Laszlo Szabo Bio

I am a multi disciplinary arts practitioner and cultural development worker, with 40 years of experience in Arts, Media and Communications, based in the regional centre of Armidale, Northern NSW. I entered the field with a background in theatre as an actor, director, playwright, producer, technician and theatre crafts teacher.

My first phase career, following studies in Theatre and Film at UNSW (1977-79), began as a street performer in Sydney, followed by 10 years of apprenticeship and practice in the fringe and independent theatre scenes in Sydney and then Melbourne. I moved to Melbourne in early 1981 and until 1984,was resident technician and production manager, stage manager and eventually also assistant director, for the Stage Door Dinner Theatre, owned and operated by actors Bryon Williams and Barbara Ramsay. I worked on half a dozen long run productions over a 4-year period, on variety shows and comedies, before venturing out to further build on my theatre work.

My most significant achievement in my Melbourne years was to co-found and operate an independent theatre company, Fata Morgana, Melbourne in the period 1982 – 89, with  Jenni Cunningham. I held the position of artistic director and co-administrator of this actor-based ensemble for the span of its operation, during which time I directed 17 of its 20 productions. The repertoire covered European Classics. 20th century modern Australian, American, British and European work, devised and original ensemble-created work. As a writer I scripted for the company: 1 short work, 2 full-length plays, and 2 adaptations. The 10-year period in Melbourne saw collaborations and association with theatre makers, arts educators, musicians, writers, visual artists and community arts, community television and community radio workers.

I had, in 1988 begun to teach performance and theatre craft skills at St Martin’s Youth Arts Centre. Since that time, teaching, training, mentoring and arts education have remained a major part of SVM’s brief.

From 1989 until 1992 I took contract, freelance and short-term project work in professional theatre, community projects and work in the tertiary theatre education sector. The roles I undertook included stage and lighting technician, marketing manager, festival artistic director, casual tutor, director, theatre manager.

In 1992 my partner and I travelled to Southern Africa, a trip that included time as professional observers of theatre training and professional practice. This trip also included the realisation of a long-held dream of pilgrimage to the Market Theatre in Johannesburg; a trip of great importance to me as a director and writer. I have been influenced profoundly by South African theatre since the mid 80’s.The experience affirmed the shift in my creative practice towards community and grass roots engagement through the arts. I then moved to extend my work in community arts and community based cultural production.

On my return to Australia, I settled with my partner in Armidale in 1993 and have enjoyed a 25-year cycle of freelance work in the CACD field across the New England and north western regions of NSW.

I would also like to acknowledge a 25 year collaborative partnership with my life partner, the late Sue Fell (Hon DLitt) lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of New England – this has included full scale theatre production, course design, design of workshop and training exercises, devising new work and other practice-based projects as part of undergraduate course work. I have, from time to time, since 1994, worked for UNE Theatre Studies as a casual marker, tutor, technician and consultant. Sue and I had also collaborated on projects and workshops for communities in Armidale and the wider New England region.

Geographically, my work has covered a large footprint – from Tibooburra to Lismore, Port Macquarie to Coonabarabran. Much of it has been in the fields of youth arts, cross-cultural projects, skills building workshops, community events and consultancy.

I have regularly updated and broadened my skills set by undertaking training and professional development including digital media, digital arts and web-based technologies.

Weekly workshops and activities with Aboriginal youth attending a local youth centre lead to a 4-year period of collaborations on projects with marginalized disadvantaged and at-risk youth. I have worked in many capacities on projects in the youth services sector, working with Aboriginal Corporations, Community Drug Action Teams, the education sector, area health services, TAFE and arts intervention organisations like Big hArt and Desert Pea Media. This work and the networks I have established through it, have lead to longstanding collaborative relationships with practitioners from a range of disciplines and fields.

In 2005 I was invited to teach in the newly established Armidale Film and Television School, teaching at Cert 2, 4 and Diploma levels – and bringing into this vocational training sphere my community arts and cultural development experience.

In 2007 I formalised my practice as Social Ventures Media (SVM). This enterprise represents a major step-up professionally to include exploration of methods of cultural production, strategic implementation of cultural policy and community objectives, strategic project design and planning, capacity building in communities and organizations and, through one-to-one mentoring, capacity building in individuals. SVM integrates the 3 major fields of my practice – Arts, Media and Communications. It gives me opportunity to undertake larger scale and more complex commissions both domestically and internationally. Since late 2008 my work has extended into the Pacific through commissions from NGO’s, Not-For-Profits and government agencies in the Aid and Development and Peace and Conflict sectors.

SVM projects increasingly operate on a “Landscape” scale, operating over a larger geographic area; a longer time frame (from early planning stages through to project delivery, evaluation and acquittal); larger numbers of participants; more complex objectives and multiple stakeholders.

Having worked as a socially engaged arts practitioner for over 25 years and actively developing my skills over a large number of projects to meet a broad set of demands and objectives, I now work to integrate these in the field of intercultural dialogue and cultural exchange, cross disciplinary projects and engagement with all sectors of community.