40:40 | Celebrating 40 years of St Martins – St Martins Youth Arts Centre

Celebrating 40 years of St Martins

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St Martins has been shaped by the many hands, hearts and minds that have made it what it is today, on the same site for 40 years.

In 2020, St Martins marks its 40th year of nurturing artistic talent, telling thought-provoking stories and creating bold work with young people, for adult audiences. 40:40 is a celebration of, and homage to, the thousands of young people who have walked through the doors of St Martins since 1980.
Term 2 Studio Production, 1984

Bagryana Popov

“I think it was the first time I sensed the intimacy-in-public of theatre. We were in a mysterious world – poetic, dark, sharing a private moment with people on the other side of the lights.”

Bek Berger

“The generosity and kindness of friends, strangers and everyone in between made me believe that I was a part of something precious, important and that I was going to do everything in my power to protect this industry and this feeling for the rest of my life.”

Beng Oh

“It was deeply personal work and in September 1997 just a few hours before we had our first audience of any kind I had a moment of absolute clarity and calm: I was completely satisfied with what we had created.”

“I think places like St Martins, youth theatres, allow you to go there and really try stuff out and be your most authentic self.”

– Julia Zemiro
Scroll to watch St Martins young creatives Eve & Henry interviewed @juliazemiro about her St Martins memories
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Chris Thompson

“My various times at St Martins over the years have been very significant in both my personal and professional life – most of my closest friends, my professional relationships my professional practice and even my marriage all had their beginnings at St Martins.”

Daniel Lammin

“To learn from professional artists and my older peers, and gain confidence, not just in my craft, but in this new and scary city. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it hadn’t been for that year at St Martins.”

Elham

“It was the best feeling in the world. Sometimes, when you think you’re stuck, if you wait a bit and be patient and learn from other people, you just might find another way to get where you want to go.”

Emilie Collyer

“It was the best feeling in the world. Sometimes, when you think you’re stuck, if you wait a bit and be patient and learn from other people, you just might find another way to get where you want to go.”

Fabio Motta

“My various times at St Martins over the years have been very significant in both my personal and professional life – most of my closest friends, my professional relationships my professional practice and even my marriage all had their beginnings at St Martins.”

Hugo Race

“I saw Gina Riley and Dorian Lazar starring in a production of Cain’s Hand. It was punk, it was relevant and I could see myself in that space – I left that show feeling so inspired!”

Isabella Vadiveloo

“Our teacher told us to be a good actor you have to run 2km 3 times a week, and SHE WOULD KNOW if we didn’t. That 8 week term was the only time I ever tried to run in my life. I am not an actor now, so maybe she was right. ”

Jackson Reid​

When I was 10 I felt like I needed a change. I had all this weight on the back of my head, pulling my head down…

Jason Geary 

St Martins is where I met one of my life long collaborators, Lliam Amor. Since we met at St Martins all those years ago we have shared the stage and screen on hundreds of occasions.

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Summer Metcalf

Joana Pires

Before a St Martins workshop I was leading, a 10 year old named Blossom gave me a skateboarding coaching session and taught me how to skateboard for the first time.

Joseph O’Farrell

I had never worked with kids before, what followed was a truly new and rewarding experience of making work and one that would shape the next chapter of my creative career. a

Kian Hall

“Working with St Martin’s on the Escape Velocity Project has been a dream. When I was young, I loved acting. School was almost worth it for the chance to have a role in the yearly play. I even considered acting professionally. And then I realised I was trans. It was a deadend for my acting dreams, as even today, there are very few transgender actors who get any decent roles.

There are no words to describe my joy from the chance to relive my acting dreams, while also sharing my own experiences and struggles as a trans person. I’ve also made amazing connections through working on the Escape Velocity Project, and friendships that I’ll cherish forever.”

– Kian Hall​

Kate Hunter

… the wooden platform that Georgie Naidu was standing on while playing saxophone broke and she fell through but kept standing up. Later I found out it she really hurt herself but at the time we laughed. 

Lally Katz

My play Horse-Girl and Her Young Gentleman Friend was performed and gave me hope that my voice as a writer was something people wanted .

Lliam Amor

Jason Geary and I took over the gallery space and put in dozens of weird drawings, paintings and art objects. Half of which had to be taken down (too risque)

Lola Morgan

This one time at St Martins this kid kept throwing chairs after he was once told that he could do it in a play. That was a great time.

Lily Fish

In 2010 when I was in second year at Drama School (I studied at the National Theatre) we had a week long intensive with physical theatre company Born in a Taxi. I fell in love with the theatrical form they play in, but also, meeting these real life working artists proved to me that it was possible to be a professional theatre maker. I then hounded them to let me observe their process and assist on their projects in any way that I could. Fast forward to now and I perform with the company regularly, and consider them mentors and friends. If you love someone’s work tell them, and seize every opportunity you can to immerse yourself in their practice.

Maude Davey

I was working as an actor with a troupe of people on a physical theatre show. The company were resident at St Martins – which used to happen back then – rehearsing and performing in the Irene Mitchell…

Michele Lee

I got to weave Batman into a play. 

Mila Rennie Galvin

This one time at St Martins I decided to wear at hat that looked liked a cooked turkey. 

Nadja Kostich​

My cousin, Nikola, a famous Serbian actor, on a 15,000km-one-night-only-first-ever visit to see something I’d made, was running late to our opening night of Balit Liwurruk: Strong Girl. Our front of house was a FORTRESS and never let him, despite his pleas and supplications. 

Seriously! 

He subsequently moved to LA and catapulted into the Upside Down, Stranger Things 4. The moral of the story might be ‘don’t be late to St Martins’ or ‘magic happens at St Martins’ – take your pick! 

Petra Kalive

There are so many moments that have shaped the person and creative I have become. So many moments tie into my formative years at St Martins…

Rachel Burke

A Japanese lighting designer visited the Randall and brought with him the most beautiful lighting filters, glorious colours that I’d never seen before. I was very nervous cutting the colour because I knew we couldn’t replace it in Melbourne.

Rob Meldrum

The name St Martin’s conjures up many images for me, but one predominates. It’s of a small room with white painted walls and a fluorescent blue Windsor carpet.

Robert Reid

…i stood on stage in front of a completely packed audience in the Randall theatre and before i’d even said a word the wave of cheering, applause and laughter was so loud and strong that i knew in that instant it would be what i did with the rest of my life. And, so far, i have.

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Ted Hargreaves

When I was four I was diagnosed with Autism, and I didn’t really know about it until I questioned why I was different. When I was ten I enjoyed being in my class play, so my mum subscribed to St. Martins’ newsletter and in the first newsletter she received there was an article asking for five autistic people aged 10-18 with special interests to volunteer to be part of a show and so I volunteered. If you have a special interest it is an autistic trait that most autistic people have, it’s where you are so interested in one thing that you can pursue that interest to a great extent.

Tania Lacy

I had to climb in through the dressing room window. The director would not tolerate lateness and well, I was late and now locked out. The window was my only choice, if I was to save the play, humanity and the world. 

Tim Stitz

I was a beneficiary of Brett Adam’s time at St Martin’s and met so many excellent people while part of the Performance Ensemble, various productions and workshops at St Martin’s around this time…

Vanessa O’Neill

I have loved watching the impact that St Martins has had on my son who has been doing classes at St Martins since he was seven (he is now 14)…

Wesley Enoch AM

In 1993 I was 24 and I had decided to come to Melbourne because I had fallen in love, and Chris Thompson had invited me to do some work with St Martins.

Willa Carney

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Willa Carney is 8 years and has been coming to St Martins for 2 years. Her favourite thing about St Martins is the people: both the teachers and the friends she has made.

Wolfie Sun

Last year, in October, it was the last rehearsal day for Escape Velocity Walks the City. We had mapped out our routes and had done a trial run. I remember that we were gathered in Fed Square and were getting ready to walk back to the Arts Centre…

Thank you.

To assist in another 40 years of creating stories with young people, please considering joining our newly-launched patron program, St Martins Village!
 

Bagryana Popov

This one time at St Martins…

I was rehearsing for the play Blood Relations, directed by John Preston. I was playing Lizzie Borden (‘Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks…’). It was a beautiful team. The wonderful Jackie Kennedy played the other version of Lizzie- I was the ‘real’ Lizzie and she was the actress. During rehearsals another cast member told me he thought my work was going ‘great guns’. I thought that was a funny expression, but was blown away that someone could think my work was good. That was a little turning point. It took time for me to dare to think it might be possible to work in theatre. It takes a place where things can happen. And someone to open doors, to give you a chance.
St Martins was such a place.

A story about a moment, big or small

Actually…Three moments from St Martins that shaped my path:

At age 20 – in Blood Relations, I have a distinct physical memory of a moment from performance – I was kneeling on the floor next to Jackie (the other Lizzie Borden) nestled against her knee, under theatre lights. I think it was the first time I sensed the intimacy-in-public of theatre. We were in a mysterious world – poetic, dark, sharing a private moment with people on the other side of the lights. It was such a high – the joy of being on stage.

At 21: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Beverley Dunn – I played Puck as a grungy dealer with oily hair – FUN. I discovered working with the body- the gait of Puck was not my gait – I was a trickster. It was Shakespeare and it was outrageous, flirtatious, magical FUN.

Bek Berger

A story about a moment, big or small

One of the most important moments of my life came in 2008 when I decided to check out Monash Uni Student Theatre. Wanting to know what it was all about I was signed up as an assistant stage manager. What happened over the next six months was magical, I formed some of the greatest friendships of life, I laughed more than I had in living memory and I started to see an image of myself that was different than then one i had inherited from others. We also made a show, and a season of small cabaret fundraisers, and we managed to tour the show to Adelaide fringe joining MUST shifted my entire career and to this day fills my life with joyful and remarkable people.  

A story about a moment, big or small
Post-graduate directing at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1997 was the year that shaped me. It brought together a lot of things that were floating around in my head and helped me make sense of them. We were mentored by Richard Murphet who has a brilliant eye for what is good in a piece of theatre, not just its faults, and he would communicate that to us. They took our theatre seriously and, in turn, I learned to take my theatre but not myself seriously. I had worked solidly at the VCA over quite a few weeks with two actors, Bruce Langdon and Dion Mills, on an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s LA RONDE. We tore the text apart and refashioned it as a series of sexual encounters between two men. It was deeply personal work and in September 1997 just a few hours before we had our first audience of any kind I had a moment of absolute clarity and calm: I was completely satisfied with what we had created. Even if nobody else liked it, I did, and that was enough. I’ve never experienced anything like it again. That was the one and only time and I sometimes wonder as a director if I’ve spent my life since trying to recapture that moment.  

Beng Oh

This one time at St Martins…
I saw another St Martins member, Ryan Letch, bravely try to break up a dog fight when a much bigger dog who lived in the flats across the lane started attacking a much smaller dog. 

Chris Thompson

A story about a moment, big or small
My various times at St Martins over the years have been very significant in both my personal and professional life – most of my closest friends, my professional relationships my professional practice and even my marriage all had their beginnings at St Martins – one of the most significant moments, though, was in 1990 when we celebrated St Martins 10th birthday by inviting all the old Melbourne Little Theatre people to a party where renamed the theatres from Theatre One and Theatre Two to the Randall Theatre and The Irene Mitchell Studio… what a day that was!!! (we also had a birthday cake float in the Moomba Parade and won Most Entertaining Float Award… it was a pretty special time) – that’s when I first met Irene Mitchell and over the next four years we became quite good friends and had more events that connected the ‘old’ St Martins people with the ‘new’ young people at St Martins. It was always so great to see the different generations sharing the same stage in The Randall and all feeling like it was ‘their place’. In 1994 I was thinking that I should start looking around for a new direction and a new job but at one opening night in the foyer, Irene took me aside and said “I want you to promise me that when I go, you’ll bury my ashes under The Peppercorn Tree” – she’d planted that tree back in the days when she was Artistic Director of The Little Theatre. So I knew then that I couldn’t leave until I’d fulfilled my promise, which we did a year or so later – and she’s still there, under the plaque by the old Peppercorn Tree in the carpark. 

This one time at St Martins…
This one time at St Martins… back when we used to have afternoon Open Days with music and a litle craft market and a barbeque in the carpark, we had a bunch of young musicians playing jazz under the Peppercorn Tree when a grumpy neightbour started shouting at us to ‘stop that racket!!!’ and when the musicians kept playing he backed out his Porsche and turned his sound systen up full blast, and when they still kept playing he came and stole the extension cord from their amp – so, when it came time for next year’s Open Day we were determined not to let him dampen our creative spirit, so I contacted Operation Harmony (the Victoria Police Rock Band) and invited them to come and play (explaining, of course, the previous year’s incident with the grumpy neighbour)… the Band Leader just laughed and said to me… “leave it to us”… so on a lovely sunny afternoon with the carpark full of young people and their friends and families (and, of course, the St Martins family too)… the cops in their unifroms set themselves up on our outdoor stage and the band leader said “welcome to St Martins Open Day… we’re Operation Harmony and our first number is espeically for the man who lives next door!” – and they played REALLY loud!!! 

Daniel Lammin

A story about a moment, big or small

When I auditioned for the Performance Ensemble at St Martins in 2002, I was 15 years old and had only just moved to Melbourne from a small country town in Queensland. I had very limited knowledge of theatre, and the extent of my experience was school plays and local community theatre shows. When I applied, the staff at St. Martins were really lovely but very honest with me, that I was very young for the Ensemble and they usually didn’t accept people as young as me for that program. I had so little audition experience though that I thought, why not, it couldn’t hurt! I turned up, not knowing anyone, probably with a packed lunch or something, and towards the end of the day, performed my monologue, which was from ‘Pygmalion’. This audition was completely unlike any I had done at school. Brett Adams, the Artistic Director at the time, took me through my paces, throwing a barrage of ridiculous directions at me, forcing me to try things in those five minutes that I’d never even considered before. It was exhausting and terrifying and I was loving every second of it, and I walked away that day just very proud of what I had done. To my great surprise, I was accepted into the Performance Ensemble, the youngest person they’d ever accepted at that point. What that audition gave me was the opportunity to open my mind to all the possibilities in theatre, to learn from professional artists and my older peers, and gain confidence, not just in my craft, but in this new and scary city. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it hadn’t been for that year at St Martins, and more specifically, that audition. It turned my interest in theatre into a love affair. 

This one time at St Martins…

.. I dressed up in a white jumper and a white beanie and ran around on stage with a bunch of other actors in white jumpers and white beanies as a flock of sheep. 

Elham

A story about a moment, big or small

I learned that I can change.  We moved because of war. We went to my Little Grandma’s. I went from a clean place. I used to play outside. It was green.  I loved the grass and the trees. I climbed trees. I liked hiding in the leaves looking up at the sky. Then we moved and I played inside on the stairs. It was dirty. The stairs were dusty. The war was outside. I changed. Then we came to Australia. At first I didn’t even know how to say ‘Hi’ in English.  I changed again.

I learned a new language, now I’m different, my place is clean and I’m having fun.

This one time at St Martins…

I realised that drama isn’t only about acting. It’s about having fun too.

Elham is in primary school. She loves telling stories, climbing trees and playing with her friends and cousins. 

young girl with white skin, brown hair and a pink and colourful patterned dress

Emily Collyer

A story about a moment, big or small

A few years ago Ross and I went to Sri Lanka. One day we decided to climb a rock called Pidurangala. A two hour hike to get the best view of the Sigiriya rock fortress we’d climbed the day before. On the way up we kept passing sad, svelte European backpackers warning us there was no way to get to the top. We persisted. Soon we got to the point they’d been talking about. A sheer rock face of about 10 metres led to the very top. We were stuck. We sat on a wide, flat rock, deflated. The air was sticky humid as the heat of the day kicked in. A couple nearby seemed to be having a fight. She was crying. Was it because they too couldn’t get to the top? We didn’t know what to do but we didn’t want to go back down. So we waited. A big group of young Sri Lankans appeared. They looked like they were on a university orientation trip. They were chatty and energetic. They suddenly started appearing up above that sheer face, on top of Pidurangala. Then I noticed a lot of them were passing underneath the rock we sat on. What I thought was a dead end, upon closer inspection, actually hid a narrow pass. I slipped down and walked through. Emerging on the other side I saw a gently sloping path. I ran back to tell Ross and we walked all the way to the top. It was the best feeling in the world. Sometimes, when you think you’re stuck, if you wait a bit and be patient and learn from other people, you just might find another way to get where you want to go. 

Fabio Motta

Headshot of man smiling with olive skin and green eyes, short wavy dark hair in a yellow and blue plaid shir twith a black shirt underneath
Fabio and St Martins Ensemble 

This one time at St Martins…

I ran away with the circus!

Fabio as Enrique Iglesias in St Martins Rehearsal Rooms

A story about a moment, big or small

This one time at St Martins, we had to come to class as one of our favourite pop stars. The task was to dress, walk and talk like them and lip-sync one of their songs. I chose Enrique Iglesias and studied everything about him. I remember spending entire evenings copying his dance moves, watching his interviews – studying his every movements and vocal posture. Then, when I was lip-synching to his song, ‘Bailamos’, something magical happened! I completely lost myself. I become Enrique! I felt so much joy, found myself to be truly connected with the song and the audience, experienced a flow in my play with them which was completely liberating. Looking back, I realised that finding the ‘pleasure to play’ Enrique was so meaningful. Now all I want to do is find that ‘pleasure’ to play in my work as a performer, as a teacher and in everyday life. You have to listen for it…it takes practice but when you pursue it, it takes you to the most unexpected and surprising places. I learned that if something is fun – I think it’s worth pursuing…no matter what it is… It all started from that one exercise at St. Martins!

Hugo Race

This one time at St Martins…

I saw Gina Riley and Dorian Lazar starring in a production of Cain’s Hand. It was punk, it was relevant and I could see myself in that space – I left that show feeling so inspired! 

A story about a moment, big or small

I joined St Martin’s as a young wannabe actor. My musical play Sweaty Weather had won a competition to be produced at St Martin’s and was pencilled in for production the following year so in the interim, I signed up to do theatre training as part of the cast for When Lips Collide. I was cast as Ita Buttrose’s love-interest, Henry Kissinger (!), opposite the accomplished Gina Riley. Because this was also a musical production, I did some one on one vocal coaching sessions with Geoff, the musical director. And it was Geoff who much to my amazement told me that I had a potential singing voice. Until then, I’d never imagined myself as a singer. I’d played guitar in bands and written songs, but the band I had formed at that time didn’t have a singer at all until I convinced my friend Alexis to come to a rehearsal and try out as the vocalist. But then she and I split up, so Geoff’s encouragement was the reason I started singing and I haven’t stopped vocalising in the intervening forty years! Then came the production of Sweaty Weather, my turgid tale of an incestuous commedia del’arte troupe based on the writings of de Sade. Little did I know that the brilliant director Helmut Bakaitis had an expanded vision of his own for my sordid scenario! Being very young and very headstrong, I eventually walked out of rehearsals because my play had been refitted (an introduction to the power of collaboration); but when I returned to witness the dress rehearsals, I was astonished by the final version. It was amazing and gloriously subversive and looking back, I see that these events were some key reasons why I threw myself into an artist career with insane confidence. So glad I did.  

Isabella Vadiveloo

This one time at St Martins…

Our teacher told us to be a good actor you have to run 2km 3 times a week, and SHE WOULD KNOW if we didn’t. That 8 week term was the only time I ever tried to run in my life. I am not an actor now, so maybe she was right. 

A story about a moment, big or small

I think in some way the classes I went to at St. Martins saved my life (dramatic, I know). I developed depression quite young, and had a bit of a rough teenage experience, like everyone. But I got into those classes and felt like I’d been released into the wild for the first time. There were people like me – these beautiful people that cared about each other. People who cried and were vulnerable and silly and funny and big and small at the same time – like me. We found our awkward bodies, we felt our awkward feelings. We really created a secure space for each other to be brave, where we felt held. So one day we were doing the play “Here Comes a Chopper” by Ionesco, and my character died in the arms of her love, and I had to lie there for what felt like an age as another scene played out. I remember getting to the final performance, lying there ‘dead’ in my friend Dom’s arms, and my body just completely relaxing, for what felt like the first time ever in my life. I felt so safe, even though I was being watched by a room full of people. I think my decision to make a career out of performing and making performances has been really informed by that moment, where I was working so hard, I had adrenaline coming out my eyeballs, and felt so relaxed at the same time. I hope I can create that feeling for other people. It really was like being let loose into the wild, being set free.  

Jackson Reid

A story about a moment, big or small

When I was little I had really long hair. It went from the top of my head all the way down to my butt. I was known for my hair. I remember a lot of people saying that it was cool. Mum tells me the other boys at school wanted to grow their hair long because of me, and that they’d cry when they went to the hairdressers. This one kids would tease me about having long hair, saying it was “girly”, but I didn’t care what they thought. I liked my hair and that’s all that mattered to me.   

When I was 10 I felt like I needed a change. I had all this weight on the back of my head, pulling my head down. I thought short hair would be more comfortable and easier to manage. So, I went to the hairdressers and he put my hair in a pony tail and in one clear cut it was gone. Well actually it was still in the pony tail that he gave to my Mum. She still has it. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole time. I felt this sense of relief, like this weight had been lifted. It was a big change because, at that point, that long hair had been with me for most of my life.  

Jason Geary

This one time at St Martins…

I found a safe place to express myself with like minded people I still work with today. 

A story about a moment, big or small

St Martins is where I met one of my life long collaborators, Lliam Amor. Since we met at St Martins all those years ago we have shared the stage and screen on hundreds of occasions. It is a gift that keeps on giving as he’s one of my best friends and most trusted collaborators. In fact, we just finished a book together called Lost And Found: Magical Stories From Melbourne. I wrote the stories and he illustrated them, once again making everything I do better.  

Joana Pires

This one time at St Martins…

Before a St Martins workshop I was leading, a 10 year old named Blossom gave me a skateboarding coaching session and taught me how to skateboard for the first time.

Joana Pires is an actor, teaching artist and creator. She has facilitated, directed and produced work for St Martins and numerous arts companies for over 14 years. As an actor, her most recent screen credits are the American television series Preacher, the British miniseries Mrs Biggs (ITV UK, Seven Network), the Australian comedy series The Housemate (ABC iView), the feature film Healing, as well as short films including Alethea Jones’ Girl In The Moon and Corrie Chen’s AlasturiaJoana’s stage credits include I Call My Brothers (MTC), directed by Nadja Kostich, Love Boy (Arts Centre Melbourne), directed by Susie Dee and she the winning recipient of the Malthouse Theatre Development Award for Truth Machine (Malthouse Theatre), which she co-wrote and performed. 

Joseph O'Farrell (JOF)

A story about a moment, big or small

In 2012 I was asked by the St. Martins Artistic Director at the time, Sarah Austin, to co-devise a work with them in collaboration with the Victorian College for the Deaf. I had never worked with kids before, what followed was a truly new and rewarding experience of making work and one that would shape the next chapter of my creative career. Since then I have created works in collaboration with young people all over the world, most notably at the TATE Modern and Southbank Centre in London. And I have continued working with Vic College for the Deaf. I teamed up again with Sarah Austin in 2018 when we created THE CABIN! A horror show written by 11 year olds. It was designed by Darryl Cordell who also designed Dr Faustus in 2002. Full Circle! 

This one time at St Martins…

I learnt how rewarding collaborating with young people is. 

Kate Hunter

A story about a moment, big or small

‘Bull’s Eye’ Riding to work, I saw ahead of me a commotion. It was a woman standing under the train underpass, crouching over a form on the footpath. The woman was hunched. I saw that the form was a man who was lying directly under the train bridge. Had he fallen? Jumped? Cars went by. I stopped and looked at the man. He was crumpled, with his right leg in an odd unnatural position, like a dummy. He was lying facing upwards, and underneath his head something was seeping. I thought of the line in William Golding’s ‘Lord Of The Flies’ when Piggy fell to his death on the rocks – ‘Then his head opened and stuff came out’. The man’s eyes were open but unseeing; glassy, wide, grey. They looked a little like old-fashioned boiled lollies. Or the bull’s eyes we dissected in geography class: quivering and bulbous. Unblinking. He was uttering sounds. The woman was hysterical, and was on the phone to the ambulance people. She was jibbering and crying, though, and couldn’t seem to hear instructions. She kept wanting the traffic to stop. But no one did. I took the phone from her and put it to my ear. The voice on the other end of the phone said ‘… recovery position? Airway?’ ‘He’s making sounds’, I said. ‘Weird sounds. He must be alive. But he can’t understand or hear me. His eyes are open. But he can’t understand me’. I heard the sirens then. I put the man in the recovery position, because I knew how to do this. The woman cried and wailed. I wanted her to shut up. ‘He is making sounds’, I said again to the voice on the phone. ‘His eyes look like bull’s eyes’. The voice said ‘Reassure the patient’. I patted the man. ‘It’s alright’, I said, and patted him again. He made the sounds. The ambulance arrived with practical efficient people and machines and things in sterile plastic packets. I was conflicted about whether to stay on the phone. How did this work? Do I still help? Do I just go about my day? I stood there awkwardly watching the emergency workers, not quite close enough to impede. I leaned a little towards them. I tried to have a knowledgeable face. ‘Boggy’, said the ambulance officer. ‘The skull is boggy’. I couldn’t stop thinking about that. What is a boggy skull. Boggy, like moss? Was that something to do with the seeping stuff? What was the seeping stuff? Cerebral fluid? Surely that was very bad? The crying woman’s phone was still in my hand. ‘He has a boggy skull!’ I said to the voice on the phone. The ambulance officer looked at me. ‘We’ll take it from here’, she said. She was a large woman with wide, capable thighs. ‘Goodbye’, I said unnecessarily to the voice on the phone. I got back on my bike. The crying woman came towards me. She was red in the face. ‘I guess that’s it then’, she said. I guess that’s it then. I went on my way. Later, I wanted to find out about the man. Did he die? Did he jump or fall? What was the stuff coming out of his head? But I had no way of knowing where he went or who he was. I couldn’t just ring random hospitals asking about the man with the glassy bull’s eyes. So I went to work, ticking off tiny numbers in spreadsheets. I made spreadsheets all day.  

This one time at St Martins…

… the wooden platform that Georgie Naidu was standing on while playing saxophone broke and she fell through but kept standing up. Later I found out it she really hurt herself but at the time we laughed. 

Lally Katz

This one time at St Martins…

My play Horse-Girl and Her Young Gentleman Friend was performed and gave me hope that my voice as a writer was something people wanted  

A story about a moment, big or small

When I was high school in Canberra, there were two guys, Tom and Edward, who I thought were really cool. It was the end of the year and everyone was applying for universities. I asked them if they were going to go to ANU. They rolled their eyes and told me, ‘No way, we’re going to Melbourne.’ I had never been to Melbourne and hadn’t really heard anything about it. But that day I ordered this booklet that you use to apply for unis in Victoria (this was 1996, so I’m sure a different system). I applied to a bunch of schools in Melbourne and then forgot about it. A few months later, I got an acceptance form from the School of Studies in Creative Arts at Victorian College of the Arts. I didn’t even remember that I’d applied, but I was certain I wanted to go. My mother went with me to Melbourne to check it all out and find a place to live. On Little Bourke Street, we ran into one of the guys- Edward. I told him, ‘I’m moving to Melbourne too!’ He looked genuinely freaked out. I ran into him a few times after that and the other guy Tom too. Always in weird places, like a far off train station I got off on when I’d caught the wrong train. They were always a little scared to see me. But I have no regrets about following them to Melbourne. I lived there from when I was 18 for the next 18 years and it’s where I began my career as a writer.  

Lliam Amor

This one time at St Martins…

Jason Geary and I took over the gallery space and put in dozens of weird drawings, paintings and art objects. Half of which had to be taken down (too risque) 

A story about a moment, big or small

In 1990 I auditioned for Jane Woollard’s production of ‘Christopher Columbus’ and was lucky enough to be cast. It was pure theatre magic onstage and off, the tiny Church Hall transforming every night. Around the same time I steeped myself in St Martins life, creating illustrations for the newsletter and doing as many productions as I could. This was the groundwork that would cement my career choices. The friendships and connections I made at this wonderful place have reverberated throughout my life and I often think of that time in a dreamy, fantastical way.  

Lola Morgan

This one time at St Martins…

This one time at St Martins this kid kept throwing chairs after he was once told that he could do it in a play. That was a great time. .

A story about a moment, big or small

This is very small, but it would probably be the first time I listened to Hamilton. I had never heard musical theatre that I enjoyed before and Hamilton started my passion for acting. I didn’t know that musicals could be ‘cool’ because the people around me growing up generally hated them. I was starting St Martins around the same time so I was DETERMINED to learn about theatre and one day be in a musical/ play of my own. It seems like a pretty small thing, but if my older friends hadn’t introduced me to it, I would be a completely different person now. 

Lily Fish

A story about a moment, big or small

In 2010 when I was in second year at Drama School (I studied at the National Theatre) we had a week long intensive with physical theatre company Born in a Taxi. I fell in love with the theatrical form they play in, but also, meeting these real life working artists proved to me that it was possible to be a professional theatre maker. I then hounded them to let me observe their process and assist on their projects in any way that I could. Fast forward to now and I perform with the company regularly, and consider them mentors and friends. If you love someone’s work tell them, and seize every opportunity you can to immerse yourself in their practice.

This one time at St Martins…

actually most of my memories involve hiding and trying not to get caught, so I’m not sure how helpful that is.

Maude Davey

This one time at St Martins…

I was working as an actor with a troupe of people on a physical theatre show. The company were resident at St Martins – which used to happen back then – rehearsing and performing in the Irene Mitchell. We arrived at rehearsal this one day and were told we would be experimenting with putting Plaster of Paris on our faces and letting it set – we were going for the effect of it cracking off as we progressed through the play. Never put Plaster of Paris on your face. It was like we’d super-glued stone to our skin. Getting it off took hours of chipping away, piece by piece, it really hurt and I lost most of my eyebrows. Experimental theatre fail! 

A story about a moment, big or small

I got into trouble in high school – Year 9, which is by reputation, the year in which young people go off the rails. Certainly I did. I wagged school a lot, and eventually – long story short – got caught by my Mum, lurking in the empty block next door as I waited for her to go to work. She hauled me up to the Principal, I was dressed down and had to behave for the rest of the year, which I did. However I couldn’t bring myself to go back to cooking class. Why? I don’t know. But I couldn’t. I locked myself in a toilet cubicle and read a book whenever it was on. At the end of the year I had another meeting with the Principal who confronted me with my absences. I insisted that I had attended every class. And eventually she backed down and dismissed me. 

In that moment I realised the power of a lie – at least for a middle class white girl. She and I both knew that I was lying. But it is difficult and uncomfortable to call out a lie, and in that moment she did what most people will do when confronted with a bald-faced one. She accepted it and on the surface of things I got away with it.  However I had seen in her face her goodwill towards me shut down and I was ashamed. I understood that I had disappointed her in a fundamental way. I had proved myself not worthy of her concern and care. I decided that, henceforward, I would tell the truth. And, mostly, I have. 

Michele Lee

This one time at St Martins…

I got to weave Batman into a play. 

A story about a moment, big or small

My son is quite fascinated by death, and I am writing something about this topic too. So I think about moments in my own life where I’ve felt a little brush with danger or even felt as though I could have died. Riding my bike (or was it even a tricycle) down a steep driveway and just missing being hit by a car, riding an elephant at a sanctuary in Laos and sitting atop it as it did its daily bath and feeling so close to falling off and being crushed (I can’t swim by the way), the car accident when I was 21 and driving home late after a long week, day, year and falling asleep at the wheel for a moment. These haven’t shaped my life, just moments within it that make me think about my life, about my family and their lives, about times I’ve pushed myself perhaps too far. 

Mila Rennie Galvin

This one time at St Martins…

This one time at St Martins I decided to wear at hat that looked liked a cooked turkey. 

A story about a moment, big or small

hmmmm… Ok something that shaped my little bubble of a life was probably moving schools. Now I know that this is a process that many kids have to undergo but I just wonder what it would of been like staying at my old school. I moved schools after year 4 (so I would of had to move schools anyway for highs school), but I had just felt like I had made some really good friends that I felt close too. it was weird leaving, I didn’t really know what was going to happen, I was going into a year 5 class that was full of kids who already knew each other from previous years. When I think about it it was actually quite daunting! However once I got to know the new people in my class I made some really close friends. Making new “besties” was great but in a way it meant I lost contact with my other friends. I’m very grateful that I do attend the school I go to know, but I wouldn’t have minded staying at my old school until it was time for high school. I think the school I go to know opened me up to many more opportunities and it probably lead to a sequence of events that enrolled me into St Martins, so thats pretty cool. I guess everything happens for a reason and maybe if I’d had stayed at my other school, I might have been completely different person to who I am today. Overall moving schools can sometimes be a really good thing.  

Nadja Kostich

A story about a moment, big or small

I’m going way back with my story of what’s shaped me. My mum studied music and was a mezzo-soprano, touring on a ship with the Army choir in the former Yugoslavia before I was born. Later she sang in nightclubs – I have memories of many songs in our house. Her aunt was a renowned theatre, TV and film actress in Belgrade and my great uncle was the sparky in the National Theatre. Most of the family played an instrument. Their grandsons, were cast in a TV series from a young age and one of them is a household name actor there now (more about him at St Martins later). Maybe there’s a bit of something in the blood if you believe in that, or it’s mostly about nurture, what we are exposed to early on, and the way it shapes our later choices. My great aunt used to take me backstage which imprinted the smell of the theatre in my brain. The little labyrinthian dimly lit passageways are like maps on my body. We’d squeeze past the massive gong, step around racks of costumes and props tables, and burst into the humming dressing rooms with their lit up mirrors, actors’ arms flying into sleeves, sponges dabbing at faces, brushes pulling on hair.  

When I was about six or seven I got a small non-speaking part in a play at the National Theatre. I don’t remember its name, but I still have the body memory of waiting backstage, the quiver and excitement of it all. I’m standing by with the main actress who plays my mum. She holds a letter in her hands and is wrapped in a shawl with a delicate fringe. I watch the shawl fringe tremble as she breathes, waiting. And then, she looks back at me and smiles, with a kind of ‘yes’ in her eyes. I take a breath and run on ahead of her, as we’d rehearsed, into the blue lighting state and the palpable presence of hundreds of people in the darkened auditorium. I was part of a dream sequence. 

It was my first ever job. And I bought my first ever bike with the pay packet.

sepia photo of young blond girl smiling on a bicycle with mother in background hands on hips

This one time at St Martins…

My cousin, Nikola, a famous Serbian actor, on a 15,000km-one-night-only-first-ever visit to see something I’d made, was running late to our opening night of Balit Liwurruk: Strong Girl. Our front of house was a FORTRESS and never let him, despite his pleas and supplications. 

Seriously! 

He subsequently moved to LA and catapulted into the Upside Down, Stranger Things 4. The moral of the story might be ‘don’t be late to St Martins’ or ‘magic happens at St Martins’ – take your pick! 

Petra Kalive

This one time at St Martins…

I did a reading of a new Australian work with my now husband.  

A story about a moment, big or small

There are so many moments that have shaped the person and creative I have become. So many moments tie into my formative years at St Martins. Key moments pop into my head as I think about it Standing outside Irene Mitchell studio under the awning while it was raining with my mum and we both knew that this is what I was going to do with my life. Being asked to direct my first ever show at St Martins – recognising that this was what I was really meant to be doing. Meeting ‘my people’ for the first time in my life in the Performers Ensemble – I had always felt like a misfit and suddenly I belonged. Being welcomed back to St Martins with open arms as a teacher after completing my formal training as I navigated the abyss of the ‘industry’. St Martins was a lifesaver for me financially and for my soul. Being told to stop flirting with a boy during a reading of a new work -Actually the director said “Flirting is a legitimate choice in this scene, but why don’t you try another action?” I didn’t even realise I was flirting – That boy is now my husband of 12 years. 

Rachel Burke

This one time at St Martins…

A Japanese lighting designer visited the Randall and brought with him the most beautiful lighting filters, glorious colours that I’d never seen before. I was very nervous cutting the colour because I knew we couldn’t replace it in Melbourne.

A story about a moment, big or small

In 1989 I had an interview at St Martins with Alex Duncan, Production Manager for the role of intern technician. Armed with a roll of drafting film, showing my clumsy student attempts at hand drafting of lighting plans, I nervously walked down the laneway to find No 28, the white house-like building. Recently graduated from Rusden College with a Dance/Drama B.ED, it had become clear to me that I loved lighting (from my one experience of lighting the 3rd year dance production on a Stand Electric LC quadrant fader desk) and that backstage was vastly more suited to my abilities! I didn’t think I had a hope of getting that job but Alex ‘s interest that day and the subsequent unwavering and invaluable support of Chris Thompson, James Buick and Leon Dark set up a pathway that I’ve never wanted to diverge from. I learnt to tour, to teach, to design, to solve technical problems, to collaborate and to find my feet with some of the most wonderful people in our industry, many of whom remain great friends to this day. I also learnt to make prop elephants out of carpet underlay with Emma Anderson and she says she still has one!

Rob Meldrum

This one time at St Martins…

This one time at St Martin’s profoundly changed my creative and life journey. 

A story about a moment, big or small

The name St Martin’s conjures up many images for me, but one predominates. It’s of a small room with white painted walls and a fluorescent blue Windsor carpet. A group of people gathered for the first day of what was to be a five-month intensive voice teachers’ training course with the American teacher Rowena Balos. Made possible by the visionary and iconoclastic Whitlam government in collaboration with the Myer foundation. The time was 1975. Nothing like it had ever occurred before; nothing like it has ever occurred since, in this country. That day I met, in Rowena Balos, someone who would change my life in terms of everything I understood about what it was to be an actor. She would also become a lifelong friend and sharer of discoveries until her decease two years ago. And on that same occasion I would also meet a very dear and lifelong friend and confidante, Jenny Kemp. Like many of my generation of actors I was not trained. I came to acting through the vibrant student theatre culture of Melbourne University in the roaring 60s and began my career as a collective member of the Australian Performing Group at the Pram Factory in Carlton in the 70’s. But in that five delirious months I learnt deeply and thoroughly about the essence of acting and how to work with and comprehend its central premise – the breath. Being totally in the moment. And in train with that, the connection to text – one’s emotional, physical connection to text. And the overriding realisation that language received at this level, inhabited in this way, transforms you. Five years later Jenny is living in a terrace house in Millswyn Street around the corner from St Martins and I’m living in Kensington. We agree we want to explore, in greater depth, the work we were knocked sideways by five years previously. So, every day I travel in my battered VW over to South Yarra to meet with her. We devise a regimen. Firstly, we jog around the tan together; then we go into the Botanical Gardens and walk through the cactus garden. But the walk is an ancient Japanese meditational walk we have been taught by Lindy Davies, another cherished friend and peer who had received it from a Buddhist monk whilst working with Peter Brook’s company in Paris. We would walk slowly through the gardens, hands in gassho, the still, silent cacti encircling us, and gradually our minds would clear, tension release from our bodies and the breath finally drop down deeply into our centres, as Rowena had trained us. Energised and focused we would then re-locate to a vast warehouse space which had been gifted us for a period, just with the simple idea of exploring the question: what does an actor’s body do with space and time? How does it inhabit space and time and simultaneously encounter the other, and then speak? So, over a period of weeks we developed what we subsequently called Impulse Work. Running /walking /standing. In its simplicity it would become the foundation and organising principal of each of our work, but on separate and sometimes intertwining trajectories, for the rest of our careers. Two other connections with St Martin’s should be mentioned. In 1988 I was invited to create a work with the TIE team. It was a gift. A crazy, left of centre opportunity to fire a creative shot in the dark. Included in that young company of actors was a cheeky, energetic, rampantly imaginative young man called Wayne Hope. And in 1982, in the St Martin’s Studio Space, it was my intense joy to perform Nero in Racine’s Britannicus, directed by the visionary Rex Cramphorn with an inspired cast which included Lindy Davies, Margaret Cameron and Ian Scott. All in all, St Martin’s has given me gold. Pure creative gold! I thank it for that and wish the company a very happy and well-deserved 40th birthday. May it continue to flourish and inspire.  

Robert Reid

This one time at St Martins…

I had the moment that committed me to theatre as a career for life

A story about a moment, big or small

I’ve never actually been a student at St Martins (i’ve been a teacher and a writer for them) but when i was sixteen, during the National Shakespeare Finals, when my schools group was performing in the grand final finale (i think we might have been last on the bill) i stood on stage in front of a completely packed audience in the Randall theatre and before i’d even said a word the wave of cheering, applause and laughter was so loud and strong that i knew in that instant it would be what i did with the rest of my life. And, so far, i have.

Ted Hargreaves

A story about a moment, big or small

When I was four I was diagnosed with Autism, and I didn’t really know about it until I questioned why I was different. When I was ten I enjoyed being in my class play, so my mum subscribed to St. Martins’ newsletter and in the first newsletter she received there was an article asking for five autistic people aged 10-18 with special interests to volunteer to be part of a show and so I volunteered. If you have a special interest it is an autistic trait that most autistic people have, it’s where you are so interested in one thing that you can pursue that interest to a great extent. My special interest is ever changing, when I was young it was trains and now it is story telling but it used to be Australian animals. So I met up with other Autistic people (whose interests ranged from linguistics to the royal families) and Amelia Ducker, the person running it. She explained to us all how the show would work, it would work with the audience going into each of our spaces which we’d create around our interest and us telling them about our interest. Amelia helped us all develop how we could present our interest and that March the show was held. And the show was a life changing experience for me. It taught me how to speak confidently in front of an audience, it taught me to feel proud of my individuality which I hadn’t previously but most of all, it taught me about who I was and where I stood in the world. And I don’t think I was the only one who felt like that, so thank you Amelia, I wouldn’t be as confident and happy as I am today if it wasn’t for you.  

This one time at St Martins…

I did a show with St. Martins during 2016 and 2017 but I’ve only been attending classes since 2018.  

Tania Lacy

This one time at St Martins…

I had to climb in through the dressing room window. The director would not tolerate lateness and well, I was late and now locked out. The window was my only choice, if I was to save the play, humanity and the world.  

A story about a moment, big or small

Actually…Three moments from St Martins that shaped my path:

At age 20 – in Blood Relations, I have a distinct physical memory of a moment from performance – I was kneeling on the floor next to Jackie (the other Lizzie Borden) nestled against her knee, under theatre lights. I think it was the first time I sensed the intimacy-in-public of theatre. We were in a mysterious world – poetic, dark, sharing a private moment with people on the other side of the lights. It was such a high – the joy of being on stage.

At 21: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Beverley Dunn – I played Puck as a grungy dealer with oily hair – FUN. I discovered working with the body- the gait of Puck was not my gait – I was a trickster. It was Shakespeare and it was outrageous, flirtatious, magical FUN.

Tim Stitz

A story about a moment, big or small

I was a beneficiary of Brett Adam’s time at St Martin’s and met so many excellent people while part of the Performance Ensemble, various productions and workshops at St Martin’s around this time. In around 2004 I think I did a professional creative development of a new play by Meg Courtney, directed by new St M’s AD Anthony Crowley. Two of the other actors were Kylie Trounson (who is still a dear friend) and Petra Kalive (my partner and wife). Kylie played my girlfriend and Petra my best friend. The one thing that sticks in my mind is when Anthony (the Artistic Director at the time) gave notes to Petra and I after a scene – he said to Petra that she should stop flirting with my character as we were just friends. It wasn’t the very first time I’d met Petra – that development – but it very likely sealed a connection that took a little while to go any further, but once it did turned into the longest relationship in my life, a dog, two children, a home and life together. We both feel extremely fondly towards St Martin’s, that formative time in our lives, and what a place like St Martin’s is and can be for young people exploring their craft and developing their talent.  

This one time at St Martins…

I wheeled a set piece of sawn off pieces of my first car on to stage on a trolley and performed on its bonnet in a two-hander short play set in Scotland. It was SO HEAVY! 

Vanessa O’Neill 

This one time at St Martins…

we created a ridiculous and irreverent satire of Australian family Christmas traditions and had a huge amount of fun creating and performing it. 

A story about a moment, big or small

I have loved watching the impact that St Martins has had on my son who has been doing classes at St Martins since he was seven (he is now 14). It is very significant that a place that was such a source of joy and creativity for me as a teenager has meant so much to him (for over half his life). For my son, St Martins has been a place to play, to be silly, to create characters and to collaborate on pieces of theatre. It has strengthened his empathy, his ability to embrace diversity and his readiness to think ‘outside the square’.  

Wesley Enoch AM 

This one time at St Martins…

we planned and delivered the largest gathering of Aboriginal dancers in Melbourne in almost a century 

A story about a moment, big or small

In 1993 I was 24 and I had decided to come to Melbourne because I had fallen in love, and Chris Thompson had invited me to do some work with St Martins. I didn’t know anything about South Yarra but I soon found out that there weren’t many Blak fellas living in the area. I had been asked to work on some Indigenous Programs and I started a notice board in the office called THE AGE OF CHANGE where I cut out newspaper clippings from the Age about Aboriginal people and stories affecting Aboriginal people. Even though it was the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People the stories were not always that positive….in fact they rarely were. I got involved in a few community activities including organising a huge dance gathering as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival at the Fitzroy Flats where over 100 dancers came together to share and exchange their dances. Also as part of Fringe I was invited to direct a reading of a play which was called The Lost Children by Jane Harrison. The show was an amalgam of verbatim stories from those who would go on to be named the Stolen Generation. This was the first reading of a play which was developed over an 8 year period and eventually was called STOLEN. This show would tour the world telling the stories of Indigenous children who were stolen from their parents. This reading changed the trajectory of my career. Strengthened by the work of this fledgling company called Ilbijerri I returned to Brisbane and I helped establish a theatre company called Kooemba Jadrra and created The 7 Stages of Grieving with Deborah Mailman. Weirdly, in 1998 I returned to Melbourne to direct STOLEN for Melbourne Festival and the rest is history. I owe St Martins a lot. St Martins knew they wanted to express a different story, to assist to tell a blackfella story but they didn’t know what to do to start, so they just gave over and had no expectations and hence their support built an internationally acclaimed show, kickstarted my career and helped move a million souls. 

Willa Carney

Willa Carney is 8 years and has been coming to St Martins for 2 years. Her favourite thing about St Martins is the people: both the teachers and the friends she has made. St Martins has helped Willa build her confidence, which she uses when she plays the flute. Earlier this year Willa did a flute performance on Zoom that she is proud of. 

Wolfie Sun

This one time at St Martins…

We shared stories of resilience and power

A story about a moment, big or small

Last year, in October, it was the last rehearsal day for Escape Velocity Walks the City. We had mapped out our routes and had done a trial run. I remember that we were gathered in Fed Square and were getting ready to walk back to the Arts Centre. It had been a nice spring day and the sun was starting to set over the city skyline. As we stood there for a while, I remember feeling safe in public for the first time because I was with other trans people like me. It made me realize that life was about the connections that you make with people along the way and that it is through community and togetherness that we get our strength.