10/07/2014 - 13:57

Creative talents find new stages to strut

10/07/2014 - 13:57

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Recent investment in school theatre facilities is having a mutually beneficial effect.

Creative talents find new stages to strut
WIN-WIN-WIN: Bull Creek residents have the opportunity to see Ochre Contemporary Dance Company’s new performance at All Saints College later this month. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Recent investment in school theatre facilities is having a mutually beneficial effect.

Ochre Contemporary Dance Company’s performance of its new production, Articulating Landscapes, at All Saints College later this month continues the growing use of private colleges’ new, high-end facilities for public performances.

The one-off show at the All Saints College Centre for Performing Arts in Bull Creek not only takes advantage of a near-new state-of-the-art theatre, it allows Ochre to get closer to a suburban audience that is often hard to reach.

All Saints’ 420-seat arts centre was opened in 2013, and is one of a number of recently built, high-quality theatres in Perth private schools available for community use.

The performance series, inspired by the works of local authors Kim Scott and Stephen Scourfield, will also be performed in a much older venue, in Nedlands – the University of WA’s Masonic Hall where Ochre, formerly the WA Aboriginal Dance Company, is now based.

The lure of the All Saints venue means more than a one-off performance, however. Ochre’s choreographer and workshop instructor, Simon Stewart, has been working with students at All Saints this year.

Ochre’s Emma Cahill said the facilities were extremely valuable as training grounds for the students who would go on to become members of the arts sector one day.

“These young people will have such a great existing theatre knowledge after having access to these facilities during their school years and this will only enhance their careers in the arts,” she said.

Ms Cahill said the facility offered the arts group diversity.

“There is always a need for additional performance spaces in Perth and particularly ones that allow us to connect with new audience due to their location” she said.

“We can perform in the local community without having to compromise the production values that we would be able to achieve in venues such as the State Theatre Centre.”

Other schools in the Perth area have also invested heavily in new performing arts centres, including Hale School, St Hilda’s Anglican School, and Penrhos College.

The theatre at St Hilda’s is one of the largest in the state; at 900 seats it is 325 seats bigger than the Heath Ledger Theatre in the State Theatre Centre of WA.

Built in 2012, it also features an orchestra pit, and was funded largely by support from Andrew and Nicola Forrest.

“It’s a great opportunity for the girls of St Hilda’s to have a venue there ready for them,” St Hilda’s theatre manager Dave Spooner said.

“It really lets them go up a notch in theatre and production in a professional venue; not just improving their acting skills, but technical skills as well”.

Community groups and other schools are also able to use the facilities.

Refurbished in 2006, Hale School’s John Inverarity Music & Drama centre has been used by community groups and high-profile acts such as Tim Minchin and the WA Symphony Orchestra.

Perth-based theatre consultant Graham Walne designed both the Hale School and All Saints College facilities.

“It’s a unique challenge to balance the competing requirements for the assembly of many people with the intimacy often required for performance. Flexibility is important,” said Mr Walne, who also worked on the State Theatre Centre.

“Schools are recognising they are only going to build one of these once and so they’re making sure they get the balance right.”

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