Posts Tagged ‘Arts Community

13
Jan
13

VALE Bille Brown

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I’m shocked and so saddened to hear this news. I spoke with Bille recently, at Zen Zen Zo’s Therese Raquin, and I know he will be dearly missed by many.

 

Today the arts community lost a shining light – acclaimed Queensland actor Bille Brown has passed away, after losing his battle with cancer. He was a distinguished individual and a superb actor, forging the way for so many and most certainly putting Queensland on the map.

 

Amongst the ranks of Geoffrey Rush (his dear friend, who was by his side this week), Deborah Mailman, and QTC’s Artistic Director Wesley Enoch, Bille Brown got his start through QTC’s Theatre Residency week at 18 years of age.

 

His work with the Company spanned four decades, following his first mainstage production in 1971, Wrong Side of the Moon. Clearly an audience favourite, QTC cast Bille in 29 productions and produced four of his own written works. In recognising his incredible contribution and support for the arts in Queensland, The Bille Brown Studio was officially opened on 5 July 2002 by the then Minister for Employment, Training and Youth and Minister for the Arts, Matt Foley.

 

The Bille Brown Studio today is home to QTC’s Greenhouse program, a space for emerging artists, new works, exciting ideas and constant debate – just how he would have wanted.

 

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QTC Artistic Director Wesley Enoch said this was a time to remember and give support to each other. “The artistic community of Queensland and Australia has lost a true gentleman. We are part of Bille’s legacy,” he said.

 

“Every actor, playwright, director, stage manager, designer, musician and all the teams who work in theatre in Queensland owe Bille a huge debt. He brought a sense of adventure, love and respect. His talent and love survives in us all.”

 

Paul Dellit has written a beautiful obituary.

 

[obituary]

 

VALE: BILLE BROWN, AM – Actor / Director / Playwright (b. Bioela, Queensland Australia, 11 January 1952 – d. 13 January 2013, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia)

 

Often referred to as ‘The Boy From Biloela,’ Australian stage, film and television actor and acclaimed playwright Bille Brown passed away peacefully on Sunday 13 January 2013 after a short illness, aged 61, in a hospital on Brisbane’s northside. He had been ill for some time but refused to let on just how serious his condition was until recently.

Last Friday the 11th January, he quietly celebrated his 61st birthday surrounded by family and a few close colleagues which included Geoffrey Rush and Bryan Nason.

William “Bille” Brown was born in Biloela, Queensland in 1952. Though he wanted to be a painter he became an actor. Bille Brown studied drama at the University of Queensland. He then began his career in the early 1970s at Queensland Theatre Company, working alongside actors Geoffrey Rush and Carol Burns, under Artistic Director, Alan Edwards.

Bille’s career took him abroad to Britain, where he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and was the first Australian commissioned to write and perform in their own play – The Swan Down Gloves. The show opened the Barbican Theatre (RSC’s Home theatre from 1982–2002) and had a Royal Command Performance. As a member of the RSC (between 1976–1982, 1986–88 and 1994–96) Brown toured with their productions throughout Europe, playing Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Munich. He also appeared in the RSC’s premiere production of The Wizard of Oz in the gender-bending roles of The Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch.

While working in the United Kingdom, Brown also performed in the West End, at the Aldwych and Haymarket Theatres, the Chichester Festival Theatre, English National Opera and Dublin Theatre Festival. While performing onstage at Stratford he was spotted by John Cleese, who cast him in Fierce Creatures, the sequel to A Fish Called Wanda.

In New York City, Brown made his Broadway debut as an actor in 1986 in Michael Frayn’s Wild Honey with Ian McKellen, directed by Christopher Morahan, and as a playwright with his adaptation of a benefit performance of A Christmas Carol in 1985, featuring Helen Hayes, Len Cariou as Scrooge, MacIntyre Dixon, Celeste Holm, Raul Julia, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Harold Scott, Carole Shelley, and Fritz Weaver, directed by W. Stuart McDowell. He was also an Artist-in-residence at the State University of New York in 1982, and was a visiting Professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Bille Brown returned to Australia to live permanently in 1996. He has had an outstanding career on stage and has performed for many leading Australian theatre companies including Queensland Theatre Company (QTC), Sydney Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare Company, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Theatre Company, Company B, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Marian St Theatre, La Boite Theatre Company and the Old Tote Theatre at the Sydney Opera House. He also appeared regularly in various guises with Bryan Nason’s Grin & Tonic Theatre Troupe.

During his years with the Queensland Theatre Company he appeared in 27 productions, and he played many Shakespearean roles, including: John Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor; the title role of King Henry V in Henry V; and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.

During an open-air performance in the Albert Park Amphitheatre of a pre-World War 2 version of the Shakespearean play Much Ado About Nothing, Bille, in role of Benedick, commented to the audience (when an airliner flew over during his monologue), “Don’t worry, it’s one of ours, Alitalia!”.

In 1996 he directed the Australian stage production of Hugh Lunn’s popular novel Over the Top with Jim, for QPAC and the Brisbane Festival, which exceeded box office expectations. He had huge success with his role as Count Almaviva in Beaumarchais’ The Marriage of Figaro, with Geoffrey Rush and Robyn Nevin, which opened the new Playhouse at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in Brisbane in September 1998. In 1999 he also had major success in Sydney and subsequently throughout Australia as Oscar Wilde in the Belvoir St production of David Hare’s The Judas Kiss.

The same year he accepted an offer to be Adjunct Professor in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of Queensland, and has given workshops and master classes for drama students.

Bille directed John Cleese in his solo show John Cleese: His Lifetimes and Medical Problems, the operas Don Giovanni and Samson and Delilah and various Shakespeare and Moliere productions.

In 2009 Brown wrote and performed in Queensland Theatre Company’s The School of Arts. The play followed the story of the old ‘College Players’ who toured Shakespeare through Queensland in the late 1960s.

Bille’s other writing credits include the plays: Bill and Mary, Springle, tuff… and Aladdin for The Old Vic, which starred Sir Ian McKellan.

In April 2012, Bille Brown commanded the stage in Melbourne while inhabiting Bruscon, a clapped-out theatre maker and bully who, in the Malthouse Theatre production of The Histrionic, brutalises his wife and children. Brown received united critical acclaim for his role in Thomas Bernhard’s play The Histrionic directed by Daniel Schlusser, which had sell-out seasons in both Melbourne and Sydney.

He was the recipient of a 2009 Live Performance Australia Helpmann Award (Australia’s equivalent of Broadway’s Tony Awards) as Best Male Actor in A Musical for his role as King Arthur in the musical Monty Python’s Spamalot, which had it’s Australian premiere season in Melbourne.

Bille Brown has also appeared in movies, including: Fierce Creatures (1997), The Dish (2000), Oscar and Lucinda (1997) and Singularity (2012), Killer Elite (2011), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).

Whilst some of his more memorable television credits were: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries ,Rake, Wild Boys, Hollowmen and White Collar Blue.

Bille Brown was recognised twice in the Australian Honours System. In 2001 he was granted the Centenary Medal “for distinguished service to the arts” and in the Australia Day Honours List 2011, Bille was named as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) “for service to the performing arts as an actor and playwright, and to education”.

In 2011, he also received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Queensland.

When the Queensland Theatre Company’s home venue opened at South Brisbane in 2002, they named their intimate 300-seat theatre space the Bille Brown Studio, in recognition of his enormous contribution to the Arts both in Queensland and abroad.

For the past few years Bille was the Industry Ambassador for the Actors’ & Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund of Queensland, a role he cherished.

Bille Brown’s legacy to the arts was enormous, and he will be remembered not only for his talent and the variety of roles and mediums he conquered, but also for his generosity in nurturing and mentoring younger performers all around Australia.

(Paul Dellit, President, Actors’ & Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund (Qld) Inc.)

 

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15
Jan
11

Woodford and The Big Wet

Wow. Woodford Folk Festival happened so long ago! And we thought it was SO wet! Well, SO much has happened since then and I’ve not told you anything here! I have honestly  felt too exhausted to write anything outside of the social networks. That’s right. It seems I have managed quite a number of 140 character updates and not much more. Oh, sure; there were the first couple of reviews for Briztix but that’s all.

Exhausted is not the best way to begin a new year…

But it was a great way to finish today.

Today, we did our daily pick-up from The Chopping Block in Buderim, of all the things that had been donated since yesterday, by the beautiful people of The Sunshine Coast. Our immediate region has suffered very little in the recent floods and the peeps here have had a lot to give to those less fortunate. In fact, Queenslanders generally, have been so generous that the evac centres and many of the charities have had to ask that people offer no more donations of clothes! I can only assume that this is because they have made space for people and not for their Carrie-esque closets of clothes, which is entirely possible to imagine, given the masses of clothes going begging all over this water-logged state. We all understand how vital it is to donate dollars so we’ve all done that: online, at our preferred grocery store and everywhere else as well but so many peeps feel the need to do more. Maybe they feel the need to make it a more personal effort. Or maybe they missed their Spring Clean and figure they should seize the opportunity to cull their wardrobes and linen cupboards!

We seized the opportunity here, to put together a heap of care packs, which local dance teacher, Lea-anne Grevatt, named Happy Packs. It’s not a new idea (we did a similar thing for the Victorian Bushfire relief effort) but it’s a great one and I loved the new name and the whole idea; to send some flood affected families a few “treats” as well as essentials, that would make their life a little easier and a little brighter. We even covered the first 20 packs in shiny giftwrap!

Still, it has baffled me that people have had to ask, “What do they need?” My reply has been the same to everybody. If YOU lost everything, what would YOU need? That’s right. EVERYTHING! Well, eventually; everything you had before (although it’s always amazing to realise just how little it’s possible for us to live with, isn’t it)? I wonder if people who have lost their homes and all their belongings turn very zen or if they become hoarders…I guess everybody responds completely differently.

Friends, family members and complete strangers have given lots of essential items and “extras” over the last few days so we have been able to pack and send off more than 100 Happy Packs to places like the Bremer River, Murphy’s Creek, Theodore, Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley. If you know somebody in an area that is now accessible, who could do with a few packs, let Lea-anne or myself know. We’ll be happy to find a way to get them there. It’s really great to start hearing now that they are being received by those who most need a bit of a lift…

Just heard from my friend who delivered the Happy Packs to families in need in Ipswich. Thank you so much to Lea-anne Grevett and all the wonderful people on the Sunshine Coast who have donated to these packs. The Red Cross have said this morning that donations of toiletries and food are really needed in the Ipswich area. Families have lost everything and have no income for these necessities. The families who received the packs were over whelmed that people from so far away cared enough to help.

Whatever it is that inspires us and motivates us to give, it means that there are all sorts of goods just waiting to be given! People everywhere are collecting stuff and delivering it to those in need. Jane, in Chancellor Park, is sending a truck to do round trips, with the masses of stuff that has been delivered to her collection centre. Some have set up their own forums or databases online, in order to match up items with people. This requires enormous commitment and organisation! Tracie is doing an amazing job just via Facebook, with her own little charity for Brisbane (Brisvegas – Brisvenice – Brislantis), the Stuff You Then – Suburban Friends Helping Flood Affected Families Facebook page! She set it up in direct response to the NO MORE CLOTHES plea from local charity groups. They simply need more time and space to sort and send off donations. She (and her “Stuff You Then Angels”) have both to offer.

So we’ll get back to Woodford another time. The same Woodfordian qualities have been exhibited by Queenslanders everywhere, in the aftermath of the flood disaster. The same enthusiasm, energy, spirit and simple joy in offering whatever they have to give and, since yesterday, the quiet pride working alongside one another to get a tough job done.

Today XS Entertainment moved mud and sludge out of Drift, a river restaurant and cabaret venue that I have mentioned in previous posts, and we also pulled up floors that cannot be salvaged. In fact, barely anything can be salvaged, as the river rose almost to obscure it and has left only destruction in its wake. And tins of coconut milk. And most of the grog intact! And the crockery that was once pristine white. Today, it was difficult at first, to tell what a lot of the stuff was, so covered in mud was most of it! But many (I’m guessing about 200) friends and fans of the venue turned up in their wellies, with brooms and mops and buckets and shovels at the ready, to help begin the big clean up.

Being a part of that selfless group of vollies today has restored my faith in humanity. It’s heartbreaking to see the damage that has occurred but so heartening to see how many people care enough to get out of their own home to help others re-build their businesses and their lives. We saw it everywhere, including right through Auchenflower and Toowong because traffic was gridlocked due to so many road closures and we were forced to take the scenic route in order to get to the restaurant!

Volunteers will be back there (and at other venues and at other businesses and at other homes) tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. And for many days, weeks and months to come. It’s been noted several times now, in the media and across the social networks, that the volunteering cannot stop. Those affected by the floods will need our help for months and month…so find a way to help – any way to help – and keep helping.

We will be re-building fences in Dayboro tomorrow and we will be back at Drift on Monday. We will keep packing and delivering Happy Packs just as long as people keep donating goods…in fact, our headquarters are about to move to a larger, air-conditioned space with new, energetic helpers!

How lucky are we?!

Dayboro floods

Dayboro after floods