The Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music is about to undergo a name change that emphasises its world-class degree structure.
By Professor Barry Conyngham, Dean of the Faculty of VCA & MCM
As of 1 January 2018, the Faculty of VCA & MCM will be renamed the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music.
Following approval by the University Council yesterday, the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music will be renamed the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music – a change that takes effect on 1 January 2018.
Our two schools within the Faculty – the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (the Conservatorium) – will continue to exist and be promoted widely, but will be joined together by a new discipline-based name.
This represents a shift to the naming model used by other faculties within the University, and showcases our globally-recognised undergraduate degree names: the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and the Bachelor of Music (BMus). The essential structure and philosophy of our programs will not be affected by this development.
But it does signal an exciting time, as we centralise all the degree programs of the VCA and the Conservatorium at our Southbank Campus in the heart of the Melbourne Arts Precinct. Over the next 18 months, as part of a major regeneration and capital works project in the region of $200 million, most of our staff will be based at Southbank. Research and Breadth programs will continue to thrive and expand at the Parkville Campus, centred on the old Conservatorium and Melba Hall.
The name change follows a period of consultation which began in May and has included the University of Melbourne’s Chancellery Executive, Faculty Advisory Board, Faculty Executive, staff, student representatives, partners and national and international alumni.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your past support of the Faculty, and invite you to share in its future as it continues to build on its longstanding contribution to excellence and achievement in practical arts education in the research and intellectual context of a great University.
May I wish you the very best for the festive season, and here’s to a new year with a new name!
With warmest regards,
Professor Barry Conyngham
Dean of the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music
Banner image: Drew Echberg, 2017.
Linda Barcan brings years of experience as a professional mezzo-soprano and language-lover to her work as a Lecturer in Voice at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. One of her top pieces of advice for those following a creative path? Keep an open mind.
By Paul Dalgarno
Can you tell us a little about your teaching for Voice at the Conservatorium?
My role as Lecturer in Music (Voice) at the MCM primarily involves one-to-one vocal tuition, teaching singing to our Bachelor of Music, Honours and Masters students. It must be one of the most fulfilling jobs possible. There's nothing quite like the sense of achievement in watching a student leave your studio singing and feeling better than they did when they came in.
I also examine recitals and technical exams, teach vocal class and help with the vocal area productions. That's when I get to experience the joy of witnessing all the student's hard work coming to fruition in performance.
What was your route to becoming a mezzo-soprano? At what stage did it feel like a viable vocation for you?
My performance career was one that evolved rather than being planned. I was always singing from a very young age. I came from a family of teachers, not performers, but we were music-lovers and there was a lot of music at home.
I was inspired by musicals initially, and later by records that I bought with my pocket money. They were mostly recordings of opera excerpts, hardly normal teenager fare, though I did also buy ABBA’s Arrival.
At university I studied languages before I turned to music. I love words and languages, and that love has stood me in good stead. The singer of Western Classical art music has to sing fluently in at least three languages other than English: Italian, German and French, as well as, ideally, Spanish, Russian and Czech. Coaching languages is one of my favourite aspects of teaching voice.
I don’t think classical singing ever felt like a viable vocation – it felt more like an adventurous one. It wasn’t until I was well into my teaching career that I realised I'd earned a living singing full-time for ten years, and part-time and casually for 15 years. I was very lucky to have those opportunities in what is an inherently insecure profession.
And what about teaching voice – when did that enter the picture?
I feel very fortunate to have taught in a variety of environments in the past 15 years, from performing arts secondary schools to an active private studio to elite tertiary institutions. I have taught pupils aged eight to 80, and am always learning myself. It’s most definitely a two-way street.
Have you had any mentors or teachers who have had a particularly strong effect on you?
I've had a number of mentors in my professional life. Every singing teacher and voice coach I chose to consult with for a significant period of time has had an impact on me. Mentors I can name are my current colleagues at the MCM, Stephen Grant and Anna Connolly, and my former boss at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Patricia Price.
Singing teachers who have influenced me are Glenn Winslade (Sydney); Rowena Cowley (Sydney); Hartmut Singer (Cologne, Germany) and Evelyne Brunner (Lyon, France). Coaches who have had an enduring effect include David Harper (London, UK) and Graham Johnson (London, UK). I have also learned a great deal from observing my performing and teaching colleagues.
How did working and training in France and Germany inform your practice?
The greatest advantage of living and working in France and Germany as a young adult was the exposure to a wide variety of musical activities presented by performers from many nations at an elite level. I worked alongside singers such as Katia Ricciarelli, Sylvia McNair, Susan Graham and more, and had the opportunity to observe international artists such as Renee Fleming, Felicity Lott and Jose Van Dam in performance. Getting to use the languages I had studied at university in context was also a real buzz.
You have an affinity for 20th and 21st-century opera. What is it about operas from that time period that appeal to you? From a vocalist’s perspective, how do they differ from the older, classic operas?
What I love about contemporary operas is that they engage in boundary-crossing and in challenging notions of genre. I’m thinking of works such as Deborah Cheetham’s Pecan Summer or Kate Miller-Heidke’s The Rabbits, for example. It is also a bonus that, in the case of 21st century opera, the composers are living, providing the opportunity to speak with them directly about their intentions.
This happened frequently with Deborah during the creation of Pecan Summer. I was a cast-member of this groundbreaking Indigenous opera, playing the role of a local busybody and troublemaker by the name of Mrs Harrison. When I was a lecturer in Voice at WAAPA we produced Little Women and were able to set up a phone conference between composer Mark Adamo and the cast and crew, which made it feel very real.
Is there a tension between teaching and performing for you? Does one inform the other?
I'm always learning both as a performer and a teacher, so for me performance and teaching most definitely inform each other. Both encourage us to ask ourselves questions, which keeps the work alive. The only downside is that both vocal performance and singing teaching place demands on the voice, which may or may not be complementary, depending on the load. It can be difficult to balance the two activities, and vocal fatigue can be an issue.
The singers you work with at the Conservatorium are of a certain age and stage in their development and have no doubt developed lots of styles and habits in their practice long before working with you. What are the pros and cons of this?
The pros are that they are young, fresh and elastic. In particular, one of the benefits of the Melbourne Model is that our students tend to be more broad-minded. They are trained to think for themselves and to approach learning in different ways.
The disadvantage of teaching young people can be that we often deal with sophisticated song and opera texts that require a certain amount of maturity and assume some life-learning. I suspect it's true, as many acting coaches believe, that we have experienced every shade of human emotion by the age of three, but tapping into those can be tricky.
Also, in contemporary culture and society we are no longer surrounded by the sound and heightened emotion of Classical singing, so conveying those to a student can also be problematic. YouTube and Spotify are modern tools that can help, but nothing beats the acoustical energy of live sound.
Do you get stage fright? If so, how do you combat it? And is this something you have to help students with?
Everybody gets nervous when they perform, and when nerves are optimally harnessed they can add to the energy of performance. But it takes experience and technique to know how to channel nervous energy into a more positive one. Ultimately it’s a question of just getting up and doing it. Getting back on the horse is a part of the learning process – and indeed can really contribute to the excitement of performance.
Can we all learn to do better with our voices (assuming we’re not tone-deaf … or maybe even if we are)?
Absolutely we can! Think about the power of primal sounds that emerge spontaneously from heightened events in our lives. I don’t know that there are any tricks as such, but it's hard to deny the power of breath and emotion. We can circumvent a lot of difficulties using these. Combining this approach with a progressive, technical one is a challenge we all face as teachers and performers. How much of the body is involved in spontaneous primal sound? All of it, I would say. We can learn a lot from watching babies and animals, who use their whole bodies to communicate.
Is there a particular piece of advice that has held you in good stead throughout your career?
I have several pieces of advice that I give to my students, and to myself: play to your strengths, never stop learning, and always keep an open mind. A closed mind is certain death to creativity and imagination, and as artists these are our tools-of-trade.
Banner image: Linda Barcan in Opera on the Beach. Sutherland Shire Council. Image supplied.
Dr Miriama Young writes music for film, dance, radio, live electronics and fixed media, voices and instruments, and lectures in Composition at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. Get to know her here.
My great joy in music is encounters with works that convey a sense of the sublime – whether that be in Beethoven or Björk, integrating new forms of technology, or through a simple but exquisite vocal melody. In my own music, that singular search for the sublime is a preoccupation.
Since February 2016, when I joined the Conservatorium, my main teaching roles have been in composition, electro-acoustic music, and harmony and counterpoint for Music Language I. In the electro-acoustic music course, rather than borrowing pre-existing recordings from the web or using musical instruments in traditional ways, we explore sound for its own sake, transforming and manipulating original material to create something unique.
As a teacher, I try not to let my own subjective tastes in music influence my opinions of students’ work. Composers all present with a wonderful range of aesthetic approaches, and I try to nurture that. I want to help students facilitate their own personal language as composers.
I was actively engaged with music from age five, much to my parents’ surprise. That said, my mother is a visual artist and my dad is a writer, so I don't think I was ever destined to be a scientist.
As a child growing up in New Zealand, I was lucky to have inspirational teachers – including Alison Dalmer, an amazing singer with original ideas about sound. An early musical memory was when she opened up the upright piano and let us pluck the strings inside – those experiences of sound are formative. It was she who encouraged me to audition for the Wellington Cathedral Choir, which formed the core of my musical training, under the inspired guidance of music director, the late Peter Godfrey. Peter was trained in the British Anglican choral tradition, so we were steeped in Byrd, Purcell, Handel, and Mozart.
My composing grew out of a curiosity about sound and how notes and textures can be combined to create magical new forms of expression. After clarinet lessons as a child, from my mid-teens I graduated to jazz saxophone among other things – singing, playing piano … But after a background in performing, at some point I realised I preferred the solitary act of dreaming up new sounds and crafting sonic structures.
As a young woman, I was torn between music and prose. I completed a double Honours degree in Music Composition, History and Literature at Victoria University of Wellington, and my love for both music and prose now manifests in my dual existence as a composer and scholar.
As an undergrad I created a couple of pieces that conveyed something quite personal and poignant for me. One – Speak Volumes – combined cassette recordings I’d made of my voice for a make-believe radio show when I was eight, with recordings of my adult voice, and I created an electro-acoustic piece around that. The piece went on to have quite a long and successful life and that was a real turning point for me.
When I finished my degree in 1999, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, and found myself heading to the USA – first to New York and then to Princeton for my PhD in music composition. As well as writing music for professional ensembles and voices in the greater New York area – everything from So Percussion to New Jersey Symphony to Now Ensemble, I wrote an extended thesis which eventually formed the basis of my 2015 book Singing the Body Electric: The Human Voice and Sound Technology. My musical experiences in the States were inspirational and formative, and the lessons learned prevail in my approaches to composition now.
I like the process of composition because it combines my very technical, rational side with an esoteric, dreamy side. I usually have a pretty clear concept of what I want, the kind of instrumentation, the structure, the constraints and the kinds of sonic qualities I'm going for – after which I'll go into a more liminal place and take it from there.
Currently I’m interested in ubiquitous sound machines – by this I mean using mobile devices or smartphones as musical instruments. A piece toured with Chamber Music New Zealand in 2017 was The Grey Ghost for piano and electronics, with the electronic soundtrack being played through an App on the audience’s smartphones during the concert. The soundtrack was based on the sounds of the forest in New Zealand and a bird – presumed extinct – called the South Island Kōkako.
In 2010 I worked with Scottish Opera as part of a series called 5:15, for which they paired a composer with a librettist to write a 15-minute opera, entitled Zen Story. It was amazing to collaborate with such wonderful musicians, producers, costume and set designers, and to see the whole production come to life upon the stage in the major cities of Scotland.
A significant piece for me, in terms of shaping my compositional trajectory, was Titlipur, a collaboration with a dancer in New York, which used hand-built sensors attached to her body to create interactive music, meaning she created the music with her movement in real time. That was in 2003, when that concept was really new, and some of the work I'm doing now is still building off of that research – trying to integrate technology with our experience of sound and music in ways that are seamless. I'm really interested in that idea – how our physical bodies engage with a performance.
After my PhD I took up a lectureship at Aberdeen University. I have a lot of Scottish ancestry, so there was a personal connection I was really curious about. Scotland proved to be quite a contrast to the New York scene. Still, I taught there for five years and it was a good place to be while I was establishing my teaching and research.
I love living and working in Melbourne. There’s plenty of music, arts and cultural events happening all the time. It's also got that really liveable aspect, where I can sustain a creative life and still go back to New Zealand easily to see my extended family.
I find teaching really energising. Students often come to lessons with new artists or composers that they’re excited by. I think that's the true virtue of teaching in the university setting – yes, you're giving, but students bring lots of great ideas to the table, too.
A lot of my scholarly work centres on the layers of mediation that go on before we hear a recorded voice, and I’m also interested in the way that’s changing voice production. I don't think Björk would have had such a successful career if headphones hadn't been invented – the kind of whispering aesthetic she pioneered is now huge.
My musical tastes are very eclectic and maybe that's partly because I have young children. If you look at my Spotify playlist you’ll see Bach, Tristan Perich, György Kurtág, Laura Marling … and then the Trolls soundtrack, which my children demand gets played 50 times in a row, and then, for a calming contrast, some Palestrina.
-- As told to Paul Dalgarno
Five Victorian College of the Arts alumni were among the winners of the 7th Annual AACTA Awards, which were presented at an awards ceremony in Sydney on Wednesday 6 December.
Oscar-nominated alumnus filmmaker Bentley Dean and his filmmaking partner Martin Butler were announced as this year's recipients of the Byron Kennedy Award for outstanding creative enterprise within the film and television industries. Their 2017 film Tanna received Australia's first and only nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.
First given in 1984, the award honours Dr George Miller’s original filmmaking partner and Mad Max co-creator Byron Kennedy and includes a cash prize of $10,000. Previous winners include Baz Luhrmann, Jane Campion and Jill Billcock.
“Martin and Bentley are exemplary recipients of the Byron Kennedy Award,” said Dr Miller. “Their integrity shines through all their endeavours. Because of this, they are held in the highest regard by their collaborators and audiences all over the world.”
Top of the Lake: China Girl, co-directed by Film and Television alumnus Ariel Kleiman (with Jane Campion), swept the television categories, picking up four awards including Best Television Drama Series.
Kitty Green (Bachelor of Film and Television, 2007) took out the Best Feature Documentary category for her Netflix documentary Casting JonBenet about the infamous murder of child beauty pageant queen JonBenet Ramsey.
Glendyn Ivin (Graduate Diploma in Film and Television, 1998) won Best Direction in a Television Drama or Comedy for ABC's Seven Types of Ambiguity, which won five of the seven categories it was nominated in.
Zahra Newman (Bachelor of Dramatic Art, 2008) won the Subscription Television Award for Best New Talent category. She appears as Iman Farah in Foxtel's television series Wentworth, and also stars as Nabulangi in the original Australian production of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's award-winning musical The Book of Mormon.
Head of VCA Film and Television Nicolette Freeman said: "We're both proud and delighted to hear of our graduates being acknowledgement by the Academy for their creativity and contribution to screen culture and wider societal conversations."
The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards are a continuum of the AFI Awards, which have honoured screen excellence in Australia since 1958. Visit the AACTA Awards website for more of this year's winners and nominees.
Join us at ACMI for the 49th Annual Film and Television Graduate Screenings, from 8–17 December.
Learn more about studying Film and Television at the Victorian College of the Arts.
Sign up for the Faculty's free monthly enews.
Banner image: Still from Ariel Kleiman's graduating VCA film Deeper than Yesterday (2010).
As the Victorian College of the Arts' Production Graduate Exhibition nears, lecturer Anna Cordingley and BFA graduating students sum up some winning moments from the year.
By Anna Cordingley, Lecturer in Design (Live Performance) at the Victorian College of the Arts
The Victorian College of the Arts' Production Graduate Exhibition (21–23 November, 2017) celebrates the dedication, development and many achievements of our final year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Production), Master of Design for Performance and Master of Production Design for Screen students. In the following short pieces, students from a selection of our specialisations elaborate on the major projects and opportunities experienced at the VCA.
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Production) – Design Realisation
Here, graduating BFA students Natalie Gillis, Pia Guilliatt and Juliette Whitney discuss their final design submissions, a culmination of three years of set, costume and property design and construction subjects. Their projects are a response to Leonard Bernstein’s Candide (1973) and/or Tom Wright’s Optimism (2009).
Natalie Gillis: Following Bernstein’s Candide, I have designed and constructed a gown referencing motifs, designs and features from mid-18th-century Parisian trends. Organic motifs and patterns, common throughout the Rococo period, are openly explored in this costume, as you'll see in the image below.
The over-sexualisation of the character Cunégonde is echoed throughout this gown. Both in the bold robe à la française, the open overskirt, the general palette and finishing trims, this robe is rife with Yonic symbolism. Silk flowers here represent virtue and virginity: Cunégonde wishes to regain such graces by plastering herself with blossoms.
Pia Guilliatt: Candide is spinning decks while Cunégonde twirls fire and Paquette walks a tightrope high above the churning crowd; everyone is feeling pleasantly fuzzy – but is it optimism or the kick in Pangloss’ punch?
My version of Tom Wright’s Optimism is a colourful world of music, dancing, lights, acrobatics and drama – but don’t forget your rose-tinted glasses, because things are not what they seem. Part warehouse rave, part immersive theatre performance, this is an experience whereby the audience journeys alongside Candide and his friends through the deceptive haze of their own perceptions.
The space is in continual transformation as they adjust to new realities, harsh truths and moral dilemmas. Ultimately, the audience members are the agents responsible for determining the fate of the evening; they may make something beautiful out of its wreckage or fall victim to its decay.
In the spirit of sustainability and recycled art, I have looked at Optimism in the contemporary context of festival culture and the hedonistic escapism that it promotes. I draw on my own experiences in these hyper-stimulated worlds and note the jarring contrast between ecstasy and archaic mess.
Far from being condemning, I hope to offer a pragmatic perspective on the vices of waste and excess, demonstrating that with thoughtful cooperation, creativity and a healthy dose of optimism, we can still create a better world for ourselves.
Juliette Whitney: My Optimism resides in the golden age of the 1950s, a decade of marvellous consumer abundance wherein the "American/Australian dream" is a tangible reality. The Depression years are over and a prosperous epoch of optimism is beginning. Television is a step up from radio and enables a private window to the world.
There is an undeniably sinister aspect: advertisements and broadcasts have become tools for the manipulation of unsuspecting consumers. Political anxieties, curtailed freedoms and "the Red Scare" wreck havoc, while the population lives in the grim shadow of the Cold War. Nevertheless, "the best of all possible worlds" is yet driven by the persistent hope that the future is brighter.
My final design submission is an immersive work responding to Tom Wright’s Optimism; a work that occupies the cellblock of the Old Melbourne Gaol. The audience is escorted throughout the floors and each tiny cell corresponds to the journey of our protagonist.
The design is a dialogue between the jail’s own gruelling history and the suffocating iconography of the 1950s, allowing a forceful investigation of Wright’s fraught characters.
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Production) – Stage Management and Performance Technology
Elizabeth Gallagher, Alysha Watt (Stage Management) and Thomas Lloyd (Performance Technology) discuss their final-year internships, a program providing opportunities to engage directly with the performing arts industry, learn from industry leaders, be involved in the day-to-day of major companies, festivals and events and begin to establish vital career networks.
Elizabeth Gallagher: I interned with Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza for two months, and my second month is when I started really stepping up.
Peter Anastassi (General Stage Manager) tasked me with creating a list of every single movement that happened onstage, and then deciding who was in charge of it, so at the end of the show when the show caller was giving notes they knew exactly who to talk to.
The team was very impressed with my work, which was really rewarding. My favourite acts were the Wheel of Death and the Teeterboard. On my very last day at Cirque the artists brought me on stage for bows and gave me a bouquet and some gifts.
I left Kooza feeling like I was a part of a family, which was amazing.
Alysha Watt: I interned with The Production Company’s Dusty for six weeks. When envisioning my career at a younger age, even before discovering Stage Management as a potential career path, I had wanted to do something that would change daily.
Growing up and moving around in foreign countries, and constantly having to adapt to new environments, taught me the importance of that. I also wanted to experience working on a show in a well-established venue with large audiences.
Throughout the rehearsal process of Dusty, a major asset was being able to take advantage of the Stage Manager Meg Deyell’s brain. She has a wealth of knowledge and encouraged me to ask questions. What she taught me ranged, through anecdotes and elaborate analogies, from how to maintain focus in the rehearsal room to the difference in roles of a first and second assistant director on films.
Some information was directly pertinent to what we were doing; some wasn’t but was valuable nonetheless. Another of Meg’s skills I admired was her ability to remain completely calm in any situation. That kind of flexibility and calmness is something I have attempted to apply to my own work since.
I was able to grow a lot personally and professionally while working on Dusty. I was presented with the opportunity to observe and learn and complete tasks as a real professional Assistant Stage Manager with those around me able to support my learning.
Within Opera Australia I became the personal secondment to the company's Production Manager James Wheeler for the duration of the Melbourne winter and Sydney spring seasons.
My first day involved a scheduled technical hold for King Roger whereby, after the preview, priority was given for lighting fix-ups. It was there, watching the team doing notes, that I learnt my first obvious titbit: that when going through the show with notes, run the scenes in reverse chronological order.
I was lucky enough to join the floor crew of both Carmen and King Roger for three days of the season.
I also sat in on some meetings for future productions, which was illuminating – I hadn't anticipated the degree of planning that went into a production: they were already starting conversations for a show that was slated for the 2021 season.
The educational value my internships had on my professional development was abundant, most critically boosting my confidence with regards to being ready to join the industry.
Banner image: The VCA production of Caucasian Chalk Circle (2017) featuring Acting Company 2017 and Production students. By Jeff Busby.
The Victorian College of the Arts Production Graduate Exhibition takes place at Space 28, Southbank Melbourne, 21–23 November, 2017.
Find out more about the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Production) at the Victorian College of the Arts
Sign up for the Faculty of VCA & MCM’s free monthly enews.
As the cut-off date approaches for next year's Master of Writing for Performance, Dr Raimondo Cortese, course coordinator, shares his insights.
Hi Raimondo, can you tell us a little about the Master in Writing for Performance?
The course is designed as a professional performance writing course. Students are immersed in multiple forms of writing, including for conventional/ main stage or experimental theatre, live art, digital story telling, and improvisation.
Students get to focus on a major end-of-year project, which can comprise any form of performance writing, though in most cases people write for theatre presentation.
We invite numerous established theatre writers to teach into the course, such as Jane Harrison (who is now on staff), Ross Mueller, Jenny Kemp, Melissa Reeves, Richard Murphet, and film maker Jonathan auf der Heide, as well as prominent international guests, such as Mac Wellman and Sibyl Kempson.
Who would this course appeal to?
The course appeals to both industry professionals and those who would call themselves emerging writers, or actors or directors who also want to develop writing skills, as well as those fresh out of university theatre studies or creative writing degrees. We get a mix of advanced and early-stage writers. Our alumni include Ross Mueller, Van Badham, Maude Davey, Morgan Rose, Emilie Collyer, Marie Lourey, and many others.
I’ve read that you need to show a portfolio as part of the application process? What makes a good portfolio?
A portfolio should offer a cross-section of your writing experience. It can be either a sample of different works, or a long sample of the one work. The course is open to all forms of performance writing, so I encourage prospective students to send in writing that best reflects what their interests are. I am personally open to all kinds of writing and am aware that people can often be eclectic in the way they express themselves.
Can you tell us a bit about your own career? How did you end up where you are now?
I began my career working in the independent scene with Ranters Theatre, and have since worked in the main stage while continuing to work in the independent sector, including productions in more than a dozen countries. I also write fiction and for film, and have written two adaptations of Brecht and one of Lorca. I continue to work professionally but designed this course six years ago as I believed there was a strong need to develop a performance wiring course in Melbourne, and that VCA Theatre was the best place to do that.
What’s your teaching style, and that of the course?
I believe it's very important to have the craft of writing taught in a practical studio setting, which is what the Writing for Performance course offers. The teachers have a very relaxed but focused approach, which is designed around the personal vision of each writer who comes into the course.
We teach the multiples ways of structuring theatre/ performance writing, looking at dramatic action, linear and multiple narrative trajectories, post dramatic forms, improvisation techniques, while also being aware that each student will offer a unique writing style that needs to be nurtured.
Most writers tend to overwrite, and so need to develop tools to edit their own material in relation to what an actor will reveal when speaking their lines of dialogue. The other major issue is learning to structure the writing in a way that best reflects what a writer is trying to say.
The professional writers who teach into the course are very open to different forms of writing. We encourage students to explore their own individual styles and forms of writing while developing and refining their dramaturgical and editing skills.
– Interview by Paul Dalgarno
Banner image: from Looking Glass by Louris van der Geer, VCA Master of Writing for Performance graduate. Performed at fortyfive downstairs, August 2017. Photography: Pier Carthew. Directed by Susie Dee, set/costume by Kate Davis, lighting by Amelia Lever-Davidson.
Find out more about the Victorian College of the Arts Master of Writing for Performance 2017 Graduating Season Presentations.
The 2017 season of new plays and performance texts by graduating students from the Master of Writing for Performance, led by playwright and dramaturg Raimondo Cortese, is upon us. The season also presents the work of Directing for Performance and Dramaturgy students, with performances by students from Acting Company 2017. The presentations are as follows:
A Light and a Whistle, by Fiona Stewart.
"Is death the only release from the impact of chronic psychological violence, or is the cathartic effect of shared and witnessed experience enough to release us?"
The Great Emu War, by Declan Furber Gillick.
"This is life. This is death. These are emus. This is war."
Aleppo, by Elias Jamieson Brown.
"It doesn't matter how many times you fly back there or come here or wherever you go. Stop going back."
A Little Bit of Pain Never Hurt Anyone, by Brendan McDougall.
"Two eight-year-olds meet in a sandpit and try to work out how to be mummies and daddies. A love story?"
Scotch and Handsoap, by Kat Moritz.
“Well, I go every night… to the supermarket… the crisper part of my fridge is broken so if I was to go once a week like you, I’d be eating wilted veggies… but mainly I like the connection.”
A Brief Window of Hopefulness at Approximately 10pm, by Holly Brindley.
"It’s good to not have feelings all the time. That’s important."
The Great, by Justine Campbell.
"Delving into the myth of meritocracy."
This Storm Will Kill Your Children, by Fiona Spitzkowsky.
"I'm not quite sure what I'm meant to do with that information, though, as I'm not actually pregnant with any sort of mutant polar bear spawn."
Beautiful Mother, by Louis Klee.
"What if you don’t want happiness? What then?" A play about the contradictions of family and country, unfulfilled and unfulfillable dreams, frustrated hopes and unrequited hate."
The Split, by Sarah Hamilton.
"You know when you get the stars on the water, what’s that called? Loom, um…"
Baron, by Eric Gardiner.
"Two young men in suits of armour go to work for a real-estate company."
Darkwater, by Diane Stubbings.
"Darkwater explores consciousness and behaviour. It asks: are we merely products of our biology or is there something more transcendent at work?"
Make Me a Houri, by Emina Ashman.
"In the afterlife, Asmara and Safia attempt to transform into the Houris, Islamic virgins of paradise by physically and mentally purifying themselves."
The VCA Master of Writing for Performance 2017 Graduating Season Presentations run from 17–21 October, and take place in Studio 1, 28 Dodds St, Southbank. Visit the VCA & MCM events calendar for more information.
Banner image from TEDDYBÄR, a series from the Jean-Marie Donat Collection, published by INNOCENCES.
Find out more about the Victorian College of the Arts Master of Directing for Performance 2017 Graduating Season.
The Victorian College of the Arts Master of Directing for Performance graduating class of 2017 are bringing a collection of brand new productions to the Melbourne stage this October. The season of shows spans everything from new Australian musical theatre and explorations into devising new works, to fresh visions of classic texts from Europe, China and sub-Saharan Africa. The shows are as follows:
Weekend Quartet: The Australian premiere of a play by French-Chinese Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian.
The Graceful Giraffe Cannot Become a Monkey: A raw production of one of the most famous texts from sub-Saharan Africa.
The Most Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus: A high-octane 90-minute production of Shakespeare bloody spectacle.
Vagabonds: A creative development showing of a new Australian Gothic work.
Crossroads: a new Australian work exploring the politics of hope.
Sweeney Todd: A Federation University production of a Sondheim favourite.
This season represents the culmination of two years of intensive training in which the students have been encouraged to delve deeply into their practice as theatre-makers and critical thinkers. As Kellie Tori, one of the VCA cohort, explains;
“Throughout my two years of Master of Directing for Performance, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with peers who I will continue to work with and alongside throughout the rest of my creative life. It has shifted my understanding of theatre, art and myself.”
The VCA Master of Directing for Performance 2017 Graduating Season runs from 12–29 October, with performances at La Mama Theatre, Open Stage, University of Melbourne, Parkville, and Federation University, Ballarat. Visit the VCA & MCM events calendar for more information.
Banner image: Anton Surkov
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