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.
Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts
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!
Article by Kendra Keller, Western Edge Youth Arts
Another huge and exciting year kicks off at Western Edge Youth Arts.
The education program will continue to push boundaries in 2017 – our planned programs at Whittington Primary School and North Geelong Secondary College will engage huge numbers of young people in rich educational experiences leading to fabulous performances for their school communities. We are also continuing our partnership with Victoria University Secondary College where the students will embark on the development of another radical Shakespeare adaptation of Macbeth. Penny Halpham teams up with writer Casey Nichols for this exciting gig.
The Geelong Edge’s new work, Walking The Line, is in creative development and will show at Geelong Performing Arts Centre in October. Concern over racism is on the march internationally and in Australia, and this uber-edgy drama explores the experience of people from diverse cultural backgrounds living in Geelong, with our trade mark mix of humour and complex drama. It’s great to have Reuben Zalme on board for this project both as a performer and as facilitator. Reuben is an amazing young artist with a long history with the company who has skills in circus, music and theatre.
Both of our community youth theatre groups have started the year with culturally diverse older teenagers collaborating with artists like Georgia Symons, Natalie Lucic, Rex Pelman and Ror Malongdout to make unique new works.
As I said, another huge year, but that’s what we pride ourselves on at WEYA – serving hundreds of young people and helping them to tell the stories that matter to them and their communities.
Western Edge Youth Arts is seeking a teaching artist to work on an in-school theatre workshop program for 20 weeks culminating in a production at the end of term 3.
Teaching artists with experience working with culturally and linguistically diverse young people to make original theatre productions are preferred. You should be able to demonstrate your ability to plan theatre workshop sessions, actively engage young people in theatre making and deliver an original theatre production with school participants.
Casual wage contract – $50 hr Approx 3 – 4 hrs a week, starting term 2. Additional hours required during rehearsal/produciton week.
Please send your CV to email@example.com
For enquiries contact Sally Farr, General Manager or Dave Kelman, Artistic Director Western Edge Youth Arts on 90914725.
The Edge Ensemble’s latest piece, Caliban, recently completed a season at the Coopers Malthouse in Southbank, to huge audiences and rave reviews.
Over 450 people saw the show, and it was brilliantly received by audiences and critics alike.
Here’s what the critics had to say:
– ★ ★ ★ ★ Andrea Simpson ArtsHub
“The story is fast paced, with the rhythm of a beating heart – the dialogue is layered with poetry giving extra depth to the message…”
“They say that youth is wasted on the young. In this case they were stupendously wrong… the Edge Ensemble’s youth does not mean they lack embodied experience…”
“Caliban’s themes parallel the cast’s diversity and the stories they all share… And who better to express the ongoing disaster that awaits the world than the people that have inherited it? It is this generation that have seen the world’s disasters unfold and finally they have a voice…”
– ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrepeople
“Western Edge Youth Arts have done and continue to do remarkable work but the real accolades go to the Edge Ensemble for a clever thought-evoking message.”
“an adaptation that wreaks perfect havoc on its source text, layering the urgency of climate change into its plot and characters.”
Leeor Adar Theatre Press
“Caliban tackles big ideas with humour and poignancy. This is a remarkable and highly physical performance… The performers are excellent, emotive, funny and totally humane…spirited, vibrant and painfully accurate” –
Suzanne Sando Stage Whispers
“Caliban is pertinent worthwhile theatre presented by a great group of very skilled young people who do a marvelous job of getting a multi-layered message across…”
“The mix of cultures represented in the work is heartening and satisfying. And the number of cultures represented in the audience was truly something marvelous to behold. Go Western Edge!”
And here are some comments from young people in our audience:
“I liked everything about the climate change and how it is important to always go home. There is nothing like home.”
“I loved being informed in an interesting way about stats on climate change, racism, a real awakening! I had tears & laughter & multiple goose bump moments.”
“The actors were phenomenal, especially for their age; the text was wonderfully unsimplistic and multi-faceted”
“The diversity & range of stories told – it’s rare to get that experience in the theatre these days”
Following the success of this debut season, the Edge Ensemble will be touring Caliban in May 2018. For more information and tour enquiries, contact Sally Farr on (03) 9091 4725
We’re excited to announce Phoenix Rising, the relaunch of Phoenix Youth Hub!
WHEN: Friday 24 June, 4pm to 7.30pm
WHERE: Phoenix Youth Hub, 72 Buckley Street Footscray
WHO: Anyone aged between 12-25
The Phoenix Edge will be performing on the night, to give you a taste of their new work in 2016. The workshops have been fantastic so far. There’s still time to join so check out details on the image below if you want to experiment with theatre and performance.
They’ll be appearing along with an awesome line-up of other talented artists, dancers, rappers, musicians and circus performers. Its an all star line-up of the absolute best of the West!
There’ll be a Fashion Parade by the design hub Social Studio. The Social Studio celebrates the style and skills of diverse cultures, featuring young people from across the West as both designers and models. If you have a passion for fashion they’re currently seeking models from the West, so get in touch to strut your stuff! Alongside the runway will be a street photography exhibition showcasing #Westside style.
But wait that’s not all, the event ends with a dance party! Famed local DJ MzRizk will be spinning hip hop, R n B, soul and funk tunes. It’s going to be the biggest night in June, so make sure you’re there!
Entry is free with food and drinks included. For more info and to stay connected on updates, join the event at Facebook