Matt Scholten is the Benalla Performing Arts and Convention Centre’s new Artistic Director, bringing with him an impressive suite of accomplishments in theatre production and direction, film and television.
Mr Scholten has led an extensive career in the Australian theatre industry in mainstage, independent, festival, educational and regional settings, that included programming BPACC’s 2014 theatre season. He is the Artistic Director and Creative Producer of independent theatre company If Theatre, and has also worked extensively at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) as a Director and Lecturer in Acting and Directing and directed for Melbourne Theatre Company.
In collaboration with Noni Hazlehurst, Matt has also written a new television series called All You Need and in 2013, Matt worked with Channel Seven's successful television drama A Place to Call Home. His renowned creative relationship with playwright Daniel Keene has most recently produced a play called Mother, written for Noni Hazlehurst and which will tour next year.
He has already begun making an impact in his role, with the announcement this week that he has secured an Australia Council grant for BPACC worth $14,800 which will fund skills workshops for emerging theatre makers in Benalla, to be led by the acclaimed and successful The Girls in Grey creative team.
“Matt is a creative, exuberant and exciting man to be around, who has very good connections in the world of theatre, film and television,” said Jilian Mulally, Manager Arts Communication and Events for Benalla Rural City Council. “We know that he is going to take the world-class facilities we have at BPACC to new heights.”
Ms Mulally said that Mr Scholten had a strong commitment to supporting local artists and looking at ways of engaging with the community and making BPACC an accessible facility for all.
“This commitment is evident in the theatre skills workshop project, which will see five emerging female theatre makers receiving a mentorship from the professional artists over a five month period, while a public workshop will be held at BPACC on July 25 for additional up-and-coming performers to work with the director and two writers.”
Mr Scholten said that the project would allow the three mentors to work with the emerging artists in providing advice, knowledge and assistance in setting up a performing arts company, how to write an original script, how to market themselves as performers and how to go on the touring circuit.
“The grant will allow BPACC to hold these workshops that are about encouraging women to move into central leadership roles in the performing arts industry,” he said.
Mr Scholten said that his vision was to create more public programs and education programs at BPACC, and to create a place where local artists could work in a professional capacity.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to join the BPACC family and it such a privilege to work with a great team to maintain the existing theatre program, while also focusing on community engagement.
“BPACC is an important cultural asset that is owned by the Benalla community. Every decision I make is based on that belief. “It is not ‘my’ theatre – it is everyone’s and belongs to the community.
“I really am amazed that a town this small has a world-class facility and we have amazing patrons who support it and amazing volunteers who keep this place functioning. Benalla has a great audience for theatre - they have a thirst for quality performances.”
Mr Scholten said that the most satisfying thing so far in his first two months as Artistic Director was standing in a packed foyer, watching local community members talking about the performance they had just seen with family and friends.
“Theatre brings people together. People gather in one place for a couple of hours, and share together in witnessing and contemplating an event that may be beautiful, funny, moving or thought-provoking,” he said.
“In an age when most of our communication happens in front of a screen, seeing the audience engage and connect with the performers and to be influenced on many levels is very satisfying.
“It is what attracted me to theatre in the first place.”
Mr Scholten said he was inspired from starting out as a five year old captivated by Peter and the Wolf at the Athenaeum to continue cultivating the connection between young people and theatre.
“I had some amazing supporters who backed me and supported me and I’ve always maintained [that] working with young people and fostering their experience and knowledge is an investment in tomorrow, and an investment in the whole community.”
Local theatre makers interested in attending the workshop are encouraged to contact Matt Scholten at BPACC on 5762 5515 for further information. The workshop is limited to 25 participants.