From 1999 to 2008, Helen and Paul Madden transformed the backroom of their Stork Hotel into a hub for cultural events.
Stork Hotel’s public bar was jumping from 10am to midnight every day. It was usually full of Queen Vic Market workers, uni students, shoppers and workers from the city. Butchers from the market regularly propped up at the bar after their 11am knockoff, still wearing their work aprons. Upstairs the 15 hotel rooms hosted backpackers, other travellers, arts-industry workers and people supported by housing cooperatives for those experiencing homelessness.
Amidst this urban chaos, Helen began staging literary performance readings, opera evenings, cabaret shows, poetry groups, Socratic Dinners and interactive hypotheticals. Stork offered cheap ticket prices, including discounts for those with low or no income.
Helen began collaborating with academics from Melbourne universities to adapt key literary works for the stage. Professor Judith Armstrong (Melbourne University) translated and adapted works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Professor Colin Duckworth (Melbourne University) translated and adapted Camus, Proust, Flaubert, Stendhal and Marguerite Duras from the French. Legendary local architect Peter Corrigan (RMIT) joined these efforts and designed key productions. Our brilliant collaborators contributed their talents for modest or no fees.
Popular performance readings of ancient Roman and Greek epics began to anchor every season, inspired by and in collaboration with Dennis Pryor, Melbourne’s most-loved classics luminary. Stork regularly staged Homer‘s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid. Melbourne’s leading actors, artists and academics starred in these readings.
All our shows were performed on the backroom’s tiny stage. Profits from Stork’s public bar funded these performances, paying for the actors and technical staff.
The Age wrote of our shows at Stork Hotel:
Stork’s monthly Socratic Dinners, hosted by Professor Stan van Hooft also featured. Attendees (dinner guests) battled philosophic questions and were challenged directly on their moral choices. Guests were required to discover an agreed point on the moral dilemma, in the spirit of Socrates. Stork held University in the Pub philosophy hours on the ethics of the Information Age, led by Dr John Lenarcic.
Stork Hotel was an historical, unpretentious, Art Deco-style pub. We offered hospitality, budget accommodation and meals for travellers, locals, workers and students. Live music was staged in the public bar five nights a week, which became a breeding ground for emerging artists such as Wally De Backer (Gotye).
See our next theatrical chapter: THEATRE ON THE ROAD.