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Our Team

Hello! Nice to meet you. We are the team behind the magic at Arena HQ!

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Debra Allanson

Executive Director and CEO

Debra brings with her a wealth of experience in the creative industries through her work in television, film and innovative digital platforms, and deep strategic and operational management roles. She has worked extensively with start-up teams across a range of digital media businesses including an online platform for children’s creative development and expression. Debra is a long-standing member of the Vicscreen (formerly Film Victoria) investment and incentive committee having previously been a Board member for nine years, and is a former board member of Barking Gecko, Western Australia’s theatre company for children and their families. CONTACT +61 419 917 575  debra@arenatheatre.com.au

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Christian Leavesley

Artistic Director

Christian Leavesley is the Artistic Director of Arena Theatre Company. He studied theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, Monash University and the University of Missouri-Columbia. Before joining Arena, Christian co-founded multi-award winning company Uncle Semolina (& friends), whose works Gilgamesh, Ticky Tacky and OT were known for their innovative use of playing space and theatrical form. His work has appeared in festivals and venues across Australia, internationally in Asia, North America and Europe. His works for Arena include Starchaser, Marlin, Marlin Expedition, Point of View, The Sleepover, Sunny Ray and the Magnificent Moon, Trapper and Air Race.  CONTACT +61 432 023 848 christian@arenatheatre.com.au

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Kristen Beever

Program Development & Marketing Manager

Kristen is a creative producer, with vast experience in event and production management, marketing, communications, and audience development. She has enjoyed working across a range of industries including radio, television, education, local government, and the Arts. Kristen has a Bachelor of Design (Communication Design) and a passion for publication design. Theatre is Kristen's sanctuary, both in creating and experiencing it. A long-term member of Bendigo Theatre Company, she co-founded Tribe Youth Theatre in 2017 as a creative outlet for local secondary school-aged children. Kristen thrives on creative, collaborative projects, and the community and connection that is intrinsic to live performance. CONTACT +61 424 698 403 kristen@arenatheatre.com.au

Meet the Arena Board

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Anne Henshall

Chair

Anne Henshall has worked in Performing Arts Marketing and Event Management with Capital Venues & Events, the Bendigo Easter Festival and Bendigo Writers Festival for over 11 years. Previously a Board Member of Variety - the Children’s Charity Victorian Tent and the Bendigo Trust, Anne was also the creator of the Bendigo Kids Character Carnival, one of the Executive Production team on NED - A New Australian Musical that premiered at the opening of Ulumbarra Theatre and produced a musical as part of a health promotion project for Bendigo Community Health. Anne and her husband Paul have two daughters Ellen and Georgey who are both heavily involved in community and professional performance and as a family they have performed together in numerous dramas and musicals with local Bendigo community theatre groups. Anne has a passion for performing arts and the very real benefits to young people’s health and wellbeing whether through participation, performance or as part of an audience.

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Christian Leavesley

Christian Leavesley is the Artistic Director of Arena Theatre Company. He studied theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, Monash University and the University of Missouri-Columbia. Before joining Arena Christian co-founded multi-award winning company Uncle Semolina (& friends), whose works such as Gilgamesh, Ticky Tacky and OT were known for their innovative use of playing space and theatrical form. Leavesley’s work has appeared in festivals and venues across Australia, and internationally in Asia, North America and Europe. Leavesley’s works for Arena include Starchaser, Marlin, Marlin Expedition, Point of View, The Sleepover, Sunny Ray and the Magnificent Moon, Trapper and Air Race.

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Meg Upton

Meg Upton is an arts educator, teaching artist and researcher. She has a PhD in drama education, currently teaches and researches in the School of Education at Deakin University, and has previously held positions as education manager with Malthouse Theatre and Melbourne Theatre Company. Meg has researched and created over one hundred education resources for arts and other organisations, winning several awards, and is the author of Currency Press Platform paper, Education and the Arts: Creativity in the Promised New Order (with Naomi Edwards). Her current research focuses on young people, the arts and critical feeling.

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Debra Allanson

Debra brings with her a wealth of experience in the creative industries through her work in television, film and innovative digital platforms, and deep strategic and operational management roles. She has worked extensively with start-up teams across a range of digital media businesses including an online platform for children’s creative development and expression. Debra is a long-standing member of the Vicscreen (formerly Film Victoria) investment and incentive committee having previously been a Board member for nine years, and is a former board member of Barking Gecko, Western Australia’s theatre company for children and their families.

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Stan Liacos

Stan is an accomplished executive with over 30 years’ experience with several major institutions and authorities including Queen Victoria Markets Pty Ltd as CEO; the City of Greater Bendigo, Victorian Government, Federation Square and Melbourne Docklands Authority as an Executive Director; former Head of the Geelong Waterfront Development; a planning, development and local government consultant earlier in his career; and as a non-executive Board Director in the education, public and private sectors. Stan has enjoyed a career in often high-profile, challenging environments and has seasoned expertise in sectors including Business; Major Projects; Planning, Design and Development; Local Government; Arts, Tourism and Major Events; Marketing and Communications. Stan is a proud resident of Bendigo and Melbourne. In Bendigo, Stan is particularly synonymous with the development of major attractions including Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo Art Gallery and Bendigo Airport.

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Abe Watson

Abe is an experienced arts manager and creative with specialist skills in theatrical production and operations, producing, and technical theatre. He is currently Artistic Operations Manager at Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne – home of two renowned cultural institutions: Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. Previously, Abe was Production Manager at Melbourne Theatre Company. Well-respected in the Central Victorian Creative Community, Abe is a Life Member and former President of Bendigo Theatre Company, and worked in various operational roles across the Bendigo Venues and Events team for ten years. Abe’s producing and production management work includes Torch the Place, Berlin, Summer Series, Well That Happened, Cyrano and Touching the Void for MTC; Wicked, One Man Two Guvnors, Peter Pan for BTC; Assassins for 3’s A Crowd Inc.; First Date for Pipedream Productions; and, [title of show] as an independent production. Abe holds a Bachelor of Arts (French/MediaComms), and a Master of Arts and Cultural Management from The University of Melbourne. Abe studied linguistics and history at Université Paris Didérot and has a working French proficiency.

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Emily Fiori

Emily is an experienced marketing and communications professional who is passionate about growing audiences and communicating the value of the creative industries. With more than a decade of experience leading high impact strategic media and marketing campaigns, Emily is the Senior Manager Marketing & Communications at VicScreen. She has previously held positions including Theatre Marketing Project Manager at Visit Victoria, Marketing and Communications Manager at Chunky Move, and Marketing Campaign Manager at Melbourne Theatre Company. Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts, Arts Management from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. Connect with Emily on LinkedIn.

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Liahn Nortjé

Liahn is the COO for VicScreen, the State Government agency supporting the film, television, and digital games sectors of Victoria, where he has oversight of all strategic planning, financial, operational, risk management and governance requirements. Liahn is responsible for the delivery of high-impact and high-value operations, services, and initiatives to VicScreen’s stakeholders, leading strategic projects and allocating resources in line with corporate governance requirements. Liahn is also the CFO for VicScreen, providing strategic advice to the CEO and the Board on all finance, audit, risk, governance, and compliance matters. Previously, he held various senior finance and leadership roles within the screen, higher education, and hospitality industries. A member of CPA Australia and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK), Liahn chairs the Arena Theatre Company’s Finance Committee.

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