In November 2022, actor and Youth Ambassador alumnus Jack Green visited Swan Hill College in northwest Victoria to lead Year 7 students through a virtual tour of As You Like It – the joyous, Shakespearean production where Green made his Company debut in 2021.
Why are you passionate about sharing theatre with young audiences?
The same experiences were shared with me when I was in school, and I was really fortunate to be in a school that put on shows, had a drama department and could connect with programs such as Melbourne Theatre Company’s Youth Ambassadors. Theatre in Melbourne, as excellent as it is, doesn’t suffuse a lot of the public consciousness in the way that perhaps sport does, so we have to make a concentrated effort to reach out to younger people.
How was the experience of leading students through a virtual tour of As You Like It ?
It was all very hands-on. We talked upstage, downstage, prompt, off-prompt and moved around these very spots in their theatre. Then we moved into set building, which challenged the students to recreate a set from a drawn bird’s-eye plan.
We brought some of As You Like It’s fantastic costumes with us – my Jaques de Boys coat and hat – and got to show that off to the students. Then we put the VR headsets on and walked through the rolling green As You Like It set in the Sumner, and talked about everything from my water bottles on the instrument table, to the upstage door where I made my flamboyant entrance – ‘Let me have audience …’
Jack Green in As You Like It, 2021. Photo: Jeff Busby
What were the students most interested and fascinated in?
Their interests spread out nicely. I think some of the students were really into the coat we brought along (no surprise there, it’s an excellent coat), and others were fascinated by how huge the Sumner actually is (I imagine some of them might not have been in such a big theatre before). The aim is that we offer up a lot of knowledge and show off a few things, and hope that something really makes an impact, maybe even with just one person, and that sets them on a trajectory with theatre.
Why are initiatives like this so important?
My family weren’t ever really avid theatre-goers. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I started taking myself to see professional theatre. As a kid, when school is so much of your life, it can often be these sorts of incursions that might flick on a lightbulb. I imagine this distance from staged works is even truer of people growing up in rural or regional areas. So these sorts of initiatives are crucial in illuminating the otherwise foreign world of theatre. VR is really a fun way of viewing something like a set (photos don’t capture the use of space), and the tech is only bound to improve.
This workshop was supported by Telematics Trust, The Gailey Lazarus Foundation and The Ian Potter Foundation.
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Published on 28 April 2023