Back in 2000, Darlinghurst Theatre Company was based out of the Wesley Chapel. At that time, the company was in daily contact with people experiencing homelessness. Glenn Terry, Darlinghurst Theatre Company Director, felt there was potential to do something interactive and long-lasting with the community. Meanwhile, Ruth Polley, activities coordinator at nearby Wesley Mission’s Edward Edgar Lodge, was thinking about starting a drama program to help lift her clients’ self-esteem. It was a perfect match, and so the Milk Crate Theatre project was born.
15 years on, Milk Crate Theatre has grown to be a stand-alone, award-winning company. Milk Crate works with an ensemble of artists who have experienced homelessness or social marginalisation. Through engaging theatre productions, the company offers a safe, inclusive and creative place for members to share their stories and build confidence.
“Our grassroots drama workshops are the first point of contact for many artists who join the Milk Crate Theatre Ensemble. Once an artist links with us, they can then grow their involvement by auditioning for more intensive projects (like current production ‘This House Is Mine’), or get involved in leadership or skills development programs,” said Milk Crate artistic director Maree Freeman.
Their biggest production yet, ‘This House is Mine’ is coming to Eternity Playhouse from 12 to 22 March. Freeman explains the project began with conversations with the Ensemble in mid-2013, which discussed how the production can best share stories of lived experiences to reduce stigma.
Mental illness came out as a theme. “The work covers a range of issues the Ensemble wished to explore in the play, including depression, suicide prevention, psychosis, domestic violence, dementia, being a carer and recovery. It was important in the work to focus on the hope and resilience of all of the charters through an exploration of recovery and life beyond trauma,” said Freeman.
The incidence of poor mental health among homeless people is significantly higher than that of the general population. For youth, it is seen in 50-75% of people.
The production expertly weaves live stage performances with digital media, to illuminate the internal world of the characters. “We began working with digital media in 2013 and had a very positive response from the Ensemble in terms of skills development, increased accessibility and artistry that this way of working enabled,” said Freeman.
“Also, we’ve had a whole separate team from the Ensemble employed as digital artists on the work, which allows us to have more members of the Ensemble involved.”
More than just a performance, ‘This House is Mine’ is a vital and authentic work. See for yourself how Milk Crate’s transformative style of theatre is a vision for a more inclusive future.
Tickets are on sale now. ‘This House is Mine’ is showing at the beautiful new Eternity Playhouse in Darlinghurst. Milk Crate Theatre has also been successful in their application for an Accommodation Grants Program space at Alexandria Town Hall, commencing over the next few months.