’If not now, when?‘ Study your passion backstage in the performing arts

We speak to two students about following their passion in the performing arts in pathways that are not about Acting.
’If not now, when?‘ Study your passion backstage in the performing arts

Eileen Ortiona learns about rigging at NIDA. Image supplied.


Eileen Ortiona was working in IT at the ABC before she followed her passion for set construction.

‘I was exposed to all the different artists in the [ABC] building and I realised I wanted to work in the creative arts,’ she said. 

When asked why she decided to make the career change and take the leap into studying the many facets of set construction and technology, she said: I thought, “if not now, when?” I decided to take the risk and follow what I was passionate about. And when I look back at what I can do now technically and creatively, I’ve grown a lot.’

Today Ortiona is a second year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Scenic Construction and Technologies) student at NIDA. 

When she graduates, Ortiona will join a workforce taking advantage of a wealth of creative employment opportunities in the performing arts that require a high level creative skill set. These are ‘the makers’, the people working backstage to make the magic happen for the performers out the front.

For Tess Healy, her interest in the performing arts started early in life after she saw The Phantom of the Opera in primary school, which instilled in her a love of costume design.

‘I had always been interested in the performing arts and studied it all through high school. I’ve done acting and worked in theatre a lot, but when I did product design technology in high school, I realised that was where my passion really lay,’ she said.

Combining her interests in product construction and fashion led Healy to apply for NIDA’s Bachelor of Arts (Costume) straight out of high school. Even though her first application was unsuccessful, she didn’t give up and decided to study fashion and build her portfolio. 

Tess Healy worked on the costumes for the NIDA’s June student production of The Colby Sisters of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: Patrick Boland. Image supplied.

'I definitely am glad that I didn’t get in the first time. I think moving from Sydney to Melbourne, I would have been too young, but it was definitely better the second time because I had more experience and was able to build up my portfolio a bit more. I had a better understanding and a better basis of sewing knowledge, which you definitely need before applying,’ Healy said.

‘I hear from people that they’re not going to apply because they’re afraid they are not going to get in. But I would say it is always worth applying – even applying several times if you have to, because it is definitely worth it in the end.’

Creating a portfolio to show off your talent

The application process at NIDA and other higher education performing arts institutions involves preparation, as applicants need to submit a project and portfolio in advance and undertake an interview. 

Healy’s tip for applicants is to put time into creating this all-important portfolio. ‘There is nothing that is too small to put in your portfolio. Put everything you think is worthwhile in.’

Ortiona chose to create a set design model for the opera Carmen for her application. Her advice is to use all your existing expertise and experiences to strengthen your portfolio and not to hold back in its presentation. 

‘At NIDA, students come from all different backgrounds and I would advise them to play to their strengths. I had more of a design and technology background, so I used my unique skill set to make a strong application. Other people might come from more of a construction background and think about how to build the set from that experience.’

As well as Scenic Construction and Technologies and Costume, NIDA offers Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts courses in Cultural Leadership, Directing, Design for Performance, Voice and Writing for Performance, as well as Bachelor of Fine Arts courses in Design for Performance, Properties and Objects, and Technical Theatre and Stage Management. All interested students are encouraged to apply. Applications close 30 September, 2018. 

Find out more at apply.nida.edu.au

Brooke Boland

Monday 30 July, 2018

About the author

Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW.