Assembly of Elephants: Building a Website & Online Membership Store for a Theatre Company

Services provided

  • Discovery
  • Website Design
  • Website Development

Solution technology

WordPress & Memberpress

Engagement length

3 months

Client Background

Founded in 2018, Assembly of Elephants is an award-winning Brisbane-based theatre production company, led by playwright and producer, Elaine Acworth. Elaine has worked over the last 30 years as playwright, researcher, theatre producer, teacher and mentor. She has written award-winning, critically and popularly acclaimed plays, produced these, taught in both specialist workshops and class environments at secondary and tertiary levels, and mentored emerging playwrights.

Most recently, Elaine adapted, produced and filmed her AWGIE-nominated podcast series, My Father’s Wars, to offer high-quality filmed live theatre to schools that struggle to attend performances. This adaption won the ‘Stage – Adapted’ category at The 55th Annual AWGIE Awards, recognising the vivid, funny and sometimes shocking story loosely based on her personal experiences having ‘lost’ a father to war.


With the possible exception of hospitality, few industries felt the full force of Covid on their bottom line like the performing arts sector. Hundreds of thousands of arts workers experienced significant negative impacts to their livelihoods, with one survey undertaken in the early days of the pandemic estimating lost revenue at more than $335 million.

Twelve months later, with many venues still closed and Brisbane residents entering lockdown for the third time, the Brisbane-based Assembly of Elephants independent theatre company – like many other performing arts organisations – began contemplating leaning into the idea of creating and marketing more digital work. They had already enjoyed some success with the State Library of Queensland funded AWGIE nominated digital audio drama (podcast) My Father’s Wars back in 2018. But even though they were successful in getting funding to create a new work, they didn’t have access to the $20,000 required to build a digital platform to host, market and sell it.

At Codex, we measure our success by the impact we have on our people, our clients and the wider community. We understand the value of a strong online presence, and believe that regardless of your organisation size or budget, you should have access to tools and technology that set you up for sustainable, long-term success. That’s why each year, we undertake a pro bono project (‘for the public good’) and provide our skills, expertise and experience to a non-profit, social enterprise or small business that is making a positive impact on their surrounding community.

Our 2022 pro bono recipient, Assembly of Elephants, approached Codex seeking a digital solution that allowed the company to generate much needed, passive revenue from their existing creative product.

Phase 1: Discovery

Like every Codex project, it began with a lightweight Discovery to truly understand the problem. The current Assembly of Elephants website was built on Squarespace that, while a pleasant enough user experience for its audience, didn’t adequately suit their more ambitious content creation and distribution needs.

During Discovery, it was identified that Assembly of Elephants needed a more customisable, robust platform that allowed them to:

Easily, add, remove and update content spanning across three categories - Read (scripts), Watch (performance recordings), and Listen (podcast episodes).
Restrict digital content behind a paywall (e.g. play scripts, performance recordings, and classroom materials).
Sell memberships to customers that had varying tiers (e.g. Full Package, Immersion Package, Education Package) based on customer needs and budget.
Sell memberships to customers that were either lifetime or limited (e.g. rent for 30 or 60 days).
Sell individual digital products or, multiple at a discounted rate.
Prevent unlicensed copying and sharing of materials and download links.
Accept multiple payment methods, including PayPal, Bank Transfer and coupon codes.

Based on these requirements, the Codex Digital team ran a fast and effective platform comparison, which aimed to find a platform or collection of platforms that addressed these features.

An important criterion for the solution was minimising the ongoing maintenance costs and subscription fees. With this in mind, our proposed solution was to migrate the website over to WordPress, and leverage membership payment and asset delivery plugins.

Phase 2 & 3: Design & Development

Moving quickly, the Design phase began with a series of consultation sessions with the Assembly of Elephants team. Whilst they liked the look of their previous website, they felt that it didn’t encapsulate the unforgettable image and bold personality of ‘the elephant’.

Inspired by the Bill Murray quote, “People always say, ‘Elephants never forget’. What they don’t tell you is that you never forget an elephant.” we set out to emphasise and uplift the Assembly of Elephants brand, without overpowering the website with elephant imagery.

The end result was an exploded version of the Assembly of Elephants logo, with elements of the elephant symbol carefully placed across hero images, the footer, and personal profiles.

Although the website isn’t large, it was built with scalability in mind. The responsive and lightweight frontend is supported by a combination of plugins, intelligent WordPress logic and custom PHP code. Pages such as ‘Read’, ‘Watch’ and ‘Listen’ dynamically display resource content which can easily be added, updated and removed by the Assembly of Elephants team without complex technical ability or the need to update the same information in multiple areas on the website.

The resource content (for example, the My Father’s Wars learning materials), is powered primarily by Memberpress, with some additional plugins and customisations to suit Assembly of Elephants’ needs. Various packages can be setup and customised, allowing the team to determine what content is involved in each package, how much the package costs, and whether it’s a lifetime offer or limited rental. A smart setup ensures that content can’t be distributed or downloaded by purchasers without the necessary licenses.

A customised cart page was also built to facilitate individual product purchases (e.g. a single script), without the major overheads of large, overpowered eCommerce platforms.


The result for Assembly of Elephants was not only a modernised, scalable website which better encompasses their brand, but a digital platform that provides the company with an additional source of revenue.

Within days of the new website launching, orders began to come through, with teachers purchasing packages for their classrooms.

The Memberpress portal allows the Assembly of Elephants team to monitor their sales, track their revenue and communicate with their customers.

This pro bono website redesign project proved how important a fit-for-purpose, usable and scalable website is for businesses of all sizes. Regardless of whether you’re a large enterprise, or a small independent theatre company, you can leverage your digital presence to increase your revenue. This model should be used as a blueprint for other theatre producers internationally, who no doubt also struggled during and post the COVID industry shakeup.

Elaine Acworth

Founder, Playwright and Producer

Assembly of Elephants

Like many colleagues in the performing arts industries (and others), Assembly of Elephants was hit hard by COVID: we lost work but losing the ability to pay people, that was harder still. So, we developed paired goals: to find a way to deliver a ‘live performance’ experience to COVID-isolating and geographically isolated (schools) audiences that would offer some kind of small but regular income (royalties) to the actors and creative team who made the production.

The only answer was a digital platform – but we had no funding.

Brisbane-based digital consultancy Codex Consulting rescued us. They took on the problem pro bono. We had a product, we thought we had a market, but we needed a delivery method – a way to market, sell and distribute the full digital capture and related materials. Codex created a full-service digital platform that answered all of these needs and folded it into the Assembly of Elephants website. The site is elegant, stream-lined; it speaks to the kind of work we make and the sense of joy we think live performance brings. It has been made with great care, thoughtful consideration and meticulous attention to detail.

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