humanity’s pains, struggles, joys and truths by digging deep into storytelling that goes beyond commercialised entertainment.

One such person is Kallangur’s very own Wayne McPhee

Born and raised in Redcliffe, Wayne’s earliest memories of creativity are as a young boy where he spent much time with his uncle, John Bowman.

“I lived with my aunt and uncle when I was growing up and it was my Uncle John that greatly influenced my creative interests,” Wayne says. “We would go to galleries. He’d encourage me to paint and draw and explore many of the masters, especially the Egyptians.

Wayne McPhee

“Uncle John was the one who led me to believe that creativity is a good thing and that it should be nourished and nurtured.”

After trying his hand at the visual arts and even a bit of drama in high school, it was in his senior year that Wayne had the opportunity to take production units, which helped him realise what he felt comfortable doing. This was also when he met his first mentor. Mentors are incredible individuals who become our greatest resource for knowledge, encouragement and inspiration.

“Learning about how to stage lighting, write, produce and create good characters, create strong characters,” Wayne says. “I had the most amazing teachers, one of whom was Carol Brodie. I credit her for really having helped me become the creative person I am.”

“I want to leave the audience with something. I love that you can go and you can take a message away from it, but I also like theatre that you’re able to have your own personal meaning from it. I like the shows that I’ve seen and it’s like, listen for the meaning.”

As with most teenagers, Wayne took time off to work after high school, but 18 years later found himself yearning to return to his creativity.

A very different experience to his high school studies, Wayne’s next ventures touched his heartstrings, pulling him in new directions.

Wayne attended SAE Institute (SAE) where he achieved his first degree, a Bachelor of Animation. Later at Griffith University (Griffith), he completed his Honours and later returned to SAE to complete his Masters in Creative Industries.

“I met new mentors at SAE along the way like Mairi Cameron, who wrote and directed The Second (Stan) and Jodie Taylor,” he says. “These people had faith in me, encouraging me to push myself further.”

Wayne reminisces about his experiences along the way, and says, “I was still at Griffith and able to do independent study units where I chose to explore emotion in film. This led me to see how people were able to influence emotion through choices that they made in their filmmaking endeavours.”

With this in mind, Wayne developed his honours dissertation around horror films and how they were positioned in real-life situations. For example, taking true stories and altering them to encourage a stronger emotional reaction from the audience.

Fun Fact: “In the case of The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, the story is based around a young boy, however, the film was told about a young girl,” Wayne says. “Horror films tend to hold a mirror up to societal norms of the period that they’re made in and at the time of The Exorcist, it was reflecting the family unit."

These are the kinds of lessons that impacted Wayne’s understanding of his craft as he went on to write and produce a film through his production business, The X Collective.

And then came the pandemic, when the film industry was the first to shut down.

But this didn’t stop Wayne’s ambition. He saw it as a challenge and went on to pursue his own independent theatre productions, his first being Leaves of Glass by Philip Ridley.

Following this success, Wayne added to his credits by producing White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour (a form of experimental theatre) and Venus of Fur by David Ives.

Being engaged in creating theatre enabled Wayne to draw inspiration from the masters. It seems there’s nothing more important than bringing stories to light that are thought-provoking, and which intentionally give people the opportunity to think more deeply about humanity’s issues and maybe even societal norms. It takes a lot of courage and insight to be a theatre-maker. It means taking risks by pushing boundaries while dealing with massive learning curves. There’s so much networking to be done, as well as auditioning actors and creating production teams.

Wayne’s success has not only been because of a series of fortuitous events but also due to the dedication of his cast and crew.

Actors place themselves in the vulnerable position of absorbing a character’s emotions, their backstory and their lives. Having a director (aka Wayne McPhee) work with them who not only respects the characters but the actor’s journey, is a huge asset for any production.

“I’ve been very lucky with the people I’ve worked with,” Wayne says. “Such incredibly, incredibly talented people. I’m extremely humbled by their experience.”

So what’s next for Wayne McPhee and The X Collective?

“Well, 2024 is the year I’m going to do my passion projects,” he says. “I have a huge range, including dramatic theatre to comedy and more.

“I want to leave the audience with something. I love that you can go and you can take a message away from it, but I also like theatre that you’re able to have your own personal meaning from it. I like the shows that I’ve seen and it’s like, listen for the meaning.”

Wayne also enjoys and encourages interaction between himself and his actors with their audience.

“My preference is to have audiences interact with our actors after the show,” he says. “The actors are just coming off stage so are still full of energy. That’s a great time for audiences to engage, to ask questions and share thoughts. For me, that’s quite a beautiful moment.”

Societal norms sometimes advise us against following our dreams, and yes, we do have to earn a living, but that shouldn’t stop us from following our hearts. People like Wayne are examples of what we can achieve as long as we go for it. Does it take time and a lot of work? Absolutely! But the rewards are priceless.

Wayne McPhee and The X Collective’s 2024 Season will be released in late February.

Wayne welcomes everyone to keep abreast of their news by checking out Facebook and Instagram - @TheXCollectiveoz


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