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ELSIE.

A new one-act opera following the story of Elsie Williams (neé Carr), an Australian born singer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Born in Bendigo at the turn of the last century to a well-respected family, her bright future as a gospel and stage singer was thwarted by circumstance, racism, violent men and alcoholism. She found herself living in the notorious shanty town of Dudley Flats in West Melbourne. Befriended by well known policeman and football player Jack Dyer, her life was a serious of altercations with the law and the infamous characters of Dudley Flats. Among these characters was Jack Peacock, the self styled ‘king of Dudley Flats’ tip-scavenging economy; and Lauder Rogge, a German hermit who lived for decades with sixty dogs on a stranded ship.

 

By charting the rises and falls in their individual fortunes, the piece will reveal much about the race and class divides of depression era Melbourne and explore questions about those strange and singular places in the urban fabric where chaos is difficult to contain. The culmination of the piece would capture Elsie’s documented death on top of a smouldering rubbish heap. Her tortured song carrying throughout the flats as she lay dying, overcome by rat bites and forgotten by a society that was unable to contain her singular strength and presence.

CREATIVE TEAM
 
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Sista Zai Zanda

Writer TBC

Sista Zai Zanda is a storyteller, educator and curator of the Pan Afrikan Poets Cafe – an Afro-Literary matinée of beats, performance and poetry. Since 2015, Zai has spoiled audiences in Melbourne and Sydney with over 100 performances by African and First Nations storytellers including feature performances by renowned international artists Mahogany L Browne (NYC, Nuyorican Poets Cafe), Inua Ellams (Nigeria/UK), Kat François (Trinidad/UK) and Jive Poetic (NYC). 

Amongst career highlights, Zai has co-produced a sold out Pan Afrikan Poets Cafe event at Arts Centre Melbourne (#BlackGirlMagic), worked as a Youth Zone consultant for one of Africa’s top 10 international arts festivals, hosted the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival Opening Night Gala, curated and produced live radio broadcasts of the Pan Afrikan Poets Cafe and is currently engaged as an Artistic Associate with Melbourne’s Due West Festival. 

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Sarah Giles

Dramaturg

Sarah Giles is an award winning theatre and opera director. She studied directing at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and has an Arts Degree from the University of Melbourne with a double major in Italian and History.

Sarah has directed work for Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, State Theatre of South Australia, Malthouse Theatre, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, Victorian Opera, Opera Queensland, Sydney Chamber Opera, NIDA and WAPPA.  

Most recently Sarah received a Helpmann nomination and Green Room nomination for Best Direction of an Opera for her multi award winning production of Lorelei for Victorian Opera. Her production, for which she was both dramaturg and director, won Best New Australian work and Best Design at the Green Room awards where it was nominated in five categories.

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Joe Chindamo

Composer

JOE CHINDAMO is a composer and jazz pianist with a background composed concertos, chamber music and film music. 

Amongst a plethora of awards, Joe has twice won the MO award for Jazz Instrumental performer of the year, two BELL AWARDS for best album and the APRA award for best jazz composition of the year in 2009.

More recently Chindamo has emerged as a coveted new voice in contemporary classical composition, receiving numerous commissions from Australia's leading soloists Chamber groups and symphony orchestras (incl. the ACO, the Australian String Quartet, the Queensland Music Festival, the Queensland & Melbourne Symphony Orchestras and the High Commission of Australia in the UK).

His Concerto for Drum Kit and Orchestra was commissioned and premiered by MSO at the Last Night at the Proms in Melbourne 2018, and conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.

He has recorded 23 CDs under his own name and collaborated on other recordings with distinguished artists such as James Morrison, Ray Brown (of Oscar Peterson fame) and the Brecker Brothers. 

He has worked on more than 60 film soundtracks and his piano playing is featured on such iconic Australian films as PHARLAP, MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER II and THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING. 


In 2018 Chindamo composed the operatic cabaret VIGIL alongside Steve Vizard commissioned by Adelaide Cabaret Festival starring Christie Whelan Browne

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Zahra Newman

Performer 'Elsie'

Zahra Newman is a Jamaican-born Australian actress.

She graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2008.

She appeared as Nabalungi in the original Australian cast of The Book of Mormon.

Newman has performed extensively with leading theatre companies in Melbourne and Sydney. Her theatre credits include Miss Julie, The Effect, The Mountaintop, The Cherry Orchard, Clybourne Park, The Drowsy Chaperone, Richard III and Rockabye for Melbourne Theatre Company; Rosalind in As You Like It for Bell Shakespeare; The Blind Giant is Dancing, Ivanov and Private Lives for Belvoir; Love and Information for Malthouse Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company; The Government Inspector for Belvoir and Malthouse Theatre; and Random for the Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Theatre Company and Brisbane Powerhouse. She also appeared in the original Australian cast of the musical An Officer and A Gentleman.

Her television and film credits include Wentworth, Rush, Childhood’s End and Neighbours.

In 2014, Newman was nominated for Helpmann Awards for both Best Female Actor in Play for The Mountaintop and Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Play for The Government Inspector. She received a Green Room Award for Female Actor for Random in 2012.