01 July 2014

Mutual admiration

St Catherine’s drama students have given a huge round of applause to a new face in the Theatre. Renowned playwright Lachlan Philpott whose play M.Rock is currently in rehearsal at the Sydney Theatre Company, is our first ever Playwright in Residence and he has our Year 10 drama students in awe and inspired!

Mr Philpott's appointment has been funded by St Catherine's P&F which has been raising funds for a number of 'in residence' positions for our students.

The art of story telling

Edan McGovern, Camille Ormandy, Isabella Baren-Weiss, Adelaide Miller, Olivia Abbott and Henrietta Richardson were bubbling over with enthusiasm about the way he has already taken their creativity to a whole new level. They said:

 "He is so interesting. He is trained and works in the industry and it's great to hear his perspective on what it’s like."

"He’s also been to other schools before and knows what works for students who are interested in drama and writing."

"The hardest thing is to start writing something. He’s been really good helping us to overcome that."

"He is very clear about what makes a good story and how to create characters."

"We’ve learnt not to write just to pad a story out.  Everything has to mean something, to move the story on."

"It’s so fun to act what we’ve written."

 Fulbright Scholarship

Drama Teacher Mrs Renelle Williams persuaded Mr Philpott to take up the position which is a highly unusual position within Australian schools.  She said it was quite a coup for the School when he agreed because he is so highly regarded in the industry.

He wrote the award-winning Silent Disco which played at the Griffin Theatre in 2011 and he was recently named as the inaugural winner of the coveted Fulbright Professional Playwriting Scholarship. It means he will travel to San Francisco in November to work on a new play with the American Conservatory Theatre, one of the biggest theatre companies in the US.

Window into the mind

Working with St Catherine's girls hasn't been a one-way street. Mr Philpott, a former teacher, says he has gained a great deal too. "I like being in a school community and miss the classroom contact.  I write about young people a lot and working with the girls keeps me in touch with what people their age are thinking," he said.

This semester Mr Philpott is focussing on writing skills and said if only one of the girls is inspired to become a writer it would be immensely satisfying because writers have a special role in society. "It's all too easy to allow the loudest voices, such as our politicians, define our culture," he said.  "Artists and creative people see the world in different ways and their perspectives lead to a much richer culture."

Behind the scenes

He says St Catherine's girls are particularly interesting to work with because they are empowered to express themselves, to write and investigate and become confident to take on leadership roles.  What he can add to the mix is a window on the outside world and on the world of the theatre.

"As a playwright I can offer St catherine's students opportunities to meet artists and see what happens behind the scenes in professional theatre and as a writer I can show them that life is not just about making money and being famous, but it's also an opportunity for them to really make difference," he said.

A play for St Catherine's

Mr Philpott's time in-Residence is due to finish at the end of term but Mrs Williams and he hope to continue the association in the future. "I'd like to write a play especially for St Catherine's," he said.  "It will be good for the students to see a theatre production from every angle, right from the beginning to the end."