Federation University's new generation of talent

BALLARAT may not be Australia’s own Hollywood, but its where Australia’s premium talent is brewing. 

Many success stories are evolving from the city and Federation University Australia’s arts academy, and new graduates are looking to the future eager and curious about what it might hold. 

Sarah Hamilton finished at the University’s arts academy in 2006 and worked hard to see her success, most recently winning best performance at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, but it didn’t happen overnight. 

“My first couple of years out I just got involved in as many projects as I could,” Ms Hamilton said. 

“I moved to Melbourne and tried to meet and get to know as many people as I could.”

After one of her shows with La Mamma, she met some people which she collaborated with to make their own show.

“That’s when I started on a journey to do my own work.”

She said creating your own work was a big focus of the university’s course.

Three years ago, she wrote her own solo show A Donkey and A Parrot, which she performed at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and then took on to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“It was picked up by a really great venue and was really well received. Doing that helped me be taken more seriously when I got home.” 

Since then she began collaborating with Justine Campbell to write They Saw a Thylacine, which they performed at the Melbourne Fringe Festival to win two awards: Best Performance and Tiki Tour Ready Award which sponsors performers on a tour around New Zealand. 

She will tour around New Zealand throughout February, before coming back to the Adelaide Fringe Festival and then touring regional Victoria.

“I love doing my own stuff. It’s when you’re most in control and can be performing a story that you want to tell. It’s the work I’m most proud of,” she said. 

“One of the things I’ve learnt along the way is to do something you’re proud of and actually want to do – don’t just say yes to anything.”

It’s not only Ms Hamilton seeing success.

From her same year level, classmate Will Greenway is performing in London, Hannah Williams took her show to New York, Seb Bartolli is working on HBO shows in Canada and Madeleine Harding acted in the film I Love You Too. 

Last year’s graduates Madeleine Whitehead, Eidann Glover, Julia Richardson and Rhys Valesquez are all excited about what the future may hold for them. 

Mr Velasquez said he moved from Queensland to Melbourne to get in to the performing arts scene, before he’d even heard of the University of Ballarat, now FedUni, or the arts academy. 

“I first learnt about when I went to see Hairspray and learnt Jaz Flowers went here,” he said.

From then, he was determined. He auditioned twice to get in to what had become a dream course. 

Ms Glover said she wouldn’t know where she’d be at or what she was doing if it weren’t for the course.

“I wouldn’t have known how to go about even getting a job and breaking into the industry. That’s what I’ve learnt and what I’m trying to do now,” she said.

“We’ve been given so many options. The world actually is our oyster: I’ve just got to choose which avenue I’ll go down.” 

Ms Richardson said she was in the same boat.

“I know I can do it now, but I’m still working out exactly what I want to do.”

Ms Whitehead starts her new job next week with Brainstorm Productions, a travelling company that visits schools teaching life lessons through performance. 

Mr Velasquez said it was a tough industry to get in to, but that didn’t get in the way of his goals. 

“We all have dreams of Broadway or something like that – it just may take a while for us to get there.” 

He said opportunities usually happen at the drop of a hat, so you just had to get out there and give it a go.

“There’s a little bit of those feelings: will it happen for me...but there are so many avenues you can taken and every path is an achievement.” 

Ms Glover said for them, it wasn’t about having your name up in lights, but rather sharing your art and telling people a story.

 “Worrying about the future is good because it means something to you,” she said. 

“You just to have trust you can get there and then make it happen for you.” 

Cheyney Caddy, artistic director for Melbourne company Black Apple Theatre, said she was amazed by the continuous talent she was coming across. 

“There are a lot of talented performers out there, but talented performers who are great to work with are special. And that’s what we’re seeing from Ballarat,” she said.

“The calibre is just so good and they all have an amazing attitude to work with which is quite unique.”

Ms Caddy is currently directing a production Look at the Funny Lady, a mix of songs and scenes from theatre that showcase female comedy.

Of the nine women in the play, three are from Ballarat: Aubrey Flood, Hannah Monson and Honor Wolfe.

Sarah Hamilton was set to be in the production as well, but now will be on her New Zealand tour when the show is in season. 

Ms Caddy said she usually worked with actors, so was excited to have singing in the production. 

“The diversity you get out of Ballarat is incredible. They make up such a broad range.”

She said this show was just one example of the talent that was flowing from Ballarat. 

“All the actors have just taken everything in the stride. With Honor I asked if she could do an American accent, and then if it could be an American teenager pretending to be English and she’s taken it all. 

“They just have no qualms about throwing themselves 

in and putting themselves

out there.”

Aubrey Flood finished her bachelor of music theatre at arts academy last year and has already been working hard and seeing success.

She’s currently rehearsing for Look at the Funny Lady and performing regularly as part of the short and sweet cabaret festival at the North Melbourne Cabaret Club.

“I wasn’t expecting all these things to happen so quickly, but I appreciate every single bit and piece that keeps me going.”

The 23-year-old, originally from Mentone, is an all rounder in performing arts, but is particularly drawn to comedic acting.

 “It’s really exciting when you graduate – searching for the next step,” she said.

“But I was so ready to work when I finished, and I wasn’t expecting that: that I’d be as read as I was.

“The course made me ready for the industry and ready to be out there.”

Ms Flood did have an interest in politics, but her drive to perform steered in that direction.

“The feeling you get on stage: there is nothing like it. It’s incredible the impact you can have on a group of people,” said Ms Flood. 

Federation University arts academy associate professor Kim Durban said it was like there was something special in the water at the academy.

“We now have people from around Australia coming to study with us that see are graduates and their success,” Ms Durban said. 

“Ballarat graduates have that mix of being enthusiastic, hardworking while remaining fresh and our course ensures when they graduate they’ll be ready to work.

“We’ve got graduates at the moment in King Kong, there’s others in the upcoming Strictly Ballroom and Bartholemew Walsh who is now in The Doctor Blake Mysteries.”

Although, she said it doesn’t come easily for anyone in the performing arts industry.

“Everyone has to work hard and pay their dues,” she said. 

“Anyone in the acting profession will often say they are 83 per cent unemployed in their profession.

“You always hear stories of people getting their jobs while working their night jobs as a waiter.”

Ms Durban said if the students put themselves out there, anything could happen. 

“The possibility is there: to start out in Ballarat and become an international star.

“It’s unlikely you’ll get lead roles straight off graduation, but after a few years of establishing yourself its highly likely. And that’s what we’re seeing at the moment with graduates of four or five years ago.”

Look at the Funny Lady is on between January 23 and February 1 at the Wesley Anne in Northcote. 

More information and bookings can be made at midsumma.org.au

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