Board

Gideon Obarzanek
Chair

Gideon is a director, choreographer and performing arts curator. He was recently Artistic Associate with the Melbourne Festival and co-curator for XO State at the inaugural Asia Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts (Asia TOPA).

Gideon founded dance company Chunky Move in 1995 and was CEO and Artistic Director until 2012. His works have been diverse in form and content including stage productions, installations, site-specific works, participatory events and film. These have been performed in many festivals and theatres around the world including Edinburgh International, BAM Next Wave NY, Venice Dance Biennale, Southbank London and all major Australian performing arts festivals.

Gideon’s first experience of Fringe was winning the ‘Best Work Ever Award’ (or was it just dance?) for the group show, ‘Live Acts’ back in 1999!

Nicholas Verginis
Deputy Chair

The first rule of lawyering is You Do Not Talk About Lawyering. And the first rule of working in the government is Do Not Talk About Being a Public Servant. So after over 15 years as a behind-the-scenes government lawyer in Melbourne and the UK, Nicholas is strangely connected to the Third Rule of Fight Club: “Someone yells stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over.” Nicholas is a senior executive in the Department of Justice trying to make the community safer. He is passionate about the oft forgotten human right to artistic expression and creativity. Only through promotion of artistic agency and expression can our society move past historic prejudice, toxic masculinity and inter-generational inequality and realise the transformative, emancipatory power of art. Amen.

Nicholas’s first experience of the Fringe was in 1996 performing in the Union House Theatre production of Daniel Keene’s ‘Because You Are Mine’ about the former Yugoslav town of Mostar descending into civil war – he saw more in 1997.

Juanita Pope
Company Secretary

Juanita is the Director of Not-for-profit Law at Justice Connect. She holds arts and law degrees from the University of Melbourne and has 15 years experience as a lawyer. Juanita has practised at corporate law firm Allens, as a Federal Court associate and registrar, and in academia. Since 2010 she has worked at social justice charity, Justice Connect, helping not-for-profits and charities address their legal issues. In her creative life, Juanita was a founder of theatre company Peepshow Inc, performing in and producing many of its works from 2003 to 2013, and a director of Polyglot Theatre from 2004 to 2007.

Juanita’s first experience of the Fringe was seeing a show at the one and only La Mama Theatre while studying at Melbourne Uni. She was so entranced by the magic of it, the mugs of wine and the fun times, she resolved to do a Fringe show herself one day. (She did. And she might again.)

Liza Gelt
Treasurer

Liza is Melbourne Fringe’s treasurer and loves watching the evolution of Melbourne Fringe from year to year. By day, Liza is a management consultant at Cube Group and leads their Emergency Management practice. She enjoys working in complex stakeholders environments across all tiers of the emergency management sector. In her life outside Fringe and Cube, Liza can be found camping with family and friends and enjoying long walks on the beach.

Liza’s first experience of Fringe involved seeing as many Fringe shows as possible in one festival. That was nearly 10 years’ ago now.

Michael Hyde
Director

Michael is the Head of Strategy at leading independent advertising and media agency – Cummins & Partners.

Michael works with organisations, governments and NGO’s to help them bring their ambitions to the world. Essentially bringing simplicity of thought to complex commercial and marketing problems. Michael brings this marketing and communications skillset to the Melbourne Fringe board.

Michael believes in the power of ideas and creativity. He’s passionate about inclusivity, diversity, social outcomes and citizenship. And most importantly, ensuring his two daughters grow up good people filled with wonder, in an awesome world of possibilities.

Stephanie Hamilton
Director

Stephanie is an accomplished leader with over 15 years’ experience working across commercial, business development and project management roles in both Melbourne and London. By nature she is a collaborator who thrives making meaningful connections in business and industry, and thus has spent some years working in development and sponsorship roles in the arts and events, most recently as Head of Development at Melbourne Festival. Stephanie loves to travel to experience all things food, art, music and culture. And she is channelling some of these passions as the Visitor Economy Manager at the City of Melbourne, responsible for ensuring Melbourne’s status as a world class destination for visitation.

Stephanie’s first Fringe experience was some many many years ago in the early 2000s at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It cemented her love for the provocative!

Ben Lee
Director

Having made a career change at the ripe old age of 27, Ben hasn’t looked back after he flung himself at a life in the arts in Melbourne. He cut his teeth at Heide Museum of Modern Art where he did everything from counting left over wine bottles after an opening to negotiating with major sponsors for an exhibition, before moving to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra where he experienced his most hair-raising moment in his life by speaking in Mandarin (he doesn’t speak Mandarin) to a room full of Chinese Government dignitaries. He peeked behind the curtain of tertiary education working at the University of Melbourne before returning to the warm bosom of the arts at ACMI. He is now Patrons Manager at the Australian Ballet.

Ben’s first experience of Fringe was performing back up with Anna Go-Go at a Fringe Club 90s party and continues to embarrass himself in public by singing live as often as he can.

Nicky Klempfner
Director

Nicky is a lifelong arts enthusiast and has managed to pursue this passion professionally through a host of roles. Starting out as a film researcher and book editor, she then produced literary events and awards, and managed large-scale arts marketing and audience research programs.

In 2016, she set up NAK communications, which specialises in marketing and communications for the arts and not-for-profit organisations.

When not attending arts events, reading or working she can be found down on the farm or with friends and family. She is the chair of Fringe’s marketing sub-committee.

Nicky’s first experience of Fringe was a program launch featuring a host of local talent including a memorable performance by Paul Capsis.

Kirsty Ellem
Director

Kirsty founded Artistic Merit in 2007 and has significant experience in the arts and government sectors.

She was inaugural manager of the Esso BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Centre and has led the Monash University Academy of Performing Arts. She was awarded an Asialink Arts Management Residency to Indonesia and continues to work closely with Indonesian partners. Kirsty has worked for Arts Victoria, The Monash University Academy of Performing Arts and The Arts Centre amongst others and has been a board member and Chair of Polyglot Theatre, Astra, Gippsland Regional Arts Sale. She is a fellow of the Gippsland Community Leadership Program.

Board Observers Chris Booton & Simon Tucker
Fundraising & Advocacy Advisor Maggie Maguire OAM