Sam Strong has announced his departure from Queensland Theatre after four years at the helm. He will step down as Artistic Director in November, after launching the 2020 season in August, which coincides with the company’s 50th anniversary year.
Sam Strong. Photo supplied
Strong, who succeeded Wesley Enoch in 2015, has overseen record-breaking ticket sales, a growing subscriber base and a swathe of critically acclaimed productions in his time as Artistic Director. In 2017, the company reached its largest audience ever with over 188,450 people seeing a QT show in 55 theatres around the world. As a result, it was named the fastest growing theatre company in Australia.
Notably, Strong has achieved gender parity among writers and directors in his programming for three years in a row, having cited a commitment to diversity and inclusion. He also spearheaded the rebranding of QT in his inaugural year, dropping the “Company” from its name, and oversaw the redevelopment of the Bille Brown Studio into the 351-capacity Bille Brown Theatre, which opened in October last year.
Strong will relocate to Melbourne with his family, but has promised to direct at least one production for QT in 2020.
“I’m not going on to another company,” Strong said in a statement. “Leadership for me at this point in my life means being more available to my family. I’m committed to supporting my wife Katherine Slattery who is taking up a position with Film Victoria. Katherine has always enabled my ambitions, and I’m looking forward to a period of supporting hers.”
“I’ve been privileged to experience Queensland Theatre shows from the 2,000 seat Lyric Theatre in Sydney to a cultural centre on Thursday Island. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the planning, demolition, renovation and opening of a new theatre and foyer. I’ve been blessed to sit in the very first audience for the world premiere of more than 10 new Australian stories, including ones by multiple First Nations playwrights and an Asian-Australian playwright and an Islamic-Australian playwright. I’ve been able to work with people who are as talented as they are lovely, and I’ve been grateful to create theatre for the uniquely generous Queensland audience.”
“Even more than the audience reach, I’m proud that we’ve achieved our vision of leading from Queensland. As well as having the fastest subscriber and audience growth of any company in Australia, we have honoured our commitment to gender parity of writers and directors for each of the three seasons I have programmed. Those three seasons have also included six works created by First Nations writers and/or directors. Finally, Queensland Theatre has become the national home of new stories. In 2019 we will stage more world premieres than any other state theatre company. Queensland arts and culture is genuinely in the middle of a renaissance and I’m proud to have been a part of it.”
“Queensland Theatre has been and will continue to be a dream job. Amanda Jolly is a wonderful Executive Director and I will miss our partnership, as well as Chair Elizabeth Jameson’s leadership. But November 2019 is the perfect time for me to hand the reins to someone else. I will be programming the 2020 50th anniversary season, including a work that I will direct. I’ve also still got six months, the stage production of Storm Boy with the Dead Puppet Society to direct, and a season to launch; so for now it’s back to work.”
Chair Elizabeth Jameson has described Sam Strong’s leadership over the past four years as an “unprecedented success”, citing “a new name, a new theatre, all-time high audiences, 20-year subscriber highs, an inaugural principal partnership with RACQ and we have celebrated our highest selling new Australian play ever (Nearer the Gods, which Sam directed).”
“Sam signed on for three years as Artistic Director and we have had the privilege of his talent for four, we could not be more proud of what he has achieved with the company. We are very sorry to see him leave.”
Strong took up his role at QT after serving as Melbourne Theatre Company’s Associate Artistic Director from 2013 to 2014. Prior to that, he was the AD of Griffin Theatre from 2010 to 2013.
Jameson has confirmed that the company is searching for a new Artistic Director.