18/06/2008 - 22:00

Culture Corner: John Senczuk

18/06/2008 - 22:00


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Anna Moreau chats with John Senczuk, general manager of Buzz Dance Theatre.

Culture Corner: John Senczuk

John Senczuk

General Manager of Buzz Dance Theatre (6 months)

WABN: Describe a day at work.

JS: "I'm usually at my desk by 7.30am, I clear emails and scan the papers before ticking off the deadlined tasks for the day, and - in between clearing emails - solve the myriad problems that arise, hoping that there's a little time to connect with the staff and company, and dream and be ambitious for us all."

WABN: What is the best piece of advice you can give someone to motivate a team?

JS: "'Our doubts are traitors,

And make us lose the good we oft might win

By fearing to attempt.'

Measure for Measure, Shakespeare."

WABN: What was the most challenging event in your career?

JS: "In the early 1990s, I designed the set for the Australian premiere of Stephen Sondheim's musical, Into the Woods, for Sydney Theatre Company at the Opera House. It was conceived using a raked stage incorporating a donut revolve with a central lift.

"Its massive scope tested everyone, and without the benefit of the machinery in the rehearsal room, the problems experienced during the bump-in and technical rehearsals have become legendary. It was a lonely experience at the time, but commitment to the original concept, patience, resilience, and a sense of humour eventuated in an astonishing production, full houses, standing ovations and a swag of awards, including two Mo Awards."

WABN: What's best measurement of your performance, and can you name a highlight in your career?

JS: "If I have done my job properly, the production matures on time and is ready for opening night; the production team are in control; the performers are secure and eager; and the audience are entertained and responsive.

"A couple of career highlights: as designer, two years out of Nida, my opening night at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End; as playwright, my adaptation of Elizabeth Jolley's The Sugar Mother performed at the Sydney Opera House as part of its 25th anniversary season; as director, the process associated with evolving the chamber opera African Queen, just seen at the Blue Room (it will have a return season next year at Subiaco). But lately, putting the final polish on Buzz' next triennial business plan gives me enormous satisfaction."

WABN: How do you deal with egos in your workplace?

JS: "Egos in the theatre are the lifeblood of the best creative work; ego that has a basis in talent is treated with enormous respect."

WABN: Is there an organisation/business model that you strive to achieve/reach?

JS: "Buzz Dance Theatre is coming up to a major milestone, its 25th anniversary, in 2010. At core, the company's goal is to ignite the imagination of children and young people through workshop programs in schools as well as a range of theatre productions. We tour metropolitan, regional and remote areas of the state, nationally and internationally.

"The organisation's preoccupation is to refine the established domestic model while growing our national profile."

WABN: What frustrates you the most about your sector and what would you do to change it?

JS: "Perth contemporary dance has suffered a ghetto mentality for far too long. We have dancers and choreographers of national and international standard who are impatient to have the opportunity to show their capacity to a wider audience.

"Until the state government's recent Future Moves Ignite package there has been little optimism, and all that's lacking now are more suitable venues for more substantial new work."

WABN: Who is someone you dream to work with?

JS: "Life has to hold some surprises, so I've found it much better to see what fate turns up. Who would have thought, for instance, that in moving to Perth two years ago I'd have the extraordinary experience of directing and designing a local production of Irene for Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds at His Majesty's Theatre?"

WABN: Have you read a good book on management that you can recommend?

JS: "I tend to shy away from the theorists. Perth has such a unique theatrical/business community and in many aspects it simply doesn't fit the mould. My philosophy, in all aspects of my career, has been to solve problems from the inside out; not impose concept or theory in favour of interpretation and understanding. I've been very fortunate to have, facilitated by Henry Boston at AbaF, the benefit of a business mentor, the remarkable and insightful (ex-Olympic rower) Greg Baynes from the Perth based Catalyst Group."

WABN: What is your favorite hobby?

JS: "When I have the time, I relax by writing, or creating new work and opportunities for my talented mates. Current projects include: the chamber opera African Queen; the JC Williamson musical For All It's Worth (just workshopped in Sydney); a play based on the business lives of those doyens of the cosmetics industry Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, Beauty Case; and a big dance/operatic work based on the life of Caravaggio for the 400th anniversary of his death in 2010."

WABN: Which personality inspired you the most throughout your career?

JS: "I keep coming back to Shakespeare and Marlowe; writers, whose work is still robust, provocative, inspiring and accessible."

WABN: Who has influenced you personally?

JS: "Co-founder of Currency Press and academic, the late Dr Philip Parsons, was extraordinarily influential in terms of my evolving theatrical ethic and aesthetic. His friendship provided me with a lifelong love and fascination with the dramaturgy of both Renaissance and contemporary Australian drama. Philip was instrumental in the building of The New Fortune Theatre at the University of Western Australia - the only replica Elizabethan stage in Australia; I'm very keen to reinvigorate the space for its 45th anniversary next year with a production of Timon of Athens."

WABN: Who has influenced you professionally?

JS: "I had a long-term, collaborative relationship with director and producer Wayne Harrison. He is a grand thinker, indefatigable and relentless, a true theatrical; he taught me that ideas themselves are cheap, and that good ideas have currency. I'm always impressed by the audacity of the international producer Cameron Macintosh."

WABN: What were you doing before your current position?

JS: "Program director, production, design and arts management and senior lecturer, design, WAAPA. Before that, 18 years lecturing in drama and dramaturgy at the University of Wollongong, while maintaining a diverse theatrical career as producer, director, designer, playwright and dramaturge."


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