Tessa Rixon, Anthony Brumpton, Carly O’Neill – Creating Virtual Space for Undergraduate Production Artists: Reimagining theatre production pedagogy online in response to COVID-19

Presentation

Tessa Rixon, Anthony Brumpton, Carly O’Neill

Queensland University of Technology

Creating Virtual Space for Undergraduate Production Artists: Reimagining theatre production pedagogy online in response to COVID-19 

This presentation will demonstrate how virtual theatre productions act as spaces of transformation within Production Arts pedagogy while strengthening students’ agency over creative processes. In face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, with the shutdown of the Australian entertainment industries and the wholesale shift to online modes of delivery within tertiary institutions, the training of undergraduate Production Artists is uniquely situated to adapt through experimentation with online processes. This presentation will explore the pedagogical approach adopted by Queensland University of Technology academics within the Technical Production degree to create virtual spaces for the training of Production Artists. The Production Arts refers to the industry of practitioners who apply specialised design, technical and management skills in the collaborative process of realising live performance, encompassing managers, technologists, designers, operators, and others working behind or beside the scenes to create theatre. 

This presentation will analyse the pedagogical model developed for QUT’s Technical Production degree to shift highly practical, studio-based pedagogy into the online space. Focusing specifically on the newly-created Virtual Theatre Production (VTP) Project – a collaborative project which transfers productions online and involves second and final-year students, seasoned industry professionals, directors and production managers – we will case-study a new approach to training Production Artists in this time of global transformation. The VTP Projects shift normal production processes into the virtual space using 3D modelling software, lighting visualization, vision content presentation, 3D costume render techniques, videoconferencing and live streaming. 

This study will demonstrate how our approach to Production Arts pedagogy grants greater agency to undergraduate students to reimagine their own creative, technical and management processes and products. We establish how these virtual spaces of transformation facilitate social engagement amongst the student cohort, supporting creative encounters in the face of this recent global pandemic.

Tessa Rixon (née Smallhorn) is a practitioner-researcher with a focus in digital scenography and interactive systems in live performance. As a Lecturer in Scenography in the School of Creative Practice with the Queensland University of Technology, Tessa lectures in performance design, computer-aided design and performance technologies. Tessa’s research promotes new modes of integrating established and emergent technologies such as motion capture, Augmented and Virtual Reality systems into live performance; exploring the symbiosis of interactive technology and embodied performance practice; and showcasing Australian performance design practice and histories.

Anthony Brumpton is a Lecturer in the School of Creative Practice at Queensland University of Technology. His professional practice and research investigates augmented aural realities (AAR) through the lens of Aural Scenography as an approach for inclusion, placemaking and environmental awareness. His teaching fields include technical production, sound design and intermedial theatre. Anthony has over 20 years professional experience in the fields of music, sound and technical production, having created hundreds of creative works across Australia and internationally. Anthony currently resides in Queensland, Australia on the land of the traditional owners the Gubbi Gubbi.

Carly O’Neill is the Lecturer in Stage Management within the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Technical Production) at QUT. She has 20 years’ experience as a professional freelance stage manager working across most live performance genres, with particular specialisations in classical and contemporary music, and ballet and contemporary dance. Carly was the Senior Stage Manager at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre from 2004 – 2013 and has extensive regional, national and international touring experience. Carly has been the lecturer in stage management at QUT since 2009 and is currently the Study Area Coordinator for the BFA (Technical Production) and continues to freelance as a stage manager and show-caller. Her research explores the career transition experiences of female stage managers in Australia.

Carly O’Neill – Exit Stage Left: Mid-career transitions of female stage managers in Australia

Presentation

Carly O’Neill

QUT

Exit Stage Left: Mid-career transitions of female stage managers in Australia 

In the course of their work, stage managers are across many different elements of the performance making process – however, at its most fundamental, the key function of the stage manager in the realisation of live performance is the management of change (Ionazzi 1992). Stage managers are critical participants in the Australian live performance industry that generated $2.2 billion in revenue in 2019 (Live Performance Australia 2019) and Australian census data indicate that this industry is being serviced by a disproportionately young, female workforce (ABS 2011). This paper will discuss the findings of a study that characterised the career transition experiences of professional female stage managers in Australia and explored the variety of career development challenges experienced during mid-career and prompt premature exits from the profession. The research presents the experiences of professional female stage managers who have worked within Australia’s peak performing arts companies (AMPAG 2019) and makes recommendations regarding workforce retention strategies, educational models, psychological and social support mechanisms and organisational and sectoral strategies that will lead to increased sustainability within the profession. One of the key findings of the study was that the precarious nature of the work is one of the major factors that drives stage managers out of the profession, and this has never been more relevant in light of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on those working in the production arts.

Carly O’Neill is the Lecturer in Stage Management within the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Technical Production) at QUT. She has 20 years’ experience as a professional freelance stage manager working across most live performance genres, with particular specialisations in classical and contemporary music, and ballet and contemporary dance. Carly was the Senior Stage Manager at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre from 2004 – 2013 and has extensive regional, national and international touring experience. Carly has been the lecturer in stage management at QUT since 2009 and was Technical Production coordinator from 2012 – 2014. She is currently the Study Area Coordinator for the BFA (Technical Production) and continues to freelance as a stage manager and show-caller.