Curious Legends, one of 12 local organisations supported through Port of Newcastle’s 2020 Sponsorship Program, is a local theatre company that believes in the inherent wonder of the world around us. Targeting school-aged students in the Newcastle area, the not-for-profit organisation offers shows, workshops and roving performances that embrace laughter, magic and the mysterious world of our imaginations. 

This is the third year that Port of Newcastle has partnered with Curious Legends. The Port is proud to be supporting the company’s upcoming round of live streams and workshops. 

Mitchell Reese is the Artistic Director at Curious Legends and founded the company in 2005. Read on to learn more about Curious Legends and find out about what Mitchell is currently enjoying, reading, watching and working on.  

Tell us about what you do at Curious Legends? 

As the Artistic Director at Curious Legends, my job covers pretty much everything! I think my job description says I have ‘overarching responsibility for the company’. What does this actually mean? Day to day, I’m the person behind the computer, planning and running workshops, dreaming up big theatre projects, networking, making puppets, and generally having heaps of fun! I’ve got an awesome team to work with, including three other members in Newcastle, one in Sydney, two in Melbourne, and one in Germany. Our board of directors is stretched between Tenterfield, Newcastle, Berlin, and Perth. Add that to upwards of 20 people for our large projects, and you get an idea of our company. 

Tell us about your background and what led you to Curious Legends? 

I started as a musician (cello), then became a professional travelling storyteller at 19. When I finally settled down to study theatre in Melbourne, I got married and had kids (not quite in that order), then my wife and I started Curious Legends in 2005. Our first show was called ‘Once Upon A Cloud: A Curious Legend About Water’. The name came from that first production and the company has grown since then. Now our scope is international, with a wide range of large-scale community projects happening throughout Australia and overseas. 

How have you adapted or pivoted your offering in response to COVID-19? 

Like most of the arts industry, COVID hit us hard. Over 90% of our work evaporated overnight. The only way forward for us has been to pivot our offerings – within three weeks we had devised our ‘Out of the Box’ workshop series, where participants are able to engage with our workshops from home.  

Over the last few months we’ve had a range of local, national, and international artists participate, and have run workshops from shadow-theatre and puppet-making through to storytelling and performance improvisation! Participants were able to engage with us live online. As well as many locals from Newcastle, we’ve had participants from right across Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Cambodia, and the UK.  

We’re delighted to be working with Port of Newcastle over the next three weeks to present the final six workshops in this series. 

What are five things you are currently loving, reading, watching, eating, drinking or working on? 
  1. Schooled in Magic, by Christopher G. Nuttall – a fun book about magic. Slightly dark.
  2. Coffee. Lots of it. River Roast and Red Parrot.
  3. Generating content for ‘The Garbage Project’. The other week I had a fun jam with another cellist. We were exploring the concept of a teddy bear Godzilla, and what sounds it would make.
  4. Running, most mornings.
  5. Motorbike riding – when I’m not on my push bike or hoofing it. 

What’s next for Curious Legends? Any exciting endeavours coming up that you can share? 

Heaps! Over the next three weeks, we’re running six more Out of the Box workshops with a range of artists. Think puppetry, performance, and all things in between! More details here.

Our next BIG project is The Garbage Project, a commissioning from City of Newcastle happening next February. It’s a big site-specific performance in a huge shed. We’re still exploring themes and content for this, however liking the idea of a giant teddy bear… and maybe a two-story high trash puppet monster… still working out the logistics of that one!  

There’s lots of other projects in the pipeline, but nothing else we can announce yet. Keep checking our Facebook page and website.  

Favourite memory or activity involving the port? 

That’s such a tough one, I love the port and its surrounds! If I had to pick a favourite it would be walking out past the lighthouse by Nobbys Beach, dodging wave spray with my two kids and their cousins. A very wet, fun day! 

Port of Newcastle

Port of Newcastle is a major Australian trade gateway handling 4,600 ship movements and 171 million tonnes of cargo each year. With its annual trade worth about $25 billion to the New South Wales economy, the Port enables businesses across the state to successfully compete in international markets. With a deepwater shipping channel operating at 50% of its capacity, significant port land available and enviable access to national rail and road infrastructure, Port of Newcastle is positioned to further underpin the prosperity of the Hunter, NSW and Australia. As custodians of the region’s critical asset, Port of Newcastle is diversifying its trade as it strives to create a safe, sustainable and environmentally and socially responsible Port that realises its potential.

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