It’s spring, and time to harvest some sorely needed funds at Sydney’s Old Fitzroy Hotel 60-seat theatre in Woolloomooloo. Paul Capsis reads a poetic letter from the depths of Oscar Wilde’s despair. Heather Mitchell draws from Virginia Woolf’s landmark feminist polemic about having a room of one’s own.

Chamberlain Love Love / Chamberlain. Photo © Pier Carthew

This series of solo performances is raising money for Red Line Productions, which has relied on philanthropy and donations as well as box office revenue since taking over the theatre as resident company in 2014. It’s a microcosm of the innovation smaller theatre and music companies need to embrace to survive.

Ongoing government funding is needed for Red Line, a vital generator of new works and talent development in the Sydney theatre ecology. Operating with a skeletal staff of four, Red Line must come up with about $333,000 a year just to run the space, says Artistic Director Andrew Henry, including rent, overheads, printing, theatrical licensing, building sets and making costumes.

Project funding from federal, state and local government is too limited, he says. Rather, core operational funding is required. “It’s very hard to find funding for the...