A festival-within-a-festival, FR!SK aims to help emerging artists get to grips with professional practice.
By Richard Watts
Published Tuesday 9 September 2014
Presented as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival, and running over four days, FR!SK is a festival of new live art and performance works created by VCA Bachelor of Fine Arts (Theatre Practice) students.
Eight new works feature in the FR!SK program, exploring a range of themes – discrimination, gaming, our decaying digital-age relationship with privacy and personhood – and embracing a range of performance modes and styles. One common trait all the works share, however, is an interest in evolving the nature of theatre; adapting the ancient art form for the 21st century.
VCA student Christian Taylor is a co-deviser of and performer in the FR!SK work #howtodisappear, a performance piece exploring the consequences of life in a digitally saturated world.
‘We’re all aware of the idea that we’re gaining so much, and we’re so aware of what we’re gaining … but I don’t know if we’re so aware of what we’re losing in the process,’ he said of the work.
‘We’re really challenging this form and what it means to be human; what it means to be human on stage when theatre in our world is very much challenged as an outdated form. You can go and watch a brilliant piece of theatre on YouTube if you want, so why would people come to a theatre? It’s very much welded into our degree, this sense of continuously changing to evolve and match the culture – and that digital culture is definitely something we have to contend with as theatre-makers.
‘We’re all presenting new work, we’re all looking at things that are quite different, and that’s what you’ve got to do when there’s so much work out there, which is what’s amazing about Melbourne Fringe; you really have to push what you’re exploring in terms of both form and content, and our course is definitely helping us in doing that,’ Taylor said.
Presenting work as part of Fringe will have a number of beneficial outcomes for the participating students involved in FR!SK, according to the VCA’s Associate Head of Theatre, Undergraduate Coordinator, Robert Walton.
‘This is our way of supporting them to really understand what it is to be an independent artist and thoroughly understand the [process] of making, initiating, conceiving, developing, pitching, writing, rehearsing, performing and evaluating the whole thing, the whole piece of work,’ he said.
‘I suppose it’s really about the reality of the city and the reality of changing art forms; it’s about creating actors who are artists, who are able to initiate projects as well as waiting for the phone to ring. And the thing that’s great about VCA at the moment and the way we’ve got the theatre department working is that … we have student directors, student writers, student dramaturges, student lighting designers, stage managers – the whole ecology is here, the theatre profession in microcosm.
‘Each time we graduate a year it’s a whole community of people who can do every aspect of theatre-making and that’s what we’re trying to do – and we’re also trying to enable them to think about contemporary practice and what kind of stories need to be said, how they get their voice out there, and how they can imagine the future of theatre and performance,’ Walton explained.
FR!SK had a wider focus than just the Fringe, he continued.
‘Each of the shows will be performed here in Melbourne as part of FR!SK at Fringe, and then we’re also taking all the students on tour, thanks to our collaboration with Arts Victoria. The students will have the experience of taking this work to Natimuk and Benalla, and creating a range of workshops around the work and presenting it, and doing Q and A’s and working with local audiences there … [It is] also intended to be a way for them to think about how they might make work outside of metropolitan Melbourne, in Victoria more widely.’
This hands-on approach to making work, a sector-wide attitude to developing a proactive and contemporary artistic career, is echoed in another VCA event presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe program: a professional development symposium coordinated by the VCA’s Steven Wyld.
Wyld is the Project Coordinator of Pathways – Building a Sustainable Career in the Arts; a two-day conference presented by the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music.
‘It’s really targeted at graduates who are maybe two to five years out from an arts degree, but it’s open for everybody – they may be potentially questioning themselves, they’re having a hard time moving ahead, as a lot of artists do, generally struggling to make a career. So it’s really about reiterating … stuff that we already know, it reinvigorates; it’s about inspiring artists to really keep going,’ Wyld said.
Covering everything from practical advice about funding and support structures which assist in the development of a sustainable arts career, as well as business advice, digital communications and strategies for diversifying one’s career, the two-day symposium is ‘focused on the working end of being an arts practitioner,’ said Wyld.
It will feature speakers such as Phillip Adams, the founding Artistic Director of BalletLab; Esther Anatolitis, CEO of Regional Arts Victoria; West Space Gallery’s Danny Lacy; Christabel Harvey from Arts Victoria; MKA Theatre’s Tobias Manderson-Galvin; and Bec Carey-Grieve, the General Manager of Footscray Community Arts Centre, with workshops and panel conversations designed to encourage practical discussion and learning, as well as numerous networking opportunities.
‘I think one of the biggest and most successful elements of it is really that networking opportunity; all of a sudden you’re around 150 like-minded individuals around the same place in their career,’ said Wyld. ‘Certainly last year there were some great conversations and even a couple of creative partnerships that were created just from those networking opportunities, and I think that will probably happen again.
‘The speakers are very generous with their time and their spirit, and I couldn’t do it without that. We have a wonderful list of names, really experienced artists and really pertinent names for emerging artists to know. These are the kinds of people that – and it doesn’t matter if you’re a visual artist, a theatre performer, a dancer – these are the sorts of people and names that you kind of need to know if you want to get out there and ply your trade and have a sustainable career in the arts.’
Registrations for the Pathways symposium close on Friday 19 September, and cost $30 for a two-day ticket. Bookings are essential.
25-28 September 2014
See the VCA website for full program details
Melbourne Fringe Festival 2014
17 September – 5 October