In January this year, she up and moved across the country. She packed her clothes, her dancing shoes, shipped her car and transferred her position at a nation-wide store to another state. She’d worked hard and travelled to the United States to gain experience. She’d auditioned for a panel of industry experts who analysed her singing, heard her monologue and watched her dance in the call backs. And she impressed them.
With so much talent, she gained a place in not one but two performing arts colleges. The decision was made and in a matter of weeks she’d relocated. A tiny bunch of first years with the hopes and dreams of the Fame school in tow, twenty lucky and talented performers were given their chance to shine. They’d come up on top of hundreds of applicants and their time was now. And it is now.
She’s been back and forth between states numerous times throughout the year, but as of the weekend, she’ s back for good. Well, for the summer. And we caught up today in the heart of Windsor, among slow walkers, people sipping coffee, thrift shops and free ice cream at the opening of the new Ben and Jerry’s store.
It’s crazy how different two people’s experiences of their first year of university can be. Her course is full on. Full time. Five days a week of learning, stretching, rehearsing, training, dancing, singing, keyboard playing, costumes, blocking, acting, performing, bonding. The small intake each year gives students the chance to become a family, as well as befriending and housemating second and third years of their course. The course has traditions. The theatre is full of traditions. They have houses allocated to the school that have been passed down through the generations of graduates. The second years fundraise for the third years and perform for the first years. They train together, they party together. They live in each others back pockets and secrets are scarce. But it sounds incredible. Arts school. Performing arts college. It’s traditionally American but uniquely Australian at the same time.
The graduating Class of 2014 come from all corners of the country. From Cairns to Adelaide, Mooloolaba to Sydney, Perth and of course, Melbourne. They’re of different ages, some straight out of high school, some in their twenties, and a mix of boys and girls. They may be as different as they come, but share a united vision of soloing in a Broadway show, name in lights and closing to a standing ovation. To an outsider, it may seem like a long shot, but these kids have got what it takes.
We visited the auditions for next years intake which were going on down the road. In so many situations you hear of the older group making fun of, teasing, belittling or scoffing at the younger group. But as my friend told me, her class are so excited to have ‘new first years’. It is such a community and the vibe is invigorating.
There’s something about the performing arts that’s like a disease. You catch it and then you’re plagued with it for life. Amidst such tough competition, everyone is there to support each other. There is something in performers that runs through their blood, constantly pumping through their veins and it makes them come alive. They have a dream and they’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. They work when they’re sick, they rehearse insane hours, they push on when their feet are sore and life is throwing everything at them. But I guarantee, when they perform, you are witnessing their heart and sole on the line, every single time. They show their vulnerabilities and it takes guts to expose yourself to an audience like they do. Once song may have hours and hours of work behind its facade. And making it seem easy and effortless is only part of the task.
But don’t be misled. Performers have skills that trick you, and lead you into a world outside your own. You’re suddenly inside their world, the world of the stage and in that world, anything is possible. It’s a wonderful place to be in and it’s there for the taking.
So go and see a show. Book tickets to a musical, a play, a showcase. And after the curtains have closed and you’re processing what you’ve seen, take a minute to consider the hard work that’s gone into that performance. It’s a mindfuck. And then leave with the confidence that by seeing that show, you are helping to sustain an industry and the life of individuals who live for the stage and the thrill of performing. And then go and book tickets to another – ’cause you’ve been tickled by strains of that blessed disease. The performing disease. All the world’s a stage, you just have to open your eyes.