Teaching guitar to a couple of youngsters at Theatre Workshop Edinburgh in 1974 was one of the most excruciating experience of my life. Struggling with doubt driving the Theatre Workshop van through evening fog to Blackburn, preparing to teach parents techniques for working with youths in theatre was as bad; the fog was so thick no one turned up, and bent over the wheel at snails pace I exulted, singing my way back to Edinburgh.
Years later I read that it is often the second arrow to our bow that proves the most fruitful and gives us depth in our work. At Guildhall we of the acting stream held our noses in the air past the teachers, but my first arrow, so easy and instantly gratifying, was always shallow.
A group of unemployed youths on a six month government scheme In Whangarei, New Zealand taught a green immigrant how to teach theatre in the Quarry.
Bridget Brandon taught me how to run an independent theatre school at Drama Action Centre in Sydney and ninety percent of the content I teach is still based on the genius of Jacques Lecoq’s research and practice.
When David Latham was Dean of the VCA the latitude and challenges he offered allowed all the staff an opening and a safety net in the dynamic world of training passionate students.
If you want to teach theatre, find a church hall. It’s light, airy, it’s a got a wooden floor, it’s private, not flash, not brash, the paint’s worn and everything is old enough to settle into the background once someone gets up to work. There are loos, a kitchen, possibly an office, probably an extra space for smaller groups and some green around it too, including a branch that dapples a window and a bird that sings on cue during a Neutral Mask exercise. It won’t be too expensive and the local church people will be welcoming of any group that brings life and art to a moribund space.
As much as feeling that in 1991 Melbourne would look kindly on a physically based theatre school, as much as I was moved to start one, it was the delight in seeing The Holy Trinity church hall and the desire to work there that kick-started the process towards opening a school. Lindy Marlow went to see the priest and came back in half an hour with the news that it was free, he was keen to have us there and it was cheap.
The teachers were;
The Administrator was Lindy Marlow
In 2011 the school transformed into a four month course and continues to teach creativity with theatre as the vehicle. If you enter into this course intent on becoming the best actor you can be, your imagination will find its own cracks to the surface, the skills will be transferable and your life will be transformed in unexpected ways.
Marion Milner’s book, On not Being Able to Paint is more of an inspiration than anything I have ever read on theatre. She learned to paint ‘what the eye loves to look upon’ and we learn to articulate what the body loves to express. She realized that thought apart from action is a nonsense; we practice the coherence of thought and image in activity. Willed creation can never find its true form or rhythm but when we are truly revealed we can transform completely into another.
Consequently, alumni go on to very varied avenues of research and practice.
They write songs, win awards, act in films, on TV, they write music, they dance, they have starring parts at The MTC, The Malthouse, La Mama, Theatreworks, ATC, the Silo, at Q Theatre, the Backspace, at Bats. They are invited to the main stages and the fringes of international festivals throughout the world, they get commissioned to create new works
They work in the community, they work with Back To Back Theatre, The Women’s circus, at the East St. Kilda Drop in Centre, in schools, in the street, in comedy venues, vaudeville venues, in the street.
They make solo shows. Tammy Anderson’s show; I don’t wanna play house is the longest running indigenous show in Australian history. Andreas Litras performed his show Odyssey throughout the world over fifteen years.
In Thailand they direct and act in Makhampom theatre
Students have come from Australia, New Zealand, Pacific islands, Spain, Thailand, Japan, USA, UK, Russia, Former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Italy, Lebanon, South Korea