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The Elephants

The Original Team

Elaine Acworth
Elaine Acworth

Elaine Acworth has worked over the last 28 years as playwright, researcher, theatre producer, teacher and mentor. She has written award-winning, critically and popularly acclaimed plays, produced these, taught in both specialist workshops and class environments at secondary and tertiary levels, and mentored emerging playwrights.

Most recently, Acworth has adapted, produced and filmed her AWGIE-nominated podcast series, My Father’s Wars, to offer high-quality filmed live theatre to schools that struggle to attend performances. She was the Q Anzac 100: Memories for a New Generation Digital Fellow  (2018/19) at State Library of Queensland, writing the audio spy thriller, Put Out into the Deep, due for release on Apple Podcasts by end 2021.

She is pursuing her commitment to the next generation of practitioners and to the changing nature of her craft with both Dogs in the Schoolyard, a physical theatre/circus work created with Flipside Circus, and her current podcasting project, The Reid Thorpe Files, exploring true crime in WW2

Sita Walker
Sita Walker

Sita is a high school teacher of English and Literature, who writes real stories in many forms. Coming from sheep farmers, gardeners, pastors, shopkeepers and teachers, she loves a good yarn and anyone with an honest appreciation of what it means to be human. Sita grew up in Toowoomba, but now lives in Brisbane with her three children, a doting dog, and a cat that disapproves.

She is pursuing her commitment to the next generation of practitioners and to the changing nature of her craft with both Dogs in the Schoolyard, a physical theatre/circus work created with Flipside Circus, and her current podcasting project, The Reid Thorpe Files, exploring true crime in WW2

Associate Artists

Guy Webster
Guy Webster

I am a songwriter and storyteller. It’s always felt like the most natural thing in the world to me. I am also a listener. Sharing story feels like a gift, whether I am giving or receiving, with family or with an audience. When a story rings true there is no denying it.

As an artist and creative collaborator, I have been a dancer, choreographer, songwriter, composer, installation artist, band leader, sound designer, recording engineer and music producer. All of these skills continue to point me towards telling stories and creating experiences. The opportunity that AoE offered me in working with Elaine to adapt My Father’s Wars and then direct its theatre production is a culmination of all these skills. I have a deep affinity with stories that have a personal connection. The very personal journey of My Father’s Wars is a touchstone to the desire we all have to know more about our parents and their formative experiences and how that has in turn informed us, their children. I look forward to telling more stories with Elaine and the team at AoE.

Guy is a composer, sound designer, sound artist and music producer working across the mediums of theatre, dance, circus, sound art, installation and new media.  

His broad body of work has featured in theatres, festivals and galleries throughout Australia, Japan, Europe, UK, USA and China. While his live performances have seen him share the stage with the likes of Beth Orton, Ed Harcourt, Powderfinger, The Cruel Sea, Mad Professor and Sarah Blasko, he maintains a strong connection with community through a range of projects working with people of all ages and backgrounds to facilitate storytelling in all its forms.

Guy trained and worked as a dancer & choreographer early in his professional career while developing his practice as a composer and musician. He has since worked on many theatre & dance productions with companies and independent artists including Qld Theatre Compa-ny, Sydney Theatre Company, Bleach Festival, La Boite Theatre Company, Shake & Stir Theatre, The Brisbane Festival, Dance North, Bleach Festival, Gogi Dance Collective, Circus Corridor, Tammy Zarb & Co, Backbone Youth Arts, State Library of Qld, Shock Therapy Productions, Jute Theatre Company, Out of the Box Festival, Lisa O’Neill, Goat Track Thea-tre, Stella Electrika, Wilde Applause & Red Shoes. 

Guy is also a core and founding member of the new media performance and installation group, The Transmute Collective (1998-2009), whose work, Intimate Transactions received an honorary mention in the 2005 Prix Ars Electronica and featured in numerous galleries including ICA (London), National Art Museum of China (Beijing), The Performance Space (Sydney) and ACMI (Melbourne) & BIOS (Athens). 

Some of his latest work includes original music and sound for Dogs In The Schoolyard – Flipside Circus and Assembly of Elephants; Horizon –  Playlab Theatre; Naked and Scream-ing – La Boite Theatre, A Christmas Carol – Shake & Stir Theatre; L’Appartment – Queens-land Theatre; Woodford Festival Fire Event 2019; The Climbing Tree – ATYP, BMEC; Me-dea, Undertow, Viral – Shock Therapy; My Father’s Wars, Put Out into the Deep – Assem-bly of Elephants; The Rising – Circus Corridor; Quiet By Nature – Gogi Dance Collective; Inside Out – Tammy Zarb and Co.

Guy’s compositions utilize traditional vocal and instrumental works combined with field recordings and original instruments to create new immersive theatrical experiences. His most recent work is the direction and sound design of  the live theatre production, My Father’s Wars.

Jennifer Vuletic
Jennifer Vuletic

There’s something utterly wonderful about being part of an artist’s collective within the broader “arts scene”. The very act of recognition is supportive. One of the Elephant Originals has been a colleague and friend for nearly 30 years – we met as baby elephants at what was then an ANPC Conference. Like Conferences, AoE offers both known support and unknown ventures…

It’s a gift to be coaxed and prompted into areas of creativity that are not wholly unfamiliar but are not your special branch… and to know that the pachyderms can offer scrutiny, invention, considered opinion and suggestions based on their expertise and experience. If I want it. And, sometimes, I don’t. And, they’re ok with that, too.

Because we’re all scrambling through the jagged and always-shifting, asteroid-littered spacescape of the arts, careening one way then the other looking for navigable ground… so, it’s good to know some creators who understand that I mix metaphors like I mix martinis!

Since graduating from NIDA in 1984 Jennifer has carved out an impressive career as a dramatic actress, music theatre star, cabaret performer and voice over artist. She has worked with the Who’s Who of Australian directors in all aspects of the industry. Jennifer appeared this year as Queen Gertrude in Malthouse’s groundbreaking COVID19 response, Because The Night. She has previously appeared in the Malthouse/STC co-productions of both The Histrionic, and Women Of Troy. Her numerous stage credits include Arbus & West (MTC) Merciless Gods (Little Ones Theatre/Griffin Theatre Company) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mamma Mia (2003-2005 and 10th Anniversary tours) and Barry Kosky’s Women of Troy (STC). She has won a Sydney Theatre Critic’s Circle Award (The Baroness in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, for which she also received Helpmann and Green Room nominations), a Green Room Award (Merciless Gods), and Green Room Award nominations for both Women of Troy and Nightingale and the Rose. The voice of innumerable SBS Television documentaries, and sought-after audio book narrator (3M Talking Book of the Year Award, Lover’s Knots; TDK Unabridged Fiction Award, The God of Small Things and Trish Trinick Prize for Best Narrator, The God of Small Things) Jennifer also narrated the multiple international award winning Once My Mother.

Jennifer is also a writer, penning numerous cabarets, one of which garnered a City Of Sydney Cabaret Festival Award. She has been a frequent collaborator in the writing process. A participant in numerous ANPC (Australian National Playwrights Conferences), she was a reader/assessor on its committee.

Various writer development programs over the years (under the aegis of such companies as Theatreworks, Griffin Theatre Company, MTC, Little Ones Theatre) have sought her participation as actor/editor/writer, and while in the NT, she wrote and co-wrote on various projects, including May Day (directed by Robyn Archer, The Wounded Woman (director Bronwyn Calcutt) and the NT Cancer Council Anti-Smoking initiative. She is currently co-writing a script with Little Ones Artistic Director Stephen Nicolazzo, working title Persona Non Grata, an exploration of female warriors through history and the notion of pansexuality.

Jennifer is soon to appear as Margot in the horror film The Surrogate

In March 2022 she will appear as Major Stone in Victorian Opera’s production of Happy End, and later in the year will play Franca in Malthouse/Belvoir co-production Looking for Alibrandi.

Michael Mandalios
Michael Mandalios

One of the first things I noticed with the Elephants was a commitment to changing the way our industry and its practitioners were perceived.

We’ve been a ‘gigging’ industry for decades. If you’re a large-scale producer that means you have a huge pool of skilled, slightly desperate contract workers at potentially very cheap rates; if you’re an artist? A brief, delicately balanced, and probably overworked time in the sun, and then the age pension 40 years later. With my work on the ABF Qld committee, I’ve seen the results of a gig economy grimly highlighted over the last 18 months.

I’ve been vigorously encouraged to engage in debate, on every walk of my life. That freedom is a privilege of its own. I try to never shy away from a good debate, in my work, in my social sphere, even in the work I program with my own company, Refraction Theatre. And I love the fact that AoE doesn’t hide from an argument — not to mention, Big Ears loves that I have my own company. We don’t fret about hierarchy, or divided time or energy – as a herd, you want as much connection as possible. We all believe that the ecology stands or falls together.

It sure makes for an interesting place to start.

Michael Mandalios is a Brisbane-based theatre artist; a graduate of the Bachelor of Musical Theatre from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, having also trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. He is currently pursuing a specialisation in Voice teaching, while continuing to contribute to the development of new Australian works.

Credits in 2019 include Genesis, which he directed for A Very Theatre Company at Metro Arts, Magpie – a Playlab, MetroArts and E.G. Production presented at the Brisbane Powerhouse, Associate Producer for Becoming Bill, and Dialect Coach for Little Triangle’s ‘NINE’ (Syd).

Michael is also the founder of Refraction Theatre.  His work on Magpie and The Revisionist (Refraction Theatre’s first production) saw him nominated in two categories for the Matilda Awards in 2019. 

As director and producer, Michael is the creator of The Brisbane Sessions [Beyoncé, Michael Jackson] with Underground Broadway, and a co-creator on There’s Something About Mary(s) with fellow graduate Cassie George. Since graduating in 2016, Michael has also performed in the premiere of Don’t Call Me Ishmael: The Musical with Underground Broadway, Fair Play for Queensland Music Festival, and worked on developments such as On The Docks, Guerilla Sabbath, and My Father’s Wars.

He serves as Treasurer on the management committee for the Actors’ & Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund of QLD Inc., and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity.

Geoff Squires

I worked with Elaine’s first company, Umber, in 2011 on the climate change dromedy, Water Wars. David Walters had set himself the challenge of lighting the entire show, scene by scene, using no more than the power you could pull out of a single domestic wall socket. He pulled me in and we thought innovatively – and did it.

I’d actually done it before – gone from a theatre rig to a powerpoint – taking a show to an island. Hmmm… maybe this could be a thing…

Elaine and I got on well through that whole process – and it was a crazy process. We built a tree canopy out of lights – and, though I don’t remember it, Elaine tells me she spent six hours up a ladder taping builder’s plastic over ceiling height louvres in the Oakey Cultural Centre to give us a black-out state – and that sounds about right.

So, when she called and asked me to design lighting on My Father’s Wars, and told me there would be stringent potential touring conditions, I laughed, and said Yeah! 2 crew, 2 hours, and everything packs into the back of a Hiace! And that’s what I did. I like that they trust me to figure it out. And that there always seems to be cheesecake in the kitchen.

For 30 years, Geoff has designed lighting for independent, S2M and major state theatre companies, in music venues and in theatre spaces, for both single productions and major international tours. Some of his highlights (though by no means all) might include Redemption and Picnic at Hanging Rock for Queensland Theatre Company; Bouncers, Furious and Clark in Sarajevo for La Boite; Richard III, Dracula and Frankenstein for Fractal; Wam! And Surf’s Up for Expressions Dance Company (now Australasian Dance Collective); Hamlet and They Shoot Horses Don’t They for Matrix – as well as Grace Knight, Jimeoin, and Broadway Baby at the Tivoli. 

Most recently, he has lit for The Little Match Company (The Owl and the Pussycat, including tour; the most recent Babushka tours and children’s show, Right to Party) and Assembly of Elephants (My Father’s Wars).

Geoff has toured shows to Israel, Wales, London, The Netherlands, New York, New Zealand and Singapore, as well as extensively around Australia.

Geoff has taught Technical Theatre at Southbank TAFE and has lit all of their end of semesters shows for 13 years.

He also runs his own design and production business, Pro-Nel Lighting where he owns more lights than he knows what to do with. (If you want to buy some let him know).  

Geoff has been nominated for several lighting/technical awards and won a Matilda for Design in 2019. He has 4 cats and would argue that the colour of his car (red) makes it go faster.