Our passionate pathways feature this month is Lan Chu. Twenty year old Lan is in the final year of her psychology degree at RMIT. I interviewed her in the lead up to the recent showing of, In the Light of Day.
We talked about her long association with WEYA, spanning nearly a decade, and the process of creating In the Light of Day.
Lan’s first memories of WEYA are from when WEYA had a residency at Debney Meadows Primary School, when she was a student there in year five. She was in a production called The Minotaur, performed at the Clock Tower centre in Moonee Ponds. She remembers ‘that massive minotaur head that they made, that we would carry out onto the stage’, and ‘this one scene where I had to be a mother who’s baby turned out to be the Minotaur’. She recalls having to ‘slowly pull the cloth from the baby’s face’ and ‘the moment I had to scream like a mad woman, which was the scariest part and I never wanted to do it until the show’. But she did do it, and felt ‘pretty good about that’.
Lan went to Debney Park Secondary Collage, now known as Mt Alexander Secondary College, a school where WEYA had already been working for a few years.
Reflecting on her early involvement with WEYA, Lan says:
‘It was fun. There was not much else that I did as a kid. The opportunity was there. I took it. Our high school was pretty poor. There weren’t the resources to support a pro music or sports program. When I was a kid it made me a lot more confident about my intuition – instincts and stuff. It explores so many issues. I always thought that it was good for me.’
She also talks about the inspiring example of older participants in WEYA programs:
‘Definitely it’s the people as well. Keeps you coming back. So many people at my school: Abraham, Soloman, Macky. I wanted to be at that level too.’
Lan was born in Melbourne, and raised by her Vietnamese born mother, along with three siblings. I asked her what her mum thought of WEYA:
‘She thinks it’s cool. She doesn’t have a problem with it. She only sees good out of me doing it. She tries to come to the shows, but it’s hard with her English.’
As we talk about family, Lan mentions mental health challenges among her siblings, that she as a psychology student has had time to consider.
We talked about In the Light of Day. Lan explained that:
‘We started off not knowing what we were going to do the show about. We just thought of a character, based off someone in the neighbourhood we grew up in. My character’s a “shut-in”.’
She tells me that her shut-in character is based on someone close to her, and that she wanted to raise awareness of the shut-in phenomenon:
‘A lot of people don’t really know about shut-ins. It’s really big in Japan. It’s like when people don’t really want to know about society, so they just shut themselves in.’
Lan goes on to talk more about the play:
‘The whole street ends up being quarantined and we [the characters in the play] have no idea why. And it’s interesting ‘cos of all the unique characters! We have a lot of random characters [in this show]! It will be interesting! Hahah! It’s a slice of life in a ‘normal’ neighbourhood in the Western suburbs.’
What Lan has enjoyed about studying psychology is that ‘it’s all about human behaviour, what makes up personality, how your brain works with your body, social behaviour, the play between how you behave and other people behave.’
She muses that ‘I kind of thought that by doing sociology I’d be able to understand other people more and be able to put myself in other people’s shoes and stuff.’ And notes that she sees herself as an empathetic person:
‘whenever I watch things I also put myself in the character’s shoes. That’s why I don’t’ like watching horror movies. Cos I always put myself in their shoes!’
Lan will be graduating at the end of this year but plans to keep studying as she wants to go into education. She’s considering specialising in psychology, as a teacher, but also reflects that ‘I could teach drama, with my WEYA experience.’
Whatever you do Lan, the Western Edge Youth Arts team is right behind you, and super proud! Not to mention grateful for all you’ve contributed to WEYA over the years!
Congratulations to Piper Huynh, on being accepted into the Footscray Community Arts Centre’s Emerging Cultural Leaders program.
Piper is an actor, maker and facilitator. She has been involved with WEYA as a participant since 2010, and has been a member of WEYA’s flagship emerging artists’ ensemble, the Edge Ensemble, since it’s inception, playing key roles in Iago (2015) and Caliban (2016). Read more about Piper’s Story with WEYA here.
I asked her about the Emerging Cultural Leaders program.
‘I’ve been wanting to do the program for about the last three or four years’, she says.
This year she’s ‘taking a step back’ from her creative practice, ‘to reassess’. So it seems like the perfect time for a professional development program like this one.
Piper explains to me that it is a seven-month program where the sixteen participants, with diverse creative practices, meet weekly. There’s writers, photographers, people who work in schools (facilitators), poets, zine people, visual artists, radio broadcaster. The common thread is that they ‘all work in different communities’.
‘Speakers – industry people – come in and have a talk to us, and show us the ins and outs,’ she says, mentioning the names of General Managers of key Melbourne arts organisations, and respected Indigenous cultural leaders, as examples.
‘We talk about everything’ she says, outlining a range of key skills for artists and cultural workers, ‘even the dry stuff…yesterday we just did budgeting!’
She is also looking forward to working on a creative project, as part of the program, that will have an outcome at the end of the year, that industry people will be invited to attend.
We look forward to hearing more from Piper about the Emerging Cultural Leader’s program, and her many other rich and varied activities as a creative, over the coming months.
Phoenix Edge showed their new work-in-development, In the Light of Day, to an enthusiastic house at Phoenix Youth Hub on 10 June. There were some individual standout performances by this strong group of young theatre makers. But their work as an ensemble was the highlight under the talented leadership of their director/facilitator Georgia Symons.
After the performance, actors and directors asked for feedback from the audience, to inform the ongoing development of the work. One young audience member who was attending theatre for the first time in Australia said that he ‘liked the parallel stories that were happening at the same time’, and another enjoyed the ‘use of the ensemble as metaphors’. Check out the photos in our photo gallery.
In the Light of Day will be shown as a finished work, in late August. Keep your eyes peeled for more details.
Thanks to Gandel Philanthropy, Newsboys Foundation and Maribyrnong city for their support of the Phoenix Edge program.
WEYA’s Werribee based crew, Wyndham Edge, performed a preview of their new original work At First Glance as part of World Refugee Day celebrations in Hoppers Crossing last Saturday 24 June.
Multicultural Runway was a free family event with activities, rides, live performance and cultural food, held at the Youth Resource Centre, Hoppers Crossing. A diverse and attentive audience enjoyed the performance. Check out the photos.
Wyndham Edge will also be performing At First Glance on 3 August, at the Youth Resource Centre, 86 Derrimut Rd, Hoppers Crossing. Details will be up on the WEYA website and facebook page soon.
Here’s the scoop:
Follow Benji as he falls in love on the Werribee line. Touch on to meet Lucinda, a young woman trapped in a dead-end job. Transfer to Joel, a shy guy in a music shop.
Can you really fall in love at first sight? Can love be found in unlikely friendships? How do we find the strength to act from love and not spite?
The Wyndham Edge program is a WEYA program, proudly supported by Wyndham City.
In the Youth Arts sector there are a lot of heroes, often unsung. Board members who volunteer their time to do the work of guiding the direction of an organisation and nurturing its culture are certainly in this category. Bernadette Fitzgerald who recently resigned as Chair of WEYA’s board after nine years on the board and five as Chair, has been involved in supporting WEYA and its predecessor programs for over 14 years, and she is deservedly proud of this organisation that she has watched and helped grow over so long. I chatted to her in the sun outside Footscray Community Arts Centre where she is a Creative Producer, and where it all started for WEYA, as she recalls.
Bernadette talks about SCRAYP and Y3P, the two successful programs at FCAC, out of which the current WEYA incorporated grew. And mentions some of the names of the people who were involved back then: David Everest, Viv Sercombe, Professor Maureen Ryan from Vic Uni, who all made invaluable contributions to building the legacy of what WEYA is today, as well as Dr Dave Kelman who is still with the the organisation as Artistic Director. Bernadette remembers some of the young people, ‘like Ezeldin Deng’ she glows ‘who learned English through SCRAYP and hip hop and rap with DJ Wasabi, and is now an amazing film make, continuing to support his peers and community and support their voices through the arts’.
When I ask about milestones, she says: ‘the incorporation of WEYA from a project to becoming an organisation in it’s own right, that was an extraordinary accomplishment’. ‘At FCAC’ she emphasis, ‘we are proud of…not our baby, but something that’s grown into it’s own entity’. And it’s again clear that for Bernadette, who was actively involved in the incorporation process, this is a deeply personal pride.
She goes on to reflect that WEYA has grown into ‘an agile organisation, through necessity. That commitment and agility to being responsive is important’ she says, ‘and that’s across the arts and education. Rising up to that challenge, while continuing that commitment to young voices is to their credit’.
But she emphasizes the privilege: ‘I’ve had the privilege of seeing the participants grow up’ and ‘the privilege of being an audience member and hearing those voices’ and being challenged to ‘think differently about something’ as a result, and the privilege of watching the ‘staff and the artists and all the young people who’ve made the commitment over all the years’.
But it’s seeing some of the real outcomes of all this long term effort paying off that really lights her up. Talking about the emerging artists that have come through WEYA’s programs, as young school students, and that are now working in schools as WEYA teaching artist. ‘The diversity of young people that work in those schools now’, she says ‘that’s really significant’.
And she also mentions the significance of the pathways to work as professional artists, as well as arts and cultural workers, employed across a range of organisations and programs, locally, nationally and even internationally. She mentions alumni working in community arts and professional theatre and stresses that ‘the training at WEYA has been acknowledged in the industry. A small team has achieved big things.’
Talking about what has changed over the years, she says that ‘what shifts is the diaspora that comes through, with the shifts or waves of migration’. ‘That shifts with Western Edge’, she says, as the organisation responds to the needs of the community.
But what stays the same, she reflects, is the impact on individual young people, and the ‘ripples’ that can have. The ‘extended story’.
Bernadette attended the Geelong Edge Ensemble’s street performance of The Secret City that they performed as part of Geelong After Dark, at the beginning of May. She comments on the pride of the young people involved. As well the response from the very diverse audience – a moment where a young child in the audience told the actors to ‘stop fighting you too!’, and the family laughed and there was something very real in that moment. And the middle aged man who said ‘This is important!’.
Finally, she stresses her thanks to the staff and the artists and fellow board members. ‘It’s been a huge privilege’ she says, ‘to support the work that they do, including all the past board members and artists. They will always be a part of the family and have been part of what’s formed and shaped the company, and that’s incredibly valuable. Working with the exceptional, creative and passionate supporters of WEYA’ she says, with emphasis, ‘has been an enormous pleasure’.
Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts.
Our Passionate Pathways feature for this month is the Fabulous Finn Lloyd.
Finn is dedicated to developing his skills as an actor. In the second year of a science degree at University of Melbourne, he’s been taking breadth subjects in theatre with the VCA as often as he can.
He has also been working with the Owl and Cat Theatre in Collingwood. After taking an acting short course with the Owl and Cat last year, Finn was cast in a role in Erasers, as part of the independent theatre’s 2017 season, and they loved him so much they’re talking about programing future productions, with Finn in mind.
Finn’s first taste of theatre was when he became involved in a Western Edge Youth Arts program at Mt Alexander Collage, nine years ago, when he was in year eight.
He participated in several school productions with WEYA, including Fate, in 2010 and wanted more.
Finn joined WEYA’s Phoenix Edge program, based at the Phoenix Youth Hub in Footscray, four years ago. ‘I’ve learned a lot’, says Finn, ‘it’s helped me personally. It’s a lot of fun’.
He comments on the friendships that he’s made through being part of Phoenix Edge, ‘cos I don’t get out a lot outside this’, he says, with that half shy smile that leaves you wondering.
But being part of Phoenix Edge is clearly more than an opportunity to socialise for Finn at this point. ‘I’ve been taking it pretty seriously this year’, he says, and comments that the richness of the process and the quality of the writing in Western Edge shows, keeps him committed and coming back for more.
And it’s a supportive place for him to work on his own craft. ‘I’m trying to push the stuff I’ve learned recently and apply that’, he says, referring to a recent unit at the VCA that looked at Method Acting, as well as things he picked up working along side seasoned actors at the Owl and Cat.
I asked him about his character in In The Light of Day, the show that he is currently working on with Phoenix Edge. ‘My character was based off this this guy I saw once trying to rob a car’, he says. And goes on:
‘It’s a very different character to anything I’ve played before. He’s a fun character. He doesn’t hold back. In the previous Phoenix plays I haven’t thought much about how I carry myself. But I learned about that in Erasers, and I’ve been learning about embodiment.’
He talked about some of the processes they’ve been using to develop In The Light of Day; starting with anecdotes, and from that developing characters, which then interact, and from that plot is developed. ‘It’s been a lot of fun’ he says, ‘and Georgia has done an amazing job of turning our collaborative work into a script’.
What Finn is particularly enjoying about working with Georgia Symons, is the rigorous character based approach. ‘You could say this is the first time I’m not playing myself’ he says, and reflects that in Tek, Phoenix Edge’s 2016 show, in which Finn played the lead role, ‘I was definitely playing myself. But this time I’m confident that this character is not myself’.
Besides acting, another passion of Finn’s is drawing. And there’s a determination, in his eyes when he says he’s aiming to ‘make a permanent mark on the world’ as an artist.
A free work in development showing of In The Light of Day will be taking place at the Phoenix Youth Hub on 10 June 2017 at 7pm.
Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts.
Over the next couple of weeks WEYA teaching artists are heading to three schools to work with young people and their teachers on creating new works that celebrate young people’s own voices and stories.
This week, Lilly Fish, Penny Harpham, Dave Kelman and Jane Rafe will begin year two of our residency at fabulous Whittington Primary School. This project involves 150 primary school students from Prep to Year 6. The project will adapt stories from the Arabian Nights to teach oral language, literacy and humanities and to create a huge community performance event scheduled for August. See details of the 2016 student show, Adventures in Ancient Greece.
Next week Penny Harpham, Dave Kelman, Katie Mudlin and Claire Pearson return to Victoria University Secondary College to begin year two of WEYA’s residency there, delivering a series of workshops on Shakespeare’s Othello that will engage every student in Year 10. WEYS will also run a Shakespeare based after school performance project for students in year 8 to 12 that will culminate in a major community performance at the school in September. How will WEYA follow up our extraordinary 2016 Samoan language Hamlet? Watch this space.
And in a couple of weeks time Lilly Fish and May Saba Sabet (new staff) will be kicking off our third year at North Geelong Secondary College, building on last year’s Romeo and Juliet of Corio project. This twenty week residency engages twenty English as a Second Language VCAL students from many different cultural backgrounds in a radical re-working of Shakespeare’s Macbeth as a vehicle for exploring contemporary Australian society. The residency will culminate in a community performance at the school in September.
WEYA’s AGM was held on 10 April. Significantly, we farewelled our long serving Chair, Bernadette Fitzgerald after 9 years of incredible contribution to the organisation.
Bernadette joined the WEYA board in 2009, after having already had a long association with the SCRAYP program from which WEYA emerged, and has served as Chair since 2012. We thank her for her dedication and commitment, steering WEYA through some big transitions. WEYA also farewelled Narelle Sullivan who has also made lasting contributions as a board member over the last seven years.
WEYA welcomes Angela O’Brian as the new Chair of WEYA. Angela has been on the WEYA board since 2011 and brings a wealth of experience with which to lead a passionate board with diverse professional experience, over the year ahead.
WEYA also welcomes four new members Irena Baric, Mary Musolino, Jacki Graetz and Nikita Gossain, all of whom bring a variety of new industry connections, knowledge and passion for the arts. Jock Jeffries continues as our wonderful Treasurer and Rani Pramesti and Susan Russell also continue as board members.
The new boards first job this year was to approve the 2016 financial statements and release the 2016 Annual Report which you can read here.
Our Passionate Pathways feature for this month is the marvellous Michael Logo. Michael first became interested in acting when he was roped into a short film project as part of an after-school program with his younger brother in 2007. ‘I wasn’t really interested in anything like that before’ laughs Michael. ‘I was more interested in chasing girls’.
Eli the Invincible, was launched at ‘Broady’ (Broadmeadows) Cinema and went on to become an award winning short film, featured on SBS. It was about a young wrestling fan, trying to make sense of the racial violence surrounding him. Michael’s sensitivity for developing truthful characters has been there from the start. When Miranda Nation, creator of Eli the Invincible, handed him the script, he says, ‘I was like: Na, na. He wouldn’t talk like that. He’d say it like this’.
‘After school I thought about becoming a cop, or going into the army’ says Michael, who’s been living in Melbourne’s north-west since he was four, ‘But when that didn’t work out, I thought that I’d like to act’.
He got himself onto ‘Star Now’, which he says is something like ‘Facebook for actors where you can find work’. And got a lead role in a feature film Is This The Real World, working alongside a bunch of experienced actors. You can check out is IMDB profile here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4458253/?ref_=tt_cl_t3
Michael spent a year training with Verve Studios, where he studied stuff like Lecoq and ‘a whole lot of other’ theatre theory and training methodologies.
A year ago, a recommendation from Peta Hanrahan, with whom he studied at Verve, brought him to Western Edge Youth Arts, where he has made a rich contribution, both in the development of work, and as an actor in two key productions so far.
In Hamlet 2016, Michael played the ghost of Hamlet’s father, who in this inter-cultural retelling of the classic, spoke in Samoan language. Michael, proud of his Samoan cultural heritage, enjoyed the task of translating Shakespearian text into ‘the way I would say it in Samoan’. See Michael interviewed along with other participants here.
‘When I started out as an actor’ Michael says, ‘I thought I wanted to be in Hollywood…. Now I just want to keep acting. Being in the work – Just doing it. That’s all that matters.’
We’re super proud to have Michael here with us at Western Edge and can’t wait to see what he is developing along with the Phoenix Edge crew in the co-devised work they will be presenting at the Phoenix Youth Centre on 10 June. Details will be up on the WEYA website soon.
Congratulations to Geelong Edge ensemble member Irene Bakulikira on her acceptance into a Bachelor of Arts/Masters of Teaching at Deakin University. Irene has been a participant in Western Edge Youth Arts programs for the past three years.
Articulate and softly spoken, Irene has nursed a dream of being a teacher since she was a child, and with her introduction to performing arts through Western Edge, she has also developed an interest in making this part of her teaching career. She believes that her experience with Western Edge has built her confidence and courage and offered her insight into different values and cultures, as well as friendships.
Irene, who has already been teaching dance at the FORT Youth Center in Geelong, said that ‘Being a teacher requires confidence, and Western Edge has helped me develop that’. In first semester she is studying literature, philosophy, anthropology and sociology.
After completion of this degree, the plan is to undertake further study in Dance and Drama. The University application process included a personal statement and Irene feels that the passion with which she wrote about her love of dance, drama and teaching experiences was a factor in her success. Well done Irene and all the best with your studies!