Simon Abrahams is recognised as one of Australia's arts and cultural leaders, and is currently Creative Director & CEO of Melbourne Fringe. Simon is a life member of Theatre Network Australia, an organisation he co-founded then Chaired from 2010-2017. He is an arts advocate, programmer, creative producer, performer and cultural consultant.
Simon currently sits on the Theatre Panel for the Helpmann Awards and the Victorian Government's Ministerial Council for Volunteering, and is an Australian ISPA Fellow (2017-19). He is a popular facilitator, guest speaker, peer assessor and arts consultant, with clients including Back to Back Theatre, Abbotsford Convent, Barking Gecko Theatre Company and the VCA.
Since joining Melbourne Fringe in 2015, Simon’s leadership has seen the organisation deliver the largest festivals in its history, reaching over 350 000 people at 450+ events each year. Melbourne Fringe won the 2015 Melbourne Award for Contribution to Melbourne's Profile by a Community Organisation. Simon has commissioned some of the most ambitious creative programs in the organisation’s history, including the Robin Fox laser artwork Sky Light, Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey’s artificially intelligent interactive musical seesaw sculpture Pivot, an international residency by British provocateurs Forest Fringe and the child-led Kids vs Art and The Children’s Party. His leadership has focused on increasing diversity, launching the Indigenous commissioning and producer development program Deadly Fringe and the Compass program for emerging producers who are Deaf or with disability.
In 2013-14, Simon held the position of Head of Programming at the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas, where he conceived, curated and programmed over 250 events annually. He directed The Show Of The Year (with Casey Bennetto), created 20 Questions (with Ian Pidd and Martyn Coutts) and was a regular on-stage host, facilitator, and panellist. He completed a research project with the Australia Council investigating theatre for young people in Belgium, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands in 2014.
Simon is best known for his work as Executive Producer and co-CEO of Polyglot Theatre (2007-12), where he led the organisation’s strategic transformation into an internationally renowned creator of experiential work for children, in partnership with irrepressible Artistic Director Sue Giles. He produced seven major works and 17 international tours to the world’s leading arts centres and festivals, including the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Royal National Theatre in London for LIFT, the National Theatre of Korea, Melbourne Festival, as well as a Chinese language co-production which premiered at the Chinese National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.
Simon has also served at Arts Centre Melbourne, commissioning 18 new works; at Gasworks Arts Park, where his projects included the Art of Difference international conference and arts program; and at the Melbourne University Student Union as Festival Producer of Mudfest, Australia's leading student arts and cultural festival in 2003.
As a performer, Simon has most recently appeared Bron Batten’s The Dad Show (2015-16). In 2012-13, Simon and long-time collaborator Lachlan Macleod created the original comedy cabaret show Saturn Returns, performing a sold out season at The Butterfly Club, touring to the Brisbane Cabaret Festival, performed as support for Tripod and received a string of four star reviews at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. He worked extensively with Melinda Hetzel’s Peepshow Inc (Mysteries of the Convent, The Peepshow of Lost Puppets and Hansel and Gretel), and also performed in Emergency Exits (directed by Adena Jacobs) at the New York International Fringe Festival and A Superhero Story at the Fun4Kids Festival. For Polyglot, he performed in We Built This City across Australia, America, Korea, England, Ireland and Scotland.
Simon was awarded a Margaret Lawrence Bequest Scholarship to attend the Senior Managers' Program at the Melbourne Business School in 2009, and is an alumnus of both the Australia Council for the Arts’ Emerging Leaders' Development Program (2012) and Arts Leaders Program (2016-18), as well as the European Festivals Association’s Atelier for Festival Managers (2016). He also holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Diploma of Arts (Cultural Studies) from Melbourne University, and a Diploma of Creative Arts (Theatre Studies) from the Victorian College of the Arts.
Simon’s work has been awarded with the 2015 Melbourne Award (Melbourne Fringe), 2011 Governor of Victoria Export Award for arts and entertainment (Polyglot), three AbaF Awards, the 2014 CHASS Future Leaders Award, and together with his Polyglot colleague Sue Giles, Simon was named among Arts Hub’s Top Ten Arts Leaders in 2010. Simon was hilariously and inexplicably named as one of Fairfax publication Executive Style’s Best Dressed Men in Australia in 2016.