Some of the 3rd year WAAPA design students
Completed! The HUGE chair that formed part of the set of The Trial
The cast of The Trial with director Michael Jenn
Under Milkwood: Costumes by Jenelle Witty, set by Sara Chirichilli
Above and below: set design for The Wild Party
In progress: the window display for Adam Heath in the Claremont Quarter
Dressed as a ballerina for WAAPA's Open Day Costume Parade
Puppet workshop with Petr Matasek
Learning the 'tools of the trade' - WAAPA workshop
Above and below: scenic painting classes in the WAAPA workshop
Hello, my name is Jenelle and I am a third year WAAPA design student. Katie has asked me to guest blog a little about the course.
First of all, it is not all good, but it can be great. Sometimes I feel I have been given a giant bunch of helium balloons ready to float away, only to be told to expect a hailstorm. But in all honesty you have to take the good with the bad, strive to do your best, set your own standards, and on a rare but good occasion, feel rewarded for your efforts.
WAAPA. Design. What is it exactly? Well, it is a three year course studying both set and costume design for theatre, dance, film and events. In the first year, we are introduced to a broad range of subjects, from drawing to props making, construction, costume history, scenic painting and more. Whilst there seem to be no set rules other than show up and do your work, it is up to you to take on as much as you like. I say - milk it. In the second year, you learn to juggle your class work with production work. WAAPA puts on a lot of shows each year. In my second year, I designed costumes for two acting shows - Ivanov and Under Milkwood, each being low budget shows, so a lot of the costumes came from stock (WAAPA has an amazing costume store). I was lucky to work with an impressive cast and interesting directors. Later that year I worked with student choreographers developing costumes for their dance pieces. This was a great experience; we were given up to 9 dancers per piece and $100 to clothe them all. That challenge was so much more creative than anything I had ever hoped for and I gained so much for it.
This year is my final one at WAAPA, wherein the class times are much smaller as work is geared towards your final shows. I have been concentrating on strengthening my weaknesses - mainly set design. I come from a background of theatre history, text analysis, acting, an appreciation of fashion, and a love of painting. Set was a fairly new thing to me, and I love it. There is something so satisfying in creating a new world for characters to inhabit.
To study at WAAPA I moved over to Perth from Adelaide (alone), a decision I have at times, regretted. I miss my friends and family a lot. Although I was keen to move on with my career, there have been times when the intensity of the course have led me to long for my life back home and for the company of my loved ones. Working in a class of eight you become close to your classmates and fellow students from other courses, which has made a huge difference. I have also managed to hold down a casual job as a duty manager during the course. Going to work is often a nice break from the world of WAAPA, but it is not easy to juggle, waking up early after a late night at work can really test you. Somehow though it has all worked out; my fellow work mates do not understand WAAPA at all and I love them for it.
During our first slot of shows this year, I was fortunate enough to design for The Trial (Franz Kafka), adapted by Stephen Berkhoff and directed by Michael Jenn. I cannot convey to you in words how happy the experience of this show was from beginning to end. I suspect that such experiences are rare, and I shall forever hold onto the knowledge that they exist. This knowledge will be my lucky charm in the years to follow. I was the set and costume designer for the surreal show, which drew heavily on the physicality of the actors and the remarkable ensemble work which they produced. All seventeen actors were present on stage at all times, as well as a five-piece band (the music was composed for the show by Cat Hope). The main set elements were a giant filing cabinet and armchair, each oversized to dwarf the actors in comparison. Being set in Prague between the 20s and 30s, the costumes adopted that period, with dull faded colours and subtly intensified makeup. The great thing about third year is that the budgets afford for more costume makes, so I was able to have so many of my designs realized and they (the Costume staff) did a great job. Michael Jenn came over from London specifically to work with us on this project, and his generosity and kindness touched all who worked with him. On each show I think you tend to get to know at least one person a lot more - gain a friend for life, and whilst my team were amazing and I felt I made a lot of great friends, Michael was the one that meant the most to me.
Now I am busily working on my class projects - one with guest tutor Zoe Attkinson (ah! She is amazing!) and on my next show, a comedy with the third year actors - Joking Apart by Allen Ayckbourne. Is is in June. I am doing the set design and it will be magical - come along.
So Katie and her followers, I hope that gives an insight into the world of a WAAPA design student. The following poem, by Robert Frost, I think sums up the way I have experienced this course.
INTO MY OWN
One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as 'twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto the edge of doom.
I should not be withheld but that some day,
Into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
Or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.
I do not see why I should e'er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track,
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.
They would not find me changed from him they knew -
Only more sure of all I thought was true.
A note from Katie: head over to Jenelle's blog (www.shutmyeyescantfindthebreak.blogspot.com), to see more of her work and reflections on life at WAAPA!