I remember when the course was first announced I received an email from one of my undergraduate mentors telling me they’d found “a course made for people like me”. A Master of Dramaturgy had interested me for a few years and I now had the opportunity to study at a highly-regarded and prestigious Australian institution. The course is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere and could have a real impact on the Australian performing arts industry in the next few years.
No two days at the VCA were ever the same. A one-year master’s degree moves fast and demands a strong work ethic and high level of discipline. Mondays were generally our day off, and a good time to catch up on reading and earn some money. The rest of the working week comprised two three- or four-hour classes a day. These classes could be lectures and tutorials, discussion-based seminars, practical workshops, or rehearsals.
As a dramaturg you are often the middleman: As the mediator between directors, writers, designers and other creatives, you’re ultimately the advocate for the work itself. The VCA’s cross-disciplinary classes and practise models definitely prepare you for this role as you become an expert in communication. But I think the biggest challenge for a dramaturg in any situation is learning your role in any given circumstance. You have to be constantly adaptable.
When you’re studying, you’re constantly working with fellow practitioners and creating, or at least theorising, arguably the most daring and experimental work of your career. You are uninhibited by the constraints and pressures of professional work. I think the rare opportunity to be creative with like-minded people is often taken for granted – it’s the continual artistic expression and discussion that you miss most once you leave.
While I was a Master of Dramaturgy student, I was fortunate enough to complete two internships with the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC). Those were made possible by VCA’s strong connections with MTC – many of the VCA’s sessional lecturers work at or with the company. My first internship was with MTC’s Literary Manager Chris Mead on the selection and curation of Cybec Electric 2017. This internship opened the MTC’s doors to me. I gained a deeper understanding of professional practices and the process of programming while refining my skills in play-reading and assessment.
Alongside that internship, I completed a directorial secondment under Peter Houghton on the mainstage production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. An invaluable experience, the secondment involved observing readings, rehearsals, production meetings, costume fittings, bump-in, technical and dress rehearsals, preview performances and opening night.
The VCA gave me the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary to enter the industry as a respected emerging practitioner. It also widened my network to include people from mainstage companies and other industry organisations, and in the extremely competitive performing arts industry, your network is always your strongest ally and source of work.
The continued support and mentorship from my tutors and lecturers has been comforting on the road to a challenging career.Callum Dale - Master of Dramaturgy
The continued support and mentorship from my tutors and lecturers has been comforting on the road to a challenging career.