Sydney Theatre Company has announced its 2021 Resident Artists, with Shari Sebbens appointed Resident Director and Courtney Stewart named as the company’s new Richard Wherrett Fellow.

Courtney Stewart and Shari SebbensCourtney Stewart and Shari Sebbens. Photo courtesy of Sydney Theatre Company

Sebbens has starred in shows including Nakkiah Lui’s hit Black is the New White for STC as well as films such as The Sapphires and Top End Wedding. Moving into directing, she was appointed STC’s Richard Wherrett Fellow in 2019 and was due to direct Deborah Mailman and Wesley Enoch’s The 7 Stages of Grieving in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation. (She will, however, direct it at State Theatre Company South Australia in July/August). She will be Assistant Director to Wesley Enoch on Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate, opening in March, before going on to direct two productions in the yet to be announced Act 2 of STC’s 2021 season.

“I am so excited that Shari is continuing her long affiliation with STC in becoming our new Resident Director,” said STC Artistic Director Kip Williams. “It has been a pleasure and a privilege having Shari as our Richard Wherrett Fellow these past two years, and I look forward to seeing her continue to develop and flourish as an emerging directing talent in her new role. Her work on STC Virtual and her wonderful production of Superheroes at Griffin (one of the first shows to open post-lockdown) are testaments to her immense talent. Though the circumstances of 2020 meant Shari was unable to make her STC directing debut last year, I cannot wait for the wonderful projects she will direct for us in 2021.”

“It is an incredible honour to be promoted to Resident Director for a company that is constantly pushing the boundaries of what constitutes theatre and not scared to engage in the necessary conversations and actions required for cultural growth,” Sebbens said. “I’ve worked with Sydney Theatre Company as both an actor and the Richard Wherrett Fellow in the last few years and I’m excited to continue my creative development under the company’s invaluable guidance. As a Bardi and Jabirr Jabirr artist I am also proud of the choices STC continues to make in producing Indigenous work. In promoting more Indigenous voices to leading cultural positions, STC recognises the importance of diversity and are investing in the future of Indigenous storytelling on our stages. I’m excited to begin the year under the guidance of previous resident director and inspiration of mine, Wesley Enoch, as he leads us through Appropriate and onto The Whole Table. These projects will kickstart our year and incite some thrilling and necessary conversation that I know will carry on throughout the season and hopefully our lives.”

Actor, director, dancer and teacher Courtney Stewart has worked on a number of productions for STC including Hamlet: Prince of Skidmark and Australian Graffiti. She has been part of the company’s CAAP Directors Initiative, and worked as a Dramaturg on the 2019 production of White Pearl.

“Her wealth of experience in many aspects of theatre from acting, directing, dramaturgy and her wonderful work as a part of the Contemporary Asian Australian Performance (CAAP) Director’s Initiative make her the perfect choice,” Williams said. “I am particularly excited to collaborate with Courtney in her role as Dramaturg on my upcoming production of Playing Beatie Bow by Kate Mulvany. All of us at STC can’t wait to watch Courtney’s formidable talent develop even further.”

“My relationship with STC has been one of the most meaningful professional relationships with a company I have had to date, and I couldn’t be more excited to continue this relationship as the next Richard Wherrett Fellow,” Stewart said. “This opportunity will give me the resources and space to further develop my skills in the areas of creative leadership, directing and dramaturgical processes. The new commitments the company has made to increasing equity in the area of cultural representation are incredibly important and this is something I am fiercely committed to. I am dedicated to the development of new Australian work, and want to be involved in diversifying the practices and the artists who are responsible for ushering these new stories to the stage. It’s an absolute honour to be invited to the table at a time when the industry as a whole is breaking open important discussions and re-evaluating processes to strive towards a more equitable future for all artists.”

In 2021, STC is also launching a new Resident Artist initiative, the Design Associate Program, an annual opportunity for three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and/or CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) peoples to be supported and developed in the area of theatre design.

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