Getting to know Outhouse Theatre Co

How two aspiring actors founded a critically acclaimed, cross-cultural theatre company

If you’re a Seymour Season regular, you’ve likely seen an Outhouse Theatre Co production.

Impeccably written and produced, Outhouse’s timely, thought-provoking work always makes for a memorable night at the theatre, and with their latest show, Heroes of the Fourth Turning, opening at the Seymour this month, we thought we’d take a peek behind the curtain and find out more about this award-winning, independent theatre company.

The early days

Outhouse was founded in 2005 by Jeremy Waters and Nick Stephenson, two Australian actors living in New York City. Like many an expat actor before them, they had grown tired of twiddling their thumbs between jobs, and decided to take matters into their own hands. Artistic Director Jeremy still recalls the day he and Nick paid the deposit for their very first show at New York’s Kraine Theatre: '[We] shook hands there on East 4th Street and said to each other, ‘Well, there’s no going back now.’ It seemed momentous.'

What’s in a name?

From the start, Jeremy and Nick were determined to create a uniquely Australian theatre company—and they needed a name to match. The name had to be something their American audiences could connect with—something funny, something down to earth, and a nod to some sort of quintessential Australian iconography. The pair soon landed on 'Outhouse', although not everyone was a fan! Outhouse’s first publicist thought the name was a little inelegant—which was how Jeremy and Nick knew they had a winner.

The importance of great writing

Outhouse is driven by a desire to produce great, contemporary plays that speak to the here and now, plays that provoke, question, and challenge. It’s no surprise, then, that the playwright is key to Outhouse’s creative process. 'The writing comes first and all creative decisions flow from there,' Jeremy affirms, and when we look back at the playwrights Outhouse has introduced to Sydney audiences—playwrights like Annie Baker, David Ireland, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and Will Arbery—the company’s commitment to great writing shines through clear as day.

A cross-cultural spirit

Outhouse was originally established to bring Australian theatre to American audiences, and although it’s now Sydney-based, the company’s strong, cross-cultural spirit remains. When Jeremy returned home from New York, bringing Outhouse with him, he flipped his original formula, changing focus to find the best new international plays to present to local theatregoers. He sought out works like Ulster American, John, and Heroes of the Fourth Turning—pieces set in novel contexts but still rooted in broad themes that speak deeply to Australian audiences.

Blending traditions

Jeremy remembers his time in New York fondly, and says the experience influenced the way he still runs Outhouse today: 'I was exposed to so much great work and so many wonderful artists. I like to think that some of their dedication, passion, and commitment rubbed off on me and trimmed off some of that idle fat.' To us, it seems that Outhouse’s New York beginnings helped create its unique DNA—a DNA that blends the strengths of Australian and American theatrical traditions to create magic time and time again.

Don’t miss Outhouse’s production of Heroes of the Fourth Turning, opening at the Seymour on 31 March.

 

Image credits: Richard Farland, Claire Hawley, Marnya Rothe

16 March 2022

Outhouse Theatre Co's Heroes of the Fourth Turning shines a disarming light on conservative Catholicism and its disciples during the Trump era. Find out more and purchase tickets at the link below.

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