The Malthouse Theatre Director

Marion Potts The Malthouse Theatre.

A few readers have asked me to name my favourite interviews so far.

Hand over heart; I love every chat. Why? Because we share and we learn from each other.

This conversation with the Malthouse Theatre’s Marion Potts inspired many…

Martine: You have been artistic director since 2011 what does the chance to lead this amazing company mean to you?

Marion Potts: Personally it means I can do really satisfying work that exercises my creativity. It also means I can have an impact on the world around me – if you believe culture is vital to the shaping of a society then it’s a vehicle through which I can kind of really contribute.

Martine Harte: I’ve read you were bitten by the theatre bug very early?

Marion Potts: My parents were the kind of people who exposed us to the arts. I was taken to theatre a lot as a child but I think the turning point was a production I saw when I was as school, Twelfth Night.

We had studied Shakespeare a little bit at school and I’d had a similar reaction to a lot of students: it was inaccessible, it was long, it was boring – it was just very hard to find points of connection with as a young teenager given that we were just reading it in a classroom.

We went to see this production and I was absolutely blown away. It was immediate, it was funny, it was sexy, I felt like I could understand every word which has to do with the calibre of the performances and the production I suppose. Anyway, our school bus had to leave before it was over!

I was so desperate to see how it ended that I asked my parents if they could take me back, it was probably at that point I thought, ‘gee this would be a really cool thing to do.’

MH: You speak about the importance of extending ourselves beyond our comfort zones, what do you mean?

MP: Oh look this is a thing that comes directly from what I do day-to-day which is direct theatre works. One of the hugely important aspects of creativity is to reach beyond your comfort zone, if you feel fear then chances are you’re at your creative best.

MH: I love that!

MP: Yeah, but I think it does extend beyond the rehearsal room and I think it is particularly challenging for women (I’m generalising hugely here) but I certainly see that in others.

I have lots of male colleagues who live happily outside of their comfort zone and they take some of the most brash and brave decisions imaginable.

But women on the whole, whether it’s due to a heightened fear of failure or whether a kind of conditioned response to being asked to excel, they sort of censor themselves I think.

The world for a lot of women is outside their comfort zone, so it’s about developing that capacity to believe in oneself and to back oneself and take the sort of gambles that people do and not be afraid of failing I guess.

MH: Is there a technique you recommend when you’re directing? 

MP: I think it’s a process and I think it’s actually just about doing it and learning that on the whole there are good people out there who are going to support you no matter what.

The stakes are very high for women in terms of failure because if women fail the repercussions are pretty brutal, they don’t get on to the next board or they don’t get promoted or they don’t get the next gig, but not doing it is no answer.

The one bit advice I give myself, in moments where you feel that encroaching sense of self-doubt is just to remember that the project is larger than yourself. The big cultural projects we all undertake in Australia are bigger than us. If you can think of something that’s important then you’re always ready to go into battle for it. You have to almost remove the focus from yourself.

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Posted in Career insights.