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Hayley is the current Artistic Director at Phoenix Ensemble, Beenleigh, QLD. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

Can you share a bit about your background and journey into the world of theatre? 

Hayley: I have been immersed in the performing arts for as long as I can remember. I began dance training at the age of 3, and from there went on to work as a choreographer before moving to Australia in 2018. Since living in Brisbane, I have pretty much thrown myself head first into musical theatre without looking back! My directorial credits in Brisbane include The Wedding Singer (BTG, 2023), Urinetown: The Musical (Phoenix Ensemble, 2023), Legally Blonde: The Musical (STG, 2022), as well as working as Assistant Director on It Shoulda Been You (Phoenix Ensemble, 2022), Mamma Mia! (QMT, 2021) and Beauty and the Beast (QMT, 2021). I have also had the honour of holding the position of Artistic Director at Phoenix Ensemble since August of 2023. 

Did you undergo any formal or informal training in the performing arts?

Hayley: When I realised that I had a passion for direction in the performing arts, I started putting myself forward for Assistant Directing opportunities to gain experience. I’m very lucky to have had the chance to shadow and learn from some exceptional talent in our South East Queensland community who have been integral in my growth as a creative. I have also completed workshops and masterclasses to further develop my skills, including the Directing Essentials course at NIDA. One thing about directing, and I’d imagine every other creative role feels similarly, is you learn SO much your first time around in the director’s chair. So all that being said, you can be as prepared and ready as humanly possible, but you will always be met with situations or challenges you may not have been expecting. There is nothing that is as beneficial as learning on the job. 

How do you go about selecting projects to work on?

Hayley: I have spent the last few years directing quite a range of projects which has given me the chance to try a good mix of styles and get a feel for what I’m most drawn to. I believe it’s important to have a passion and excitement behind each production you take on, and that it then really translates through the work showcased on stage more than people realise. So, I always try to select projects that have a theme or a story that speaks to me and makes me excited to share my version of that show with audiences. 

I can tell based on the list of productions you mentioned; they all sound like highly entertaining and appealing projects!

As Artistic Director, what are the key responsibilities and challenges you face in your role?

Hayley: As the current Artistic Director at Phoenix Ensemble, I wear a producer hat when it comes to selecting and curating our season of shows, which comes with its own challenges. Selecting a lineup of shows for season is kind of an art form in itself. I aim to provide a mix of different styles, so that Phoenix Ensemble has a little something for every type of performer each year. I would say one of the challenging parts, per say, of directing is having a total understanding of the text you are working with. A good director will have such an in-depth, dissected understanding of the story, as well as each character. As an actor in a show, you often do a deep dive into your own character and all of the nuances that come along with that, but when you’re directing, you essentially do that work for every character in the show, if that makes sense. However, drawing that back to your previous question, that doesn't necessarily feel as much like a challenge if you have a love and passion for the story you are directing. 

I'm sure fellow directors will agree wholeheartedly. Plus, I have to say that I admire your choices for Phoenix Ensemble's lineup for 2024: Footloose, Carrie, Company, and Twisted. How do you approach working with creative team members to bring a production like these to life?

Hayley: A big part of being a director is collaborating with other members on your team. I have found that communicating my vision and ideas for the show as early as possible is so important, as this ensures everyone on the team feels like we are always working towards a common goal. Finding people who have the same passion and love for a show as I do makes this process a breeze. 

Can you share any strategies or techniques you use to maintain a positive and productive rehearsal environment?

Hayley: This is SO important to me. It can sometimes be tricky to find a balance between being productive and having fun, especially when it comes to community theatre. I think that the greatest part about working in community theatre is you know that every person involved is there because they love it. When I am in the rehearsal room directing a community theatre show, it isn’t anybody’s day job, and everyone is there as a volunteer because they want to be. It makes the project so special. Everyone is there working towards a common goal, and I think that is what makes it ‘fun’ while staying focused and working. I’m a director who’s big on collaboration, which I think adds to my positive rehearsal space. I find that actors feel so much more ownership and pride in their performance if they feel like they have contributed their thoughts, opinions and ideas to bringing that character to life. 

Can you share any upcoming projects or productions you're excited about, and what audiences can expect from them?

Hayley: I don’t have any productions that I am directing at the moment, so I’m personally in the planning and brainstorming stage right now! To be honest, I’m enjoying this “calm before the storm” moment, and I’m soaking it in as much as I can before I get busy again. Phoenix definitely keeps my hands full, though! We are deep into our rehearsals for Carrie: The Musical which runs for the month of May, and we’ve just completed our auditions for Company! Head to, or our social media pages to keep up to date on everything going on at the Tin Shed (honestly, it’s even hard for me to keep up some days!) 

I am looking forward to being an audience member for those performances, both of which are musicals I have never seen before.

Do you have any advice for individuals aspiring to pursue a career on the stage or behind the scenes? 

Hayley: Get involved in your local community theatre! I am a HUGE advocate for the performing arts from a young age, but it is never too late to get involved. I know there are lots of places online to find audition notices (including the Stage Buzz Brisbane website!) or find which theatre is closest to you. Reach out to those companies! Since community theatre companies are all volunteer-based, they are always looking for extra hands. 

Too true. Since publishing this website, I have discovered just how many community theatre companies there are in South-East QLD.

What do you love most about working in the theatre industry, and what keeps you motivated and passionate about your role?

Hayley: I love the people that I get to interact with. Theatre people are some of the most loving, supportive people and I am very lucky to surround myself with a group of friends who share the passions that I have.  I’m motivated by my passion for the theatre industry, I guess? At Phoenix Ensemble, I am motivated by continuing to produce high quality theatre for community theatre performers to be involved with and grow as artists. I love the fact that we are able to offer actors in the community an opportunity to learn, grow and tell stories in our space that THEY love. Watching cast members form friendships and loving the work they are doing is always going to be such motivation for me, and that goes for producing as well as directing.  

I'm getting misty-eyed here! Lastly, can you share any memorable or inspiring moments from your career that have reaffirmed your love for theatre and the arts?

Phoenix Ensemble is also the home of Phoenix Arts Academy, a youth program to learn singing, dancing and acting for students from Prep to Year 12. Observing the students' love for theatre in classes is such a joy and inspires me everyday, and consistently reminds me how important performing arts education is for our younger generations. The highlight of my directing career to date was last year when I had the opportunity to direct Urinetown: The Musical. While this is a lesser known show, it is easily one of my favourites and is a story that I believe is so important, powerful and relevant to our society today. I walked into every rehearsal with so much fiery passion and working on that project with a group of remarkable humans who shared that same passion for the story for 12 weeks was indescribable. 

Thank you so much for your time and wonderful responses Hayley.

(Carrie: The Musical runs from 3rd-25th May, 2024 at the Phoenix Ensemble Theatre at Beenleigh Showgrounds.)


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