How did The SESSIONS Project come about?

I was 6 months into lockdown in Melbourne in my apartment. Belting in the shower and getting noise complaints on the daily, I had a thought - a realisation.

Ever since my first show in Primary school I loved being on stage, the adrenaline, the applause, all of it. After that first show, through the next decade I didn’t do a lot on stage again, I had a lot of growing and things to do. But, once I got back on stage it became almost impossible to get off. Show after show after show after show. I took any role, doing anything, for anyone. I loved it. And for the next few years it became my life, I lived and breathed theatre - mostly musical theatre, but I also got in on a few plays here and there. It was awesome.

I only open with this because I recognise that am so fortunate for that experience. I am so lucky that I found the opportunity to learn and grow and find myself on stages around Hobart through those years, I think that is super cool and I am so lucky for that.

COVID put a massive halt to all of that, it killed it. In so many more ways than we really yet realise, opportunities are so few and far between, and if you don’t know where to look, you most likely just won’t start. And it has been left to us to revive and rebuild that.

Over the past few years, people have asked me; “How do I get on stage in Hobart?” “Where do I look for audition notices?” “WHO WHAT WHERE WHEN WHY?!?” So many questions, and I have so so little answers, and I hate not having the answer. Because not only did COVID kill the ability for anyone to put on a show without massive risk and little reward, but it also killed the performer in so many of us. I speak for myself here but I know that I really enjoy NOT going anywhere a lot more now than I used to, but I also crave that energy and opportunity of life pre-COVID.

This is all a long winded way of me leading up to a screenshot but I remember this lockdown night so fondly. This realisation and gratitude meant a lot of things. And it would take a few years for any thing to show itself, but I knew I wanted to build a community of performers, a space, a safe home for people to exist and do what we love to do most.

8 November 2020, I wrote: 

It does’t really make a lot of logical (or grammatical) sense, but somehow it articulates the basis of our project perfectly. Let me explain.

This idea, or something of it, is something that has been long spoken about in the Hobart Arts community. I was too young and too late to the party to experience it, but everyone who has been around longer than the Hedberg has heard stories of Thirsty Thursdays.

Thursday nights at the Theatre Royal Bar, the community all popping in after rehearsals, an open mic for anyone to have a go, constantly flowing drinks, and laughs a plenty. I have been told so many stories of shows coming to life over a single chat at the bar. People getting up on stage to try out a duet, fumbling through it, taking that and coming back 2 weeks later absolutely smashing it out of the park. But all just as a community, on a Thursday.

No pressure. No Expectations. No choreography.

Just a space to exist together as a community and enjoy each other, and our love for music, art and performing.

The Theatre Royal bar closed down a while back and since then no such place has really existed in Hobart, and thus, neither has the community. It’s scattered. No one really knows where to go or what to do. And no one seems to have the answer.

Which brings us to myself landing back home in Hobart post-lockdown with no idea what to do with myself. I was starting from scratch, there was nothing going on. I tried to jump on board with a few shows, some were incredible, some were questionable. All amazing learning experiences nonetheless.

Over the course of the next 2 years I rebuilt my life here in Tasmania and really found myself again. Surrounded by an incredible network of wonderful, creative and loving humans, I found my feet as an artist. I spent endless nights up late talking with people about any and every idea and possibility. Maybe we should open another theatre bar? Should we all start busking together in a shed? Do we do a cabaret in our backyard? Do we hold a picnic in the gardens and tell people to come? So many ideas, but no real solution, still.

This was until one conversation with Moz about this very topic, and something struck. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew it was possible, and with such an amazing group of artist around me on a daily basis, I knew we could do anything.

So I began concocting a plan for some kind of open mic night idea. I literally had no idea what I was doing, it was all ideas, improvisation, team work and problem solving (I sound like a bad TEDTalk). Over the next few months we joined forces with Prophecy and Mel who already had some plans in the works for a show concept in collaboration with Voodoo Bar and Pancho Villa, so I piggy backed my idea off their show concept and we landed on 6 July 2023 to hold our first SESSIONS night! We had no idea what it was or if anyone would come, but we just wanted to turn on the mic, open the door and see what happened…

I even pulled out my original concept document for the opening night:

The night was magical. The venue was filled with energy like I had not felt in Hobart before, in all my times on stage. There was no pressure, there was no expectations, there was just love. It was truly something else. 

So we did it again, the next month, in August 2023. And the same happened again. Magic, full seats, love.

With no true advertising other than a few personal posts on socials from the team, we had somewhere around 150 rotating patrons through the doors of our first 2 shows. More than 25 performers got to take the stage and show off what they got. Over 8 hours of packed footage was captured, and the bar staff were super stoked with the events.

September came around fast and we launched The SESSIONS Project as an official brand on social media, and word of mouth spread quick, as it does in Hobart. I knew that the project needed to grow, and we needed more space for people on these Thursday nights if it was going to work.

A quick flashback to September 2022, alongside my incredible team of local powerhouse creatives, we produced our first show, TRUE WEST by Sam Shepard at The Hidden Theatre in New Town. It too was a massive work of ideas, improvisation, team work and problem solving. He produced the play off our own backs and could not have been more stoked with how it went. We somehow managed to learn the play itself, while organising the logistics of producing a show; finance, bookings, rehearsals, casting, marketing, contracts, catering, ticketing etc etc. It was massive, but we did it.

I knew that with September SESSIONS coming up fast we had to pivot out approach to these Thursday nights. I knew that we had a blueprint for a show that worked in The Hidden Theatre. In the 2 weeks leading up to our 3rd show on the 14th of September, we managed to pull together an entire festival-like event, that went off without a hitch!

Every performer that comes off the stage cannot wipe the smile off their faces. Kickstart Arts are loving having the project in there on a monthly basis and we could not be more grateful with their generosity and support toward the project, and our community. We are bringing the community back together. One SESSION at a time.

We held our Vol. IV on the 5th October at the theatre and once again it defied the odds. Being battered by the weather, we still had a full house roaring in applause. But the most beautiful parts of the night are when the audiences go home, and we are just left with the people who really love, and really wanna be there, and we just jam.

That’s what The SESSIONS Project is about.

We found the community. Now we just build it, but most of all we enjoy it.

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