Our gorgeous Workshop Tutor, Nina Pearce, hailing from Adelaide, has worked on a huge variety of TV, Film and theatre since discovering her passion for the performing arts at a young age. Apart from bringing out the best in our workshop participants every term, Nina can also be found licking her elbow on request...
How are you enjoying working with BGTC as a Tutor?
It’s great fun, Barking Gecko is an excellent company to work for. The energy and enthusiasm from those participating in the workshops gives me a real buzz.
Prior to this role, what were you up to?
I was in Adelaide working a couple of less thrilling part time jobs and working on several scripts as a writer. A short film I co-wrote was shot in South Australia earlier this year, and my first play will have a production in Perth later this year.
You have experience in TV, film, theatre and on radio, what are some of your highlights?
Working on the SBS series Danger 5 was hilarious fun, and playing a crotchety old cockney witch in a play at NIDA has been my favorite role to date. I also really enjoyed working on Vanessa Bates’ play Checklist for an Armed Robber in Sydney and a little short film called Rock Lobster where I got to play a girl who lives inside a giant rocking horse.
Tell us a little about your time at NIDA? How important has this training been for you?
NIDA had its ups and downs as every drama school does, but I’m hugely grateful for the experience and learnt a lot. As well as forming a basis for my acting, the training has helped me to become a better writer, which means a lot.
Did you take drama classes and/or workshops while you were young?
I used to go to a place called Actor’s Ink in Adelaide for youth and advanced acting classes after school. They were fantastic and really helped bring me out of my shell.
What do you think students of BGTC workshops gain by being involved in workshops?
Confidence building, learning a variety of techniques and most importantly enjoyment and an avenue for expression.
Favourite piece of theatre? Film? TV series?
My favorite play is a little known verse drama called “The Lady’s Not for Burning” by Christopher Fry. Film would have to be the chilling Rosemary’s Baby directed by Roman Polanski and TV Series – gotta love HBO – Mad Men and Entourage.
Any hidden talents you want to share with us?
They say it’s physically impossible to lick your elbow - except if you’re me. I can and will do it upon request.
Michael joined the Gecko team in November last year and has brought his passion for the arts to invigorate our education and workshop program. Originally from Queensland, Michael comes to Perth via New Zealand with a wealth of experience and enthusiasm.
What attracted you to the position of Education & Workshop Manager?
Barking Gecko is creating astonishing work that the company and WA should be immensely proud of. I see the Education Program at Barking Gecko as a vital role given the work that we deliver and developing relationships with schools and education providers. I believe there is incredible opportunity for more WA students to see our productions and to engage with us through workshop programs. The productions Barking Gecko produce deserve to be seen by diverse audiences and I love introducing and re-introduceing students and teachers to our work.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Working alongside education providers to make their "Barking Gecko Experience" meaningful and specific to their needs. We are developing strong partnership relationships with a number of schools which sees us involved well beyond just watching our performances. The workshop tutors we have on board are amazing at what they do and growing this side of Barking Gecko has been incredibly rewarding for me.
Tell us a little about your experiences in NZ
I was in NZ for over five years and worked in screen production and theatre sector. Before I moved to WA I was working as the Senior Arts Funding Advisor for Theatre at Creative New Zealand, which is the national arts funding and development body. I also had a stint looking after the Pan Art form Festivals and Dance portfolios, so over that time I got to work with some amazing practitioners and companies. Wellington is a beautiful city to live in, however I must admit that I am enjoying quality time at the beach!
What's your favourite memory of arts experiences as a child
I grew up in Toowoomba, Queensland and it was always an annual highlight when my parents would drive me to Brisbane so that I could go and see one of the major touring productions. I must admit it was mostly musical theatre at the time, but my taste now is much broarder.
Favourite arts moment?
While I know it may appear biased, but I adored Barking Gecko's production of Duck, Death and the Tulip as part of the Perth International Arts Festival this year. Ella's and George's performances were stunning and it will be a show that sticks with me for a very long time. I think I ended up seeing it around 10 times.
Also, another recent-ish highlight would have to be The Black Arm Band performance at the Darwin Festival 2012. I even changed my flights and stayed an extra two days so that I could see it, and I am so glad that I did!!
Any hidden talents you would like to share?
Not sure if I would call it a talent, but I do enjoy playing the ukelele. I have created a play list on my iPod that i strum and sing along to (but I am yet to subject anybody to it). Ok, I can't believe I just admitted that in writing.
Favourite way to spend a weekend in WA?
Beach, beach, beach…like I said I have been deprived of a summer for a very long time.
A full house and standing ovation sees a fitting end to our season of Hamlet. Congratulations to all of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)'s 3rd year students involved, an amazing team on and off the stage.
"A modern interpretation of a classic play, John Sheedy’s Hamlet combines Barking Gecko’s experiences of entertaining younger audiences with the youthful energy and exuberance of WAAPA’s students to create an engaging and accessible tragedy." Artshub
"Best Hamlet I've seen on stage, James Sweeny!"
We are currently in rehearsals with 3rd year WAAPA acting, design and production students, bringing the play with the lot to the stage, Shakespeare's Hamlet. As part of our collaboration with the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts - The Shakespeare Series, Barking Gecko will work with 3rd year students in bringing a contemporary take on the work of Shakespeare in a way that is accessible and relevant for younger audiences.
Hamlet designer and 3rd year WAAPA student, Patrick Howe, is working on a set that reflects the contemporary modern take John Sheedy has planned for his collaboration with the West Australian Academy for Performing Arts. Entering the drama school world post apprenticeship has given Patrick a bigger arsenal of skills and a strong focus on achieving his goals. We take 5 with Patrick during Hamlet rehearsals.
Is this your first opportunity to work with a professional theatre company?
Yes, in the capacity of Designer, although, I have assisted other professional designers on professional productions both here in Perth and in the east.
Is it what you expected to happen in the 'real world'?
Yes, this is pretty much what I expected. The process is different for every production and obviously there is always pressure to do a good job, whether it’s for a student or professional production. But that's not a bad thing, it's actually a good thing and I enjoy the challenge.
Working with John Sheedy, how did you develop the 'look and feel' of Hamlet?
Firstly, we talked a lot about our own responses to the script. It was important that we were on the same page about this. As we were talking we focused on the world that we would stage the play in. It was important for us to treat the play as if it were the first time it had ever been produced. We looked at spaces that would set the mood and tone of the play and would at the same time serve a physical function for the action. After establishing the world of Hamlet, we looked at how each character would fit into that world.
How did you come to be studying at WAAPA? Was it a long held goal?
I remember back in the early days of high school wanting go to drama school, not necessarily WAAPA, but drama school yes. However, it wasn't until I was about 24 and had finished my cabinet making apprenticeship, that I decided to go back to study. I enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at ANU, taking a few drama courses. Through that the head a Drama at ANU found out I was a carpenter and asked me to build some sets for her productions. After that I started to build and design sets for many university and local productions. That's when I realised I could fulfil the dream I held as a kid of going to Drama school.
Where will we see you in 5 years time?
That's easy, as a well-established designer in the Australian theatre landscape.
Can you share your talents or achievements outside of the design world?
I trained and fought kickboxing in Thailand.
3rd Year WAAPA student, James Sweeny, takes on Shakespeare's most famous protagonist Hamlet as part of our 3 year collaboration with the West Australian Academy of the Performing Arts, The Shakespeare Series. We take 5 during rehearsals to catch up with James as he prepares to tackle the play with the lot.
When it comes to your acting what or who inspires you?
I get a kick out of watching any great performances on stage or screen, although my inspiration comes from the characters and the stories themselves. There's nothing more thrilling than being fully immersed in a character and making discoveries on stage for the first time. This, I believe, is what produces inspiring performances.
When did you decide to pursue a career in acting?
I've always wanted to perform since I could remember. I did pursue other studies and career paths so I had something to fall back on if acting never took off for me, but I'm absolutely stoked to be where I am now.
How does it feel to be cast in the role of Hamlet?
Someone told me today that taking on a role as large as this one, you must get into a flow of consistently feeling challenged and competent. That sounds about right. It's a daunting task, but as a training actor you'd be mad not to want to tackle Hamlet. I was ecstatic when I landed it.
What are some of the challenges of the role and how have you overcome them?
Being the most famous Shakespeare, or possibly any play of all time, there's always the trap of falling into similar performances of previous Hamlets. I went in fresh, having not seen any productions or film adaptations of Hamlet, I tackled it as an entirely new play, and as a modern play. These are all characters and emotions that contemporary audiences can relate to. Hamlet is simply a boy grieving the death of his father, this is where I started, the rest happens on the rehearsal floor. I've learned my lines, deciphered the language, done my research, the rest should take care of itself on stage. Well, here's hoping.
What do you think of the opportunity to work with a professional theatre company like Barking Gecko?
It’s been absolutely brilliant. John Sheedy is a fantastic director and provides a lot of new insights and ideas that fuel your imagination, and he lets you run with them. The design crew work great together with our WAAPA students and I'm really looking forward to performance week.
So, post WAAPA, where do you hope your study leads you to?
Paid work. But really I don't care what work I'm doing or what the pay is, as long as I can pay the rent by doing something that is fulfilling as a performer and artist, I'd be happy.
Any hidden talents outside the world of acting?
I'm big on my sports - AFL, golf, surfing. I can cook, because if I don't, nobody in my share house eats. I do a bit of stand-up comedy from time to time and I make an excellent Beer-Pong teammate.