For over a decade Renee Auciello has worked as a professional dancer and singer in award-winning productions. Her work has seen her travel internationally with Carnival Cruise Lines garnering experience in large production shows, corporate floor shows, and performing for sporting events. Since returning to Adelaide, Auciello has been inspired to utilise her performance skills in a mentorship and production capacity through the creation of her business Cocktail Creative. This year sees Auciello as producer and director of her first show for the Adelaide Fringe featuring an exceptionally talented cast of emerging South Australian performers. I had the pleasure of interviewing her to learn about her collaborative vision for this show.
You’ve been a professional performer for over a decade. Tell me briefly about how your career began.
I have danced [in Adelaide] since I was nine but moved to Sydney when I was 18 to study performing arts full-time at ED5 International. After completing my training I landed my first professional contact in 2008 dancing at the Sands Casino in Macau, China. We were an all female cast of five Australian dancers, performing four half an hour shows a day, six days a week for eight months. The shows were mainly commercial in style with additional showgirl moments. We were also booked for extra gigs such as freestyling at the John Legend after party.
It sounds exciting to work so closely with superstars such as John Legend. As a seasoned performer, you’ve decided to try your hand at producing. Your first Adelaide Fringe show, Playback, is a nostalgic trip back to the 80s. What prompted you to start a production company?
I have always wanted to create a show but have never made the time or space until 2020. Cocktail Creative was initially formed for Playback, as produced by Renee Auciello, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. The process of finding the perfect name had me analysing what and why. For me, it’s all about working collaboratively with artists to create something that is not only my vision but something shared with the performers. I encourage my cast to explore their characters, develop choreography as a team, and mix it up which keeps it fresh, exciting, and playful.
That’s a great way to contribute to the arts industry. The cast of Playback features some of South Australia’s emerging artists. How did you select your cast?
This was vital in bringing my vision to life. The show requires strong dancers who are also great actors, comfortable with close audience interaction. Maddison Lochert and Jake Walasek I have worked with in corporate entertainment, so I already knew they would be great. The other dancers, Lance Collins, Madeleine Camac, Jayden Prelc, and Tayla McDougall, I had seen in classes I attended and liked their style. As this was a collaborative project I also need the right attitude and openness to creating this show together. Sasha Simic, my host, I found on a Facebook actors page. He had the right energy and was excited to be able to bring himself to the role.
Forging positive networks through past professional work is an important part of building a sustainable career. You’ve demonstrated that through this casting process. How important is mentorship in the performing arts industry, in your opinion?
Very important. I’ve never engaged in a formal mentorship but just by speaking with people in the industry and asking for help and advice you will be surprised how open people are if you approach things with kindness. We are a small industry and supporting each other is the best way to build and grow.
I agree, kindness and positivity goes a long way. Tell me about the site-specific elements of your production Playback which will be performed at the Loverboy nightclub.
There are no seats at this show, the audience follow the performers around the venue as the entire nightclub becomes a stage. We use everything from tables and chairs to bar tops and pipes which is exciting not only for the audience but when choreographing nothing is off limits.
What an engaging concept! What would you like audiences to take away from your inaugural production at the Adelaide Fringe Festival?
This show is pure joy, the audiences literally can’t wipe the smiles off their faces. After what has been a hard year all we need is a little cheer.
Playback runs from 23 February to 6 March 2021 at Loverboy.