Polyglot June/July e-news: we have moved!

June and July were full and productive months for Polyglot. Most excitingly, we have moved! The removalists arrived on Thursday 19 July, and by Friday we were officially in residence at Abbotsford Convent. Read more about our incredible new home here.

We’re also thrilled to announce an exciting new project – Polyglot’s Story Map! We’re inviting our friends all over the world to share their Polyglot stories and photos with each other as we celebrate our 40th Birthday year. Read more about the Story Map here.

June began with more Hear Me Roar creative development workshops at ArtPlay. Polyglot’s Artistic Director Sue Giles writes about this collaboration with Elbow Room: Hear Me Roar is an adventure into what it means to be in a state of fluidity. We’re so excited by the potential of this exploration. Toppling paradigms comes easily to children because they are not so aware of the rules and structures that adults have learned over years. This development will show what fun mixing it up can be.” An inclusive and interactive Hear Me Roar workshop for 8-12 year olds will be held at ArtPlay on 5 August, 3pm-4pm. Book here. 

Two of the films created by 5678 Film Club – The Box and Beyond The Box – were shown at ACMI as part of Little Big Shots Film Festival’s schools screening. 5678 Film Club participants and artists, teachers and Polyglot staff members all enjoyed the event, which featured films crafted by children, showcasing a diverse range of themes, genres and techniques.

Polyglot had a ‘pawesome’ time at Melbourne Zoo with a very special one-off project – Cat City. Created to promote the Zoos Victoria Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife community conservation campaign, Cat City was an immersive play space filled with cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and yarn. Participants made their own cat characters, and then prowled around exploring the cardboard city, building tunnels, hidden forts and secret sleeping spaces. 12-year old Gully Thompson reviewed the experience – read it here.

Our Ants filled their suitcases with crumbs and travelled all the way to the United States of America! Their first stop was the Ann Arbor Summer Festival in Michigan, followed by the wonderful Long Island Children’s Museum in New York. This was the first time that Polyglot’s work had been presented at the institution, and we were excited to connect, as the Museum’s values are so similar to our own.

Light Pickers – the latest work-in-progress from The Generator, our artistic leadership program – enjoyed a week of creative development at ArtPlay. Conceived by Mischa Long, Light Pickers was born from the premise that young children are irresistibly drawn to light. Mischa reflected on the week at ArtPlay – read it here.

We celebrated NAIDOC Week with First On The Ladder intensive workshops in Shepparton and Moree. Singing, dancing and film were the focus, and artists including Philly, Amrita Hepi, Alana Tompson and The Last Kinection joined the First On The Ladder team to help the kids create their very own pop songs for Rumbalara Football Netball Club and the Moree Boomerangs, bust some dance moves, and put it all together in a video clip. We can’t wait to share the final films!

Polyglot has had some great media coverage in the past couple of weeks. Sue Giles was interviewed by The Age for a feature on Polyglot’s 40th Birthday. You can read this here. First On The Ladder Project Director Ian Pidd wrote an opinion piece for ArtsHub about straddling the arts-sport divide – you can read this here. Voice Lab Project Director Lachlan MacLeod and Sue Giles joined Damien Carrick at Radio National’s The Drawing Room for a discussion about Voice Lab’s current project with children experiencing transition. You can listen to the interview here.  

We’ll be adding a few exciting things into our calendar over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned for Polyglot fun near you!

Polyglot Theatre has arrived at Abbotsford Convent!

In 1980, Polyglot moved from a broom cupboard in Hawthorn to a new home – 27A Cromwell Rd in South Yarra. 38 years later, as we celebrate our 40th birthday, the time has finally come for the company to move again. South Yarra has seen Polyglot transition from creating small puppetry shows to large-scale participatory works, but always with the focus on access and reaching as many children as possible with our art.

We kicked off our 40th birthday year with a huge challenge – we needed to raise $50,000 to ensure that we could comfortably move to a new home that would see us grow and blossom into the future. The campaign stretched over months, and thanks to the warm and wonderful generosity of our incredible donors, we did it. We raised $50,000 (and more!), and it was DOUBLED by Creative Partnerships Australia Plus1 matched funding. Thank you also to the Besen Family Foundation (which is also turning 40 this year) for generously supporting our relocation and the fit-out of our new office.

Polyglot is taking up a purpose-designed tenancy in the beautifully restored Sacred Heart building at the Abbotsford Convent, surrounded by diverse, creative, inspiring friends. In addition, an exciting new partnership between Polyglot and Abbotsford Convent will see us performing, creating and testing new work with children and families as part of the Convent Kids program every year. This means that Polyglot will be more visible and accessible – creating more opportunities for our skilled artists to grow as leaders, and to give young people a platform from which they can make their voices heard.

“Our move to Abbotsford Convent is such an exciting new phase of Polyglot’s life, where we feel welcomed as a valued part of an energetic creative community – at last we have neighbours! We are thrilled to be in a space where ideas flow, where our staff and artists can work and create, and where the focus on kids is totally authentic.” Sue Giles – Artistic Director, Polyglot Theatre.

The last few months have been a flurry of activity as we’ve prepared for the move. Costumes, props, sets and archival treasures have all been sifted through and moved to storage. Last week, the team packed the entire office into cardboard boxes, the removalists arrived in South Yarra on Thursday, and by Friday afternoon we were officially in residence in the Convent!

Our new office space has been beautifully designed by mcmahon and nerlich architects, and carefully crafted by Sinjen Group. They worked with us to create our vision of a playful, dynamic collaborative space for our team to dream, plan and implement. 

Where to now? There’s still some unpacking to do, and we’re exploring every nook and cranny of the Convent, making friends with all of the diverse and creative tenants, and finding the best sunny spots to eat lunch. Now it’s all systems go to launch into the next phase of Polyglot’s shining future. Here’s to the next 40 years!

Share your own Polyglot Theatre story

We are thrilled to announce a very special project – Polyglot’s Story Map!

Polyglot has travelled the world, bringing joy and creativity to children everywhere. In 2018 we turn 40, and to celebrate, we’re asking YOU – our fabulous audience members, supporters and friends from around the globe – to share your favourite Polyglot stories! We’re building a collection of memories and photos as a way to remember our history while we forge ahead into the next 40 years.

To check out the Story Map, visit http://www.polyglot.org.au/story-map/. We’ve added a button to our home page that will also take you straight there. From the Story Map page, you can click in to read the stories that have already been posted, and then add your own. It’s easy!

You can include as much text as you like, and up to three photos (no files bigger than 4MB please). You are also very welcome to add more than one story – we know that some of our friends will have lots!

If you do have any questions about our Story Map, please don’t hesitate to contact Erica Heller-Wagner, our Communications Coordinator, on 03 9826 3301 or communications@polyglot.org.au

Happy mapping!

Light and sound – theatre for babies and toddlers

Light Pickers – the latest work-in-progress from The Generator, our artistic leadership program – enjoyed a week of creative development showings at ArtPlay. Creator Mischa Long reflected on the process and the development of the show.

Light Pickers was developed from a simple premise, that children, especially very young children, are fascinated by light. Whilst watching a toddler dance on a light set into a footpath I was struck with the idea to make a show where the children could not only play with light but move it around. Kids always want to touch things, pick them up, take them on a journey, and so many places discourage this, often for good reasons. Imagine if the kids COULD touch and move the lights around to change the nature of the space, create their own light installation?

The other central idea to this work was to make a show for younger ones, ages 4 and under, a show that babies and toddlers could play in. Babies and lights.

This sparked little ‘hatboxes’ with stencils cut into them and small lights inside. They could be stacked, rolled, carried about. What else could we make?

With encouragement and support from Polylgot, and a budget to develop the idea, I enlisted the talents of Stefanie Robinson and Glen Walton. Together we created all the items that inhabit the Light Pickers space. Hannah Murphy was our Production Manager and saviour on many occasions, helping us make stuff and source stuff. This show has a lot of stuff.

Glen, Stef and I have done many projects together in all manner of teams, and I was super glad to get them on board. Both are amazing makers, as well as great company. Polyglot is full of wonderful folk.

We began by playing with portable speakers. I wanted the sound to be interactive too, the children moving it around and changing the feel of the space. We wrapped the speakers in paper and bubble wrap, tossed them around, played with sound-activated flat LED paper, used pressure pads that switched on the lights when you stood or sat on them. The most recent showing had a small hut the children could sit inside and lit up when they did so, making a little glowing cubby.

Glen devised a soundtrack of noises, in speakers that were spread throughout the space. Speakers that vibrated at low frequency, speakers that buzzed intermittently, or played gentle melodies. It was a fantastic way to set a gentle mood in the space, which meant adults and children could relax, work slowly, experience the changing space without having to interact if they didn’t want to.

It has a very different mood to many of the other experiences that kids have access to, which can be frenetic. The space itself, at ArtPlay, was darkened, the only light coming from the objects piled in the middle and scattered around.

These objects were developed over a period of time. Stefanie’s experience with lantern making and design helped us create long vines of light, all powered with batteries, that could be dragged around, wrapped around oneself, and laid out in patterns. We had cardboard ‘flowers’ that could be picked up and moved around, at their centre they had coloured paper that lit up when activated by sound. Clapping, singing, stomping.

Lanterns that could be moved around and flown through the air, pebbles that glowed, large inflatable cushions filled with paper and light – these were spread through and piled in the space. The central pile was vines. Different lengths, colours and textures, squishy and glowing, and able to be untangled and played with, opening up a whole range of possibilities for play.

Everything got moved around! Children made ‘islands’ of light, forts, and creatures, dressed in vines, carried pebbles everywhere and bounced on cushions. Adults were drawn into games and story making. As performers we roamed the space slowly, doing little tasks, playing and exploring. This was only the second public showing of the work, so we had a whole new world to discover!

It was such a joy to see this show continue to develop so strongly. From initial concept to where it is now has been such a fun journey, and I can’t wait to see where we go with it next! We get to play with a whole new medium for Polyglot – light – and create something that still holds the agency of the child and opportunity for play that is a part of Polyglot’s philosophy – to make magic, and fill the space with playfulness.”

Light Pickers at ArtPlay was supported by the City of Melbourne.

Light Pickers photographs courtesy of ArtPlay, City of Melbourne.

Cat City – review by Gully Thompson

Polyglot had a ‘pawesome’ time at Melbourne Zoo in June with a very special one-off project – Cat City. Created to promote the Zoos Victoria Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife community conservation campaign, Cat City was an immersive play space filled with cardboard boxes, bubble wrap and yarn. Participants made their own cat characters, and then prowled around exploring the cardboard city, building tunnels, hidden forts and secret sleeping spaces. 12-year old Gully Thompson reviewed the experience.

“As we stood in the line to enter Cat City, I came to notice two things. The first being the man with cat ears taped to his head and a long paper tail who was purring and brushing around our legs, and the second being the Luna Park-esque entrance gates made entirely from cardboard.

Inside, the grandiose Melbourne Zoo Leopard Lounge had been transformed to an amusement park built for cats! Around me I saw decorations from cat carriers, to kitty litter trays, even a set for a funny cat video. A cat trap composed of yarn strung from one side of a cardboard circle to the other offering a challenging escape without tripping a single string which would cause bells to go off. “It’s basically like Mission: Impossible,” I’m told as I watch kids making various attempts to cross the cat trap. Bath tubs filled with bubble wrap, cardboard box mazes, all of these areas of play make me wonder, “What’s the meaning behind all of this?”

And that’s why this show is possibly the cleverest production by Polyglot I’ve ever seen.

Whilst you may first encounter Cat City as a play space of fun and amusement, it leaves behind a subliminal message of inspiration and creativity. Without becoming too obvious, Cat City plants the idea of creating play spaces for your pets indoors, so that they may remain safe and not bored, and not out and about without supervision, becoming a threat to wildlife. Without even announcing the Zoos Victoria campaign, Safe Cat, Safe Wildlife, Cat City is able to put you into the shoes of your own pets, exploring their new play spaces, without children even realising the clever creativity that has been put to work behind the scenes.

Not only a subliminal campaign for wildlife and an amusement park/playground, Cat City offers a stunningly intricately designed framework of a set, comprising cardboard boxes, yarn, cellophane, tape and the occasional bathtub, plus a suitably cool cat jazz backing track, increasing that atmosphere of the ever-slinky and sly cat.

Cat City is a giant cat’s amusement park, with a complex set and no instructions for play, ultimately leaving everything in the child’s hands as so many great Polyglot shows do. Its premise of building and creating houses and towers is very similar to one of Polyglot’s older shows, We Built This City, while also doing the equivalent of turning you into a cat and letting you walk around a cat playground, showing kids how much fun these cat play spaces can be. Something that seems like an impossible task, yet when put in the hands of the creative minds behind Polyglot, it’s as simple as taking a cat nap.

The fun and games had for all ages, the output of new creative skills and most impressive of all, the message behind the scenes produced in a way that is so subtle, yet remarkable at the same time, makes this show well and truly the cat’s pyjamas.”

Cat City photography by Rainbow Sweeny