Most of us who become artists, have a similar story. Someone at some point saw us and said ‘I think you could be good at this’.
The myth of the solo artistic genius is just that – a myth. We all develop in a social context, theatre artists more than anyone. At some point every successful director, actor, playwright or designer has someone recognise their potential and encourage them to keep going, to work hard and to dream. Whether this happens in a classroom, a rehearsal room or a Gecko Ensemble; these inspirational figures loom large in any artist’s “origin story”.
To namecheck: Graham Lewarne, my eccentric bow-tie-wearing school science teacher, was the first person who did this for me. He was an accomplished amateur dramatist with a love of Shakespeare and a fierce and exacting sense of what worked on stage. He was brutally honest when he didn’t think what you were doing was any good, and he taught me to aim high and strive for excellence. And 25 years later I’m here in large part because he expected more of me than I knew how to give. In recent years Graham’s come to a number of my shows. He still gives me notes. Most of us working in the arts have stories like this one.
I’m writing this, on the eve of our 2016 season, in the certain knowledge that many artists will look back on our current Barking Gecko teaching artists as their inspirational figures in the decades to come. OK, I’m going to come out and say it: we have a pretty awesome teaching team working with our young Gecko Ensembles this year. On Friday we finished our teacher training sessions – very much a two way process – and we are ready to unleash this extraordinary, eclectic, passionate bunch of human beings on Western Australia’s young actors, in our weekly Gecko Ensembles.
Of course our Ensembles aren’t just for those who will become professional artists, they’re for everyone. Just as the lessons you learn on the sporting field serve you in life even if you never play for Perth Glory or the Dockers; so theatre education is full of rich intrinsic rewards including self-confidence, empathy and a capacity for playful creativity, even if you never give your Lady Macbeth on the Heath Ledger stage.
I’m incredibly proud of what we have planned for our young Ensemble members this year. Having spent more than two decades around theatre companies nationally and internationally, I can honestly say that I know of no other company that is paying this much attention to the quality of what they are teaching to young people in their classes week-by-week. That’s not marketing spin or an arbitrary boast. It’s based on our decision to invest hundreds of focused hours in developing rich content, linked to quality literature and overseen by Professor Robyn Ewing, AM, one of the world’s leading authorities on drama education. So you can be certain that every class will be brimming with creativity and fun.
But great content is useless without great people to teach it. And when you combine the two? Then extraordinary things are possible. I can’t wait to see what will happen this year in our Gecko Ensembles. If you haven’t booked in, then what are you waiting for?