Artistic & Executive Director
Kris Stewart is a creative industries executive and artistic leader whose work has been seen through the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
He has had great success as a producer and director taking organizations through periods of change or growth, and in launching new initiatives, such as the founding of a number of key festivals and major events.
His experience in cultural production and organizational leadership includes currently being -
VISITING BRISBANE POWERHOUSE
Have a look-see!
A video showing off the range of activity that's happening at Brisbane Powerhouse
Want to see full programs?
Visit HERE for digital version of all BPH programs and guides created under Kris' stewardship.
Since 2013, Kris has been Artistic Director of Brisbane Powerhouse, Queensland’s home for contemporary culture, a magnificent power station of the 1920s reborn as an arts centre on the Brisbane River.Kris directs a a year-round program featuring events across music, comedy, writers + ideas, dance, film, visual arts, digital arts, theatre and music theatre.
Kris is programming two main stage theatres seating up to 740 and 200 people respectively, and three additional venues that seat 80–180. Brisbane Powerhouse features gallery spaces, two restaurants and bars, corporate facilities and the best river view in Brisbane.
Kris oversees all activity and cultural content that happens in the precinct, including the delivery of some of Queensland and Australia’s largest events:
Combined with a multi-genre annual program, this means 350+ shows and more than 1200 performances a year.
Brisbane Powerhouse has presented 234 world premieres since July 2013, which includes presenting premieres by cultural partners such as Queensland Ballet, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Opera Queensland, Circa, Dance North, Camerata, Company 2, Vulcana, Imaginary Theatre, Topology, The Australian Voices, JUTE Theatre Company, Playlab, Motherboard Theatre, Babushka, Belloo Creative and Polytoxic. In 2018, we partner for the first time in a non-BPH venue, with Neon Tiger at La Boite Theatre Company.
Over that period, Brisbane Powerhouse developed a series of programs to support independent arts, and grow new audiences here. That includes Sweet, a new work initiative that supported 9 premieres; The Bridge, a $300k new work initiative created in partnership with Brisbane City Council; the Melt and Wonderland festivals, which gift space, marketing and 100% of box office to artists; and programs such as our Writers & Ideas series, weekly free Powerkids program and Digital Powerhouse, which are unique to BPH and deliver new audiences into our building.
We’ve also commissioned, developed and presented a number of works ourselves, including the new Australian musical Joh for PM (with JUTE Theatre), Neon Tiger (with La Boite Theatre), Seven on Sinatra, Songlines, Ten Percent Terror (with Company 2 and the Farm), Coupling (with Camerata), Afterlife, and Boys of Sondheim.
In 2019, Kris is the inaugural Guest Director of this new major event
Innovation, Imagination, Invention
Brisbane's new 2019 event merging tech, innovation, science & arts.
Curiocity Brisbane is a citywide festival for explorers, inventors and creators. It will spark the imagination and inspire people to explore the city and engage with its creativity, rather than observe.
'Curious' new event links art and science across Brisbane - BRISBANE TIMES
Some Brisbane Powerhouse results
Brisbane Powerhouse is the home for living art, ideas and experiences, representing the personality of contemporary Brisbane. Audiences and artists intersect at our heart.
Kris has established a clear set of cultural priorities for the venue, and the results have been clear:
91% growth in local artists
from 737 in 2013 to 1408 in 2017/18
81% growth in ticket income
from $3.65m in 2013 to $6.6m in 2017/18
36% growth in total non-govt earned income
from $3.3m in 2013 to $4.5m in 2017/18
43% growth in total ticketed attendance
from 120,000 in 2013 to 171,000 in 2017/18
by Richard Watts
Brisbane Powerhouse is on a roll.
For the third consecutive year, Brisbane’s centre for contemporary arts – a former power station constructed in 1928, in the riverside suburb of New Farm – has smashed records, with overall ticket sales hitting the 171,314 mark; an 11% increase on the previous year.
Box office revenue has also increased, reaching $6.2 million in the 2017/18 financial year, up from $5.4 million in 2016/17, an increase of 14%.
Artistic Director Kris Stewart credits a focus on connecting Brisbane artists with Brisbane audiences as a key factor in Brisbane Powerhouse’s success.
Ticketed Performances annually
Free Performances annually
corporate and stakeholder events
Patrons visiting 4+ times a year
Visual Arts Exhibitions annually
new & emerging artists
increase since Kris' arrival
"... the 2017 Brisbane Comedy Festival set an all-time record of 55,099 attendees, growing 23% in one year. These results are matched by MELT attendances growing more than 25% in 2017, and Wonderland festival playing to 24,980 attendees, its highest in history."
"IF YOU’VE attended anything at the Brisbane Powerhouse recently you’ll have noticed what a buzz there is about the place. Remember when it was just a derelict blot on the landscape?
Boy have things changed. Along with the Southbank Cultural Complex the Brisbane Powerhouse has really added to the cultural capital of Brisbane and now we couldn’t imagine life without it. And it’s going gangbusters and has just had the greatest quarter in its 16-year history."
"A foot in New Farm and a foot in New York:
There are a set of values that guide the programming and ethos behind Brisbane Powerhouse. ‘One of [the values] is about having a foot in New Farm and a foot in New York. We want to be really locally connected, while still looking globally with the kinds of things that we are able to exhibit and do,’ said artistic director Kris Stewart.
This value-focused approach has now led Brisbane Powerhouse through its best quarter in a 16-year history. How did it get here and what is the secret behind this success?"
Festivals and Events
Kris is arguably one of the most experienced festival and major event creators in the world, with events in numerous countries and regions.
Some highlights of his career include:
New York Musical Theatre Festival
2004 - 2008
As founder and Executive Director of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (www.nymf.org), Kris Stewart oversaw 1197 performances of 133 new musicals that he commissioned, developed and/or produced, as well as 349 other events, 20 venues each year running full-time, and more than 1000 artists, creators and staff working across the event.
“Having a show in the New York Musical Theatre Festival is equivalent to getting an independent film into Sundance.” – Rob Kendt, Newsday
The Sydney Fringe
2010, 2011 & 2013
As the inaugural Artistic Director of The Sydney Fringe, Kris programmed 3000 artists in 700+ performances of more than 250 shows and events in 53 inner city venues, events that were seen by over 100,000 attendees.
Commissioned by the City of Sydney to create the event, the first year of the Fringe included 76 theatre works, 59 music acts, 30 musicals, 25 visual arts exhibitions, 16 comedies, 13 digital arts pieces, 11 burlesque or circus and 8 dance productions.
2014 - 2019
Wonderland is Brisbane’s end-of-year summer party, a carnival of surprise and delight that transforms Brisbane Powerhouse into a night-time playground as carny folk, circus and street performers, singers, comedians and cabaret stars fill a series on venues, both inside the building and out.
2015 - 2019
Kris founded Melt in 2015 to be Brisbane's signature annual event celebrating LGBTIQ culture.
Sitting alongside Mardi Gras (Sydney) and Midsumma (Melbourne), Melt featured artists across a range of disciplines, inlcuding theatre, dance, music, visual arts and film (the Brisbane Queer Film Festival).
The inaugural IRL Digital Festival was presented in May 2015 to more than 20,000 visitors, transforming this iconic building into a pop-up digital playground, where audiences of young and old were able to immerse themselves in interactive digital art, technology-based performance, retro gaming culture and the latest in virtual reality and transmedia content.
The Festival of Voices
2010 - 2012
The Festival of Voices is Australia’s premier festival celebrating the vocalist and the power of song, showcasing a range of artistic disciplines, including choir and ensemble singing, spoken word, cabaret, debate, poetry, storytelling and hiphop.
Kris was hired by Events Tasmania to run the festival in 2011, and oversaw a 54% increase in ticket sales, with 90% of performances playing to capacity.
2014 & 2016
Running over 11 days in February, WTF is Brisbane Powerhouse’s iconic global contemporary performance event where culture and spectacle collide.
Featuring works that challenge the traditional definitions of theatre, World Theatre Festival brings together a worldly ensemble of irreverent, iconoclastic performance artists and runs alongside the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) in 2016 and 2018.
2014, 2016 & 2018
The Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) is Australia’s leading, internationally focused industry event for contemporary performing arts, and has been produced by Brisbane Powerhouse since 2014.
APAM offers Australian and New Zealand performing artists and companies full performances, excerpt and pitch sessions, in front of national and international presenters, agents and influencers.
Queensland Cabaret Festival
2014 - 2016
Produced by Brisbane Powerhouse, the Queensland Cabaret Festival is a multivenue event, happening across the major Brisbane venues and key regional centres.
It partners with significant international festivals in the region to tour the best cabaret and music acts in the world
Brisbane Comedy Festival
The biggest selling festival in Queensland, the Brisbane Comedy Festival is a big populist event across all of the powerhouse venues.
Dozens of comics are featured across a calendar month, and it fits beautifully into Australia's autumn comedy season.
Brisbane powerhouse media
Here is a cross-section of some print media articles on Kris Stewart and his work at Brisbane Powerhouse.
Plus some articles Kris has written:
Print articles on some of Kris work on festivals
Festival of Voices
Kris Audio interview
If you're really bored - here is an interview with Kris from 2012, recorded on ABC Radio National, where Kris talks about his past and family.
Griffith University Occasional Speech
Kris giving the occasional speech to the Arts and Law students graduating from Griffith University.
Kris Stewart is a creative industry executive and artistic leader, with a key focus on cultural production, major events and organizational growth.
Currently, he is the Artistic Director of The Brisbane Powerhouse, Queensland’s home for contemporary cultural practice. Here, he presents over 1500 performances and stakeholder events a year, and produces such festivals as the Brisbane Comedy Festival, the Australian Performing Arts Market, World Theatre Festival, the Wonderland Festival, the Queensland Cabaret Festival, IRL festival of digital culture, Melt queer culture festival, and others.
He serves as inaugural Creative Director of Curiocity Brisbane, Queensland’s major event for technology and creativity, and has been Artistic Director and CEO of The Festival of Voices, the national festival celebrating the instrument of voice, and as founding Executive Director and co-CEO of The Sydney Fringe, NSW’s key major event for the alternative and independent arts sector.
With a commitment to new work development, he was the founding Executive Director and CEO of the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF), the world’s largest annual musical theatre event, and the founding Director of New Musicals Australia (an Australia Council funded body charged with the development of new Australian musicals).
Through his production company Red Sand Media Partners Kris was one the producers of the TONY nominated and Obie and Drama Desk award winning musical [title of show] (which played on Broadway at the Lyceum Theater) and the feature film Red Hook, a teen thriller distributed by Phase 4 Films. Upon returning to Australia, Kris worked as Resident Director of the musical Wicked in Australia for the Gordon/Frost Organization, which has been seen by over a million audience members.
Kris and NYMF won the $100,000 Jujamcyn Theaters Prize, which is given annually to an international cultural organization that has made an outstanding contribution to the development of creative talent for the performing arts. Further to this, his work has been recognized with 2010 and 2011 Australian Business and Arts Foundation (AbaF) Awards, 2012 State Winner and National Nominee as Best Festival or Major Event for the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, 2013 Australia Day Award (Tas) for “Best Major Festival or Event”, the Sir Keith Murdoch Prize for Leadership and Innovation and a 2000 Churchill Fellowship, as well as Green Room Awards and Helpmann Awards and other prizes, including Best Production of 1996 for Skylight, and the SANTOS Emerging Director Prize and nominations for the Mike Ockrent Fellowship (NYC) and the Young Australian of the Year.
He has cultivated strong international relationships, having represented Australia at a number of key international exchanges and showcases, including PAMS (South Korea), Under the Radar and the Assoc of Performing Arts Presenters conference (USA), Shanghai International Arts Fair (China), International Arts Exchange (Dublin Theatre Festival, Ireland),the British Council Showcase (Edinburgh), CINARS and Luminato (Canada), Taiwan Focus, Performing Arts Assoc NZ showcase (New Zealand), National Arts Council showcase (Singapore), and others.
Kris is a Peer Assessor for the Australia Council, for the Australian Department for the Arts and for Arts Queensland, as well as the curatorial panel for the Australian Performing Arts Market.
He has been part of the judging committees for the Macarthur Fellowship, The Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize, the Helpmann Awards, and Dance Break NYC, and he is a boardmember of The Queensland Conservatorium Arts Advisory Board, and the QUT Creative Industries Advisory Board. He has been a guest speaker or panellist for Live Performance Australia, Opera America, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, The UK Music Theatre Conference, NYU/Tisch, NY Theatre Resources, The American Theatre Wing, the League of American Theatres and Producers and the NYC Emerging Artist and Producers panel, among others.
As an Artistic Director, Kris created new collaborations with the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), the Paley Centre Museum of TV and Radio, Brighton Digital Festival, the 92nd St Y, the ABC, Madison Square Garden/Radio City Entertainment, Australian VR Film Festival, the Queensland Music Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Australian Ballet, CarriageWorks, Ten Days on the Island, Shanghai Interactive Festival, the Seymour Centre and others.
Kris continues his practice as a working artist, having directed more than 60 productions for companies as diverse as Gordon Frost Organization, the Kevin Jacobsen Corporation, Opera Australia, Melbourne Theatre Company, Opera Queensland, The Production Company, State Opera of South Australia, International Management Group, Tasmanian Theatre Co, the Next Wave Festival and the Gateway Playhouse (NJ). Kris has also worked as an educator at the Australia Institute of Music, WAAPA, the NYU/Tisch School of Drama, the National Theatre (Melbourne), Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts, and was head of the MSA Performing Arts Department and Artistic Director of Student Theatre Activities for Monash University.
Kris is an alumnus of the Lincoln Center Theatre’s Director’s Lab and the Commercial Theater Institute (NYC) and the Australia Council’s Emerging Leadership Development Program, where he was mentored by Brett Sheehy. He completed his post-graduate study as a Theatre Director at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts and the Australian Centre for Event Management at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Kris has directed and produced a number of projects, both in the commercial and non-profit spheres. They include:
Available on Amazon
Kris founded Red Sand Media Partners, where he produced with his partners feature film Red Hook, a teen thriller distributed by Phase 4 Films. Set in the streets on NYC, Red Hook is about a college scavenger hunt where one of the participants is setting new rules.
[Title of Show]: a new musical
On Broadway, at the Lyceum Theater
On Broadway, RSMP produced the TONY nominated and Obie and Drama Desk award winning musical [title of show]. [title of show] is a musical about two nobodies named Hunter and Jeff who decide to write a completely original musical - and the show is from that moment until the night the audiencve is there with them.
New Musicals Australia
2011/12 - an initiative of the Australia Council
Now based at the Hayes Theatre, Kris was the founder and inaugural director of New Musicals Australia, an initiative dedicated to the production of original music theatre in Australia. It focussed on providing writers and composers with the opportunity to have their scripts and songs workshopped by professionals and presented to industry peers.
2014 to 2016
Sweet is annual hand-curated premiering seasons of independent performance that Kris produces and presents at Brisbane Powerhouse, identifying the best of emerging independent companies and giving them the opportunity to have their work supported and seen by a wider arts audience.
Kris has directed more than 60 productions across his career, with a focus on new work and music theatre. Here are some links to production photos.
Brisbane Powerhouse, 2019
Melt Festival, 2018
JOH FOR PM
WEST SIDE STORY
Qld Con, 2018
BOYS OF SONDHEIM
Melt Festival, 2017
KISS ME KATE
Tas Theatre Co
VOICES OF VICE
THE JOURNEY GIRL
INTO THE WOODS
Melb Theatre Co
AND THE WORLD GOES ROUND
Chapel off Chapel
LIFE'S A CIRCUS
HOW TO SUCCEED
The Production Company
Artistic Direction - Venues
Kris began as Artistic Director of Brisbane Powerhouse (BPH) in July 2013, with a mandate to increase the audience engagement in the building and expand on its positioning as Queensland’s premier centre for contemporary culture.
In his first year at BPH, Kris oversaw a 14% increase in revenue and an equal 14% surge in ticket sales, with the venue hosting 1106 ticketed performances, 145 free events and a further 382 functions, totalling 1633 shows and events over a 12 month period. Kris followed this with a 5% increase in tickets sold and a 10% increase in revenue in 2014/15. Over 700,000 people visited the venue to experience a range of programming across music, comedy, dance, theatre, film, visual arts and ideas – and 737 Brisbane-based artists saw their work featured.
Among the prominent run of events in this time, a highlight was hosting the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) – the premier biennial industry event in the Asia Pacific region – while simultaneously presented the biennial World Theatre Festival. Kris also launched the inaugural Queensland Cabaret Festival (QCF), delivering it in partnership with Queensland Performing Arts Centre, The Arts Centre Gold Coast, Ipswich Civic Centre and Queensland Conservatorium, and launched the artist development series SWEET!, which selected and funded three independent Queensland companies to develop and present new works.
In December 2014, Kris launched WONDERLAND, Brisbane’s festival of circus, sideshow and spectacle, which featured 29 shows over 10 days, 81 performances, and over 120 individual artists. Wonderland hosted an excess of 10,000 ticketed patrons, with thousands more every night soaking up the carnival atmosphere of the bars, foyers and outdoor areas on offer by the World Food Markets.
In February 2015, Kris launched MELT, Brisbane’s inaugural festival celebrating queer culture, followed by the Brisbane Comedy Festival and in May IRL, a new event celebrating the convergence between live arts and digital and gaming culture that had more than 20,000 attendees and featured partnerships with Electrofringe (immersive and interactive arts), LA's iam8bit gallery, the QSO for a premiere of a work for beatboxer and audience, as well as chiptunes and laser art events and a pop-up virtual reality lounge.
Kris has consulted on Cultural Development for the City of Melbourne and City of Stonnington, and has worked closely on cultural policy with the City of Sydney, the City of Marrickville, the City of Willoughby and Hobart City Council, including spending six months working with Willoughby and Century Venues on their $180m cultural project The Concourse, overseeing initial programming outreach and gala opening events and in 2000, Kris founded The Festa Group, which became one of Australia’s largest Festival-focused production companies.
Artistic Direction - Festivals and Major Events
Immediately prior to beginning at Brisbane Powerhouse, Kris was Artistic Director of The Festival of Voices, Australia’s key festival celebrating the voice and the power of song, an annual event that presents concerts, workshops and masterclasses across a range of performing arts. At The Festival of Voices, Kris was brought in to take the organization through a period of significant growth and strategic change. Here, he doubled the festival’s size, increasing audience numbers by 54% in his first year and 69% in his second to almost 20,000 attendees. Though this, KPMG have calculated a direct economic impact onto the state’s economy of $8.2m and the equivalent of 52 fulltime jobs.
Kris commissioned a series of new works such as Ghost Story and Angel Story (spoken word events with improvised underscore), Gin Swing (which paired sets of big band music with matching cocktails), Escape/Arrival (a 2012 Festival Australia funded project working with Hobart’s Sudanese Women’s Choir) and the Voices of Vice. Kris opened a series of new programs, such as a partnered ideas festival and cabaret festival, he created a new venue in Hobart called Voicebox and reopened the Odeon Concert Hall after twelve years.
In 2013, Kris returned to The Sydney Fringe as guest Festival Director, an event he founded in 2010. Here, he programmed 700+ performances of more than 250 shows and events in 53 inner city venues, events that we’re seen by over 100,000 attendees. The first year of the Fringe included 3000 artists working on 76 theatre works, 59 music acts, 30 musicals, 25 visual arts exhibitions, 16 full length comedies, 13 digital arts pieces, 11 pieces of burlesque or circus, 8 dance productions, four children’s theatre companies, two film festivals, as well as underground artspace tours, street festivals, alternative fashion parades, masquerade balls and street theatre.
As Executive Director of the New York Musical Theatre Festival, Kris Stewart oversaw 1197 performances of 133 new musicals that he commissioned, developed and/or produced, as well as 349 other events. Heralded by the New York Times as “2004′s rookie of the year in NYC theater” and Time Out New York as “the Sundance for musical theatre”, the New York Musical Theatre Festival played to more than 90% attendance while under Kris’ stewardship, and he grew the organization’s income by more than 35% each year.
While at NYMF, Kris premiered a number of music theatre works, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Next to Normal, Altar Boyz, [title of show], Gutenberg! the Musical!, Nerds:// A Musical Software Satire, Shout! The Mod Musical, The Big Voice: God or Merman?, Captain Louie and The Great American Trailer Park Musical. Kris has commissioned the creation of a number of new works, including Common Grounds and Platforms (two new dance musicals), Wrong Number (a music theatre piece created through improvisation, in collaboration with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater), the Guerilla Musicals Project (spontaneous musicals that would interrupt events across NYC), Web Site Story (a user generated musical, created through online collaboration) and created a series of international co-productions with Australian, Canadian, Korean and English companies. Prior to NYMF, Kris was executive director of the National Music Theatre Network in New York City and consulting director for the Theatre for the American Musical.
Experienced in the particular demands of major event and festival production, Kris’ producing and artistic direction work is an extension of his experience with other major events, including the Australian Ballet’s Ballet in the Park, Madison Square Garden/Radio City Entertainment’s A Christmas Carol, the Lygon Street Festa (Australia’s largest street festival, with over 300,000 attendees), Myer Music Bowl Millennium Concert, the Waterfront Festival, the Williamstown Festival, The LIVE Youth Festival, VIVA Cultural Diversity Festival and numerous outdoor concerts and events.
Kris continues his practice as a working artist, typically directing two or three works a year, most recently Jesus Christ Superstar for the Art Centre Gold Coast.
Kris has held senior positions at many Australian companies, including acting as Associate Director for The Kevin Jacobsen Corporation (Australia), where he worked on Sisterella, Gael Force Dance, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Chess, and Jekyll and Hyde. He directed Into the Woods with the cast of Wicked for The Rob Guest Endowment, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying for The Production Company (Australia’s Encores Series) at Melbourne’s State Theatre, Treemonisha (State Opera of South Australia), Skylight for Melbourne Theatre Company and was Resident Director for A Little Night Music (MTC and International Management Group) and Wicked (GFO).
Most recently, Kris has conceived and directed The Dragon Ball to be the centerpiece of the 2013 Chinese New Year for the City of Sydney; Live at the Riviera! for Ten Days on the Island; The Trocadero Dance Palace for the Sydney Festival, which played a soldout season as part of the 2011 festival, returning for the 2012 Festival First Night.
Among the 50+ other shows Kris has directed include the new musicals Ordinary Days for Tasmanian Theatre Co, Prodigal and Virgin Wars (by Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank for the Next Wave Festival and at the Australian Institute of Music), Anthony Crowley’s The Journey Girl, Anthony Costanzo’s Life’s a Circus and the workshops of The Jackal and Rooftop at Playbox, Carved in Air for Handspan Visual Theatre and the Fluteplayer’s Song for the Gateway Playhouse (NJ), as well as Rags, Three Guys Naked from the Waist Down, My One and Only, Into The Woods, Pal Joey, Merrily We Roll Along, Extremities, The Shrinking Ledge, Kander and Ebb’s And The World Goes ‘Round, The Fantasticks and Guys and Dolls, amongst others.
Producing and educating
In 2010, Kris founded New Musicals Australia, an initiative dedicated to the production of original music theatre in Australia, where he continues to offer writers and composers the opportunity to have their new musicals workshopped by professionals and presented to high level industry peers, creative industry leaders and general audience members. Six musicals were given full workshops in 2011 and 2012, and fourteen others received development support and/or public presentations within the initiative, based in Sydney.
Through his production company Red Sand Media Partners he was one the producers of the TONY nominated and Obie and Drama Desk award winning musical [title of show] (which played on Broadway at the Lyceum Theater) and the feature film Red Hook, a teen thriller distributed by Phase 4 Films.
Kris has also worked as an educator at the Australia Institute of Music, WAAPA, the NYU/Tisch School of Drama, the National Theatre (Melbourne), Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts, the Children’s Performing Company of Australia and Central Queensland University and was head of the MSA Performing Arts Department and Artistic Director of Student Theatre Activities for Monash University.
This is direct to Kris' personal email, so shoot him a note!
Copyright 2018. Thanks for coming by!