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About Merrigong

Merrigong Theatre Company is a not-for-profit company that operates Wollongong’s premier performing arts venue, Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (IPAC) and the city’s key civic and community venue, Wollongong Town Hall.

Merrigong is also a vibrant theatre company in its own right – producing, presenting and touring exciting contemporary theatre and supporting the development of a wide range of theatre makers.

Merrigong presents a diverse annual season of theatre, dance and children’s programming, including work sourced from Australia’s finest performing arts companies, self-produced work, acclaimed international productions, and innovative contemporary work from new companies.

Outside its annual artistic program, Merrigong programs and partners on a range of commercial events across its venues and in the wider Wollongong Arts Precinct, including festivals, pop/rock concerts, cabaret and stand-up comedy.

With multiple venues for hire, we also facilitate and host numerous commercial and community performing arts events.

Our company’s name, ‘Merrigong’, reflects the Dharawal word for the Illawarra region’s distinctive escarpment, a landmark of supreme cultural importance. The name serves as a constant reminder that our venues rest on unceded First Nations land. In all that we do, Merrigong Theatre Company seeks to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land, and to show respect to all First Nations people who call our region home.

Mission

Merrigong Theatre Company is a pioneering cultural leader, exemplifying and championing the arts in our local region, our nation and beyond.

We put artists and community at the centre of everything we do, connecting them and promoting their strength.

From our home venues in the Wollongong Arts Precinct, we seed, develop, produce, present, host, facilitate and tour performances and programs that reflect our diverse community.

Producing, Developing & Supporting New Work

Merrigong is Australia’s largest regional producing theatre company. Our theatremaking is imbued with a sense of place and community, embedding us in the Illawarra, on the lands of the Dharawhal Nation.

As well as presenting the work of other companies, Merrigong produces full-scale productions in-house for presentation in our theatre subscription season and for touring to venues within Australia and internationally. Much of our work is commissioned and developed here at Merrigong, but we also collaborate with other companies in the creation of exciting contemporary theatre.

Recent Merrigong mainstage productions include: Lost Boys by Lachlan Philpott, the mixed abilities work The Outside Man (co-produced with The Disability Trust), Letters to Lindy by Alana Valentine, Landscape with Monsters (a co-production with Circa), A Sri Lankan Tamil Asylum Seeker’s Story as Performed by Australian Actors Under the Guidance of a Sinhalese Director by Dhananjaya Karunarathne, Van Badham’s The Bull, The Moon and the Coronet of Stars (co-produced with Griffin Theatre Company and HotHouse Theatre), The Table of Knowledge (co-produced with version 1.0), Mary Rachel Brown’s The Dapto Chaser and The Q Brothers’ Funk it up About Nothin’ (coproduced with Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Productions).

Through our MERRIGONGX program we also support local independent artists in all stages of their work, from development to production and presentation, giving birth to unique stories from and for our region.

Touring

Merrigong regularly tours, both our own work and exceptional international theatre, to other venues around Australia.

In 2018, Merrigong’s production of Letters to Lindy by Alana Valentine toured to 21 venues across 4 states and territories of Australia.

Recent tours of international work include: from Ireland, Fishamble’s Swing (10 venues); from the United Kingdom, Dylan Thomas: Return Journey (17 venues); from the United States, Baba Brinkman and Jamie Simmonds’ The Rap Guide to Evolution (9 venues); Kahlil Ashanti’s Basic Training (13 venues); The Q Brothers’ Funk it up About Nothin’ (7 venues); Canadian Rick Miller’s MacHomer (4 venues); and Scotland’s Traverse Theatre’s Midsummer (a play with songs) (4 venues).

History

The establishment of a Performing Arts Centre in Wollongong had been an aspiration for the community of the Illawarra region for many decades before significant community fundraising and Government support combined to allow the construction in the late 80s of Illawarra Performing Arts Centre (IPAC). From its opening in 1988 by Charles and Diana on their royal tour, the centre rapidly became a focus for community arts events, such as local amateur musicals (originally produced by IPAC itself under the name ‘The Guild Theatre’) and eisteddfods, as well as commercial touring events. The centre soon developed a modest presenting season of touring professional theatre, and in 2000, in an effort to distinguish the centre’s own entrepreneurial season from hirer and community events, decided to umbrella this season under a new presenting brand, reflecting the local Dharawal word for the region’s distinctive escarpment – ‘Merrigong’ – in its name, Merrigong Theatre Company. In 2005, current Artistic Director / CEO Simon Hinton joined the company with an aspiration to focus the centre’s resources on theatremaking and artist development, as well as a greater connection to the diverse local communities of the region. In 2006, in the wake of the sad demise of many of NSW’s regional theatre companies, including Wollongong’s own Theatre South, Merrigong secured a small amount of seed funding from state and federal governments to begin producing professional theatre at IPAC.

From 2007 onwards a massive expansion of Merrigong’s annual theatre season to include not only regular touring theatre, but works of larger scale from Sydney’s major producing companies such as Belvoir, Sydney Theatre Company and Bangarra, and exceptional international productions and smaller independent works, provided a context for the company to present its own work – commissioned, developed and produced in-house. Since then, producing more than 20 new mainstage theatre works,
collaborating with some of Australia’s finest arts companies, touring extensively, and developing a significant program for the support, development and presentation of independent artists (MerrrigongX), the Company has become Australia’s largest regionally-based producing theatre company, and an indispensable part of the NSW theatre-making ecology.

Coming Up…