How a life at NIDA helped shape Australian talent

In his new memoir, An Eye for Talent: A Life at NIDA, former Director John Clark remembers the institution and the many talented artists it trained.

NIDA in the 1990’s produced a group of great actors, strong women and men who were soon playing leading roles in Australia and abroad. Jacquie McKenzie was a petite and handsome young actor who would often ask for a helpful comment on her work in a play production. ‘Come on, Clarkie, don’t fuck about. Tell me exactly what you thought’ – and I did.

There was Susie Porter and Sacha Horler, Robin McLeavy, Miranda Otto, Susan Prior and Annalise Phillips. Cate Blanchett and Essie Davis played mother and daughter in a NIDA production of Sophocles’ Electra with Daniel Lapaine, who moved to Hollywood after playing a leading role in Muriel’s Wedding … while Olivia Pigeot, whom I remember as a funny and sexy Australian Lucille Ball, reignited her career after creating a family.

Unlock Padlock Icon

Unlock this content?

Access this content and more

JOHN CLARK AM was educated at The Hutchins School, Hobart and the universities of Tasmania, Bristol and California. In 1960, one year after it began, he was invited to teach Theatre History at the National Institute of Dramatic art. He directed plays with the students and with the Old Tote Theatre Company and in 1969 was appointed the third Director of NIDA – a post he held until 2008. Clark established the Jane Street seasons of new work, co-founded the Sydney Theatre Company with Elizabeth Butcher in 1979, and established the NIDA Company in 1990. Outside NIDA he has directed plays in India, China, Singapore and Hobart. In 2006 he won a Helpmann Lifetime Achievement Award.