Why performing arts students need to broaden their cultural horizons

Brooke Boland

Different theatre cultures enrich Australian actors, directors, designers and writers with new aesthetics and methodologies.
Why performing arts students need to broaden their cultural horizons

Pool (no water) directed by Ben Schostakowski , NIDA June Student Productions. Image supplied.

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Engaging with different theatre cultures from around the world has numerous benefits for Australian performing artists and students. It instills an interest in different aesthetics and creates international connections that benefit their careers in years to come.

In addition to international placements and secondments, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) brings different global theatre cultures into its students’ range of experience by bringing in international directors for artistic residencies during its student production seasons.

‘International guest directors provide a timely reminder that theatre practice can vary greatly in our global cultural world. The interchange of ideas and methodologies means that all participants are enriched and their practice emboldened,’ said Dr Egil Kipste, Director of the Centre for Creative Practices at NIDA.

Recently, as students prepare for NIDA’s 2019 June Student Productions Season, they are working with visiting international director Robert Schuster from the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin, Germany.

Schuster, who brings with him ‘an epic Brechtian format’ according to Kipste, has worked closely with NIDA students on a production of Roberto Zucco by French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltès.

‘In this case the set, costume and video designers  began working on design concepts for the show  while Schuster was still in Europe, collaborating via Skype and email.

‘They were able to create an ambitious design that suited Schuster's vision for the production,’ Kipste explained. The production, Roberto Zucco, explores excess, social violence and alienation, with its central character, the murderous Zucco, reflecting a depressive world searching for meaning.

View entire 2019 June Student Productions Season here. 

Schuster is one of many visiting directors who have worked closely with NIDA students on each production season. NIDA brings these directors from institutions around the world – and the benefits of such collaborations can be seen in the quality of work produced.

‘International directors bring a different aesthetic and skill-set to what we are used to in Australia, especially if they are from a non-English background,’ Kipste said.

Students work closely with each visiting director to develop a production and collaborate across a range of disciplines— actors, designers, costume and props (properties and objects) makers, assistant directors, stage managers, lighting, sound and technical production students are all enriched by the new influence, and the insight into a different theatre culture. Nor is Schuster the only director to push students further in their practice. 

Last year it was Oleg Glushkov who came to NIDA from the The Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS) in Moscow and brought with him an immersive experience that made students revise their relationship to the audience. 

‘[Glushkov] has a background in choreography, large-scale events and self-devised work. He put all this to use in his production of Ah, Tuzenbach, A Melancholic Cabaret (a compilation of Chekhov plays) where around 10 rooms were set up and each room had a single audience member. This kind of immersive theatrical experience was novel to our students but they revelled in the challenge of playing in another kind of theatre genre,’ said Kipste.

Second-year Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) student, Melissa Kahraman, from the cast of Ah Tuzenbach, A Melancholic Cabaret, said, ‘In Australia you don’t see a lot of interactive theatre; it’s quite rare. What’s nice about working with Oleg [Glushkov] is that where he’s from, in Russia, this kind of theatre happens all the time, and it’s a type of theatre he’s really interested in. So he’s brought [this different theatre tradition] to us, and now we’re able to gift it to other people, which is really exciting.’

To find out more about the June Student Productions Season at NIDA, visit nida.edu.au/productions

About the author

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