Chris Keeble is the vivacious dynamo of a woman and chief-in-charge behind projects such as The Rockumentary Series – and she’s a creative force to be reckoned with. She calls herself “brave and crazy” – “brave enough to take risks, and crazy enough to carry them through!” All Things Entertainment pinned this whirlwind down for just long enough to learn a bit more about her…
It would be easy to expect producer/ writer/ creative director Chris Keeble’s childhood to be rooted in rich creative soil – but you’d be wrong. She grew up “a ‘westie’ from Sydney – it was a rough and tumble life with very few luxuries”, and sketches a family life where creativity wasn’t high on the agenda. “Not one cell in their bodies was creative. There were no books, no music, no art… nothing.”However, this could simply have been a sign of the times she grew up in, as Chris explains that her mother did do “lots of artsy stuff” later on in retirement. “I reckon she should/ could have done something if it was the thing to do in those days. And my dad could build anything. Together, they could have made some interesting things.”
Queens, Donkeys and Dreams
Chris started out as a hairdresser and make-up artist, doing some theatre work with costumes and wigs, “which is where I fell in love with theatre!” This romance drove her to become a “mature age” student in her thirties. Today, Chris sports a triple major BA in Theatre, Theory and Practice, combined with marketing and multimedia. “I also hold diplomas in journalism, event management, and publicity.” All the studying might have gone nowhere, though, if it weren’t for the “Eureka” moment: “I got a role in a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream – as Titania, the Fairy Queen who gets it on with a donkey! And I thought, ‘I quite like this scene, both on and off stage…’”
Professionally, her big break came when she got a job as Theatre Manager at the Panthers Evan Theatre. “Within 12 weeks, I was running all entertainment, promotions, events and then bloody Rugby League game days!” This led with the NRL as Game Day producer for their City/ Country matches, and 2nd Director for Grand Finals matches. But she chuckles at the irony, “I’ve never watched a game of Rugby League to this day!”
Adding Meaning to Melody
Chris has been involved in the creation of many shows, and is especially noted for her work alongside Scott McRae as co-producer on the “Stevie Wright and the Easybeats show ”, as well as “Pearl: The Janis Joplin Show ”, which she wrote and produced. She’s proudest of her work on the Janis Joplin project, and on “The Songs and Tales of Angry Old Men ” show – a rip-roaring celebration of music by celebrated “grumpies” such as Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Nick Cave.
Chris credits her experience on the Stevie Wright-production with inspiring the “Rockumentary” series of shows. These shows combine music from icons such as Edith Piaf, Bob Dylan and Tom Jones with scripting, visual footage and theatrical storytelling, creating an exciting music/theatre experience far beyond the usual cover band experience. “Once we (Scott McRae and I) did the Stevie Wright production, it just occurred to me that people love hearing about interesting stuff about the music just as much as the actual tunes, and I wanted to create something more than just cover shows. I wanted something a bit more theatrical – and ‘Rockumentary’ is it!”
Chris swaps between the hats of writer, producer, creative director and lateral thinker quite easily, but finds creative director the most comfortable. “It comes so naturally to me: I see things and like to share and develop people and ideas. I like to mentor and teach. I’m a very collaborative person.”
This love for collaboration is a cornerstone of her creative process as well – when starting a new project, Chris usually first designs the poster art and finalises the pitch, then sends it out to get a feel for people’s reactions. “If people say ‘wow’, I engage an MD and we work out the songs and cast. Then I start researching and writing the story in chronological order, and then drop the set list in to be relevant and nicely spaced with shade and light. Once we have that it’s rehearsal time. But first I send out the artwork and the pitch – if no one bites it goes to the end of the line, and I’ll start on another idea!”
And ideas are one thing she’ll never run out of. Chris is constantly looking for new, interesting ways to expand her offering of creative projects, especially given the challenges she thinks faces the Aussie entertainment scene today. “We compete with online entertainment, Netflix, sport… And Baby Boomers: they are getting old and not going out anymore! There’s a big opportunity when it comes to focusing on creating earlier or daytime shows. Hook it up with food, create an experience… Forge a new direction to cater for the ageing audience. (For my productions, anyway.)”
The Value of Caring
There is a simple, yet crucial core to Chris’s approach to all things in life: “It’s important to care… about everyone and everything. We need to care. It’s a simple thing to do.” Her emphasis on caring is also one of the reasons why she chose to work with All Things Entertainment. “I like Nancy and the way she works. She cares. That’s an important value to me. And she’s strong and knows her stuff! She has such a fascinating back story, and I love hearing about her experiences. She can tell me exactly what I need to hear – and she does! I love that. I’m a sucker sometimes and she will get me back on line! I’d give everything away.”
All Things Entertainment is proud to feature Chris’s impressive work in our stable. And we’re looking forward to seeing her realise her next dream project: “An art exhibition based on music, lyrics, imagery… It’s all in my head and one day I’ll do it. The working title is called ‘Shuffle the Line’. It would be awesome! Plus, I’d love to launch ‘The Independents’ – another idea to support original singer/songwriters. Aaah, there’s so much to do!”
More about Chris
1. What gets you into trouble? My inability to say NO.
2. What is your life motto? “There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
3. Who is the weirdest/most random person you’ve ever met? Bob Dylan backstage in 1976 at a Hordern Pavilion concert in the mud – if you can call it a meeting! He just walked past me. But it was close! And I was gobsmacked.
4. Best band/performance you’ve ever seen live? “I’m your Man – the Songs of Leonard Cohen”, delivered by a number of artists at the Sydney Opera House. Four hours, a spiritual experience! Nick Cave, The Wainwrights and more… what a gig!
5. How do you refill your creative reservoirs when they become empty? I don’t know – I’ve never had time to see if it’s getting empty! I will go for a motorbike ride, which gives me Zen time. I often come up with ideas when I do.
6. Person you wish you could meet? I’d like to ride my Indian Motorbike with Arlo Guthrie and his Indian Motorbike.
7. Five people you’d invite to dinner… And why? Well, all of these simply because I love their stuff and I’m interested in their process of creativity: Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Neil Simon, Frida Kahlo and if Melissa Etheridge can squeeze in too that would be good!
8. What is the best advice you ever got? Look for the upgrade in everything. Especially the bad, shitty stuff that happens. There is always an opportunity in everything.
9. And the worst advice? Invest in my movie!
Chris’s favourite things
• Book: 100 years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
• Movie: Con Air: it’s just so crazy bad good.
• Song: Bob Dylan’s Where are you Tonight (Journey through Dark Heat) But I have a stack of favourite songs, especially from Dylan.
• Play/performance: The Dysfunctionals. A brilliant little play I saw years ago and I can’t find anything about it. I’d like to re-stage it.
• Getaway: USA, riding motorbikes all over the place. It’s the best riding ever!
• Thing to do that is NOT work related: Grandkids and Motorbikes!
The Rockumentary Series
- Angry Old Men – The Songs and tales of Angry Old Men
- Cash The Legend – A Rockumentary Tribute to Johnny Cash
- Divine Miss M – A Tribute to Bette Midler
- Ella and Billie – A Tribute to 100 years of the First Ladies of Jazz
- For Eva – A Rockumentary Tribute to Eva Cassidy
- Heaven and Hell – The Friendship of the Big O & The Man in Black (Orbinson & Cash)
- Little Diana and the Big Fuzz – Diana Ross, The Supremes and the Motown Movement
- Pearl – The Janis Joplin Show
- Rhinestone Cowboy – The Glen Campbell Story
- Shaken Not Stirred 007
- Songs and Stories of Big Mummas
- Stark Raving Mod
- Tangled Up In Bob – Bob Dylan Classics
- The Brothers Gibb – An evening celebrating the life & Music of the Bee Gees
- The Other Woman – The life and music of Nina Simone
- Tom Jones Soul Man
- Turn Back Time – Cher, her life, her music, her glamour
With more being added all the time!
Article by: Donnay Torr