Peter Lavery is working with the Maleny Arts Council to program shows for the Maleny community. Peter shares his wealth of theatre experience to help you think about programming theatre shows and finding an audience for theatre.

Can you give an insight into the different strands of theatre?

We see a lot of comedy and it's the hardest thing to get right! And on top of that what appeals to one person falls flat (or worse offends) someone else. Clever and/or skilful comedy speaks to the widest audience. When this is embedded in good stories and interesting characters we've got really engaging theatre.

There are many good Australian dramas that have been written over the last 50 years and they succeed with our audiences because they explore unfolding relationships in situations that we recognise as both universal and Australian.

With small shows we often get new work and it is good to see clips to judge the quality. It is great to see plays that focus sharply on things of local interest, a one hander devised in a characteristic rural setting, or a play dealing with an historical family.

Why do you like to program theatre shows?

Theatre is rich in it's diversity and is the most accessible artform that we can present. It's as old as humanity, everyone loves a good story, and importantly we can share the most insightful, subtle and dramatic feelings and thoughts through the stories we enact.

What do you look for when you are programming theatre - how do you decide between the different theatre shows on offer?

Quality work above all, then the ability to market it to a local audience. Complement not compete with other offerings in the town; and affordability of course.

Have you got any tips for attracting new audiences to theatre shows or getting people to see theatre shows they may not have heard of?

It's great to have a hook or an angle for marketing, eg linking with other events or targeting a group linked with the theme of the show. If you maintain quality in your shows then word of mouth will be your best asset over time. An audience member pleasantly surprised will talk about it and have a ripple effect in the community. Someone else will take a chance next time.

Anything else you would want to comment on for people looking to program theatre shows in their venues?

By quality I don't mean high art, but the skill of the performer, the production standard, and the tightness of the script. At it's very best this creates a riveting experience for the audience, and it can be achieved in all forms of theatre from a small one hander to a mighty extravangaza!