but it was Andrew who chose to nurture the flame
When Andrew was twelve he knocked on the front door of the new neighbours. He was selling raffle tickets. They invited him in and gave him a load of Easter eggs and then as their relationship developed they gave him season passes to the The Melbourne Theatre company. This man’s name was Don Gray, then the Artistic Director of the MTC.
Unknown to any of them at that time, this act of kindness buried a flint in Andrew, half a dream that would have to wait for decades until it found the other half. One misty night, at a country intersection a terrible accident would see Andrew and his family lose their daughter, Carolyn. She was only eighteen months old. This tragedy was the Stone.
To try and cope with the loss, to fill the void, Andrew nurtured the dreams new flame and after purchasing an old church he began the journey to convert it into a theatre and a Gallery. The family would Christian the 70-seater space, The Carolyn Theatre.
In May our play The Magnolia Tree is playing there, but on February the 7th thank to Debbie Manalleck, who volunteers at the gallery, not only will Marooned be staged in the theatre, but the art of Guy May, the man whose tragic suicide was the catalyst for the play will also be staged.
Since his death his art had been stored at a cheap storage centre. Last night I helped Andrew unload it from a van and store it in a room at the theatre. As we did this we overlooked every piece. There was so much of it, and together it was like a collage-view not so much of how Guy saw the world, but of Guy’s soul.
The play is not actually about Guy, rather it is just a story of four characters suck in a room in the afterlife. It’s funny, moving and to date has resonated so deeply with people that many have come back to see it, several times. The purpose of writing it, to try to convince other people not to do what Guy did.
But Andrew is another remarkable story here. A shrewd dairy farmer and a father of nine, he clearly walks to the beat of his own drum and that beat has an upbeat, pace. His generosity is humbling, his sense of community makes you yearn for something that feels good but lost, and his drive to realise his vision for this art space, The Red Rock Theatre and Gallery, allows you to see a landscape other than paddocks and cows. This abandoned church could be the birth place of a new, Victorian artistic community. The land is cheaper than the city, there is work here and Melbourne is only a two-hour train trip away.
The small house he allowed us to stay in; a converted dairy now known as an artists residence had views over the fields that stretched to the horizon whose slow moving, long travelling clouds allowed you to sense in your becalmed gut that great pieces could be written here.
But the source of this realization wasn’t the bricks or the daddy long legs quietly constructing their own homes on the window pane no, the reason was Andrew.
Inside the man, whose outer-canvas the land has mottled, is a protector of theatre and the arts. And not just of old pieces re-born but of the work of new artists emerging. Perhaps instead of Easter eggs and free theatre tickets, Don Gray handed the flame to a new guardian.
Art is a river running under us all, it was running long before we were born and will run long after, creativity is a geyser filtering up our own interpretations of this river’s depths and its flow.
The theatre gave me goosebumps, theatres always do, and Guy’s art felt like refugees all celebrating their arrival at a new and safe camp, where Andrew, a man with no pretentions and a bright glint of life in his eyes, who effortlessly made them, Rohana and myself feel welcomed and valued.
Michael Gray Griffith