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Kelly Ryan, Performer & Choreographer of Student Body

I accepted a role in Student Body by Alana Valentine, directed by Dione Joseph with very little knowledge of what the project would be like. When I arrived at the first rehearsal I knew very little other than what I had gleaned about Dione and Producer Sue Lindsay from the audition and what I could guess from secretly browsing the script and BOObook Theatre’s website whilst I was supposed to be working away hard at my day job. However within half an hour of the initial rehearsal I was sold. Thorough script analysis and insightful discussion of issues covered by the play chased away any qualms I had about signing onto the project. I was very impressed by the professionalism and passion for the project which emanated from those in the room. This was a feeling that was carried throughout the whole process, we all felt we were creating something important that could affect the way people felt about international students and their experiences in Australia.

As a white Australian growing up in regional areas of Victoria I am used to being part of the majority in terms of skin colour and culture. Therefore being the minority in a cast and crew which truly did represent Melbourne’s multiculturalism was quite a turnaround for me. It was very strange to be contributing to discussions about race and cultural experience from the other side of the fence from everybody else. Growing up I was always touted the idea that Melbourne was a wonderful example of integrated society. My experience of international students both at high school (where we had a large number of boarders from overseas) along with studying and working at universities had led me to hold the short sighted, one dimensional belief that international students were incredibly hard working and had their  study paid for by their parents. Working on Student Body alerted me to the details I had missed and taught me the vast amount of ground still to be covered in order to allow Australian born and international students to stand on even footing. Something as simple as international students not being provided with concession tickets on public transport astounded me. Both the events covered in Valentine’s play and discussions of cast and crew’s personal experiences opened my eyes to the true nature of troubles international students are faced with.

My attention was first drawn towards the casting call for Student Body as it advertised for an actor/dancer. Three years at drama school, whilst cementing my love for spoken word and more ‘traditional’ forms of theatre, had additionally woken me to the possibilities and many exciting forms of physical theatre. Since graduating the projects I have been involved in have all involved some aspect of physical work or dance. I was therefore delighted to find that Dione specialised in and utilized disciplines such as Butoh. I found that Dione and I worked on the same wavelength and were therefore able to compliment each other’s work. This made choreographing for the show in conjunction with her a real pleasure.
Scene work with Dione was also extremely enjoyable and yielded great results. She has a great ability to think innovatively and take scenes in new direction. The concept of bringing what is on the page to life is illustrated beautifully by her work. Ideas such as hanging bras along my arms when playing a lingerie saleswoman really paid off and looked stunning on stage. Her direction is brave and I believe takes audiences to a world they have not experienced before.

Student Body was everything I look for when choosing projects. It is an important, thought provoking script, I have made great friends within the cast and crew and I was able to explore the areas of my acting technique I most enjoy. As I commented near the end of rehearsals, often when working in co-op productions I neglect to invite friends to the performances, thinking to myself ‘I’ll invite them to the next one which will be a good one’. Student Body was definitely one of the good ones.

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