Monday, October 29, 2012

Come Alive Festival of Museum Theatre

Come Alive Festival of Museum Theatre, at the National Museum of Australia, October 29 – November 2, 2012

by Frank McKone

This is the 3rd annual Come Alive week at the National Museum of Australia.

If the first performance, I Will Survive by senior students from Orana Steiner School, is anything to go by, the rest of the program involving St Francis Xavier College, Dickson College, Burgmann Anglican School, Gungahlin College, Merici College, Canberra College, St Clare’s College, and Narrabundah College, will show young people at their very best.

Over the three years more than 20 schools have participated in this Festival of Museum Theatre, coordinated – in his ‘retirement’ – by one-time Jigsaw Theatre Company director and long-time Narrabundah College drama teacher, Peter Wilkins, also well-known as a writer of reviews and articles on theatre for the Canberra Times.

Each group explores the National Museum for exhibits which stimulate research into history, out of which they make a stage show for public presentation.  In the process they not only learn history and how to put a play together; they develop confidence, learn how to work together as a group, and how valuable it is to connect with their community in performing their work.

All these elements were abundantly clear in I Will Survive, which started from the fascinating Lucille Balls dress, made by Ron Muncaster, featured in the Eternity Gallery.

The play presents the history, and the private and public controversies, behind the Sydney Mardi Gras and the changing attitudes towards gays and lesbians since the 1970s, including the violence of police action in the early period and the horrors and practicalities of dealing with AIDS.

This was 'poor' theatre in terms of the very basic facilities in the Vision Theatre at the National Museum, but in the Q&A session with the students after the Lucille Balls dress made its appearance in the context of a memorial to its original wearer, a wealth of learning for them was revealed, and continued as people, gay and straight, spoke from the audience.  This was theatre of real communication, not mere entertainment.

The National Museum of Australia has had a long association with the International Museum Theatre Alliance, which advocates for the importance of education taking place in museums using the theatre arts, based very much on the research by the well-known Harvard Professor of Psychology, Howard Gardner, famous for the Seven Intelligences.

Performances are at 12 noon and 6 pm each day.  For further information ring (02) 6208 5201 or email .

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