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Grace has her eye on the circus

NIDA Bachelor of Fine Arts (Staging) student Grace Llanwarne loves making people fly as she discovers the mechanical side of live staging.

NIDA BFA (Staging) student Grace Llanwarne

Photo: Grace Llanwarne, Bachelor of Fine Arts (Staging), is looking to the future 

'NIDA is not just for actors! There’s a whole world of work that exists backstage in theatre, in design, technical theatre production and staging.' says Grace Llanwarne. The NIDA Bachelor of Fine Art (Staging) course she is in the second year of is all about building and constructing scenery for live theatre, films, festivals, and big events like music concerts or circus.

Why did you decide to do this course? I first studied a VET Diploma of Live Production at NIDA – which was studying basic lighting, audio and staging set ups, and training to be a technician. I talked to Nick Day, NIDA’s Head of Staging, and I liked the idea of learning about stage machinery, the mechanical side of theatre, which makes sets and props move around using for example manual winches or automated systems.

Which areas of staging construction do you like?  I’m really interested in circus set construction and would like to be a circus rigger. I find the idea of people flying around really fun, and I like working with circus performers. Circus rigging is a huge safety challenge and I am big on finding easier and safer ways of setting up the rigging so people aren’t injured or die, which can actually happen when equipment fails and when people get it wrong. I’ve always loved the excitement of circus and when I was younger, whenever I could, I would go and see Cirque de Soleil, and I did a little bit of work for Circus Oz in Canberra.

What is it about live theatre that you like? I don’t have the mindset of an artist, I don’t see myself as an artist. I’m here for the hands on work, but at the same time I’m very aware that what I do contributes to the final artistic result. My mindset is about helping the designer and the performer, to facilitate their dream and their vision.

What advice would you give someone considering this as a career? While scenery construction has traditionally been a pathway for men, there are lots of employment opportunities that young women can take advantage of. I think that theatre is a more open environment for young women in the construction area, even though they are still in a minority. To anyone considering this as a career, I would say do it! It’s a lot of fun.

For more information about the BFA (Staging) and other backstage and technical undergraduate courses at NIDA, please visit

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