Acclaimed performer and serial creator of fabulous shows, Catherine Alcorn, speaks with arts editor Rita Bratovich about her new streaming series, dealing with crisis and her aspirations to become big on the small screen.
“I am a total case study for a producer and an artist living and working in pandemic times,” says Alcorn. Prior to Covid hitting, the incredibly talented artist, writer, producer and director was in constant motion: creating, performing and spinning dozens of plates. But, for the last 18 months or so, Alcorn has been … in constant motion: creating, performing and spinning dozens of plates.
It takes more than some ol’ virus to tie this gal down.
Her latest venture is an old-school variety format with raw and riotous content which will be beamed live from the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall (MDCH). This digital venue was set up in March 2020 by a collective of artists in Victoria in response to pandemic restrictions.
“Over the last 18 months, [MDCH] have live-streamed nearly 400 concerts and are just about to click over to the 1.5 million dollar revenue mark, which is extraordinary,” says Alcorn.
“I was invited to be part of the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, and producer Chris Howlett and Adele Schonhardt have embraced us and embraced Catherine & Friends as their first comedy cabaret variety show – and that’s what I can bring to the platform, that style of show.”
The series of four shows has already kicked off, with the first show streaming on Friday, 16 July, and – if audience feedback is anything to go by – Alcorn has backed a winner.
“We were getting texts from all over like from Orlando, Florida, from Colorado, from Los Angeles, Berlin and Spain. It was incredible! We had a global audience,” she says.
Viewers are invited to send text messages to a mobile number which, in a quaint callback to variety shows of yore, is printed on a large card and placed on an easel. Eminent drag queen and regular Alcorn collaborator Verushka Darling then reads out the messages and responds with her usual razor-sharp wit.
Darling, who created very popular virtual art tour videos for Art Gallery of NSW, will also have her own art appraisal segment on the show.
“You’ve got this gorgeous drag queen and she’s so stunning and she’s so well spoken … but then she’s really giving the people a serve. It’s just very funny, very clever,” says Alcorn.
The next episode live streams at 8.30pm on Friday, July 30. All ticket holders have a 72-hour window commencing the following morning in which to view the show.
The guest list for the show is impressive: Phil Scott, whom Alcorn refers to as “the maestro of mischief”, and who is famed for his work on the Big Gig and the Wharf Review; Helpmann Award-winning singer/actor/writer, Ursula Yovich; and Australian comedy royalty, Jean Kittson. Alcorn’s company partner and iconic TV producer, Ted Robinson is directing the shows.
Future streams are scheduled for Thursday, 12 August and Friday, 27 August.
Alcorn’s career, prior to Earth being hit by a giant spiked meteor, was established through live performances, reaching a zenith with her internationally acclaimed Bette Midler homage. Barely had the stage curtains been drawn on the arts industry last year before Alcorn forayed into the world of ether entertainment. She created the digital platform The Reservoir Room, which was live-streamed from Paddington RSL and showcased local artists.
“Projects like this, really for me are exercises in mental health,” explains Alcorn. “So, as creatives, as industry workers we thrive on the work, we thrive on the challenge, we thrive on being active.”
Alcorn also thrives on helping out her colleagues in the arts industry, and her projects have provided work for people across all disciplines, from tech, admin and management through to musicians and performers.
She has been side-eyeing a career in television for a long time and sees this digital streaming venture as a way of wading slowly in.
“No female has ever led the charge of a variety show either, and so that’s what my intention is, I’d like to see this be a full-time network production that supports emerging talent.”
Next show: July 30, 8:30pm. For tickets and info, visit https://watch.melbournedigitalconcerthall.com/#/item/74243.
Tickets are $24.00 inc. inside fees and charges. Tickets include a 72-hour pass to watch the show.
Rita Bratovich is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.
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