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As CEO and Creative Director of Metro Arts, Jo Thomas is one of those rare arts leaders who straddles the creative and commercial divide with aplomb and grace.

Metro Arts experienced a once-in-a-generation evolution in 2019 – it sold the Heritage-listed building it called home for decades, established a multi-million dollar arts fund, negotiated new digs and through it all, programmed and commissioned a packed slate of contemporary work.

And steering the ship through these unchartered waters was Jo Thomas.

Her background in cabaret and circus proved a surprisingly effective training ground for keeping all the plates spinning during a tumultuous and action-packed 12 months.

And with a huge 2020 on the cards, Jo is set to use and hone every juggling, balancing and magic skill under the big top.

What is the best piece of theatre you’ve ever seen?

Theatre de Complicite’s The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol. It was in Sydney Festival in the ‘90s. There was this sense of physicality and I’d never seen anything like it then. They were absolutely meticulous and it was incredible what they could create with their bodies.

Who is the most exciting theatre-maker in Australia at the moment?

I’m going to give a call out to my buddies, Bec (Reid) and Tristan (Meecham). They’re not theatre-makers, they’re All the Queens Men: they’re disruptors, they’re creative makers. They create really important connections in communities that are artistic connections.

Have you ever walked out of a performance before it has finished?

Yes. It’s an exception. I think it’s important to try and stay to understand the work as a whole but sometimes I just can’t.

If you weren’t an artistic leader, what would you be doing with your life?

I’d be a cabaret singer!

Once an actor, always an actor: what’s your favourite tongue twister for vocal warm-ups?

She stood on the balcony, inexplicably mimicking him hiccuping and amicably welcoming him in.


For more of Jo Thomas’s honest answers, listen to IMHO’s full podcast: My Honest Opinion About… who should take responsibility for funding arts and culture.

Listen to the IMHO Podcast