Polyglot’s October e-news – building cities in China and making films in Collingwood!


When we’re not travelling, we’re preparing to travel! October was another tour-filled month for Polyglot, with adventures near and far.

The Singapore tour kicked things off, with Paper Planet and Boats appearing in the country for the first time. Sam Bennellick-Jones, Production Manager, wrote in one of her Paper Planet show reports: “Really lovely, good balance of both adults and children, very making-focused. A Grandad falling asleep in a tree may have been a highlight!”

On Monday 16 October, we set off for China, laden with overalls and hard hats. We Built This City was presented for the first time in the country, at the second Shanghai Interactive Festival of Theatre in Jiading. At the same time, Executive Director Viv Rosman was part of the large Australian delegation to China SPAF, the arts market that sits alongside the China Shanghai International Arts Festival. Sharyn Brand (DJ on this tour) kept a travel diary of the team’s seven days in Jiading – it was her first time in China too! Read Sharyn’s travel diary here.

Our Ants had lots of crumb business to attend to at Melbourne Museum during the school holidays, and then enjoyed a day out at the Wyndham City Children’s Week Picnic. Voice Lab also had its first festival outing there, where Wyndham City Council used it to gather children’s opinions about the annual Picnic. For more information about Voice Lab, which is supported by Gandel Philanthropy, visit our Voice Lab webpage.

Our Artistic Director Sue Giles spent most of October in Adelaide. She attended the Australia – Singapore Cultural Leaders Forum, the Australian Theatre Forum and the National Youth Arts Summit – a trifecta of big-picture occasions that were full of conversation, debate and inspiration. Across all three events, the takeaway key messages were about value and cultural identity. Sue is currently in Mantova, Italy for the meeting of the new Executive Committee of ASSITEJ International – their first proper meeting since the World Congress in South Africa earlier this year. Stay tuned for an update next month!

Two of our artists, Dan Goronszy and David Pidd, led Polyglot workshops at CapFest 2017 – the Starlight Children’s Foundations’ professional development event for all the Captain Starlight performers. This year, CapFest was focused on the spaces that the Captains perform in within hospitals, and how they can transform these spaces to feel fun and inclusive through their engagement with families. This is the second year that Polyglot has run workshops at the event. For more information about the Starlight Children’s Foundation, visit starlight.org.au.

This month we spoke to 5678 Film Club’s Project Producer Priya Namana about the project in 2017. It’s been a big year, and we’re very excited about the films that have been created. Theresa Harrison, one of our favourite Polyglot photographers, captured some 5678 Film Club moments in September – we’ve used her photos throughout the story. Read it here.

November will no doubt be just as busy – and really, that’s just the way we like it!

Seven days in Jiading – Sharyn’s travel diary

On Monday 16 October, the Polyglot team (Mischa, Emily, Felicity, Lachlan, Rainbow, Lucy and I) flew from Melbourne to Shanghai Pudong Airport. Our flight was at the luxurious time of midday! We were taking We Built This City to China for the very first time, where it was being presented as part of the second Shanghai Interactive Festival of Theatre in Jiading. The theme of the festival this year was “My City My Home”.

Jiading covers a 464-square-kilometre area, 30km northwest of downtown Shanghai. The town is crisscrossed by more than 1800km of canals and rivers. Our venue, The Now Factory, was situated within a circle created by the Jiadingchen River.

For bump-in and our three show days, we were assisted by our 15 security helpers. Here is a picture of them getting creative!


(That’s a sacred Chinese bird and a dragon).


(Polyglot team with our full security detail).

The three days of shows were well attended. Lots of businesses were created within We Built This City, including a cafe that sold anything you wanted! Lachlan ordered a chocolate covered hotdog, took a bite and the girl asked if he liked it…apparently he was making a face as he chewed. He said it was fine and she kept selling. A little while later Lachlan returned to the same girl’s cafe (it was still open) and ordered a bowl of marshmallow soup with a fish head! “NO”, the girl said. “Why not?” asked Lachlan. Her reply was that he did not enjoy his chocolate covered hotdog last time!

Our local performer and production assistant Coco was amazing, as were Wendy (her assistant) and Marco (tech and security). They worked tirelessly to help translate all of our needs and keep the show running. Wendy had a fantastic time in the Box Hospital, and was very busy with her stethoscope and a steady stream of children helping to resuscitate any damaged boxes.

The night before bump-in, about 25 children and their parents joined us for a Dream House workshop that ended in a train ride tour of the amazing completed houses. There was a cat house, complete with ears. A house with a giant ice cream and a ferris wheel inside. And a house that was a giant pool!

On our days off, we explored the rich history of the city. We went to the Confucius Temple, built in 1219, with amazing gardens and architecture. For 10 yuan ($2!), we took in the beautiful Qiuxiapu, a famous classical garden park, with private gardens belonging to the Gong, Shen, and Jin families during the Ming Dynasty, as well as the town’s Temple. We also visited the 1000-year-old city in Nanxiang, with its pair of pavilion-style pagodas.

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful time in Jiading!


5678 Film Club – behind the camera!

We had a chat with Priya Namana, Project Producer, to get the behind-the-scenes story of 5678 Film Club in 2017.

Can you tell us a bit about 5678 Film Club?
5678 is an after-school Film Club that is part of Polyglot’s Community Collaborations program. We meet every Wednesday afternoon at St. Joseph’s Primary School in Collingwood, with participants from the current year 5 and 6 cohort at St. Joseph’s. In 2017, we’ve also worked with Year 7 and 8 students from the Academy of Mary Immaculate.

The focus of this program is on giving kids the opportunity to tell their own stories and develop skills in every aspect of filmmaking. At the same time, we’re developing socio-emotional skills, supporting school transition and building resilience in our young participants.

What is your role with the project?
I am the Project Producer and work closely alongside Kate Kantor who is the Project Director, in delivering the program.

Why St Joseph’s Primary School?
The after-school program was developed to fill in the gaps we observed after running an in-school film program called JUMP. This was delivered as part of the curriculum to increase the participants’ literacy in film, their ability to develop narratives that are close to them, and to address the challenges around transitioning into high school. While the in-school program was mandatory, the after-school film club is completely voluntary.

St. Joseph’s Primary was suggested by City of Yarra, who is now one of our key funders in delivering the program. Research also identified St. Joseph’s as one of the schools where students would benefit from an art-based program that could contribute to boosting school engagement.

Most of the year 7 and 8 students participating are former St. Joseph’s students, and one of the project’s goals is to build links between the primary and high school experiences of the young people.

Who are our 2017 artists?
2017 saw a mix of artists from 2016 and some completely new filmmakers. We had Jason Heller, who has been involved in the project as a filmmaker from its inception, in Term 1 and Term 2. Artist Sophie Perillo, animator Christie Widiarto, and our brilliant documentary filmmaker Sam McGilp also worked with us in Term 1.

In Term 2 and 3 we had three very exciting new film makers – Alana Tompson from Black Ant Films, Hayden Gregory and Kelly Hucker – independent film makers, and Zak Pidd – a multi-disciplinary, independent artist working in Melbourne.

For the Term 4 we are really looking forward to working with Kelly, Hayden and Sam again.

Was there a particular focus in 2017?
Since the narratives are all generated by the participants, we have a fluid approach to the sessions. However, in 2017 we explored Truth or Lies and most ideas and concepts were generated from that prompt.

How has 2017 differed to 2016?
2017 is the first year for the three-year duration of the project, while 2016 was the pilot year. This year we have taken into account the learnings from last year and incorporated that into our strategy moving forward.

As a result, we have been able to create films that the students are really proud of, and they have had a lot of fun in a positive and better-supported environment. The students also had access to better equipment, new artists and external professionals who were able to pique their interest in different aspects of the film making process.


Can you tell us a bit about some of the 2017 films?
Well, we made quite a few films this year! In Term 3 the artists split into four groups with the participants. These groups usually evolve organically and are mostly initiated by the students with little tweaks from us based on dynamics.

Zak’s group made a song under the name of The Electric Band, and a music video to complement the track. The lyrics explored the idea of where everyone saw themselves in the next ten years, written by the kids of course. The beats were made based on each individual’s music interest and recorded and composed by Zak. The music video has a 90’s VHS aesthetic that is like a video montage of their journeys into the future.


In Term 2, the three artists – Jason, Alana and Hayden – got together and made one film called The Box. Everyone explored journeying through a hidden box into a fantastical / surreal world. Hayden’s Term 3 film was a sequel to The Box, in which his group explored the ideas of bullying and respecting other people’s property.

What are you looking forward to 2018?
Working with the new Year 5 students, more participation from high schools, making more exciting films and creating an even better platform for this project, where all the ideas have space for developing. And getting the films to a wider audience.

Plus we also have some very exciting activities planned – watch this space!


All 5678 Film Club photos by Theresa Harrison Photography


Meet Erica Heller-Wagner – our new Communications Coordinator


Photographer: Rob Blackburn, Black Photography

Erica joined the team in June. She has worked in marketing at Avant Card, Circus Oz and PACT centre for emerging artists, venue managed at The Melba Spiegeltent, and donned the Box Office Manager’s hat for the 2017 Circus Oz Big Top season of Model Citizens. Erica enjoyed an 18-month study break to pursue Animal Studies (when she thought that she wanted to be a vet) but on her second day at Polyglot she knew that she wanted to stay (luckily this feeling was reciprocated!). Once in arts marketing, always in arts marketing.

I wanted to work with Polyglot Theatre because…
Polyglot Theatre is Australia’s leading creator of experiential, participatory theatre for children and families. We make fun, colourful, playful, joyful, creative stuff for kids, and it’s awesome to come to work every day and tell the world about it!

Also, I worked with Viv Rosman (Polyglot’s Executive Director) a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. I knew that Polyglot had to be a pretty excellent place if she was working here!

My favourite thing about my job is…
The incredible art that our creative teams produce. The glee of our children audiences when they realise that they can fully participate in our works. The talented and driven people who I am privileged to work with every day.

My hidden talent is…
I am absolutely invisible to automatic doors. I always have to jump and wave furiously at wherever I think the sensor is.

My favourite childhood memory is…
Cutting my younger sister’s hair. I was about three and a half years old, my sister was about one. I’d just been to the hairdresser, and was fascinated by it all. I knew exactly where the scissors were, and dexterously (and silently) climbed many shelves to get to them. My parents realized after a few minutes that the house was far too quiet given that they had two toddlers, and discovered me mid-chop. My poor sister was a willing participant in the whole adventure. However, this did not stop her screaming during her necessary head-shave the following day at the hairdresser. Of course I had to scream along too.