When Wayne Schmidt auditioned for a role in a play with Milk Crate Theatre he had hit rock bottom.
He was homeless, often hungover, and questioning the choices that had led him to such a dark place in his life.
When Schmidt got the part in the aptly titled play “Fearless” it marked a turning point.
“I loved it. It was such a powerful thing. Being a part of that was a stepping stone into doing something else,” says Schmidt, who is now a collaborative artist at the theatre.
Sydney-based Milk Crate Theatre works with the local community across a range of artistic programs with the goal of promoting positive social change. It also offers valuable work experience to people facing challenges in finding employment.
“Our community of collaborative artists have a range of complex lived experiences, including homelessness, some live with disability and many also with mental health challenges,” says CEO Jodie Wainwright.
St.George Foundation has been a supporter of Milk Crate Theatre for several years, contributing almost $150,000 in community grant funding for its youth program, which delivers accessible and free creative workshops for disadvantaged youth.
Schmidt’s latest project is an interactive, multi-media experience called “Manifesto”, encompassing written, visual, audio, digital and sculptural installations.
“My role is the revealer of secrets,” says Schmidt.
“I ask members of the audience to tell me a secret, I load it in to my loud hailer and I shoot it off into the universe, where the gods catch it, read it, and dissolve it – then there’s no more secrets.”
In Milk Crate’s major performances, members of the community are paid for their work alongside professional artists.
“More than just that one-off project, it does give them a recent work experience on their CV,” says Wainwright. “It gives them the confidence of achieving something really massive.”