New Flinders Student Drama focuses on social change

Flinders University’s 2023 Drama graduates are exploring timely themes of equality and personal identity in a bold new theatre production being presented from July 25 to 28.

The new anthology performance Coming of Age in the Twenty First Century – being performed in the Matthew Flinders Theatre at Flinders University’s Bedford Park campus – is drawn from the students own creative practice research responding to six recent landmark plays to reflect the experiences of young people addressing ever- fragmenting visions of personal identity.

Flinders University’s head of Drama, Dr Christopher Hay:

The questions are being shouted loud and clear. How are we family now? How are we seen, heard and respected, right now?.

This year’s graduating actors seek to directly address these questions by searching around the world for drama works that embrace political and personal themes that are shaping their emergence as artists and members of society. It’s their struggle for intersectional equity and freedom of self-expression.

This production comes in tandem with the launch of a New Bachelor of Performance at Flinders University, which will commence in 2024 – underlining Flinders University’s strength in developing and presenting student talent through highly recognised and respected industry-interfacing professional training.

Coming of Age in The Twenty First Century features Flinders Drama’s collaboration with esteemed guest director Glenda Linscott, one of Australia’s leading actors and acting teachers and former Head of Acting at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

Ms Linscott:

Young people, caught up in a furnace of recent social, political and personal upheaval, are demanding that we all take responsibility for the creation of a society that is equal, diverse, fair, just and inclusive,beloved by Australian audiences for her break-out role as Rita. The Beater” Connors in TV drama Prisoner.

This is reflected in the work of this year’s talented Drama cohort. They are passionate emerging theatre artists hungry to explore themes of personal, cultural and theatrical identity in their artform.

The 2023 graduating actors at the Flinders Drama Centre are Connor Pullinger, Em Ritson, Franca Lafosse, Isabella Vassallo-Wakefield, Lauren Jones, Luke Furlan, Luke Wiltshire, Tayla Cecere, Tom Spiby and Shant Becker.

The production is the first collaboration between the graduating actors and students of Flinders’ Bachelor of Creative Arts (Costume Design) – with the production designed for the stage by Kathryn Sproul, and Lighting and Projection Design by Mark Oakley.

This new production follows the success of Flinders Drama’s 2022 production Coming of Age in Australia, in which last year’s graduating drama cohort presented an innovative anthology of coming-of-age experiences from keen revisiey Australian plays.

This model has bted and refreshed by this year’s cohort of Bachelor of Creative Arts – Honours (Drama) students, who are exploring key scenes from plays including visionary Australian director Simon Stone’s version of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Yerma, Kendall Feaver’s 2021 adaptation of Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career and Charlie Josephine’s non-binary retelling of Joan of Arc, I, Joan, which caused a sensation last year at Shakespeare’s Globe in London.

Along with part of a bold reworking of the novel Howards End by EM Forster (The Inheritance, by Matthew Lopez), the new production shows that the students are considering how a work of art comes of age in an era where old certainties about gender, identity and sexual politics are being overturned.

Flinders Drama lecturer Dr Christopher Hurrell:

The ethos that this production embodies – of innovative student-led creative exploration under expert guidance of national and international standing – is now being codified into a brand-new dedicated degree offering by Flinders Drama.

All these pieces push or subvert conventional theatrical storytelling forms and character representations to create new ways of seeing things, new structures and new ways to challenging audiences. It is an exciting exploration of Form as Content – and it shows that these students want to develop a more inclusive performance culture in Australia.

This inclusivity is a priority for the new Bachelor of Performance, which will offer three dedicated specialisation degrees for actors, directors and theatre-makers, all of whom will learn and work together.

The timely and relevant presentation of Coming of Age in the Twenty First Century – along with the introduction of the new Bachelor of Performance in 2024 – continues the positive outcomes from Flinders University’s review of Drama, which has resulted in a heightened commitment to drama and the performing arts.

Dr Hay:

The new course underlines the rejuvenation of industry-focused Flinders Drama, reinforcing its long- held reputation for its unique combination of discipline-leading research with rigorous professional practice training.

As the first university in Australia to offer actor training and with more than 50 years’ experience in teaching actors, directors and the skills required for both live and digital performance projects, Flinders is an established leader and innovator in performance education.

Flinders Performance degrees span acting, directing and theatre making, and have been designed in consultation with industry to retain, revive and secure Flinders’ unique research-and-professional-practice approach.

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One thought on “New Flinders Student Drama focuses on social change

  • This article mentions Charlie Josephine’s play “I, Joan”, which claims Joan of Arc’s soldier’s clothing made her “non-binary” but this has been debunked by historians. Joan of Arc always called herself “the maiden” (“la pucelle”) as a way to link herself to a prophecy about a “maiden from the borders of Lorraine”, which would indicate a female identity beyond any reasonable doubt; and several eyewitnesses who had been at her trial said she told them she continued wearing soldier’s clothing in prison so she could keep it “firmly laced and tied” to prevent her guards from pulling her clothing off when they tried to rape her, since this type of clothing had dozens of laces to attach the trousers, hip-boots and tunic all together into one piece. The bailiff, Jehan Massieu, said the guards finally maneuvered her into a “relapse” by taking away her dress and forcing her to put the soldier’s clothing back on, then the judge condemned her. Charlie Josephine thinks she chose to die for men’s clothing as a non-binary identity statement, but it wasn’t her choice and had nothing to do with gender identity.


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