An Australian in the LA Outback – An Interview with Nick Hardcastle

Nick Hardcastle - Photo by Justin Schwann

A native Australian who has lived in the UK and the US, Nick Hardcastle has enjoyed an extensive career across stage, screen, radio, and music. As a theater producer, Nick worked on “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Musical” and Matthew Bourne’s “Swan Lake” in London’s West End. Nick co-founded the Australian Theatre Company in Los Angeles, producing all of their award-winning productions and special events and stewarding the ATYP Rose Byrne and Rebel Wilson International Scholarship program. In 2006, Nick released several critically acclaimed pop music releases. He was the festival director for the recent record-breaking Short+Sweet Hollywood festival.

When asked if he noticed any striking differences between Australian and American culture, Nick remarked, “I think that really, for me, living and working in California feels so much like home…climate…close to the ocean…beautiful people…eucalyptus trees everywhere…such a vibrant and diverse cultural landscape…I love it here…most important… in large part due to the many Australians living here, you can now finally get decent coffee everywhere in LA!” Nick took time from his busy, coffee-laced career to interview in April 2020.

Mary Carrig, Carrie Poyer, and Jenn O’Brien in CARL FLUNT WOULD PROTECT YOU FROM TRUCKS – Photo by Emily Claeys

WHEN DID YOUR PRODUCTION COMPANY FIRST BEGIN? WHAT LED TO ITS CREATION? WHAT’S YOUR MISSION?

NICK HARDCASTLE:   I am originally from Australia, and I worked in theater in Australia and later in the U.K. That was all before I moved to Los Angeles in late 2012.  Since I came to LA, I have been working out of various theaters in Los Angeles for the last seven years – both as an actor and as a producer. Originally, I co-founded the Australian Theatre Company; unfortunately, the group no longer exists. Subsequently, I founded and served as director for Gentleman George Productions. I have been working out of the Lee Strasberg Institute and the Marilyn Monroe Theatre in West Hollywood since last year. I have also produced the Short+Sweet Hollywood festival. My play “Orry” is based on the memoir of Australian and Hollywood costume designer Orry-Kelly. I partnered with Sixty-Six Theater Company and For The Actor to present the world premiere of “John Patrick Shanley – The Moon/The Stars,” which was due to open on April 17, 2020.

Nisha Shaaschandra, Manasa Kothapalli, Dheitshaa Bala, and Sana Jayaswal in KANNAMUCHI – Photo by John Merrell

WHEN DID YOU CLOSE THE THEATER DUE TO COVID-19? WERE YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF A RUN?

NH: On March 10, just as we were about to start rehearsals, we called a meeting when my co-producers (Paul Rush from Sixty-Six Theater and Jackie Diamond from For the Actor) decided that we should postpone the show until November 6, the next available slot in programming for 2020. Even though we were torn and, of course, heartbroken, we knew that it was far too great a risk even then. When Broadway shut down two days later, we knew we had done the right thing. By the end of that week, we had closed the production office. The Institute itself had also shut down.

Sonia Ochoa in IN THE CRUCIBLE OF THE NIGHT – Photo courtesy of Short+Sweet Hollywood Festival

OVER THE PAST WEEKS, HOW HAS COVID-19 IMPACTED YOUR THEATER?

NH: Obviously, it has been a disaster financially. My company is not a 501(c) (3), so it does not have a generous donor base to assist in keeping the company afloat. The production of  “John Patrick Shanley – The Moon/The Stars” – and a return season of “Orry” in late May and June have been postponed or maybe even cancelled – as have all of our ancillary promotional and fundraising events, events that would have seen us through the rest of the year. Everything has shut down; and, of course, we are standing by for further updates. At this stage, my light at the end of the tunnel is that I am still planning on presenting the Short+Sweet Hollywood festival at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre beginning September 3. Of course, all dates are subject to change; and the safety of our team, participants, and audience are our top priority. Naturally, we’ll respond accordingly to whatever guidelines or restrictions may be in place by the time that date comes around. I’m just hoping that we’ll all be able and excited to return to the theatre by then. Short+Sweet Hollywood is a short works festival presenting 10 minute pieces across film and theater; all the productions will be divided into English, LatinX, and LGBTQ+ sections. Perhaps t this time of social distancing will give birth to some great new short plays and films that will be ready for an audience by the time we reach September. I truly hope so!

Nick Hardcastle as Orry-Kelly in ORRY – Photo by Tony Duran

ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING RIGHT NOW TO KEEP YOUR LIVE THEATER GOING? STREAMING? HAVING VIRTUAL MEETINGS? PLANNING FOR YOUR NEXT SHOW WHEN YOU REOPEN? AUDITIONS? FUND RAISING?

NH: I’ve participated in virtual readings and online class from other theater companies; but for me personally, it’s a time to take stock and streamline and consider the future. If everything goes as planned, Short+Sweet Hollywood will go ahead; and then we will go right into “John Patrick Shanley – The Moon/The Stars.” However, I’m also planning a tour of “Orry” in Australia for next year – so I’m navigating that landscape as well. As you can imagine, COVID-19 has equally devastated both theater and live events. At this point in time, no one anywhere is completely clear on how we’ll be able to program going forward.

Short+Sweet Founder Mark Cleary with Short+Sweet Festival Director Nick Hardcastle – Photo courtesy of Short+Sweet Hollywood

WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON LIVE THEATER IN GENRAL IN LOS ANGELES? DO YOU FORESEE ANY PERMANENT CHANGES?

NH: I think that there will be two kinds of general responses from audiences. For some, the urge will be to rally immediately because they simply cannot wait to get back together and engage with live theatre.  Then there are those that will be very reluctant to go out in large groups for quite some time. They will want to ensure the safety of themselves and others and remains very cautious for a long time. From this period in isolation, many people will emerge with new learned behaviors; and those behaviors will become new habits. These habits could absolutely have an impact on live entertainment, especially when it entails large gatherings of people. Personally, I fully understand both responses. We all know that we can only control some things. I’ll be doing everything to demonstrate to my team, cast members, and audiences that – wherever I am working and inviting audiences – we will always prioritize their health and safety.

Nick Hardcasstle relaxing at home with Madge during COVID-19 Pandemic – Photo courtesy of Nick Hardcastle

WHAT DO YOU NEED RIGHT NOW TO KEEP GOING FORWARD? WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE FROM THE THEATER PUBLIC?

NH: Right now I am seeking submissions from writers, actors, directors, and film makers for Short+Sweet Hollywood, as well as cash and in-kind sponsorship for the festival and the production of “John Patrick Shanley – The Mood/The Stars.” We have a unique opportunity for sponsors at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre. We have major on-street exposure from the traffic on Santa Monica Blvd, in-house activations in the institute, and the beautiful Actor’s Lounge, as well as on-screen ads or logo loops on the cinema screen, the program brochure for both the festival and the play, and six days of programming over six weeks through the festival. That will really extend the value of any sponsorship. Last year, we had over 5,000 audience members and more than 500 participants from all over the United States and approximately 20 different countries. We also had incredible sponsors and partners including NBC, Final Draft, casting networks, Argentum Studios, Global Talent Immigration, Silent Pool Gin, and more.

I’m also hoping for faith and resilience from the theatre going public. I really hope that artists and audiences alike will turn up in a show of support.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FUTURE PLANS?

NH: I will really have to reassess everything after Short+Sweet Hollywood and “John Patrick Shanley – The Moon/The Stars” are presented this year, assuming that they in fact get to go ahead.  I’ll continue to look into and explore other areas in which I can extend my business and my own skill set that aren’t dependent upon large group gatherings. I’ll keep in mind that – while we may try to get back to “business as usual” – some things will simply never be the same again. I can’t wait to hug the stuffing out of so many of my theater friends in real life – that is a serious future priority. In the near future, I do hope to tour “Orry” to different regions of the United States, as well as to Australia. But for now, I’m trying not to get too attached to future plans or their potential outcomes. I’m just sending my love and strength to everyone and hoping you’re all staying safe and well!

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