Milk Crate Theatre began as a joint project between Darlinghurst Theatre Company, Wesley Mission’s Edward Eagar Lodge and the South Sydney Council in June 2000. Glenn Terry, Director of Darlinghurst Theatre Company felt that there was an opportunity to make something interactive and long lasting, fulfilling the theatre’s mandate to have a connection to the local community. Ruth Polley, the activities officer at Wesley Mission’s Edward Eagar Lodge homeless shelter had also been thinking about the potential of drama programs for her clients’ self-esteem. It was a perfect match and a year’s worth of funding for the project was provided by South Sydney Council.
From 2001 to 2004 workshops and interactive shows were held throughout the year. 2006 was the first year Milk Crate Theatre received formal arts funding through the Australia Council for the Arts, Community Partnerships Board. From 2007 to 2010, Milk Crate Theatre reached beyond Edward Eagar Lodge to begin outreaching workshops to other services, including the Wayside Chapel, Mission Australia Centre, Mercy Arms, Rough Edges and the Matthew Talbot Hostel. It also began an ongoing partnership with The Michael Project (now MISHA Project – targeting long term male homelessness) with Mission Australia.
Between 2007 and 2010, annual participation in workshops increased from 50 to 250 participants and attendance at shows from 360 to 900 audience members. With increased participation and involvement with new services, programs expanded (such as the introduction of women’s program) and different styles of shows were produced. Milk Crate Theatre membership was established, participants went to theatre shows together, and the first general public show INTERSECTION sold out and was featured nationally on ABC’s 7.30 Report. By October 2010, it was determined that due to its success and sustained growth, Milk Crate Theatre was self-sufficient and it was able to incorporate.
2011 began with a new Board of Directors, new staff, a new office and an even more comprehensive program of activities. By close of 2011 annual attendance at shows grew to 1,000 audience members and annual funding to $415,369.
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