Scene Change

Friday, 20 March, 2015

Photography by Bahman Farzad

The stage is set for a crucial year in Union House Theatre. Twenty fifteen may be one of the most turbulent years in recent memory for the University of Melbourne’s extracurricular theatre program.

The institution faces the new year with Petra Kalive replacing Tom Gutteridge as Artistic Director, new Arts Officers Bonnie Leigh-Dodds and Isabella Vadiveloo, and the looming relocation of Union House posing challenges for the continued operation of UHT.

The plans Leigh-Dodds and Vadiveloo describe for UHT’s year ahead only compounds these challenges. Nominating ‘sustainability’ and ‘accessibility’ as two primary areas of interest, the officers envision a more welcoming and inclusive future for UHT.

According to numbers released by UHT, there are currently 1,235 students participating in student theatre – only three per cent of the university’s nearly 45,000 students.

On the agenda are Auslan interpreting services, hearing loops, trigger warnings and large print programs. These services are transformative for those who need them, but difficult to implement given the disperse nature of student theatre.

“All that stuff can’t be implemented unless UHT are really on board, so we’re really lucky that [they] are,” Vadiveloo said, referring to the tactile tours of the 2014 Tastings season as a successful approach to accessibility by UMSU within theatre programs.

However, Vadiveloo notes that more can be done with shows by affiliated theatre groups run by students and separate from UHT. The office bearers envision a community-wide commitment to budgeting for access by every student theatre group.

Luckily, despite the challenges ahead, the student theatre scene remains vibrant in the first semester of the year. At printing time, auditions for the University of Melbourne Music Theatre Association’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, FLW Theatre’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Melbourne University Shakespeare Company’s Antony and Cleopatra, amongst others, remain open for any keen theatre-makers to join.

Daniel Beratis is the Treasurer of Periscope Productions and the Social/Media Officer of FLW Theatre, two student theatre groups affiliated with Union House Theatre.