STEPPING into the director chair and mastering their own production has now flourished into a potential career for aspiring playwrights Isidora Pandilovska and Charlotte Smith.
Both Tenison Woods College 2018 graduates pounced at the rare opportunity to become involved when the National Institute of Dramatic Arts outreach program visited Mount Gambier earlier this year.
With nine weeks of mentoring from NIDA head of writing Dr Stephen Sewell, Isidora and Charlotte worked with 14 Year 10 students to produce Track & Field, which was performed on June 12 at Wehl Street Theatre.
Isidora said the production allowed them to gain “real-life” experience in the industry.
“We have gained a valuable insight and Stephen’s mentorship was just a blessing,” she said.
“It was a surreal moment seeing what is involved from behind-the-scenes and watching people say the words we wrote and produced on stage.
“It was challenging in a good way and has challenged us to improve and become better.”
Charlotte said the play reatured a brainstorm of ideas from the students involved and was a “disguised” way to raise mental health awareness.
“The students we were working with wanted to shine a light on mental health and raise awareness in a unique way so we incorporated it into our production,” she said.
“As the production is aimed for people aged 14 and over we thought it was the target age group.
“You do not necessarily see people talking about it at lunch or in the schoolyard so it gave the play meaning.”
Charlotte said students were reluctant but grew to the idea, with the final production exceeding expectations.
“As we were giving each character a scene at a time they found it hard to understand what we were planning and honestly we did not really know what we were planning at the time either,” she said.
“Once we had everything written down, they gave us feedback on what they thought we should change and we took it all on board and coordinated with them.
“We would never have had the opportunity if it was not for college drama teacher Eliza Suggate, she was the one which made it all happen.”
Charlotte said the mentorship with Dr Sewell was priceless, with the outreach program debuting in Mount Gambier in 2019.
“Mount Gambier is not overly culturally aware of the arts so for someone from NIDA to recognise people’s work from down here is a big deal,” she said.
“We are able to use Stephen as a reference, have met Country Arts SA creative programs manager Merilyn de Nys and are now being encouraged for involvement in creative writing workshops.
“A life goal for me would be to pursue a career in screenwriting and this has definitely opened doors for both of us.”
Dr Sewell said NIDA would like to see more support the appreciation of drama and performance across Australia.
“We want as many young people as possible come to us especially if they are interested in an arts related career,” he said.
“The opportunity to reach out to regional areas has been brilliant.
“Hopefully in years to come I will see these students studying with me at NIDA to continue their journey to the top.”
Dr Sewell said both school productions were particular and finely written and will stay with the writers forever.
“Both were localised and set in Mount Gambier which made it even more relatable to the audience,” he said.
“I am excited to work with the material and pitch it to the South Australian Film Corporation to be developed into a film or a tv series.
“I thank the support we have received from Country Arts SA and am convinced they will help cultivate, assist, support and encourage future artists in years to come.”
Isidora said she is now looking a career pathway which will lead into screenwriting and directing.
“We both have big aspirations which we hope we able to fulfill,” she said.
“The Wehl Street Theatre Group is looking for writers so we are in on pitching ideas.
“I think we just want to as much experience as we can, while we can.”
The upcoming playwrights are putting ideas together for a sequel and variations of the script to “bring it back to life” in the future.
“It has involved many 3am brainstorms so ideas are a bit crazy at the moment,” Charlotte said.
“We would also love to put the script online for people to get the royalties for it.
“The whole involvement was a great opportunity and we are thankful for everyone who put in their involved efforts.”
With St Martins Lutheran College being Tenison’s 2019 NIDA Outreach Program regional partner, Year 10 drama students also visited the college for an encore performance of their original play It’s So Deep on June 14.
Involved students also worked with Dr Sewell through the 9-week period to produce the production.