Merrigong Theatre Company is bouncing back from the pandemic with a bang, promising a host of productions in its most ambitious season yet.
One of the most exciting new ventures - which will hopefully become an annual tradition - is a three-week open air season of A Midsummer Night's Dream as part of a new Shakespeare in the Garden program.
Surrounded by nature in the Wollongong Botanic Garden, audience members will see the new take on Shakespeare's well known tale brought to life by some of the country's finest actors and designers along with musicians and artists from across the Illawarra.
The theatre company will also host three locally-produced main stage works next year.
Artistic director and executive officer of Merrigong Theatre Company, Simon Hinton was excited to launch the 2022 season tonight.
"We've worked hard to curate this season around all the uncertainty of these times, and some things are a little different as a result," Mr Hinton said.
"But for all the difficulties of the period, there have been some emerging triumphs.
"Artists are a resilient bunch, and many have used this time to create and develop extraordinary new work.
"Our 2022 season features the first wave of some of this great new theatre."
Mr Hinton said the shutdown of theatre during the two lockdowns had been immensely difficult for many artists and creators - with some needing to walk away from the industry so they could pay bills - while others took the time to craft and polish amazing work.
"Some of the work we will be sharing next year is in response to the artists' experience of COVID-19 and the shutdown," he said. "Artists often respond to difficult times with creativity."
Mr Hinton said the pandemic had given staff a renewed desire to take productions out of the traditional theatre space and into the open air.
"AMidsummer Night's Dream in the Wollongong Botanic Garden promises to be an incredible celebration of art in a beautiful place, bringing the community together to celebrate a wonderful magical theatre experience."
Next year will also see the return of the much-loved pop-up festival in the arts precinct, Spiegeltent Wollongong, which is expected to attract more than 10,000 visitors across the three weeks of creative shows and entertainment.
To kick off the festivities is critically acclaimed show from the international masters of contemporary circus, Circa's Peepshow.
The two other local shows include As Luck Would Have It by writer, performer and composer Drew Fairley.
Mr Hinton described the show as a funny and personal musical comedy inspired by Fairley's experiences stuck on a cruise ship during the early days of the pandemic.
A Practical Guide to Self Defence by Wollongong-born Australian Chinese playwright Hung-Yen Yang is described as "a poignant and witty account of growing up Asian in '80s Australia", complete with martial arts, multimedia and handy step-by-step survival tips. It will star SBS PopAsia's Andy Trieu.
The season will also draw on the crowds and cultural festivities of the UCI 2022 Road World Championships eventin September, with the world premiere of Symphonie de la Bicyclette by Hew Parham, a new theatre work that celebrates life on two wheels.
Local audiences will get to experience the sound and light installation Blindness, from London's legendary Donmar Warehouse.
The Illawarra Mercury newsroom is funded by our readers. You can subscribe to support our journalism here.