IPAY Reflections – January 2020

This following anthology of responses to International Performing Arts for Youth (IPAY) showcase comes from members of a strong and collegiate Australian delegation to Philadelphia, USA at the start of 2020.

Each year there are over 20 Australians who attend and present, many supported by Australia Council, who recognises the importance of this market to the TYA sector in Oz. There are now two Australian board members of IPAY – Craig Harrison and Andy Packer.  Thanks to Karen Le Roy and Norman Armour for being our OZCO team in organisation and on the ground.


Jo Clancy, Wagana Aboriginal Dancers (NSW):

As a first time attendee at IPAY and travelling solo the experience was a little overwhelming but very enriching. I was glad to be invited to be a speaker on one of the Kindling Kitchen Table discussions and to offer a perspective on the ecology of Contemporary and Traditional Aboriginal dance practice in NSW. I was also happy to be able to acknowledge and give thanks on behalf of the Australian delegates to the Lenape Delaware people whose traditional land we gathered on.


Jessica Wilson – Independent Artist (VIC):

IPAY! What a strong forum it has become – with big representation from the UK and Ireland and a broader program of excellent showcased works.  I am an independent artist, was one of the first Australians to attend ten years back, have showcased previously and this year showcased I SEE YOU LIKE THIS. ISYLT is a scaffolded participation process with a big public outcome that is actually more of an exhibition rather than a performance. Presenters were very engaged with the idea of reaching further to find audiences and of activating the physical spaces of their theatre’s with images of their own communities. One agent I spoke to, said that ISYLT fitted a growing demand without being too expensive to deliver. Consequently I have had really strong interest and lots of unusual ideas of how to present my work at venues.

I was very lucky to be programmed on the first day and had two sessions of a total of about 500 people and then the rest of the week in conversations. I also hosted a forum on the climate impact of international touring in the TYP sector. This was an extremely lively conversation which included a reality check on the real impact of us all attending showcases, some good ideas for spreading this well-overdue conversation, and lots of will to continue talking. If anyone is interested in being part of that conversation, IPAY will be setting up a FB group soon. 

Thanks to Ozco, IPAY and the friendly Australian delegation.


Amanda Wright – General Manager, Australian Theatre for Young People (NSW):

I was pleased to be able to attend both the TYA Spark Conference (ASSITEJ in the USA) and IPAY, to get an idea of both the work being done with young people in North America and the productions being toured for young audiences.

While “young people” in America only refers to school-age students as opposed to Australia’s more generous definition, it was fascinating to see the similarities and difference between the subject matters they are passionate about. Climate change is a universal theme, as is the topic of immigration and refugees, although both countries have a very different experience of this. Gun violence was raised multiple times as a topic which is causing great anxiety in the young people of America, about which they wish to make work. An interesting company making high-quality verbatim work on these issues with teenagers is Cry Havoc, who perform primarily for GP audiences as the topic matter that teenagers want to explore is deemed too controversial to be shown in high schools.

Despite all I was told about how conservative a show must be to be able to tour to schools, I was thrilled to see showcases of works which were challenging and nuanced. While it was valuable to learn about the North American market, venues and audiences, it was an absolute privilege to see work from all around the world, including the UK, Norway and Korea.

While there are definite options to tour work with young people from Australia, I feel that in terms of providing opportunities for our young artists, the more exciting possibilities lie in partnerships and collaborations with international companies making exciting work with and for young people.


Georgi Paech and Ross McHenry – Producers, Windmill Theatre (SA)

IPAY has been an incredibly important marketplace for Windmill Theatre Co for more than ten years. Showcasing at IPAY opened the door to many significant ongoing relationships within the TYA sector in North America for the company including with our North American agents, Holden and Arts Associates. Our long history with IPAY means that we genuinely look forward to the opportunity to reconnect with our sector colleagues in the US each year. IPAY 2020 once again underscored the importance of this strategic market event as a key tool for Australian companies looking to leverage opportunities within the North American theatre sector.

The incredibly positive and collegiate atmosphere of IPAY, a far cry from most showcase events, once again created an environment where genuine connections between artists and presenters can be made. The legacy of excellence from Australian companies at IPAY means that in general, Australian work is very highly regarded. The work being pitched/presented by the 2020 Australian delegation of companies and artists, which represented a broad range of both first time and very experienced IPAY attendees, was very warmly received and very well supported by both the Australian delegation and other key stakeholders. It is always a privilege to present our work alongside our esteemed sector colleagues, and IPAY 2020 has proven once again to be a highly beneficial and important event for both selling Windmill work and connecting international sector at large.


Teena Munn – Producer, Patch Theatre (SA)

I had been a regular IPAY attendee with my Windmill Theatre hat on for 5 IPAYS, which included Tampa (where we won the Victor), Austin, Pittsburgh twice and Philadelphia.  It proved to be an extremely successful market to connect with North American presenters, and indeed many from around the world, who really appreciated Australian work.  More importantly, however, it was a welcoming meeting place that you found like-minded, passionate people who are focussed on making and presenting amazing work for young people.    Not least of all it gave you a chance to meet, talk, support, laugh, drink and party with the most collegiate of all arts makers in Australia, those that make work for young people.

I returned to IPAY this year, after a 5 year break and adventures outside the sector (as some would say I returned from the dark side), lured back into this wonderful creative world, when Geoff Cobham and I took up the reins at Patch Theatre to take it on its next exciting journey.  I have been thrilled to return to start lots of wonderful conversations with old and new international presenters and my very wonderful Aussie cohort.  Who couldn’t love IPAY!


Jolyon James  – Writer/Director/Designer, Arena Theatre (VIC)

For me, personally, IPAY was a huge success. Wonderfully supportive and informal. It was my first time attending the conference so there were a large number of unknowns that combined with a highly technically ambitious presentation gave me a few sleepless nights. The response to the showing exceeded any of my expectations with strong interest both in the U.S and Canada so I couldn’t have been happier.


Sue Giles – Artistic Director, Polyglot Theatre and ASSITEJ Vice President (VIC):

This year at IPAY the world felt very, very close for everyone in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. For anyone who got in conversation with the Australian delegation, the fires were on top of mind and we were all met with deep sympathy and care when we each told our own reactions and perspective on the situation back home. Similarly, the Chilean delegation arrived with terrible images and stories around them in the shaky aftermath of the riots and protests.  Our UK friends were wrestling with Boris and Brexit and the USA mob with Trump and the failing impeachment.  The Chinese were deeply aware of the virus outbreak and the closure of cities and these are all such huge topics that they couldn’t help but colour the conversations.

We are all making work for and with children and young people and our work needs to reflect the age we are living in and the ways that empathy and imagination can find coping mechanisms for the youngest of us.  This focus was set up brilliantly by the Spark! Conference before IPAY began when we heard from those working in youth activism and participation of young people in theatre.

The beginning speakers of IPAY – the CEO, the General Manager and the Chair – all spoke personally and in detail about who they were and what they do.  A reminder and a framework for the market – buyers and sellers – to recognise the people in every conversation – who are they, where do they come from, what is their world.  A reminder that although this is a transactional model, the personal and contextual needs to be considered. Connection and relationship are the most important things that can happen.


Australian delegation

Delegate Name Job Title Organisation Funded
Jolyon James Writer/Director and Designer Arena Theatre Outcomes Fund
Sharon Custers Executive Director Arena Theatre Outcomes Fund
Nate Gilkes Musician Arena Theatre Outcomes Fund
Sophie Smyth Performer Arena Theatre Outcomes Fund
Phil McInnes Performer Arena Theatre Outcomes Fund
Ben Van Dillen Tech crew Arena Theatre Outcomes Fund
Norman Armour Int’l Development Consultant, North America Australia Council for the Arts Staff
Amanada Wright General Manager ATYP Australia Council
Andrew Threlfall Director CDP Theatre Producers Self-funded
Susannah Sweeney Creative Producer DreamBIG Children’s Festival Self-funded
Jessica Wilson Artist Independent Australia Council
Craig Harrison IPAY Board Member Independent Self-funded
Jeremy Miller Executive Director Monkey Baa Theatre Company Self-funded
Nicholas Clark Director Nicholas Clark Management Outcomes Fund
Penny Camens Company Manager Patch Theatre Self-funded
Teena Munn Producer Patch Theatre Australia Council
Rainbow Sweeny Producer Polyglot Theatre Self-funded
Sue Giles Artistic Director Polyglot Theatre Self-funded
Georgia Stanley Associate Artist Slingsby Self-funded
Andy Packer IPAY Board Member & Artistic Director Slingsby Self-funded
Stacey Baldwin General Manager/Producer Slingsby Self-funded
Johanna Clancy Director Wagana Aboriginal Dancers Australia Council
Ross McHenry Associate Producer Windmill Theatre Australia Council
Georgi Paech Associate Producer Windmill Theatre Self-funded