I have a memory of my parents taking me to St Martins Theatre before it became a Youth Arts Centre, probably the late 60s..
– Chris Thompson
This one time at St Martins...
...back when we used to have afternoon Open Days with music and a little craft market and a barbecue in the carpark, we had a bunch of young musicians playing jazz under the Peppercorn Tree when a grumpy neighbour started shouting at us to "stop that racket!!" and when the musicians kept playing he backed out his Porsche and turned his sound system up full blast, and when they still kept playing he came and stole the extension cord from their amp - so, when it came time for next year's Open Day we were determined not to let him dampen our creative spirit, so I contacted Operation Harmony (the Victoria Police Rock Band) and invited them to come and play (explaining, of course, the previous year's incident with the grumpy neighbour)... the Band Leader just laughed and said to me "leave it to us" so on a lovely sunny afternoon with the carpark full of young people and their friends and families (and, of course, the St Martins family too)... the cops in their uniforms set themselves up on our outdoor stage and the band leader said, "Welcome to St Martins Open Day... we're Operation Harmony and our first number is especially for the man who lives next door!" - and they played REALLY loud!!!
A story about a moment, big or small
My various times at St Martins over the years have been very significant in both my personal and professional life - most of my closest friends, my professional relationships my professional practice and even my marriage all had their beginnings at St Martins - one of the most significant moments, though, was in 1990 when we celebrated St Martins 10th birthday by inviting all the old Melbourne Little Theatre people to a party where renamed the theatres from Theatre One and Theatre Two to the Randall Theatre and The Irene Mitchell Studio... what a day that was!!!
That's when I first met Irene Mitchell and over the next four years we became quite good friends and had more events that connected the 'old' St Martins people with the 'new' young people at St Martins.
It was always so great to see the different generations sharing the same stage in The Randall and all feeling like it was 'their place'. In 1994 I was thinking that I should start looking around for a new direction and a new job but at one opening night in the foyer, Irene took me aside and said "I want you to promise me that when I go, you'll bury my ashes under The Peppercorn Tree" - she'd planted that tree back in the days when she was Artistic Director of The Little Theatre. So I knew then that I couldn't leave until I'd fulfilled my promise, which we did a year or so later - and she's still there, under the plaque by the old Peppercorn Tree in the carpark.
I knew then that I couldn't leave until I'd fulfilled my promise [to Irene Mitchell], which we did a year or so later - and she's still there, under the plaque by the old Peppercorn Tree in the carpark.
– Chris Thompson
Chris has been part of St Martins from the start: 1979-1980 as a workshop member in the first year of St Martins Youth Arts Centre. 1982 was part of Artisan Theatre Company which was the first 'outside' company to perform in the new Theatre 2 (now Irene Mitchell Studio). In 1987 he was a writer and director FM Live Theatre, a theatre for schools company resident at St Martins and then appointed as Artistic Director in 1988-1996.
After leaving St Martins, now spends his time working in creative indusries: writing, directing, teaching, within youth arts but often in film and TV.
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