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Meet Shannon Rush, our new Artistic Associate

Hi Shannon! Tell us about your new role as Artistic Associate with State Theatre Company South Australia, and some your history with the company.

The role is quite varied, which I love. From reading and assessing new scripts, to hosting Tangent Talks or post show Q&As, to facilitating workshops for State Educate, to working on programming… there’s lots to do! Ultimately, I’m here to support Mitchell and the broader company in shaping and realising the artistic vision.

Prior to this year I’ve worked with the company in various capacities; as a director (Cathedral, Limit), assistant director (1984), seconded on shows while I was studying, as a panelist for the Young Playwrights Awards, and even as a chaperone and vocal coach for child actors!

What will you be working on in 2023 with the Company?

I’m very excited to be directing Welcome To Your New Life by Anna Goldsworthy, and also assistant directing and dramaturging The Dictionary of Lost Words, with Jess Arthur as director. It’ll be so great to work with her. Both plays are novel adaptations and very powerful stories that have amazing women at their core.

What are the most memorable productions you’ve worked on as an artist?

Early in my career I worked as a freelance director for Oval House Theatre in London. Each summer we would put on site-specific promenade productions with young actors and one of the most memorable was The Labyrinth. Such a fun and adventurous story that worked so well in the beautiful gardens in Kennington. Working on those shows really ignited my love of directing (at that point I was still making the transition from acting). And while David Bowie couldn’t make it along to the show personally we were told he watched a recording of the production at a later date. That’s pretty cool!

As an actor I played the lead in a new musical which had a season at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall, England. The theatre is outdoors and built into a cliff – the backdrop is literally the sea, the sky, the rocks. The show goes on whether rain, hail or shine. It’s incredible and very memorable!

What is a Director’s role in the Rehearsal Room?

For me, it’s about building a strong team who all work towards achieving the same goal; realising the vision of the production and making it the best it can be. My job is to make sure everyone has what they need to be able to execute their specific role, and I’m there to lead the process. I don’t think of myself as a solo artist. In fact, I’m usually a bit terrified until I get into the room with everyone else! Then we get to play and create together, and the fear disappears and makes way for art.

What inspires you as a Director?

New plays! I love working on new plays – stories that haven’t been told before or are perhaps being adapted from another form into a play. I really enjoy thinking dramaturgically and putting all the puzzle pieces together. Working with playwrights in a rehearsal room is one of my favourite things to do – I’m always in awe of writers. There’s a certain risk involved in new work that I find thrilling.

Welcome to Your New Life is Anna Goldsworthy’s adaptation of her critically-acclaimed book about her journey through pregnancy and motherhood. As a Director and a mother, what does this production mean to you?

Anna’s story is incredibly identifiable, and she tells it with such humour and honesty. I respect that very much and her story resonates strongly with me. Personally, my journey into motherhood wasn’t easy, and I think that can be difficult to talk about as a new parent. It means a lot to me to be able to direct this production, which will hopefully start some great conversations for the audience.

What can audiences expect from the show? 

Audiences can expect to laugh, to cry, to hear some beautiful music and to experience a touching and honest story.  This is a play for anyone who’s been a parent, has a parent or is thinking about becoming a parent! Everyone will get something out of this great story.

Our Dramatic Women donor group generously supports a female-led theatre production each year, and in 2023 they support Welcome to Your New Life. As a woman working in theatre, why are programs like Dramatic Women important?

I’m very grateful to Dramatic Women for supporting Welcome to Your New Life. It’s vitally important that female-driven works are brought to the stage and that women’s stories are told. Dramatic Women have been instrumental in supporting female voices for a long time and in my first year as Associate Artist it’s so great to know these legends are with me!

You can donate to support female-led theatre by joining Dramatic Women for $850, including a program of social events and a $640 tax-deductible donation.