Sally Blackwood ©Sam English for Louisville Ballet

Sally Blackwood ©Sam English for Louisville Ballet


Artist. Thinker. Advocate.

I am an interdisciplinary scholar with a background in Theatre and Performance Studies and Operatic Practice. My artistic practice is a synthesis of music, storytelling and visual spectacle which sits at the nexus of artforms in the creation of new hybrid operatic work. My practice-based research specialises in directing, devising and dramaturgy.

Research interests:
Sustainable artistic practice
Decolonisation of opera
Collaborative performance making/practice
Artistic practice as a tool for social justice
Diversity, equity, inclusion and access
Cultural Policy


National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA)
Program Manager Schools and Community, NIDA Open, Current
Course Designer /Teaching Artist, NIDA Open 2008–2023

Western Sydney University, Casual Academic, Current
Academic Tutor, Badanami Centre for Indigenous Education, Current

University of New South Wales (UNSW), Academic Arts Mentor, Career Discovery Mentoring Program, Current

Australian Institute of Music (AIM), Lecturer Dramatic Arts, Course/Curriculum Designer, 2014–2015
Performance Production Teaching Director, Emerge Festival, 2014–2015

Sydney Theatre School, Teaching Director, Course/Curriculum Designer – Performance Practice, 2015

Sydney Conservatorium of Music, The University of Sydney, Post-Graduate Teaching Director — Collaborative Performance Creation, Performance Production, 2010–2014

Educational Leadership, Academic Research [Industry-facing] and Scholarship:

Doctor of Philosophy (Conservatorium), The University of Sydney, 2022
‘(Re)Claim the Frame: a rethinking of opera and operatic practice in Australia’
The research analyses the sustainability, viability and evolution of opera in Australia. The study examines the business and power structures, staging practices and educational models, with a view to feasibly shift the current ‘opera gaze’ to make way for the development of new foundational approaches to the making, performance and reception of opera. The fieldwork component of this qualitative research project was an investigation conducted through long-form interviews with a selection of 40 of the central figures in the operatic field in Australia today. The research further explores the values systems, production and consumption, and contemporary resonance of opera in relation to the sociopolitical discourse on social justice, gender politics, equality, inclusion and diversity; and proposes a ‘radical future’ that incorporates the history and evolution of opera, the imported opera artefact, contemporary operatic practices, business and power relations within the operatic field, and the positioning of Western opera in contemporary Australia. The thesis is Open Access at The University of Sydney.

PhD Researcher, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, The University of Sydney   2017–2022
As a PhD Researcher at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, The University of Sydney, I designed, implemented and executed a multi-year national research project resulting in a 120,000-word study. The qualitative research involved the collaboration of 40 interviewees. The research analyses the sustainability, viability and evolution of opera in Australia — through its business and power structures, staging practices and educational models — with a view to possible futures for opera in Australia. The research called on my project management, analytical and data codification skills and extensive human resource experience. The impact of my PhD research resulted in multiple articles published, an authored peer reviewed chapter in Theatre and Internationalization Perspectives from Australia, Germany, and Beyond Edited Ulrike Garde, John R. Severn published by Routledge, and research papers presented at seven national and international conferences. I also facilitated and spoke on diverse panels at national creative leadership forums.

Honours Creative Performance, Practice-Based Research, 2016
School of Arts & Media, University of New South Wales (UNSW)
Honours Research Project, Project Faust Exposed, Creative Practice Lab, 6 – 8 September 2016
Creator / Performer: Sally Blackwood; Co-Performer/ Stage Manager / Technician: Gordon Rymer

Project Faust Exposed invites the audience to experience the first creative development of Project Faust, my new re-imaging of Gounod’s opera Faust (1859) as an opera/ballet hybrid work created as a co-production between Louisville Ballet and Kentucky Opera. This is a behind-the-scenes account of leading the creative development of Project Faust in southern America in the summer of 2016. It explores the directorial approach and methodology, artistic tensions and pitfalls, and examines the complex and fragile nature of collaboration between opera singers and ballet dancers, revealing their transformation as artists. This performance presentation exposes the creative process and re-interrogates the work of Project Faust as an opera/ballet work-in-development, using segments of video footage, still photography, collected research material, directorial notes, and the director’s diary entries. This thesis is a practice-based research project accompanied by a written exegesis.

My practice-led research in Project Faust and Orfeo with Sasha Waltz and Guests is examined in Collaborative Creation across Borders and Art Forms: A Director’s Perspective on Opera and Internationalization (Chapter 5): Theatre and Internationalization Perspectives from Australia, Germany, and Beyond, Routledge UK, 2021.


Researcher & Panel Facilitator — Regional Arts NSW, The Country Air 2022-2023
The Country Air is a series of monthly online expert discussion panels exploring the key issues facing arts and culture in regional Australia. The Country Air aims to directly engage with people living and working across Australia.

Keep us thriving: Mental Health & the Arts in Regional NSW [The Country Air]
Against all odds, what is it to Thrive? In this month’s Regional Arts NSW conversation we turn to mental health and wellbeing. Dr Sally Blackwood invites three leaders in mental health to discuss their experiences, programs and strategies in combating mental ill health and disconnect in communities, alongside sharing stories of wellbeing and thriving. Please join us in conversation with a diverse panel of leaders with unique ways of reaching out to individuals, reconnecting communities and providing spaces for social cohesion.
Facilitator: Dr Sally Blackwood; Panellists: Cerisa Benjamin, Aimee Davies, Stuart O’Neill
Wednesday 14 June 2023

Keeping the Arts on the [Budget] Agenda [The Country Air]
How do we keep arts and culture on everyone’s agenda? In response to the Federal Budget 2023 announcement, Dr Sally Blackwood asks arts and cultural leaders how to ensure participation in arts and culture maintains its place in the hearts, minds and wallets of all Australians. In the wake of continuing rate rises and the unsustainable cost of living, how do we keep the arts on the national and personal agenda, especially in regional NSW?
Facilitator: Dr Sally Blackwood; Panellists: Monica Davidson, Naomi Moran, Ros Abercrombie
Wednesday 17 May 2023

Gender, Sexuality and the Arts in Regional NSW [The Country Air]
To coincide with Sydney World Pride, The Country Air 2023, hosted by Dr Sally Blackwood, kicks off with a timely discussion on Gender, Sexuality and the Arts in Regional NSW
Facilitator: Dr Sally Blackwood; Panellists: Cadance Bell, Will Miller and Brett Boulton, Gavin Prendergast
Friday 10 February 2023

Working on Country [The Country Air]
Living and working on Country is at the core of what we do and who we are. How do First Nations protocols guide and shape creative practice and help us to ensure we work collaboratively and respectfully on Country?
Facilitator: Dr Sally Blackwood; Panellists: Tasha James, Patricia Adjei CF, Aleshia Lonsdale.
Wednesday 16 November 2022

Arts and Cultural Recovery in a Time of Change [The Country Air]
Regional Australia has been at the forefront of coping with natural disasters and the effects of climate change. The arts sector is impacted by these events but also has a role in the recovery of communities. This panel will delve into what this can look like and why the arts needs to be more recognised for its part in being prepared for disaster and assisting communities to recover.
Facilitator: Dr Sally Blackwood; Panellists: Scotia Monkivitch, Jane Fuller, Sandy McNaughton.
Wednesday 19 October 2022

The Role of Service Organisations in the Arts Ecology [The Country Air]
Service organisations rarely produce any arts product, so what is their value? What is their place in the arts ecology? Should they be competing with producing companies for precious arts funding dollars and what do they do to strengthen the arts sector?
Facilitator: Dr Sally Blackwood; Panellists: Brett Adlington; Margie Breen; Andrew Gray.
Wednesday 7 September 2022

National Cultural Policy [The Country Air]
Regional arts leaders discuss the formation of a National Cultural Policy. Join the panel to discuss the key priorities for the arts and cultural sector in regional Australia and how the National Cultural Policy might address them.
Facilitator: Dr Sally Blackwood; Panellists: Djon Mundine OAM; Dr Lindy Hume AM; Vic McEwan; Dr Tracey Callinan.
Wednesday 3 August 2022

Dr Sally Blackwood interview, Behind The Scenes with Chris Thompson
Listen here. (start: 36min20sec in)
20 June 2022


Panel Speaker Guildhouse ‘Tools for Advocacy’ Panel
Commissioned by Guildhouse to deliver a presentation as part of the information session ‘Tools for Advocacy’ for the 2021 Guildhouse reVision Winter Speaker Series Program.
Presenters: Esther Anatolitis, Kelli McCluskey, Makeda Duong and Sally Blackwood
Watch Panel Here
3 June 2021

Artist Mentor and Guest Facilitator, BREC Artist Retreat 2021
Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre (BREC) Western Australia
May 2021

Arts Sector Consultation Participant
re-imagine: What Next? Australia Council
September 2020

Guest Presenter & Discussion Facilitator, Advocacy in the Arts
A discussion on strategy, collaboration, process and facilitation.
Australia Council Leaders Program 2019-2020
February 2020

Key instigator, leader and facilitator
Gender Equity and Diversity in Opera Summit
Australia Council, Australian Music Centre and APRA AMCOS.
This Summit was an opportunity for deeper discussion of the issues and challenges, and included participants from other sectors where positive shifts had taken place more recently. Moderated by Professor Julianne Schultz AM FAHA, there were 29 participants including composers, singers, producers, and administrators representing a wide range of expertise and organisations from across the country. It was acknowledged throughout the day that many other people, including those active in the discourse were keen to participate in the Summit, but a focused day of discussion was required to establish the best structures for moving forward.
Call-to-action: Opera and the Doing of women
Limelight in-depth Shifting the Opera Gaze
Summary of discussions
Opera Summit: Decolonising the High Arts, part A by Sonya Holowell
Opera Summit: Decolonising the High Arts, Part B by Sonya Holowell
Gender Equity and Diversity in Opera Summit: the listener’s account by Harriet Cunningham
Monday 2 December 2019

Writer/Thinker in Residence. HI-VIZ Practice Exchange 2019
Chamber Made at The Substation Newport Melbourne
Published reflection Hi-Viz leads by example — with generosity, openness and inclusivity.
2-3 September 2019

Panel facilitator and ArtsNW Board delegate ARTSTATE Tamworth
Panel: Weathering Change – the evolving landscape for independent artists
With much of the discourse concerning regional performing arts focussed on venues and organisations, what is the experience and role of the independent artists in our communities? How do they navigate continual changing arts policies yet maintain their careers and practice? Adam Deusien Artistic Director Lingua Franca; Sophie Jones Musician, Smith and Jones; Vic McEwan Artistic Director The CAD Factory.
31 October – 3 November 2019

Panel Speaker Indy Theatre Forum Tamworth
Critical Stages and Theatre Network NSW
Panel included Adam Deusien Artistic Director Lingua Franca; Caroline Dunphy Co-Artistic Director Belloo Creative; and Host Chris Bendall Critical Stages Touring. Listen here.
Thursday 31 October 2019

Host & Panel Facilitator, Diversity in Australian Literature
Scone Literary Festival
Saturday 10 November 2018