NIDA welcomes change-maker Tim Minchin
The multi-talented musician, satirist, writer and actor Tim Minchin dropped by to talk to NIDA students as part of our ‘Change-makers and Innovative Story Tellers’ series.
NIDA Director/CEO Kate Cherry has been encouraging leading Australian artists to share their experiences in up close and personal forums with students. The ‘Change-makers and Innovative Story Tellers’ series has brought actor and director Margot Robbie, musical theatre artist Philip Quast and the iconic Barry Humphries to Australia’s premiere performing arts institution. This week the multi-talented Tim Minchin dropped by.
‘All these artists have had amazing international careers and are all changing the cultural landscape at various points in their lives,’ said Cherry. ‘I want our students to see what they have achieved, and that we underestimate the power of our Australian imagination,’ she said.
Introducing Minchin, who has been called an ‘insanely gifted Australian’, Kate quoted the Time Out description of him that: ‘He is to musical comedy what Charles Darwin was to evolution, and what Einstein was to physics and moustaches.’
Minchin had a wealth of experience to share with the students. ‘Find something else to do instead of waiting for auditions,' he said. 'That might be finding a new theatre company that you can work with, or waiting tables and hearing other people’s stories. It doesn’t have to be a one-person show that you are writing, although if you have something to say, then do that. What I do is running. It helps you to get up each day and make yourself mentally healthier.’
He also spoke about the importance of well-being in the performing arts industry. ‘Some people today will get famous young, which is the greatest curse. You should spend your twenties poor, figuring out who you are without any outside pressure.'
‘You can exploit your artistic celebrity for power, but the power that we have is to put good ideas into the world. To make good art you do have to have a spirit of fun and live for the moment. But to make good art for a long time, you have to look after your brain.’
‘I know that when I was in my twenties and I ended a run [of shows], I was deeply sad. I had to find a way to figure out whether my happiness is connected to whether people are watching me or not.’
When it was time for student questions, the topics included Minchin’s own artistic practice. What comes first in a musical theatre work, lyrics, story or the music? ‘Lots of people start with a song,’ he said. ‘But to me the songs have to serve the narrative and the dialogue cannot be an obvious gear change. The songs illuminate the journey of the character. A song has to move the story along, and say something about the world. […] So yes, the narrative, the story comes first.’
Asked specifically about the Australian theatre landscape, one student asked Minchin if he thought it was world-class. ‘I don’t think anything needs to change in Australian theatre to make it ‘world-class’. Sydney and Melbourne lack nothing in talent, they are just lacking in population density. We are putting on amazing stuff here.’
When asked about the importance of resilience and grit in today’s performing artists, Minchin commented: ‘I am obsessed by resilience – it’s all about grit. It’s about looking after yourself and your body and your community. Finding positive narratives to negative outcomes is really important.’
While not giving away any secrets about his next project, Minchin did reveal he is planning on working in small theatres in Sydney, making an album and planning a tour.
Tim Minchin is an Australian actor, musician, satirist and writer. He grew up in Perth, studying English at the University of WA, and Contemporary Music at the WA Academy of Performing Arts. In his twenties, he composed scores for theatre, was musical director for artists such as Todd McKenney and Eddie Perfect, and sang and played in myriad pubs, piano-bars and garages. In 2005, his Edinburgh Fringe debut, Dark Side, won the Perrier Award for Best Newcomer and thrust him onto the world stage. He soon became Australia’s most globally recognized live comedian, and has performed in some of the world’s most prestigious venues. He has released five DVDs, the latest being Tim Minchin versus the Orchestra, Live at the Royal Albert Hall.
He is the composer lyricist of two hit West End / Broadway musicals, Matilda and Groundhog Day, both of which won the Olivier Award for Best Musical and garnered nominations for Best Score and Best Musical in Broadway’s Tony Awards.
As a screen actor, he played Atticus Fetch in Season 6 of Californication, won a Logie Award for his role as Smasher Sullivan in the ABC’s Secret River, and will this year appear as Friar Tuck in Lionsgate’s Robin Hood reboot, and as Paul in the ABC’s Squinters. Stage highlights include playing Judas in the UK / Australian Arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2012, and Rosencrantz in the STC’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead the following year. He has published two books: the graphic novel, Storm, and the illustrated childrens’ book, When I Grow Up. His 'Occasional Address' and 'Come home Cardinal Pell' are YouTube hits.