In the Director's Chair | Melissa Cantwell Interview

In the Director’s Chair | Melissa Cantwell

Written by on | Director's Chair

Melissa Cantwell, Artistic Director of Perth Theatre Company, took a seat in the Director’s Chair. Melissa is known for her exciting and innovating productions with PTC. I have seen a number of her productions and she is truly fantastic, so enjoy…

What inspires you to do what you do?

The people- the artists, actors, designers and writers. There is an appetite for discovery, for truth, and for exploring storytelling in all its forms that is very much alive in the theatre and in the people who choose to work in it. There is also a beauty in the creation of art that, at some point in time, will exist only in memory. The impermanence of what we create brings with it bigger life lessons of learning to be in the moment, and learning to let go.

Why did you choose theatre as your medium of expression?

It chose me in many ways. I studied film-making and photography initially, so theatre was an expansion of that frame. I was attracted to the immediacy of the relationship with the audience that theatre affords directors. To know, in the same moment as the audience, exactly what it is you have made and how it affects the people you have made it for.

There is also a beauty in the creation of art that, at some point in time, will exist only in memory.

What qualities do you seek in an actor you work with?

Bravery; a willingness to play and be open to new ideas, and a natural instinct for listening and for storytelling. Great actors are inherently brave, but when a leap into a new world or new way of working excites an actor, it’s infectious.

What do you think makes for a great audition?

Good preparation, clear choices and the desire to work in the room with the material you have brought in. Remembering that auditions are a thrilling time for directors also, that we want an actor to enter the room and show us what the role can be is also a great starting point.

In your experience working with a wide range of actors, do you think acting training is important?

I do in that it instils a strong work ethic and a resilience to dealing with the unexpected which is exciting to work alongside. It shows a dedication to the craft, and is advantageous in that it offers the actor a range of tools and methodologies to access which can enhance and deepen their work.

What advice would you give to any new graduate or actor beginning their career?

Stay focussed and trust your instincts. See as much of other people’s work as you can and keep investigating your own work. Be open to opportunities, even when they don’t arrive in the way you might have expected.

Difficult as it is, what is your favourite play?

For sheer brilliance of writing and dramatic structure, The Crucible. It’s as close to faultless as a piece of writing can be.

About the Author


is Stage Milk's core writer. He is a trained, Sydney based actor who writes the majority of our acting information.

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