NIDA acknowledges the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which we learn and tell stories, the Bidjigal, Gadigal, Dharawal and Dharug peoples, and we pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present.

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Finn Caldwell puppet comes alive in NIDA’s June Productions

Each month we're catching up with a different Head of Department at NIDA, to show you the artist behind the creative leader. May is the turn of NIDA’s Acting Director of Undergraduate Studies and Head of Technical Theatre and Stage Management (TTSM), Graham Henstock - a fervent collaborator.

In theatre-making the whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Photo: Graham speaking at TTSM's Video for Live Performance Presentation earlier this month

NIDA’s Acting Director of Undergraduate Studies and Head of Technical Theatre and Stage Management (TTSM), Graham Henstock, is a fervent collaborator, kneading his work at NIDA with a degree of Aristotelian philosophy.

‘Theatre-making isn’t about the lighting, the sound, the stage management or the production management or anything of that nature,’ said Graham. ‘The magic of theatre comes from the fact that it’s a collaborative art form. It involves the work of the group or the work of the collective, producing a piece of art that is much more substantial than what could be produced by the individual.’

Graham’s passion for Technical Theatre and Stage Management is characterised by his endless endeavours to get the best out of both his students and the industry as a whole. He’s recently been working with Live Performance Australia (LPA) – the peak body for the live performance industry – to help safeguard practitioners working in the industry.

‘As NIDA’s representative, I was recently part of the working party for the LPA safety guidelines which detail how to stay safe in the industry. I had a substantial hand in rewriting those sector guidelines, and they were published at the beginning of 2018 after more than three years’ work.’

Artistically speaking, Graham’s passion is for theatre that includes a high level of technological innovation and integration, but he is also particularly interested in layered approaches to storytelling.

‘I have a specific artistic interest in ‘cross-platform or ‘transmedia' storytelling. A lot of artistic projects that I’ve been personally involved in have incorporated the telling of stories across multiple platforms. So, while there may be a theatrical component, there may also be a web component and/or a film component. All of these components work together to tell a single story. ’

With such a busy role, traversing between working with NIDA’s Executive Team on high level tasks, the artistic planning committee as well as planning/strategy, in addition to teaching duties, he requires a large degree of time management himself to ensure that every one of his tasks is accounted for, especially given that he is also father to three children all below the age of seven.

‘A large part of the TTSM course is effective time management and project management techniques. That’s actually a big part of my practice – how you manage workloads and tight schedules. That’s what the students are taught, so it’d be slightly hypocritical if I didn’t practise what we preach. Beyond time management and careful planning, I’m only able to keep up with the large volumes of work because I’m supported by an excellent TTSM team, namely – Peter Savage, Mel Dyer and Paul Prestipino,’ said Graham.

And what is it about teaching at NIDA that he enjoys so much?

‘I find it very rewarding to work with young artists who are discovering their artistic voice and practice, finding ways to articulate their opinions and perspectives within a theatrical frame,’ he said.

And it is for that reason that Graham’s main advice for prospective TTSM students is: ‘You don’t need to be the best stage manager, video, lighting or sound designer. What you need to be is passionate about the art form and about being a theatre-maker. When you come into a course like the BFA TTSM, we teach you all the skills and intricacies that you will require to become that theatre-maker but it’s the passion for the art form that will provide you with the drive to succeed and create,’ he said

‘The proudest moments I have are when I see a student who excels at a task that they didn’t think they were capable of.’

Video For Live Performance Presentation

Photo: This month's Video for Live Performance Presentation

In terms of this year’s highlights for TTSM students, Graham points to the upcoming Magic Show and was particularly excited about this month’s Video for Live Performance Presentation. Also, in July, the TTSM team are welcoming a special guest to the course.

‘A guest from United States Institute of Theatre Technology will be visiting us for two weeks and will be a guest speaker. He’s the equivalent of a movie star in the TTSM sphere,’ said Graham.

Learn more about NIDA's BFA (TTSM) at Open Day on Saturday 16 June. Register here:

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