NIDA embraces Midnight Feast in preparation for the Sydney Opera House
The National Institute of Dramatic Art has been supporting independent theatre company Midnight Feast, who are using a rehearsal space provided in-kind by NIDA for their upcoming performance at the Sydney Opera House.
Photo: Midnight Feast are rehearsing at NIDA for their production at the Sydney Opera House
Since June, the National Institute of Dramatic Art has been supporting independent theatre company Midnight Feast, who are using a rehearsal space provided in-kind by NIDA for their upcoming performance at the Sydney Opera House.
Midnight Feast theatre offers high quality opportunities for people with disabilities in the arts across all stages of creative development. Made up of performers with disabilities ranging from mild to severe, the not-for-profit company is the creation of director, actor and singer, Kylie Harris.
‘All of our actors have a wide variety of disabilities, which is why we came up with the name Midnight Feast for the group. We’ve got a feast of people with different abilities, high support needs and cognitive disability. We’re finding a way of bringing everyone together where we can all meet and work as artists,’ said Harris.
NIDA’s Head of Writing Performance, Dr Stephen Sewell initiated conversations to support the collective’s first production as an independent. The result is Chrysalis, which opens at the Sydney Opera House on 16 November.
‘I was interested in helping with the writing and then it was clear that the ensemble didn’t have a proper rehearsal space. So with the support of our former Director/CEO Lynne Williams, NIDA was able to offer them a space to rehearse. Following Lynne’s departure, our new Director/CEO Kate Cherry continued that support and was enthusiastic about having Midnight Feast here. In addition to the rehearsal space in the Graduate School, we’re assisting them in various other ways, with things like costumes,’ said Sewell.
In addition to Sewell, NIDA Voice Coach and acting alumni, Odile Le Clezio, has stepped in to support and act with the ensemble.
Finding a professional space to rehearse in at NIDA’s state-of-the-art facilities in Kensington was important to the production’s development as well as the performer’s needs.
‘We were working out of a community centre before being invited to work at NIDA. The difference has been so incredible. When we came here we were immediately embraced and encouraged by the creative community. It has been fundamental to our transformation,’ said Harris.
‘I’ve watched the ensemble develop through their weekly rehearsals at NIDA and they’re changed people,’ added Sewell. ‘They’ve got a confidence and glow about them that’s wonderful, it’s partly because NIDA’s given them the respect that they deserve.’
Harris continued: ‘When I tell people that we’re rehearsing out of NIDA their attitude changes. The way that they speak to me changes. The way they see the work that we do changes. This opportunity at NIDA has given the work a validation that it didn’t have before. And when I tell them that we’re performing at the Sydney Opera House, we get a similar response. It’s putting us on the map in a way that needs to happen, because all people need to be represented on our stages and on our screens,’ she added. ‘That’s why we’ve chosen to work at the Opera House. Our artists are as deserving as any other artist to have their work showcased on a world stage with the best theatre practitioners supporting them.’
Chrysalis is based on a true story from one of the group’s members who was denied access to treatment during a hospital visit because it was thought his quality of life was too low. His family had to fight for his treatment and for him to be given the same rights as able-bodied people. Sewell has been working on the script with some of the performers.
‘The main writer is one of the disabled performers, Emily Dash. I was glad to help her with some writing and editing of the script. Another of the writers is an able-bodied actor called Warwick Allsopp,’ said Sewell.
‘We’ve never really had a strong narrative before on these shows, so we were always trying to work out how to bring these true stories to life,’ said Harris. ‘Stephen has helped us bring it all together and guided us with structure. It’s taken our theatre, our theatre-making and our story-telling to a whole new level,’ said Harris.
‘It is incredible that we have these really fantastic brave performers in our building,’ said Sewell. ‘I just feel proud of NIDA for making a space for that to happen.’
Tickets to Chrysalis are available now, visit https://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/events/whats-on/theatre/2017/chrysalis.html