By Kerrie Pacholli @ pationpics.com
Alex’s story, the connection to St Kilda.
In the early sixties Aleksandar Vass lived in St Kilda on Robe Street near the corner of Grey Street in the terrace houses on the left. It was 1966 and Australia had just adopted the decimal system, he recalls that his dad and mum gave me a couple of pennies to change into cents at the Milk Bar across the road and amazingly that Milk Bar is still there today. Not long after, the family moved to the Esplanade where he has distinct memories of the pony rides across the road in Catani Gardens. After 50 years they are still there too. That’s St Kilda for you.
In years to come he was fortunate enough to study at the National Theatre Drama School, perform on its stage and produce shows there.
In the early eighties he opened his first acting agency in Fitzroy Street before moving to Acland Street. The agency stretched from Sydney to Perth with over 400 actors on the books. He was invited to join the Agents Association and was soon to be made Vice President then President. He sold his agency in 1986.
It’s only years later in 2014 that Aleks, Susan, his wife of 16 years and their two daughters Madeline 7 and Georgia 6, made their way back to St Kilda. He purchased the old George Cinemas in Fitzroy Street and transformed them into the Alex Theatres.
,,,’Our vision is to create an off Broadway Theatre Complex where producers, performers, actors and creatives can work in theatre and film; and to create innovative, inspirational and affordable theatre. To teach young producers, creatives and performers the art and more importantly the business of show business, when you understand this, you have a chance to survive’…
As a performer, he was fortunate enough to work extensively as an actor in every major television series including Cop Shop, Division 4, Sullivan’s, Prisoner, Neighbours, Holliday Island, Skyways to name a few, but his passion was for the theatre. Performingboth non-professionally and professionally in over 60 shows.
In time he became a producer with a number of credits including Fiddler on the Roof with Topol, It’s a Dad Thing, Amadeus, Hair, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers to name a few and more recently, Bad Jews, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown , Around the World in Eighty Days, Sexercise the Musical and currently in production we have Hand to God, Bent, Agnes of God, A Bronx Tale Starring Chaz Palminteri, Significant Other, Shirley Valentine, plus in theatre and film, the feature The Wolf Of Roztov.
The Vass Theatre group was formed to produce affordable theatre with high production values in boutique venues. It was originally formed in the early 2000’s in London and on returning to Australia head office was moved to Melbourne. On this journey, in looking for venues to stage shows, he found he couldn’t find a venue that was economical with all the facilities. Hence the Alex Theatre was born.
….’Our goal was to produce our own shows and create an Off Broadway Arts Hub in St Kilda. Susan and I had also decided to support talent in the arts on all levels hence we give grants away and over 30% of our theatre time away to up and coming producers, actors, and creatives. We hope the Alex operates like Off Broadway theatres where shows are born then moved on to the bigger theatres’…
The Vass Theatre Group incorporates a number of divisions, including the Alex Theatres, the Alex Speigel Zelt (The oldest Spiegel tent in the world) and the Alex Food Emporiums.
The Food Emporiums are a new division, which include the recently purchased Phamish and Tree House restaurants in St Kilda and Balaclava. Both restaurants are currently in operation but will be refurbished over the next three months. Their next new foray into food is the Alex Food Emporium Organic and Health Food Supermarkets. They have recently purchased one of the stores below the Alex Complex and in mid April the first organic health food store will open.,,, ‘We will be franchising these supermarkets with a twist’,,,
…”As for the Alex Theatre and its impact on Fitzroy Street, I can honestly say we have gentrified what we call the Paris end of Fitzroy Street. We thought we would be lucky to have around 10,000 patrons in the first year we hit just over 30,000. Last year we had over 50,000 patrons at the Alex. This year already looks like it will blitz the previous year.
…As for our aspirations, my partner Susan and I love St Kilda. We feel it will again be the place where people flock, be they tourists or locals. We have made a long-term financial and heartfelt commitment to St Kilda and will continue to invest and grow in the area. We envisage a boutique hotel on the horizon.
…And as for our other business interests, they encompass one of the largest independent glass manufacturing companies in Australia and a new Waste To Energy plant business.
…Our brand Glasskote is represented in over 60 countries and until 2011, I was the CEO of operations based in London’…