National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA)

NIDA is Australia’s preeminent centre for education in the dramatic arts. Creative transformation is at the heart if NIDA’s mission and over five years the Girgensohn Foundation worked together with NIDA to realise this through provision for the International Director Program.

The International Director Program broadens NIDA students’ perspectives in Acting, Production and Production Crafts. In its inaugural year, 2009, Professor Peter Kleinert, Head of Directing at the Ernst Busch School of Dramatic Art in Berlin worked with the students to stage Bertold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. The association established through this engagement continues.

In 2010 NIDA welcomed Sergei Tcherkasski, Professor of Acting and Directing, and the Head of the Acting Studio at St Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy, the largest theatrical educational institution in Russia, founded in 1779. Under the direction of Tcherkasski, NIDA students successfully staged the highly ambitious Australian premiere of Flight by Mikhail Bulgakov.

In 2011 American theatre director, college professor and author Mel Shapiro was welcomed to NIDA. Shapiro is one of the founders of the New York Univeristy’s Theatre Program (Tisch School) and served as Head of Graduate Acting for the Theatre Department of the University of California, Los Angeles. Mel Shapiro directed NIDA’s second year Acting Students and graduating Costume, Design Production, Properties and Scenery Construction students in the riotous comedy/drama The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis.

In 2012 NIDA engaged Kate Whoriskey, a young and talented director from America who worked with NIDA’s graduating students on a production of The Illusion by Tony Kushner, a play adapted from L’Illusion Comique by Pierre Corneille. Kate has a sterling CV both as a teacher and professional director, working on and off-Broadway and is a graduate of the American Repertory Theatre Institute of Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard.

In 2013/2014 the Foundation supported two projects, concentrating on contemporary Japanese performance art. The first project Tearing the Mask was a combination of workshops, films, and a symposium, featuring traditional theatre and dance practices, Noh and Butoh. Two leading practitioners, Richard Emmert (Theatre Nogaku) and Yukio Waguri (Butoh Kohzensha), taught their skills in student workshops. Both performed on stage for a public audience at the end of the symposium. Students were challenged by these culturally foreign movement principles. They found the experience valuable, many will continue to incorporate the new techniques in their acting style.

The second project was the commissioning of a new play inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s iconic film Rashomon. The content of the play Kandahar Gate, by Stephen Sewell, was a departure from the original brief of ‘Japanese content’. It depicts issues of Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. However, the Rashomon technique was observed in its structure. Acclaimed composer Masahiro Sugaya created the background sounds which form an integral part of the play. The influence of the Japanese teachers was evident in the students’ performances. Kandahr Gate is a powerful piece of contemporary theatre. Theatre audience numbers were astounding.