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QPAC locks in live events as doors open for first time in six months

Culture

Queensland Performing Arts Complex is opening its doors to visitors later this month for the first time since March, with a series of shows for limited audiences in some of the venue’s most popular spaces.

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Starting on August 28, QPAC Unlocked will showcase some of the state’s leading artists on Friday and Saturday nights at the Concert Hall, Cremorne Theatre and Lyrebird restaurant, all of which will be reconfigured to meet health and social-distancing requirements.

QPAC’s executive director of public engagement and learning Rebecca Lamoin told InQueensland the program of events would “not be like we usually operate”.

“We’ll be using three of our venues, and in different kinds of ways and they’re very different kinds of shows, so hopefully for a whole range of people, there’ll be something in there that they can find that’ll attract them back,” she said.

“One of the critical things for us to do is to test out our new procedures and protocols around all of the COVID-safe stuff, so that’s one of the driving reasons that we’re starting to bring some shows back but the other is obviously to connect again with our audiences and to engage artists.”

It was a sentiment echoed by QPAC’s chief executive John Kotzas, who stressed that the safety and comfort of guests, staff and performers was paramount.

“Whilst we won’t be seeing full theatres in the coming months, as we work within social distancing guidelines, the way we are reimagining the use of our theatres and other spaces will ensure unique, safe and entertaining experiences for audiences,” Kotzas said.

“The changed environment that we’re all working within has meant that we’ve had to come up with creative and progressive ways of presenting theatre, meaning this will be QPAC like you’ve never seen us before, and perhaps never will again.”

QPAC chief executive John Kotzas.

The QPAC Unlocked line-up will kick off on August 28-29 at QPAC’s fine-dining restaurant Lyrebird, which will be transformed into an exclusive live music venue and feature a special menu comprised of locally sourced produce and matched wines.

The first performances at Lyrebird will feature Opera Queensland soloists Katie Stenzel (soprano) and Samuel Piper (baritone), who will be joined by leading Australian classical pianist Alex Raineri for Wonderland – An Evening of Classics, a program of well-known opera, operetta, musical theatre, Lieder and popular classical piano pieces.

The following weekend, audiences will be invited to attend an “up close but socially distanced” performance at Lyrebird by Helpmann Award-winning Australian musical theatre star Amy Lehpamer in An Evening with Amy Lehpamer.

The Concert Hall’s Unlocked program – a series of hour-long performances featuring some of Queensland’s most outstanding soloists and chamber musicians – starts on September 4, will offer a new perspective for audiences, with seating at the rear, not in front of the stage.

The line-up includes a Raineri, rising violin virtuoso Courtenay Cleary, Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra with acclaimed flamenco guitarist Andrew Veivers in Viva España. The next generation of Australian musical theatre stars, Bachelor of Musical Theatre Students from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (QCGU) will perform a mix of popular musical theatre songs.

Cremorne Theatre will be holding a series of cabaret evenings from September 12, hosted by award-winning comedian Damien Power and featuring the likes of beatboxer Tom Thum, burlesque performer Jacqueline Furey, drag artist Chocolate Boxx and comedian Steph Tidsell.

Comedian Damien Power.

Lamoin said QPAC staff were delighted to be planning shows at the venue again, admitting the likelihood of hosting any events in 2020 was “looking pretty bleak” when COVID-19 restrictions first came into effect.

“It’s been a roller coaster, from one week to the next, the outlook shifts,” Lamoin said. “So we decided to proceed with planning this, and whether or not we would eventually be able to deliver it was up to forces greater than ourselves.

“Our teams were delighted to be back in a curatorial space and talking to artists and building programs and, our technical crews, our marketing teams – we are all only two weeks into phasing our staff back into the building.

“It’s been a purposeful phasing back in and we’ve got a real focus and hopefully in a few weeks, we’ll be seeing audiences back in the building, which is really sustaining for people at this point.”

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch said the Unlocked program was a positive step forward for Queensland’s performing arts sector and would allow audiences to experience live performance in a COVID-safe manner.”

“It is wonderful to see QPAC highlight Queensland’s incredibly talented local artists and arts organisations and help connect audiences with their work, which will inspire, uplift, and help tell our unique stories,” Enoch said.

“Artists have missed having an audience as much as audiences have missed the experience of live performances and I for one, cannot wait to return to the theatre again.”

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