Wednesday 10 June, 2020
We recently developed Polyglot at home as a way for kids and their adults to enjoy our special child-led fun during isolation, and we love sharing the joyous creations from our ingenious artists. Presenting experiences online is a new way of working for us, and we’re having a great time experimenting!
Polyglot is also very lucky to have a wide and warm adult community that circles our organisation. Artists, industry peers, donors, parents and carers… we count every one of you amongst our friends and supporters. We want to continue to connect with you all in our curious, creative way during this strange period in history.
So in the spirit of camaraderie we bring to you Polyglot Spot. A special Spot specifically for the adults who are interested in what we do. Our staff, artists and board members are sharing their thoughts and reflections about the company, and how we’re working together during the pandemic. With challenge comes opportunity and innovation, and we’re always looking for new ways to keep our circle close and share some transformative Polyglot magic.
Here is our first edition – please let us know what you think.
Governing a theatre company through a moment in history when theatre as we know it is impossible
What does leadership look like when you haven’t been in the same room as your team for three months?
Viv Rosman, Executive Director and co-CEO
I could never have foreseen a future in which I’d be asking myself this question! But now, from the perspective of week 12 of working from home, not only has the question crystallised, but the answers are becoming clearer.
At Polyglot, the way we work – our organisational culture – is something we put active energy into. We talk about it often; we work to strengthen it. As co-CEOs, Sue and I take responsibility for driving this, and our approach is pretty simple. We focus on the things we value: collaboration, kindness, honesty, transparency. Also on achievement, ethics and shared responsibility. And we’re clear about what we don’t tolerate – summed up cheekily but neatly: “we have a no d***head policy”.
The result of this energy is a workplace unlike any I’ve encountered. Our team has shared values about work and great confidence in our ability to get amazing things done, together. There is no gossip and no office politics. There’s rarely an angry word. We meet deadlines and conquer challenges; we’re calm; we don’t blame when things go wrong. There is incredible personal support offered to those who need it, and we all do at times.
Polyglot’s culture is an amazing strength, but particularly in these times, it’s an asset I can’t imagine the company surviving without. As a leader, this foundation makes my work right now so much simpler. Fostering our connections feels like my main job now – making sure we hold together, get meaningful work done, and keep our eyes on the prize: the time when Polyglot will once again be out in the world, performing for children and their families.
Meet the team that powers Polyglot. CEOS, creatives, production, admin, board. We work together to keep the colourful cogs turning!
Name: Sue Giles
Title: Artistic Director and co-CEO
Years with Polyglot: 20 this July.
What is the ‘elevator pitch’ description of your role at Polyglot?
I work closely with Viv to manage and strategically plan for the company, and also have responsibility for the artistic vision and for the management of our works within that vision.
Who do you talk to each day to achieve what you need to?
Viv and I are first port of call – when we’re in the office we have our desks next to each other so we can talk any time. I think the virus has been challenging in this way – we have to make special time – but also we text heaps! Otherwise mostly the artists and those deeply involved in the rolling out and development of projects old and new. This could be the producing team, or designers, or sound artists as well as the core creative teams. I love also talking with our staff about the policies and structures that centre our practice to the strategy and our vision – things like child safety and our approach to access and inclusion.
What is something about Polyglot that would surprise someone who doesn’t work in the arts?
I think our reach and breadth of work would surprise many. People have a very limited idea of what goes on in an arts organisation generally but with Polyglot especially – the diversity of work we do and the places we go are often the things that people go, “oh I never realised!”
What part of your role do you love and look forward to?
I love the beginning of a new project, the process with the children in concept development and the creative development after that – the times when we can see how the children are lapping it all up or sometimes the opposite – when we see how the idea is a straight out failure! I love the moment when an idea drops into my mind and it’s a good one – usually sparked by something a child has said or done.
What and where did you study?
I did an Arts degree at the University of Adelaide, majoring in English and History, but was most influenced by the drama course there. It was only a two-year course at that time but was run by the amazing Jim Vile and was where I caught the theatre bug. I got my Acting Diploma at the Drama Studio in Sydney – a training based on the Drama Centre in London – and a place where self-determination was key.
What are you missing about the Polyglot office?
My clear view across the roofs of the Convent. The light and space. The grace of that room and my ergonomic chair. The close contact between Viv and me and the incidental chat that allows for free flow of thought and overarching knowledge of how people are managing their work and our projects. My lunchtime getaway to the back of the Convent with a view to the goats and horses on a bench that I usually have to myself…
Achieving and retaining clarity and focus while working from home
Kath Fyffe, General Manager
Taking regular breaks is essential in any work situation but working at home has inspired a new approach to this. With a home office set-up that includes walking from the house to a separate studio past my garden several times a day, I’ve taken to micro-gardening. It takes the form of a few minutes each day, doing things that don’t require a lot of equipment like gloves or finding where the rake has been strewn after being used as a light sabre by the kids. Favourite tasks include a quick check for caterpillars, seeing if any strawberries are ripe, and tucking pea tendrils onto a trellis. If I get to harvest a radish, it’s a serious thrill. Connecting with how the garden is gradually changing provides an instant refresh during the day.