Learning to play

Janice Florence
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Janice Florence on 10/02/2010
A man wearing a long blonde wig and wearing a pink frilly dress is holding a small bottle up to his face and smiling.
Ignition - Ben Chapman

Ben Chapman performing in The Final Scene of Jane Doe. Image: Phillip Spicer

There are few theatre training opportunities in Australia for people with a learning disability. Northern Melbourne College of TAFE in Preston is the only place in the country that runs an accredited theatre course for people with a learning disability.

The course is known as Ignition Theatre Training. It covers many aspects of theatre. It also links people to the theatre industry.

DiVine spoke to several past students of the Ignition course. They all were very positive about their experience.

The course gave a new meaning to the word theatre, says Ryan. It really let me take a look inside what the performing arts is all about. It (also) encouraged me to learn leadership.

Ryan has fulfilled the course aims of preparing students to follow their own individual path in theatre. He has since been involved in Family Dog Theatre, Rawcus and Grit Media. He has worked as a performer and dancer on the stage. He has also worked behind the scenes on sound and lights.

Talented performer

Paul is another graduate who is a talented dancer and performer. He has worked for Family Dog Theatre and Weave Movement Theatre. He also performed with Rawcus at the Melbourne International Festival in 2008. Paul is also a regular presenter at Club Wild.

Paul’s talent took flight after his year at TAFE. I really enjoyed all of the different types of theatre, Paul says. The history, indigenous theatre, Shakespeare. (Also) dancing, staying in character, working on stage, excursions to theatre. Paul has even had a documentary made about him. The documentary is called Dance like Nobody’s Looking.

Emily travelled from Gippsland to do the course. I made good friends, she says. I liked doing the show, rehearsing, making up my character. It was fun working with different teachers.

Emily has been part of Just Us and Roller Coaster since completing the course. I really like performing, she says.

A major show each year

Ignition students have a chance to perform in a major show each year. The course also gives them diverse skills for different jobs in theatre.

Students learn about stage design. They also learn about sound and lighting.

Other components of the course include:

  • the history of theatre
  • marketing
  • design
  • making props and sets
  • improvisation
  • masks
  • puppetry
  • acting
  • voice
  • physical theatre
  • communication. 

Leesa Nash has been course Coordinator of Ignition since 2005. She says there are few opportunities elsewhere for students to “participate at a deeper level” in theatre.

It changes people’s lives, she says. It’s a privilege to see that.

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