The art of doing it: multifaceted Mitre Khammash on producing, improvisation and forging ahead

Mitre Khammash | image credit – Jack Parker

Working across film, theatre and music, emerging producer Mitre Khammash has amassed credits across these mediums over the past decade. A graduate of AC Arts (studying screen and media) and Elder Conservatorium (studying sound engineering and musical theatre), he has worked on ABC’s Pine Gap and Channel 7’s Wanted, the blockbuster Mortal Kombat, and was director/producer/filmographer for a film version of Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For A New World. With Ryan O’Dea, he produces music as Russian Gymnast, and has produced various shows for the Festival Statesmen Chorus, alongside work for Mighty Good Talent School, True North Theatre Ensemble, and No Strings Attached.

“Producing and performing is what I trained to do,” says Khammash, “[and] each medium has different parameters. Film requires a systematic knowledge of what order things happen in, and professional work is coordinated in this way to ensure fluidity. Theatre, by comparison, is a little more flexible, with skills being a little more attainable without specialist equipment like a camera and audio rig.”

In his freelance activity as Mitre Khammash Media, he identifies an entrepreneurial mindset that informs his approach:

“Common to all of these mediums is the art of doing it.  If you want to put on a show, you just do it. The will to produce a project has to come first. Also important is effective management, with poor management leading to poor production, a huge risk where time and money are behind every decision.”

Over the past several Fringe seasons, Khammash has presented Vicarious Cabaret, an hour-long fully-improvised musical with fellow On The Fly Improv alumni Nick Munday, Ryan O’Dea, Ejla Parsons and Kirtsy Wigg, collectively operating as Spoonerise This!

Unlike with other comparable shows, Vicarious Cabaret uses a fairly loose format: over 50 minutes, the performers embody the lives of audience members who are asked questions about their backgrounds as the show begins, providing the initial material. Thereafter, the show unfolds anew each night, as Khammash reflects:

“It’s an ongoing learning journey, and it’s terrifying. The one thing that improvisational workshops teach first is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable – overcoming this helps you to take things moment by moment, responding to whatever is happening on stage or is offered by other people.”

Mitre Khammash | image credit – Jack Parker

Rehearsals form a key part of preparation, allowing the cast to learn one another’s cues, intentions and strategies. “Practising together allows us to create a collective hive mind,” says Khammash, “understanding each person’s strengths and skill sets, and using them effectively to make memorable moments for an audience”.  Alongside this is the cultivation of additional skills relevant to musical theatre improvisation, namely singing, working with an accompanist (also improvising) and the art of rhyming (an ongoing journey to do well, Khammash remarks).

As numerous producers have made the difficult decision to cancel their Fringe shows (amidst ongoing impacts of COVID), Khammash and the ViCab ensemble elected to work towards the 2022 season at full steam ahead:

“We all need something to look forward to – the cast enjoy performing the show and we want to share that with our audiences.”  

Now in its fifth year, Khammash says cancelling the show would be more detrimental than carrying on: 

ViCab is a lovely, easy show to produce, and though still a financial risk, it isn’t as much as it is for larger shows.  Putting the show on is worth the effort, so we can keep our product consistent, support our performers, and keep the momentum of growing the show and company.”

Vicarious Cabaret is on at Star Theatres from 2-5 March 2022. For up-to-date information, visit the Spoonerise This Facebook page.

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