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Victoria adds venues

Melbourne's arts center gets funds, partners

MELBOURNE — The Victorian Arts Center Trust, which operates Melbourne’s flagship performing arts complex, is spreading its wings, both physically and increasingly as a co-producer with theater companies and commercial producers.

The Victorian government has just approved A$62 million ($32.2 million) in funding to expand the Arts Center by building two venues on adjacent sites. One, a 500-seat lyric theater, will be the new home of the Melbourne Theater Co. The other will be a 1,000-seat recital hall, named for Dame Elisabeth Murdoch (mother of media mogul Rupert), a noted arts patron who lives outside Melbourne.

That coin includes a $9.3 million contribution from Kerry Packer’s Crown Casino, which absolves the casino from its contractual obligation (as part of its original license, before Packer took control) to incorporate a lyric theater within its sprawling complex on the south bank of Melbourne’s Yarra River.

VAC chief exec Tim Jacobs says the new venues will fill badly needed gaps in the city’s performing arts landscape and will further complement the neighboring Federation Square development, which includes the Australian Center for the Moving Image, a gallery of Australian art and an amphitheater.

In the past year the VAC Trust has stepped up co-ventures with various partners. As Jacobs explains, “We’re looking to grow the market (for the performing arts) in a sustainable way: We’re not fighting for market share. We also need to secure a supply of quality product” for the VAC’s venues.

The VAC is co-presenting tuner “Oh What a Night” with Intl. Concert Attractions. The musical has begun an 11-week season at Sydney’s Capitol Theater after playing in Melbourne for seven weeks, and later will move to Brisbane and Auckland, New Zealand.

Also with ICA, the Trust is staging a national tour of Gotham’s all-male ballet troupe Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo after bringing the “Trocks” (as they’re known) to Melbourne by itself last year, with resounding success.

Last year the VAC joined forces with Melbourne’s Playbox Theater for “You’re Dreaming,” Max Gillies’ coruscating satire of Oz political figures and celebs. Show opened at the Playbox, then transferred to the Arts Center and ran for an extraordinary 15 weeks. It’s since toured Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Canberra.

The Trust operates the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, a 14,000-seat amphitheater in Melbourne that reopened last year after a major refurbishment. Its programming is handled by a co-venture between the VAC, ICA and IMG.