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
With a foundation in acting and physical theatre, and a long-standing love of telling a good story, Nadine Dimitrievitch enrolled in the Master of Dance in order to develop her creative skills further. Having graduated earlier in the year, she reflects on the highlights and challenges of the course.
Five years ago, I never would have imagined I'd complete a master’s degree in dance. I trained in ballet throughout my schooling years but soon became more interested in storytelling, and decided to pursue a career in acting. After spending two years training in physical theatre at L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, I started a physical theatre company (Bone Marrow Theatre) in 2013 and began making works and facilitating workshops.
Several years into running the company I realised I wanted to learn more about process and develop stronger research and writing skills. I was already developing much of my creative works through movement, so even though all my formal training was in theatre, the Master of Dance was the only course of its kind that would allow me to delve further into movement-based processes.
After talking with some of the staff at the VCA I discovered it would be the perfect place for me to develop new skills and further investigate my own creative processes and values.
I love storytelling. I've taken the view that it doesn’t matter what I do or how I do it; all that matters is that the form, movement, text, design or imagery is in service to the story and my intention. I love creating other worlds and exploring characters and ideas. I’m interested in theatre that has a social conscience. I'm inspired by performance makers who are able to instigate change and provoke thought on topics I'm passionate about. I aspire to move people to action with my own works.
A big personal challenge for me was learning how to work on solo projects after years spent in collaborative environments. I very much feed on the creative energy of others. Being the only person in the room and having to create content in isolation was a daunting experience that invited me to work outside of what I would consider to be a comfortable space.
I’ve relished the opportunity to engage with other creative practitioners and explore different ways of creating and developing work. I’ve also loved the opportunities to learn and collaborate with graduate students from other schools within the VCA. Finally, I’ve loved meeting and working with dancers and choreographers at all different stages of their careers.
The VCA has given a whole new set of tools with which I can create performances and explore ideas. It has also given me a wonderful new network of friends and collaborators along with a number of great industry contacts.
If I were going to give advice to other artists looking to pursue a career in this field, I’d say: find people who love creating theatre/dance/art as much as you do. Find people who want to work with you and who speak the same artistic language. They are your most valuable resource in a collaborative artform.
– As told to Sophie Duran
Applications for the 2018 intake of the Master of Dance close on 31 October. Visit the VCA website to find out more.
Banner image: Sav Schulman
Some 19 Music Theatre students from the Victorian College of the Arts will form a chorus for the Melbourne Theatre Company's upcoming production of Vivid White.
The Victorian College of the Arts is thrilled to announce a new partnership with the Melbourne Theatre Company for MTC’s upcoming production of Vivid White by Eddie Perfect.
Hitting the stages this November, the world premiere MTC commission will feature an ensemble comprised of VCA’s second year Music Theatre students, with their involvement in the production forming part of their coursework and end of year assessment.
The 19 students – split into three groups – will form a chorus and perform on rotation throughout the season of this new Australian work. The ensemble has been specially written in to the show to make this opportunity possible.
Margot Fenley, Head of Music Theatre and Senior Lecturer in Acting at VCA, said, "There really couldn’t be a better opportunity for our students to test and extend their training in a professional environment, surrounded by such a highly respected creative team. The VCA has been highly engaged for the past few years in questions of how we can better support new Australian works and this collaboration with MTC will be, I hope, the first of many such innovative industry partnerships for VCA Music Theatre students."
MTC Artistic Director Brett Sheehy said, "This exciting partnership is a unique opportunity for music theatre students to gain practical experience in a professional setting during their studies. As part of the University of Melbourne, MTC has had a long association with the Victorian College of the Arts, and a long history of supporting students in their pursuit of careers in the creative industries. This particular partnership sees our relationship with VCA blossom in new ways and we very much look forward to seeing it come to fruition over the next couple of months."
MTC Associate Director and Vivid White director Dean Bryant said, ‘I’m thrilled to be able to give the students the opportunity to not only be part of creating a production with professional actors and creatives, but a new Australian piece by one of our leading writers. They’ll see how a script evolves throughout the process, and what it takes, day by day, to put it onstage. Eddie and I are graduates of drama school and would have salivated at the opportunity to learn these skills and return to our final year of study that much farther ahead.'
Vivid White is the latest work by Eddie Perfect, taking a brilliantly satirical look at the Australian dream of home ownership and the ruthless real estate market.
Starring Gillian Cosgriff, Virginia Gay, Brent Hill, Verity Hunt-Ballard, Keegan Joyce, Ben Mingay and Christina O’Neill, Vivid White opens Thursday 23 November at Southbank Theatre, The Sumner.
Tickets for Vivid White are on sale now from the MTC. The ensemble has been made possible with support from The Victorian College of the Arts Music Theatre Department and the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance.
Image caption: VCA Music Theatre students with Vivid White cast at the Melbourne Theatre Company. Image supplied.
Like many artists, Callum Dale took a circuitous route to finding his true passion. Now a recent Master of Dramaturgy graduate, he reflects on his experience at the Victorian College of the Arts and how he is preparing for the career ahead.
Not all who wander are lost – and I've definitely my fair share of wandering. Like most high-school theatre enthusiasts, I graduated with the ambition of becoming an actor. Having established a small independent production company with friends to explore our own artistic and creative interests, I enjoyed a couple of years of producing and creating theatre in an ensemble-based practice.
I then started a Bachelor of Arts in Acting at the University of Ballarat’s Academy of Performing Arts and, while I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, I knew that this was no longer the career path for me.
I left at the end of first year, and then spent some time aimlessly wandering through part-time jobs and tertiary courses looking for a new career. In 2011, in attempt to jumpstart my creativity, I moved to Sydney to complete a Masterclass Certificate in Makeup and Special Effects, but breaking into the makeup and special effects industry proved almost impossible, so I began studying a Bachelor of Arts in theatre and history at Monash University.
That's where my journey to a career in dramaturgy really began. At the end of my course, having finally completed an undergraduate degree and having worked with numerous artists and companies, I applied for the Master of Dramaturgy at the VCA. I think it takes a quirky and "different" individual to have a passion in dramaturgy, and after many years of searching, I finally found the shoe that fit.
I remember when the course was first announced I received an email from one of my undergraduate mentors telling me they’d found “a course made for people like me”. A Master of Dramaturgy had interested me for a few years and I now had the opportunity to study at a highly-regarded and prestigious Australian institution. The course is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere and could have a real impact on the Australian performing arts industry in the next few years.
No two days at the VCA were ever the same. A one-year master’s degree moves fast and demands a strong work ethic and high level of discipline. Mondays were generally our day off, and a good time to catch up on reading and earn some money. The rest of the working week comprised two three- or four-hour classes a day. These classes could be lectures and tutorials, discussion-based seminars, practical workshops, or rehearsals.
I find the more I work, the more I am inspired. To be actively engaged in an exciting rehearsal space or riveting production company is as inspiring as it gets for me. Whether it be on new writing or a time-tested play, a raucous comedy or moving tragedy, dance, music, theatre or avant-garde performance, the discussions surrounding rigorous, relevant and thoughtful work drive me to work harder and more passionately.
As a dramaturg you are often the middleman: as the mediator between directors, writers, designers and other creatives, you’re ultimately the advocate for the work itself. The VCA’s cross-disciplinary classes and practise models definitely prepare you for this role as you become an expert in communication. But I think the biggest challenge for a dramaturg in any situation is learning your role in any given circumstance. You have to be constantly adaptable.
When you’re studying, you’re constantly working with fellow practitioners and creating, or at least theorising, arguably the most daring and experimental work of your career. You are uninhibited by the constraints and pressures of professional work. I think the rare opportunity to be creative with like-minded people is often taken for granted – it’s the continual artistic expression and discussion that you miss most once you leave.
While I was a Master of Dramaturgy student, I was fortunate enough to complete two internships with the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC). Those were made possible by VCA’s strong connections with MTC – many of the VCA’s sessional lecturers work at or with the company. My first internship was with MTC’s Literary Manager Chris Mead on the selection and curation of Cybec Electric 2017. This internship opened the MTC’s doors to me. I gained a deeper understanding of professional practices and the process of programming while refining my skills in play-reading and assessment.
Alongside that internship, I completed a directorial secondment under Peter Houghton on the mainstage production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. An invaluable experience, the secondment involved observing readings, rehearsals, production meetings, costume fittings, bump-in, technical and dress rehearsals, preview performances and opening night.
Ultimately, the achievement of writing a 10,000-word thesis to accompany the project was extremely satisfying and has inspired me to continue studying in the future and hopefully one day commence and complete a PhD.
Dramaturgy is a growing field in the performing arts industry but jobs are scarce and the industry is extremely competitive, so you need to be resilient and, in a sense, have a thick skin. You need to be prepared to work jobs that at times may seem unrelated to the field. But you should always be assessing the dramaturgical processes in motion, and identifying how the various elements of production affect one another. You have to remember too that your skills and knowledge are ever-expanding and can be refined as you continue to work with various practitioners and companies.
The VCA gave me the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary to enter the industry as a respected emerging practitioner. It also widened my network to include people from mainstage companies and other industry organisations, and in the extremely competitive performing arts industry, your network is always your strongest ally and source of work. The continued support and mentorship from my tutors and lecturers has been comforting on the road to a challenging career.
– As told to Sophie Duran.
Banner image: Callum Dale. By Sav Schulman.
Applications for the 2018 intake of the Master of Dramaturgy close on 31 October, 2017. Visit the VCA website to find out more.
The Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music are pleased to congratulate alumni who have been recognised in the 2017 Australia Council Fellowships.
By Sarah Hall
Among the eight recipients of the $80,000 Australia Council Fellowships for 2017, the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music is pleased to congratulate alumna Stephanie Lake (Dance), former lecturer Paul Jackson (Theatre) and Film & Television alum and celebrated novelist Dr Arnold Zable.
The Australia Council fellowships recognise Australia’s leading artists working across theatre, dance, music, visual arts and literature.
Since graduating in 1999 from the VCA's Bachelor of Dance, Stephanie Lake has worked with countless major contemporary dance companies across the country as well as running her own successful Stephanie Lake Company since 2014. She has maintained a strong relationship with the Victorian College of the Arts, returning last year to choreograph CRUSH. VCA Head of Dance Jenny Kinder said she was thrilled for Lake, who has a long association with VCA Dance, as a student, alumna, guest choreographer and teacher.
“Stephanie is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most exciting choreographers and is an inspiring artistic leader,” said Ms Kinder.
“We are incredibly fortunate that she continues to be involved with dance and production students, generously sharing her creative and collaborative practice. CRUSH (2016), her most recent work displays her exceptional talent, creativity and passion for dancing – an extremely popular work with the performers and audiences alike. It is wonderful for Stephanie to be recognised in this way by the Australia Council.”
Director of the Victorian College of the Arts Professor Jon Cattapan said he was delighted to see Lake’s work, as well as Paul Jackson’s prolific work in lighting design for theatre and Arnold Zable’s work in as a writer, storyteller, human rights activist be duly rewarded.
“The Australia Council Fellowships are only awarded to extremely hard-working arts practitioners who are already outstanding in their fields,” said Professor Cattapan, “It’s significant that they have received this kind of recognition, and we couldn’t be happier for them.”
Banner: Promotional image for Stephanie Lake’s VCA Dance production Crush (2016). Image by Jeff Busby.
With a strong background in fashion design, Alexandra McCloud-Gibson is now turning her artistic skills to designing costumes, props, and sets for film and television.
Before I came to the Victorian College of the Arts, I completed a Bachelor of Fashion Design at RMIT. I found that I was increasingly drawn to designing not only garments but also the environments in which they sat, and ended up working on both costume and production design for friends’ projects. My interest in world-building overtook costume design when I discovered that I could convey more through production design.
Inspiration comes in many different forms and sometimes arises from the most bizarre places, although it will always originate from the text and through copious amounts of research. My eye is always drawn to things of texture or things with a particularly stylised aesthetic – be it photography, art, history, or costume.
I find the challenge with production design is knowing when to stop researching. I could research forever but there does come a time when you have to turn all that theory into something three-dimensional.
After working on a few VCA short films I realised the role of the art department within the film and television industry. The VCA community seemed to me to have a strong sense of collaboration, with everyone crewing on everyone else’s films. This was quite different to what I had experienced while working in fashion, which I found to be quite solitary. I chose the VCA as I saw it an opportunity to learn not only from industry experts but from peers and colleagues.
This course has allowed me to experience a great deal of both the theoretical and practical sides of working in an art department, with a particular emphasis on gaining work experience outside of the VCA. What’s taught in classes is put into practice both on student films and through industry placements and I’ve enjoyed my time interning the most.
Something that stands out from this past year is the opportunity I was given to intern on an adaptation of Picnic At Hanging Rock. I’ve never learnt so much so quickly from one project. The experience was really rewarding, and it really confirmed for me that I had found the right industry. At the end of my internship I was offered paid work, which was great.
The internships I’ve undertaken have given me a taste for what it’s like to work full-time in production. Once I graduate I’m looking to get into the workplace as soon as I can and to can get as much experience across as many varied projects as possible.
To aspiring production designers, I’d say: if you can figure out initially what your strongest skillsets are and find a way to use them to create work within your aesthetic it will help to kickstart your initial projects. It’s also important to understand how significant the research stage of your practice is: any questions you have will always be answered through more research.
– As told to Sophie Duran
Banner image: Alexandra McCloud-Gibson. By Sav Schulman.
Louris van de Geer started her performance writing career as a teenager. Now a Master of Writing for Performance graduate, she talks to Sophie Duran about how the VCA helped her develop as a writer, the challenges of working in the theatre industry, and her greatest achievement to date.
I began writing plays in my first year out of high school. I hadn’t applied for university and wasn’t really interested in formal study. I continued writing and was making theatre at St Martins, the Melbourne Fringe Festival, MKA, and Next Wave, and knew I wanted to apply for the Master of Writing for Performance at the VCA so I could learn more about the craft and meet other writers, as well as have a taste of the academic experience.
I think I came to the VCA at exactly the right time. I had been on my own for several years, trying to make a career and step up to the next level, and the VCA came just in time so I could gain a more theoretical understanding of what I was doing.
I enjoyed the structure and the conversation that came with studying at the VCA. Structure and routine is so helpful to the creative process and very hard to implement for yourself – at least it is for me! So it was a really great thing, being forced to read certain things and think about them in certain ways, having to turn up with ten pages of writing by a certain time. I also enjoyed the freedom. There was never an idea that we had to write a certain type of play, or follow certain theories about narrative structure. We were encouraged to take risks.
The VCA gave me space and time and support to test ideas and understand why I make the work I do in the way I do. The people I met at the VCA are some of the best people, and the conversations in and outside of class have been instrumental to my thinking. Being able to meet actors, directors, designers and other writers is the most helpful thing. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, so tapping into and building networks with fellow students is a great way to become more embedded in the community.
My greatest achievement while doing my masters was working on my one-act play, Looking Glass. I really enjoyed the process: writing at home, having one-on-one dramaturgical meetings with a different dramaturg each week, and workshopping sections of script in class. There were so many thoughts and ideas being thrown around and it’s such a luxury to be receiving feedback so consistently. The play turned out to be a great success. It was shortlisted for the Griffin Award and the Rodney Seaborn Award the following year, and finally had its premiere production at fortyfive downstairs in August, directed by Susie Dee.
In the next few years, my goal is to keep writing, keep thinking about what theatre can be and how it can continue to be a space that offers something unique from film or television. I would love to have a show that tours, or at least is remounted again after an initial two-week season.
Theatre is a difficult thing to make. It is incredibly difficult to have a sustainable career. The arts are undervalued by the government and the wider population and this leads to conservative programming and conservative audiences.
To other aspiring writers of live performance, I’d say: don’t give up. Ask questions. Ask to be allowed into rehearsals rooms. Watch and read widely. Know why you’ve decided to do this thing instead of something else.
As told to Sophie Duran
Banner image: Sav Schulman, 2017.
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