Petra Kalive may be new, but she already has an eye on the future. Coming into the role of Artistic Director of Union House Theatre at the beginning of a particularly turbulent time for the student union theatre, Kalive has a lot on her plate. The relocation of Union House is on everyone’s minds, and the theatre community has raised its concerns about the relocation of suitable theatres many times. This isn’t the only challenge she wants to address, however.
As a trained actor and WAAPA alumnus, as well as an experienced director and workshop leader, Kalive has a broad base of work to draw on as she begins to work with the student theatre groups of the University. She sees the University of Melbourne in particular to be a unique place to make theatre, because, in part, of “the strength of its student body” and “because it’s a time when you can take risks; you can try new ideas; you can make mistakes.”
It’s those risks Kalive wants to encourage. Seeing “the theatre of the body” as a particular interest of hers, Kalive wants to encourage the theatre scene at the university to develop a broader body of work, away from the “traditional, conservative” mainstays. It’s an outlook shared by many, and notably by UMSU Creative Arts Officer Isabella Vadiveloo (in a piece entitled Dead White Men). Kalive speaks with enthusiasm about “finding new forms” students can develop while still being attuned to the traditional things students are interested in. “I’m not saying the classics aren’t fantastic—they are, and we can still do them…I want both. I want a rich and diverse culture here.”
Ultimately, however, she sees her role not to push but rather to guide. In her eyes, it’s up to the students to explore those new works, her own productions notwithstanding: “it’s not my job; it’s your job.” Her wish isn’t to force change immediately, or even to force it at all, but to take things slowly and carefully. It’s a cautious approach that nonetheless looks brightly to an uncertain future in Union House. Daniel Beratis is the Treasurer of Periscope Productions and the Social/Media Office of FLW Theatre, two student theatre groups affiliated with Union House.