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NIDA’s Technical Theatre and Stage Management students apply learning to real-life productions at Adelaide festivals

A new nine-day initiative offered NIDA's Technical Theatre and Stage Management students the opportunity to attend and learn from a series of shows at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Adelaide Festival earlier this month.


Variety is the spice of life, so they say – and variety is certainly something that NIDA’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (Technical Theatre and Stage Management) second year (TTSM 2) and third year (TTSM 3) students got a taste of when they attended a series of shows at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Adelaide Festival earlier this month.

Introduced this year, the nine-day initiative offered students the opportunity to see 26 shows at the festivals, ranging from high-end opera performances to fringe productions, rounded off with several backstage tours and classroom sessions for post-show analysis.

‘The idea behind the new initiative was to increase the students’ exposure to a diverse range of work and get them out of their comfort zone in terms of the work they deal with at NIDA. So we put them into a different environment where they could critically watch different forms of theatre,’ commented NIDA’s Deputy Director, Undergraduate Studies and Head of Technical Theatre and Stage Management, Graham Henstock.

‘We then ran classes on each of the mornings in order to discuss and engage with the varying range of theatre work that the students had seen, and to increase their skills as theatre practitioners and makers.’

A total of 20 students were part of the new initiative, including TTSM 3 student, Veronique Benett, and TTSM 2 student, Ethan Shepherd, who spoke to us about their experiences.

‘As well as the technical aspects to our course, we’re also sound designers, lighting designers and video designers. So having the opportunity to see the craft being applied to festival shows was a great opportunity for us. We were able to put our analysis skills into practice,’ commented Veronique.

‘In TTSM 2, we’re really trying to build on our knowledge of technical and theoretical analysis,’ added Ethan. ‘So for our course to go over to Adelaide, see the shows first hand, and have conversations about the productions was actually very valuable to us. Especially with having TTSM 3 there, as well as our lecturer Robin Dixon and other NIDA staff members, to discuss the different aspects of design and history. It was a huge experience.’


Photo: The Secret River stage 

A stand out production for the students was Sydney Theatre Company’s (STC) The Secret River, which for its Adelaide season was staged in an abandoned quarry 30 minutes outside of Adelaide city centre. In adapting his extraordinary original designs for the stage to this unique new setting, set designer and NIDA Design Lecturer, Stephen Curtis, engaged Brianna Russel as model maker. Brianna is a second year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) student and her engagement is further testament to the incredible work that NIDA students are involved with while undertaking their studies.

Students were also granted professional insight into the production from The Secret River’s stage manager and site manager.

The Secret River was on at one of STC’s standard venues before they took it over to Adelaide,’ said Veronique. ‘So getting that whole production into a quarry and over to Adelaide and all the logistics that surround that is a huge job. We learned a great deal about what went into the entire process.’

The students also got to see and hear about what it took to make Schaubühne Berlin’s Richard III happen.

‘The technical manager took us on a tour of the back of the set and talked us through the props, how everything works, how their play couldn’t get certain materials, and the types of things they can and can’t bring into Australia. As well as things that Australia has that other countries don’t. And if you’re working in production management, that’s a really important aspect of your job. So we got to see a practical example of it and hear from experts,’ said Ethan.

The new, successful initiative has been locked in as a course initiative for the foreseeable future, which will enable yet more TTSM students to benefit from the nine-day Adelaide Festival experience.

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