Collaborating with studio executives on three different continents while raising her two sons (now 20 and 23), Nadia Tass’ multi-award-winning career as a theatre and film director has required every inch of multitasking ability Tass possesses.
Now back in her home town and opening the Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2013 season by directing the Australian premiere of Sharr White’s critically acclaimed The Other Place later this month, Tass has had an opportunity to reflect on just what she’s achieved.
The film and theatre industries are male-dominated in Australia, America and the United Kingdom, where Tass does the majority of her work. “It is unequal, yes. There are far more men in my industries,” says Tass.
Still, directing is all she’s ever wanted to do. “The world never existed for me at a time that I was going to be anything else but a director,” she says.
Tass is candid about the need for women to be willing and prepared to back themselves and their ideas to a room full of male executives. “Sometimes a piece of work requires a different sensibility. [It] is more likely to work with a female perspective,” says Tass.
“The female has to be pretty strong to tell a group of male executives ‘OK now, you have to listen to me. This is how the script is and you need to come over to my perspective and see it for how it is because I think this version is really important’.”
She is enjoying the freedom of directing theatre. “There is so little interference in the theatre. I am really happy to get to be exploring so many issues without interference and without having to collaborate with other executives,” says Tass.
Tass proposed The Other Place to Brett Sheehy, artistic director of the Melbourne Theatre Company, last year. “The script is so dense, the writing is beautiful. It takes us right into this woman’s dilemma, about the inability to move forward until there is closure,” says Tass.
The Other Place is the story of Dr Juliana Smithton, to be played by Catherine McClements, whose life narrative and grip on reality is thrown into disarray while she struggles to make sense of her world and reconnect with her estranged daughter. “It’s an amazing play to present on the Melbourne stage,” says Tass.
Tass returned to the Melbourne theatre scene in October 2012 with Promises, Promises at the Victorian State Theatre with The Production Company.
She brings decades of directing experience for stage and screen. Her first film, Malcolm, came out in 1986 and won nine Australian Film Institute awards including best film and best director. Her most recent film, an Australian drama called Matching Jack, won the best film, screenplay and director awards at the 2011 Milan International Film Festival.
Her international experience across multiple mediums has influenced her approach to directing. “It’s been wonderful that I can move from one medium to the next, and back. They do feed each other and also they open up possibilities,” says Tass. “My film and theatre work inform each other. There are differences, but the core is the same. The world of the performance is clear in my mind from the beginning.”
Tass’s version of The Other Place is the final rehearsal stages and heading into the production week. She is due in Budapest in the second half of 2013 to direct a film for a British production company, but until then she’s set on enjoying the Melbourne theatre scene. “We have a whole new regime at Melbourne Theatre Company. There is new blood and new life by the sheer fact that there are new people here. It’s exciting.”
The Other Place is playing at the Playhouse Theatre, Melbourne Arts Centre, from 26 January.