Now that Shepparton Theatre Arts Group’s sell-out season of its original production Dookie The Musical is over, it is time to congratulate those involved and to reflect on the contribution of the arts to the Shepparton community.
To bring any production to the stage takes an enormous effort of technical and creative willpower, but to bring a completely original concept to completion deserves the loudest applause of all.
A town that can tell its own stories in such a vital and engaging way — and that can pack out a 400-capacity theatre for four nights in a row with its own story — is a town that is more than the sum of its parts.
While sport may still be the glue that binds country communities, the creative arts are the sweet centre that makes a place worth living in and returning to for nourishment.
Country towns will always struggle to keep a core of professional people unless they can offer more than real estate, car yards and sport.
A strong artistic presence is a measure of a community’s depth and wealth beyond its buildings and commerce.
A town that can support an orchestra, a theatre company, and an art gallery as well as a football and a netball team is somewhere that many more families will feel they can belong.
The success of Dookie The Musical shows that Shepparton and its surrounds now has the multi-layered foundation that all larger urban centres contain when it comes to culture.
We have the talent, the technical expertise, and the energy to produce original art that can tell our own stories in a unique way.
Dookie The Musical cleverly brought together the musical and theatrical threads of Shepparton with STAG members and the 40-strong Goulburn Valley Orchestra taking part.
The sheer logistics of transporting instruments, theatre sets, costumes and sound equipment over the Goulburn River to Mooroopna’s WestSide Performing Arts Centre on Echuca Rd — then to be transported back again on the final night of the show — deserves as much applause as the performance itself.
This mammoth effort is volunteer-driven, as are the concerts and exhibitions of artists across the region.
Although there is some collaboration between the various groups, each works mainly in isolation.
Perhaps a dedicated arts officer would help bring these disparate threads together more regularly and would help with access to funding.
The success of STAG’s most recent production is evidence of what can happen when creative forces are combined.