Every year, fifteen Year 11 theatre-lovers are selected as MTC Ambassadors, joining the Company for an unforgettable year of theatre experiences. Last year’s MTC Ambassadors met a wide variety of industry professionals throughout 2017, and saw several MTC productions. We look back on their year with MTC.
Meeting 1 – Melbourne Talam
At their first meeting in May 2017, the MTC Ambassadors met each other for the first time and had a sneak peek into the wardrobe and props departments at HQ. They also shared a meal with the donors who make the MTC Ambassadors program possible, before seeing Melbourne Talam by Rashma N. Kalsie at Southbank Theatre. Jasmine described the play as ‘a culturally diverse production with themes that moved my heart in such a way that I was crying by the end of it’.
It was here at the first meeting that I knew I belonged somewhere, that I felt a part of a second family with people who all hold the same passion and love for theatre that I do.
Meeting 2 – Minnie & Liraz
The first guest speaker for the year was Alyson Brown, MTC Production Administrator, who shared her experiences as a Stage Manager with the Ambassadors. Alyson also showed the group examples of prompt copies, demonstrating how a script is marked up to ‘call’ a show. After dinner, the Ambassadors walked to Arts Centre Melbourne to see Minnie and Liraz by Lally Katz. Cooper described Minnie & Liraz as ‘a show about a retirement village, a bridge championship, love, conflict, death … How could this not work out to be hilarious?’
My favourite play! Everything in this show just worked, with the perfect amount of dark humour and stupid laughs. Lally Katz deserves high praise for her incredible writing.
Meeting 3 – Macbeth
Prior to this meeting, the Ambassadors were asked to design a costume for a character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Everybody shared their designs, and then costume designer Esther Marie Hayes presented her designs for the MTC production. Esther spoke about her inspiration for the designs, sharing reference images and mood boards. After seeing Macbeth on stage, the Ambassadors met the cast post-show in the green room at Southbank Theatre. Sarah said ‘Meeting Jai Courtney was definitely the highlight of 2017!’
Meeting 4 – Noises Off
The following month, the Ambassadors met with Michele Preshaw, MTC Senior Production Manager, to learn about the production timeline including design, manufacture, rehearsal, bump-in and bump-out. After dinner, the Ambassadors laughed themselves silly at Noises Off by Michael Frayn.
Walking to the theatre is always a good opportunity to get to know your fellow Ambassadors and share stories of school theatre. There is a great sense of comradery between us as we all understand each other’s passions.
Meeting 5 – Di and Viv and Rose
In August, our guest speaker was Kerry Saxby, Technical Manager Light/Sound. Kerry spoke about how some of the special effects the Ambassadors had seen on stage earlier in 2017 were achieved, and brought along examples of props that he had worked on. Later that evening, the Ambassadors saw Di and Viv and Rose by Amelia Bullmore, and were treated to a tour of the set from stage manager Christine Bennett after the performance. ‘This was of particular interest to me as an aspiring stage manager,’ said Abigail. ‘Overall, it was an engaging and entertaining experience that I wish for all theatrical school students.’
Di and Viv and Rose really resonated with the group and led to interesting conversation both about the context of the story and the technical equipment involved.
Season 2018 Launch
Later in August, the Ambassadors were invited to the MTC Season 2018 Launch at Hamer Hall. They were among the first to hear about the productions in Season 2018, directly from the artists involved. There was an exciting buzz in the foyer about the shows the group might see together in the future.
Meeting 6 – Directing Masterclass
In mid-September, the Ambassadors met with Brett Sheehy, MTC Artistic Director, to learn about his career pathway and what his role entails. Brett discussed how a mainstage season is programmed, and talked in detail about the productions in Season 2018. After dinner, Prue Clark led the Ambassadors in a directing masterclass, using excerpts from Noël Coward’s Hay Fever, which was in rehearsal at the time. As the assistant director for the MTC production of Hay Fever, Prue shared insights into the rehearsal room, and demonstrated a variety of ways to approach a text. ‘Our contrasting compositions showed the remarkable difference individual directors can make to the same scene,’ said James. After seeing Hay Fever on the Sumner stage one month later, Demi said ‘It was so valuable being able to identify similarities and differences between our interpretations and the MTC production.’
While the prospect of applying our own directorial decisions to a professional script in front of its director was initially frightening, everyone relished the opportunity to showcase their ability and work collaboratively. The room quickly became a cacophony of voices and awkward motifs, which I’m sure greatly amused Prue, who volleyed ideas and questions, greatly supporting our creative processes.
Meeting 7 – Hay Fever
In October, the Ambassadors reunited with the donors of the Youth Ambassador Giving Circle to meet playwright Eddie Perfect. ‘It’s rare that you’ll meet such an accomplished writer, performer, composer and comedian,’ said Harry. ‘As an aspiring performer and creator, learning from Eddie was inspiring and encouraging.’ Eddie shared some insights into his inspiration for writing Vivid White, and spoke about his journey to being a playwright. The Ambassadors later saw Noël Coward’s Hay Fever at Southbank Theatre.
Meeting 8 – The Father
At their next meeting, the Ambassadors met with MTC Associate Director Sarah Goodes to learn about her role at the Company, and her approach to directing theatre. After seeing The Father by Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton, the Ambassadors had the opportunity to meet the cast on the set.
Meeting 9 – Vivid White
Before seeing Vivid White by Eddie Perfect, the Ambassadors met with the production’s director Dean Bryant. Dean spoke about his role as an Associate Director for the Company, as well as sharing some insights into the rehearsal process for the apocalyptic satire with songs. ‘I had some reservations about how interesting a plot based on the Melbourne property market could be,’ said Hex, ‘but after viewing the performance, you would have never seen a seventeen-year-old as enamoured with the subject as I was.’ A highlight of the production was the giant inflatable squid puppet that burst onto stage in the play’s climactic final moments.
I believe that the inclusion of puppetry in Vivid White was the best stylistic decision that was made, as it created comedy, satire, abstract undertones and engagement, all the elements that made the show so entertaining.
Meeting 10 – Farewell
The year ended with a farewell celebration at MTC HQ with teachers, family and donors also in attendance. The Ambassadors reflected on their year at MTC and shared stories about favourite productions, unexpected insights, and hopes for the future. The future is bright for these young theatre practitioners, and we look forward to seeing what is in store for their creative careers!
MTC Ambassadors is kindly supported by the Youth Ambassador Giving Circle.
Nominations for the 2018 program are now open! To learn more about MTC Ambassadors, click here.