Mark Reedman, who has died aged 65 in February, was a major contributor to the arts and cultural life of the Hunter.
As Associate Director, and then Artistic Director of 2 Til 5 Youth Theatre (now Tantrum Youth Arts) he guided the artistic engagement of young people in Newcastle and surrounds for more than 10 years.
A talented playwright and musician, he wrote a number of plays as part of his contribution to 2 Til 5's annual performance program. Moving on, Mark took up a position as Regional Arts Development Officer (RADO) first at Wagga Wagga and, until his death, for Arts Upper Hunter.
Born in Adelaide in 1955, he attended Flinders University and worked for a number of years with Junction Theatre developing and performing community theatre pieces in schools and community venues. It was with Junction that he first ventured into playwrighting.
In 1993 Mark came to Newcastle to take up the position of Associate Director at 2 Til 5 Youth Theatre. He had an immediate impact writing and directing El Pais De Los Ciegos (In The Kingdom Of The Blind) an adaptation of a short story by HG Wells. Over the next 10 years Mark wrote and directed a dozen of so scripts developed with the young people he worked with as his output became a regular feature of the 2 Til 5 annual performance program.
In 1997, as part of Newcastle's bicentennial celebrations Mark worked with the entire company to create what many regard as his magnum opus: Chronicles of Estenclaw (Estenclaw is an anagram) was a fantasy about three tribes who inhabit the city of Estenclaw. The play explored issues of race and what it means to belong and what does "home" actually mean? Like all of Mark's work at its centre was his deep commitment to notions of fairness and equity and the celebration of diversity that comes with a strong tolerant and multicultural society and involved its cast of 60, aged 7 to 18 years, in a workshop process which shaped and formed the script.
Upon leaving 2 Til 5 Mark took up the position of manager of the Singleton Youth Venue and then as the RADO at Wagga. He then was appointed to the RADO position for the Upper Hunter. Here he developed a number of innovative arts programs including The Upper Hunter Art Trail; "In Conversation with ..." podcasts with local artists; "Speed Dating for Visual Artists"; a series of a "Play in a Day" at local schools; and a series of Pecha Kucha artist talk events. In a move that took him full circle, he organised a number of partnership projects with Tantrum Youth Arts in the Upper Hunter.
When I posted the news of his passing, there was an outpouring of not only sadness, but of thanks for the role he played in thousands of young people's lives: "inspiration to me at a fragile age", "legend"; "thinking of the formative role he played in my life"; "he had a profound effect on me"; "he was so good to us all - a funny and gentle man". A funny and gentle man indeed. Those who knew him will cherish the time we spent with him.
A remembrance service will be held in Adelaide on Sunday, March 28 and a local commemoration of Mark's life will be held on May 22.
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