New Student Drama focuses on social change

Proving that theatre provides a powerful voice for potent youth issues, 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.

“The questions are being shouted loud and clear. How are we family now? How are we seen, heard and respected, right now?” says Flinders University’s head of Drama, Dr Christopher Hurrell.

“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).

Coming of Age director Glenda 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,” says Ms Linscott, 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.”

Ms Linscott will appear at a special in-conversation event, reflecting on the changes in the industry over the course of her illustrious career, at 1.30pm on Friday July 28.

The 2023 graduating actors at the Flinders Drama Centre are Connor Pullinger, Em Ritson, Franca Lafosse, Isabella Vassallo, 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 key Australian plays.

This model has been revisited and refreshed by this year’s cohort of Bachelor of Creative Arts – Honours (Drama) students, and the new production shows the students’ interrogation of how a work of art itself comes of age in an era where old certainties about gender, identity and sexual politics are being overturned.

“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,” says Dr Hurrell.

“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.”

The presentation of Coming of Age in the Twenty First Century continues the positive outcomes from Flinders University’s review of Drama, which has resulted in a heightened commitment to drama and the performing arts.

This commitment has resulted in the introduction of the new Bachelor of Performance from 2024. The inclusivity represented by Coming of Age in the Twenty First Century extends to the new degree, which will offer three dedicated specialisation degrees for actors, directors and theatre-makers, all of whom will learn and work together.

Professor of Drama Chris Hay says 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,” says Professor Hay.

“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.”

Bookings for the Coming of Age in the Twenty First Century performance are available here.

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