In a first for the pioneering Australian performing arts company, Circa Contemporary Circus is launching a podcast. In Producing Heroes Circa Artistic Director Yaron Lifschitz sits down with some of the producing heroes of the creative world, to capture their extraordinary tales of producing the shows and events that have shaped the 21st Century.
Guests include Stuart Oken, former Executive Vice President of Disney Theatrical and lead producer behind Broadway hits The Lion King and An American in Paris, and David Lan, Artistic Director of London’s Young Vic for 18 years.
Producing Heroes will be launched on June 10. Yaron said the podcast is dedicated to creative producers who make the impossible happen. “Every day these intrepid theatrical alchemists harness the energies of artists, hustle opportunities, dream dreams and translate them from ideas into shows,” he said.
They are the drivers of an industry and yet they tend to remain hidden, hiding behind the curtain. Until now.
“Our guests have produced shows that have won 14 Tony Awards, used performing arts to facilitate international diplomacy in China, closed a city so that 1.4 million people could watch giants walk the streets, helped a country heal from genocide by fostering culture, produced on Broadway and the West End, in remote communities and large festivals.”
Producing Heroes tells their stories, in their own words. The triumphs and failures, the risks and rewards.
“The glory and the gory all feature in these deeply personal accounts of some of the world’s most inspiring creative producers,” Yaron said.
Producing Heroes is produced by Circa, hosted by Yaron Lifschitz, Circa’s Artistic Director and is aimed at anyone who has ever wondered ‘how did they make that happen?’
Episode 1 – Stuart Oken
Stuart Oken is a veteran producer of theatre and film. Most recently, he produced the first stage adaptation of An American in Paris on Broadway (4 Tony Awards) as well as productions in London, Japan, China and a US National Tour.
Past work includes The Addams Family (Broadway, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, US National Tour,) Saved (Playwrights Horizons) and Venice (The Public Theatre). Stuart spent ten years as Executive Vice-President and co-head of Disney Theatrical Productions where he produced The Lion King (6 Tony Awards), Der Glockner Von Notre Dame (a German-language world premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Aida (4 Tony Awards.)
He founded and served as the first Artistic Director of The American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University and was founder and producer of Chicago’s Apollo Theater Center. Mr. Oken has produced the motion pictures About Last Night, Impromptu, and Queens Logic and has served as President of Witt-Thomas Films at Warner Brothers.
Episode 2 – Alison Friedman
Ms Alison M Friedman joined the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) in October 2017 as Artistic Director, Performing Arts. She leads the dance, theatre, xiqu, music and outdoor, learning and participation teams of the Performing Arts Division to ensure WKCDA’s performing arts programmes are conceptualised, curated and implemented to realise the Authority’s vision to be a regional and global leader in the performing arts.
Ms Friedeman was a Board Member of the International Society for the Performing Arts (2013 – 2018), one of the largest international alliances of performing arts leaders. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Ms Friedman founded the cultural exchange organisation Ping Pong Productions (PPP) in 2010 after studying as a Fulbright scholar in the Department of History in Peking University and the Beijing Dance Academy in Mainland China from 2002 to 2003. Prior to PPP, Ms Friedman held producer and general manager roles at dance and music institutions, including the Beijing Modern Dance Company and composer/conductor Tan Dun’s production and management company.
Episode 3 – Mark Ball
Mark Ball is Creative Director of Manchester International Festival (MIF), where he is responsible for leading the artistic programme for The Factory, MIF’s new large-scale venue for arts and culture. From April 2009 to June 2017 he was Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT), one of Europe’s leading arts festivals. From January 2008 – April 2009 he was Head of Events and Exhibitions at the Royal Shakespeare Company, establishing a new department focussed on developing new work and new audiences and from 1998 – 2007, he was the Artistic Director of Fierce!, an annual international festival of theatre, live art and contemporary dance taking place in Birmingham and across the West Midlands.
Mark has been named the Institute of Director’s (IoD) Young Director of the Year and is a Clore Fellow. He also holds posts at a number of arts and cultural organisations and is an Advisory Board Member of the Science and Industry Museum.
Episode 4 – Shanta Thake
Shanta Thake is the Senior Director of Artistic Programs at The Public Theater, overseeing the growth and development of Public Works, Mobile Unit, Under the Radar, Joe’s Pub, The Shakespeare Initiative and Public Forum.
Previously, she spent 10 years as the Director of Joe’s Pub, the intimate cabaret venue which hosts over 700 shows annually and is consistently hailed as one of New York City’s most prestigious venues for both emerging and established artists. In addition, Ms. Thake is the co-director of GlobalFEST, North America’s world music festival and non-profit organisation whose mission is to foster cultural exchange and to increase the presence of world music in diverse communities nationwide, and in this role received the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence.
Thake has served as the co-chair for The Association of Performing Arts Professionals conference in 2019 and 2020. Ms. Thake received a BA in theatre as well as a degree in management from Indiana University and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Launching on June 10, listen to Producing Heroes on:
- Apple Podcasts
- Google Play