NIDA urges its 60th intake of students to be the face of change

Ex Machina performed in 2018 using AI and puppetry - photo by Patrick BolandOn a historic day earlier this week, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) have proudly welcomed a new cohort of students for its 60th year.

The excitement was palpable throughout NIDA’s Nancy Fairfax Foyer, as fresh faces and returning Master of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Vocational Diploma students arrived to begin the next stage of their dramatic arts training.

At a special all-school meeting NIDA Executive Chairman Jennifer Bott AO was joined on the stage of the Parade Theatre by all academic and administrative staff, special guest and award-winning Australian director Timothy Jones, and President of NIDA’s student council (SCON) and second year BFA (Acting) student Rebecca Attanasio to mark the start of the academic year. The proceedings commenced with Dr Peter Yanada McKenzie welcoming the students to Bedegal land on behalf of the elders of the Saltwater Aboriginal Community of La Perouse.

In the renowned Bachelor of Fine Arts (Acting) degree, 24 new students selected from nearly 1,000 applicants are starting their first year. While the first year actors excitedly commence a new phase in their creative development, second year students will tackle working on live productions for the first time, and third year students look forward to a year immersed in performance.

Second year BFA (Acting) student Mantshologane Maile was excited to be back and exclaimed: “this year I am looking forward to the extreme workload and to be under the pressure to deliver exquisitely through liberation in the process!”

This year will also see more Indigenous students than ever before enrolled in BFA Acting, MFA Cultural Leadership, MFA Directing, MFA Writing, BFA Technical Theatre and Stage Management and MFA voice.

These onboarding students are now part of the 60-year-old legacy of teachers, performers, designers, writers, producers and directors who have experienced NIDA, since the first year of operation in 1959.

“Your capacity as professionals to develop empathy in audiences, to show what it is to be “the other”, is one of the most powerful things you will learn to do to make this world and our community a safer and better place,” said Bott.

Special guest and NIDA alumnus, Timothy Jones, is Artistic Director and CEO of the Seymour Centre and former Artistic Director/CEO of Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP), delivered an inspiring address to the students.

“I auditioned three times to get here, as I was determined to learn acting at NIDA. I feel enormously privileged to be able to speak to you today,” said Jones. “I remember clearly when one of my tutors in my third year at NIDA, renowned film and theatre production director Jim Sharman, directed the production of Jean Genet’s The Screens as we opened the new Parade Theatre.”

“He pulled me aside and suggested I could consider directing, and after I travelled and taught acting, I stuck my hand up at the ATYP and began my directing career. Never did I think that my career would play out as it did. It was precisely because NIDA put Jim Sharman in my path, and because he provoked me into thinking about my creativity in new ways, that I am where I am today.”

Jones urged the students to ‘remember the big picture. Remember that you are here because you have an interest in participating in an artform that at its best touches the human heart, reflecting the domains and the joys of the human condition, and one that can imagine and present visions of a better future for us all.’

Hayden Tonazzi, commencing the MFA (Directing) course commented: “I just heard an amazing speech by Tim Jones, that has got me very excited. Just hearing from someone who has gone through all this, has come out the other end, and has been such a successful storyteller is so inspiring.”

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Image: Ex Machina performed in 2018 using AI and puppetry – photo by Patrick Boland