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Cosi

The poster for our production of this Australian Classic!

Article courtesy of Theatre People.

Earlier this year, in Adlib Young Performer’s first ever Production Class , nine students began working through difficult exercises, designed to develop their skills as performers. During these initial workshops, they also wrote and created their own solo performances, which were presented to a receptive audience, along with some short scenes at their first production.

Their second production was Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and only having 5 weeks to put the show together, the students all had to work alongside one another to make the show the success that it was. Now, in their third and final show for the year, these same students, along with a few fresh faces, are rehearsing passionately and diligently, gearing up for their third and final production, Louis Nowra’s ‘Cosi’.

For me, the task of directing Cosi (arguably Louis Nowra’s greatest work) with a handful of young (albeit talented) performers has been highly challenging. Due to the content and nature of the show, it makes it difficult when you are trying to explain the emotions behind a character to a room of performers ranging from 12 to 19, the older ones having no trouble grasping the concept, while the younger few seem to need a little more coaching.

I admit to having had to ‘tread carefully’, editing the script to suit a younger audience, toning down some of the stronger metaphors and language, but at the same time, I wanted to keep the core heart of the show the same. These kids have helped me accomplish that.

I have watched them grow as both performers and individuals throughout the year’s work, and this is going to be by far, their crowning achievement. They are all passionate, dedicated and talented students, and I know that in the future, we will have to pay a great deal more to see them perform on stage.

These children have amazed and continue to astound me in their willingness to learn, their trust within each other and the professionalism they all present. I am honest when I say that they have indeed been a joy to work with, and I look forward to next year’s class, already in the planning, when we present bigger and better productions throughout the year.

We asked some of the young performers in the Senior Performance Group to share their experiences at Adlib with our readers.

Tara Coulson - plays the role of ‘Cherry’

It is amazing how much a person can really learn in such a short amount of time. I have personally shocked myself, with what I have got out of this particular course. I walked in to the first class unprepared for what was going to be thrown at me. Through the workshop activities and our first production, “Irrelevance” (a collection of scenes and self-devised monologues), we grew very comfortable with each other and began to gain a trust which we soon realised was needed for our upcoming productions.

I was amazed at how difficult some of the workshop activities were and how it left everyone feeling at the end emotionally. It was very difficult and at times extremely daunting. The production of “Irrelevance” was probably my first experience of being out of my comfort zone and began to prepare me for more daunting experiences ahead.

“Romeo and Juliet” for me was a very big challenge and something that I never knew I was capable of, especially being given the role of Juliet. It was my first lead role in any show so it was quite exciting. To learn nearly an entire Shakespeare play in such a short space of time I was amazed that we even pulled it off! It was an emotionally incredible experience and I only hope to keep on being given more opportunities such as this. I cannot wait for our next production of “Cosi” and I know that all who see it will thoroughly enjoy it. This course has taught me so much. So much more than I ever had anticipated. I only hope that this course continues through to next year so others can share some of the amazing experiences I had.

Jason English – plays the role of ‘Zac'

I have been doing many plays throughout my life and definitely think that Romeo and Juliet was the best one I have done so far. When I was given the script for our next play ‘Cosi’ I didn’t know anything about it, but as I read through the script, I couldn’t help but smile at the well written dialogue and story that this play contained. I was given the role of Zac, a mental patient who is so doped up on drugs that it makes him barely awake most of the time.

Zac is a very unusual character in my opinion, but as I read through the lines during rehearsals, I began to understand the character and can see what it might actually be like, living in a permanent drug fog. To me, he seems a bit stubborn when it comes to the music of the opera and doesn’t like listening to Mozart. He tries to add a bit more “zap!” to the opera by playing music by the great man Richard Wagner, but fails to do so when he goes comatose, passing out for the remainder of the performance.

Unlike Romeo and Juliet, we have been given a LOT more time to rehearse. I think we only had a few weeks to do Romeo and Juliet while we have 3-4 months for Cosi (huge difference!). I have learnt a lot more about theatre this year. My biggest problem (when it comes to performing) is that I often speak too fast or mumble a bit. I think that has decreased now and that I have a much clearer voice when it comes to performing. I think that this is definitely one of the best drama classes I have been in so far.

Roxanne Tamlin –plays the role of ‘Nikki’.

Since joining the production class, I have learnt how to study different characters in depth, and how to use and control my emotions in my acting. I even achieved crying real tears for my character on stage while performing Romeo and Juliet. I've gained a lot more friends, met more people and have had lots of fun.

In term one; we did a piece called ‘Irrelevance’. We performed scenes from different, famous plays. I performed a scene from West Side Story, (playing Maria) and a Property of the Clan (playing Jade). I also wrote and performed my own monologue. In term two, we performed Romeo and Juliet. It was a lot of fun and I am very proud of what I achieved.

Blake Stringer –plays the lead role of ‘Lewis’

January 14th 2009 marked the day a friend of mine suggested Adlib Young Performers as an acting school I could give a try, to help give me the best possible chance to get into either VCA or better yet, NIDA. As an 18 year old, I still hadn’t had any out-of-high-school training to my name. When Adlib came up, I was quick to take part in 2 dramatic art courses they offer there, both of which are taught by VCA graduate Matt Hillman: Senior Ensemble & Senior Production.

 I must say, the Senior Production class has got to be one of the most enthralling experiences I have ever had, where the performing arts is concerned. I was absolutely ecstatic when I was given the role of Romeo for the class’ first amateur performance of the year. Romeo & Juliet was definitely one of the most challenging, yet fantastic theatre experiences I’ve ever been apart of; the cast of about 10 had 5 weeks to pull off an entire Shakespearean play – and we nailed it! We even had another VCA graduate review the amateur performance. Her review of my performance stated that “From the outset, [Blake] maintained a dignity and talent that is beyond his years, and the audience was clearly able to identify with his plight”. This was an amazing read for me and gave me such a confidence boost, going into my life after high school.

It hasn’t stopped there, however. I was given the lead role of Lewis Riley in the class’ final production for the year in the famous Australian play “Cosi”, to be performed mid-December. It itself is the most dialogue-heavy production I’ve ever been apart of and acts as a continuation on the challenges I’ve faced through-out the year as an actor, something to which I thrive off.

Despite this being my first and possibly final full year at Adlib Young Performers , it is something that has completely changed and shaped the way I will approach my future in years to come. I will always share a bond with Adlib and its teachers for years to come and will still participate in as many one-off events they are well-known for putting together (i.e. The Youth Impro Games, and in particular, Survival of the Fittest: A contest in which 16 performers begin, are eliminated one by one, leaving only one standing.)

Written by Renee Maloney.

Cast:

Lewis Reilley - Blake Stringer

Roy - Joshua Aaron Harkness

Zac - Jason English

Cherry - Tara Coulson

Julie - Sarah Nelson

Ruth - Jessica McInherney

Henrietta - Mia Sabec

Doug - Rebecca Dissegna

Lucy - Mollie Lynch Steele

Nikki - Roxy Tamlin

Justine - Maria Stanton

Directed by Matt Hillman.