La Mama goes from ashes to international recognition

Kaylah Joelle Baker

The reconstruction of small indie theatre La Mama is being internationally recognised with design lead architect Meg White debuting her Rebuild La Mama installation at the Prague Quadrennial (PQ) of Performance Design and Space.

As part of the renowned international festival, Ms White, alongside La Mama committee deputy chair Helen Hopkins, will speak as part of a panel about the theatre’s rich history and the process of rebuilding the space from ash.

La Mama captured the hearts of the whole community in 2018 after it burnt down and was rebuilt thanks to the efforts of the theatre’s supporters who rallied together to raise more than $3 million in one year.

The highly successful funding campaign reinforced the importance of the theatre, which has continued to triumph over the challenges thrown its way.

“This is so significant for La Mama, and it seems like a really fitting end to what has been an enormous journey,” La Mama CEO and artistic director Caitlin Dullard told Inner City News.

“Meg’s attention to detail will result in a beautiful, considered experience that communicates the feeling and ethos of La Mama. I love our little theatre and I’m delighted to be sharing a little taste of our home in this international context.”

Ms White’s design has been described by La Mama’s team as “instrumental to its success”, but a lot of her dedication also comes from her commitment to the theatre prior to the fire.

As someone who has performed, stage designed, and served on staff as venue manager, Ms White understood just how vital it was for the rebuild to reflect the local theatre’s influence on Australia’s theatrical landscape.

“The Performance Space Exhibition marks the continuation of my cross disciplinary creative journey that began in the early ‘90s with performance, management and design, and that ultimately led me to the field of architecture,” she said.

“La Mama Theatre played a key part in this journey, and there was a poetic resonance in me taking on the role of design architect for the rebuild.”

Having the opportunity to debut and capture the story of La Mama has also been integral for the development of Ms White’s career as both an architect and a performing arts creative.

“Creating a piece about the rebuild for Prague Quadrennial is the next step in the evolution for me as an architect and theatre creative where the line between the two fields is joyously blurred,” she said.

The rebuild will be discussed as part of the program’s Performance Space Exhibition, under the title of Acts of re-assembly: The re-build of La Mama theatre. PQ’s 2023 festival takes place from June 8 to 18. •

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