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  • Peta Cooke

    JUTE Theatre Co.

    Email Peta Cooke

    New opportunities on bigger stages are emerging for Cairns creatives

    Twenty years ago, you couldn’t make a professional career in theatre here in Cairns. If you were a young thespian or hopeful theatre maker, you had no choice but to leave for the big smoke. But now, like much of our evolving economy, we are seeing Cairns emerge as the regional cultural capital of Queensland.

    More creative professionals are choosing to make Cairns home, organisations like JUTE Theatre Company are going strong after decades in operation and local infrastructure provided by investment in the arts is all combining to give Cairns an incredible outlook to the future. With the Cairns Performing Arts Centre almost here and the imminent renovation of the Centre of Contemporary Arts, the theatre sector in Cairns can celebrate the achievements of artists like myself as a culmination of market forces that help to make our careers a possibility here in Cairns.

     

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    The Longest Minute 

    I’m about to spend a month in Brisbane as Assistant Director on JUTE’s next main stage play called The Longest Minute, which will open in Cairns on May 4 before touring down the east coast, culminating in a 4-week season at QPAC. This is a shining example of the growth and potential for career advancement we’re now seeing in Cairns. The Longest Minute, a co-production with DeBase Productions and Queensland Theatre, spoke to me on so many levels. It’s a quintessential North Queensland tale, focusing on a family of North Queensland Cowboy diehards whose lives lead to the moment their beloved co-captain Jonathan Thurston kicks a field goal in golden point extra time, securing a long-strived-for victory against the Brisbane Broncos. Written by Robert Kronk and Nadine McDonald-Dowd and directed by Bridget Boyle, The Longest Minute is about Jess, who was born on the night North Queensland made its NRL debut in Townsville. With a good deal of footy talent herself, Jess confronts a series of challenges and knock-backs, somewhat paralleling the Cowboys own history, as she sets out to fulfil her dreams and that of her team in what is an essentially male-dominated sport.

     

    New opportunities

    Jess’ journey holds parallels for regional creatives, the underdogs of the national scene. I carved out the opportunity to be Assistant Director by highlighting the need for more regionally based creatives to be given career development opportunities at national standard level. For regional artists like me to uphold performance standards and values, we need to remain part of that national conversation and sustain our immersion in the leading-edge landscape. Given our geographical isolation, it’s easy to let the tyranny of distance breed complacency. But now we have some huge opportunities on the table for us to take advantage of. This opportunity to play with the major theatre companies is a definite cultural strategy for regional stories to be represented on a bigger stage. It’s not the first time for Cairns, but I would hope my career forms part of an identified shift where we see theatre being produced here that gains national attention. Alongside our sporting and economic credentials, growth in our creative sector would add another feather in our collective cap.

    Book your tickets for The Longest Minute here