Retaining young creatives and graduate actors is the key to unlocking the Riverina’s potential as an artistic powerhouse, two experts believe.
Charles Sturt University acting lecturers Dominique Sweeney and Robert Lewis are recent additions to the Wagga CSU campus, having joined the School of Communications and Creative Industries in 2016.
The duo were initially struck by Wagga’s sports-mad psyche, however, both are relishing the prospect of tapping into the Riverina’s rich cultural reservoir.
“We’re relatively new kids on the block,” Dr Sweeney admitted
“It’s pretty clear Wagga is a sporting town like most regional centres but while there’s a strong sporting culture, there’s also a strong arts community.”
Dr Lewis taught voice and movement in Launceston for more than 12 years and has already observed an increase in regional arts participation.
“We used to audition for our acting program all over the state but we’re finding more Wagga residents want to be involved,” he said.
“The Riverina Theatre Company and other community groups have an incredible tradition here and we want to build upon that legacy.”
Both men wish to build upon the foundation laid by strong community groups and create a space for younger professional actors and creatives to flourish.
“There’s a strong amateur theatre scene here but we’d love to see acting graduates staying here and contributing to the arts in Wagga,” Dr Sweeney said.
“We think the way to do that is to provide these younger talents with more opportunities and we’re in the process of trying to build that professional space between the top-end shows and community groups.”
Former Wagga dancer and performer Jarryd Byrne believes more should be done to fund youth creativity in the region.
“Obviously we’ve got the Civic Theatre which is fantastic but I’d love to see money going to young kids in the industry,” he said.
“The thing for me is that I never really was inspired by the creative possibilities and where I could go in Wagga. I think more funding could change that for local actors.”
Mr Byrne frequently returns to Wagga to run workshops, something both Dr Lewis and Dr Sweeney wish to see more of.
“That’s exactly what we need – it inspires younger performers and shows them success is possible.”