New generation of stage and screen designers celebrated online

A new online exhibition celebrates the imagination and rigour of Design and Production students at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne.

From the brightly lit flight deck and coolly functional corridors of a spaceship through to vividly lit dance and theatre productions, the graduating work of Design and Production students at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne – as seen in a new online exhibition – is testament to their skill and imagination, as well as their resilience after an extraordinary 2020.

‘We are often so much behind the scenes, so it’s really great to put the work of the students front and centre; to pull back the curtain and see what happens backstage – as well as the design processes leading up to the creation of a piece of live performance,’ said Lisa Osborn, Head of Production at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music (home of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music).

‘We’re really hoping the exhibition will give a broad range of people the chance to come and see what the Production students are doing,’ Osborn added.

The Design and Production Graduate Exhibition is one of several examples of VCA students’ work presented online by the University of Melbourne in recent months, with performances by graduating Music Theatre students showcased alongside new choreographic works, visual art, concerts, short films and more.

The latest exhibition celebrates works made by students from a number of different but complementary courses.

‘Our undergraduate students from the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Design and Production) are featured on the graduate exhibition website, as well as the Master of Design for Performance postgraduate students and the Master of Production (Design for Screen) postgraduate students,’ said Osborn.

‘It’s a really wonderful opportunity for us to profile our students through the website so that people can see the amazing work they’ve been doing, both last year in 2020 but also in the entire time that they’ve been here at the VCA.’

Intuitively designed, the online showcase allows viewers to click through from an image of a rehearsal or production to learn more about the designers, makers, stage manager or technicians who worked on each show.

‘Each of the students are profiled on the site and able to talk about their work and their process and what interests them, so it’s really an opportunity to hear directly from them,’ Osborn told ArtsHub.

Graduating Design & Production students working behind the scenes during Graduation Season 2020. Photo credit: Stephen McCallum.

The individual students’ websites and contact details are provided, ensuring they and their work can be accessed by industry members who are keen to recruit the next generation of stage and screen designers and practitioners, while the exhibition’s online nature reflects the digital pivot practised by the sector nationally in 2020.

‘Obviously, last year was as much of a challenge for us here [at the VCA] as it was across the industry, and across the wider community as well. And our students were quite phenomenal. There were times, of course, when it was a challenge and it was perhaps difficult to see a path through, but our students were so passionate, so committed and they have really worked hard throughout the last year – as they have throughout their course,’ said Osborn.

‘And one thing that’s been really wonderful, coming out of 2020, I’ve had people reaching out to me, asking about our graduating students and talking about opportunities, and it does feel that there’s a real want to embrace the next generation of theatre-makers.

‘The fact that we can now point the industry towards the site, and they can actually see what the students have been doing and working on, and maybe follow their trajectory going forward as well, has been fantastic,’ she said.

Learn more about the Design and Production 2020 Exhibition.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts