First established in 2021, Excelsia Productions seeks to contribute to creating cultural arts that benefit the world through exploration and representation of the beauty and brokenness of life in God’s creation. Excelsia Productions chose one of the oldest and most read books in history, the book of Job, from the Bible, as its first feature length film, which will be approximately 90 minutes in length. Tim Lim, 2021 Bachelor of Dramatic Art graduate, will star as Elihu, a comforter of Job and his three friends and defender of God. We talked to Tim about this exciting experience as filming prepares to get underway in early July!
Tell us a bit about your character Elihu.
Elihu is one very unique character in the sense that the only one he sides with is God himself. The name Elihu means ‘My God is He.’ He takes a stance against Job’s three friends and calls out against Job’s rebukes calling Job’s remarks against God unjust. However, he does not threaten Job with aggression like Job’s other three friends. In many ways God uses Elihu to speak with Job and he is the only one of Job’s friends who God doesn’t rebuke at the end of the story.
How did your studies at Excelsia help you prepare to act in 18. The Book of Job?
This script is word for word from the Bible and Elihu has a behemoth of a monologue. Even in my first year of my course here, I performed in one play with 30 to 40 pages of dialogue split between two characters. I had to learn the harsh way of the importance of learning lines early, accurately, and quickly. However, this is both a script and Scripture, thus leading me to learn the meaning underneath the lines as well. This has brought me to reading different versions of the same verses such as New International Version and King James Version to find implications that our WEB Version may not explicitly reveal.
What are you most looking forward to about this experience?
Before I even knew about this production, I was reading the book of Job in my daily devotions, and I acted out all the characters as I was reading them. I loved the idea of bringing this piece of biblical literature to a format more easily consumed such as screen or theatre, where characters can be seen living and breathing not just talking in biblical verses. God has already used this role to develop my growth as an actor and person and I’m very keen to see what else He has in store.
Why do you think the book of Job is such an important book in the Bible that should be adapted to the screen?
The book of Job deals with some of the hardest topics and questions that life and Christianity has to offer. When I struggled with faith, this book was always recommended to me. I think it’s important to ask God why He allows suffering because that’s a question even many Christians still face. Plus, it’s a lot easier to get people to watch something on screen than to read pages and pages of dialogue.
The book of Job is very meaningful to me. I wrote a play (Rapture, 2021) in third year based on Job’s story, about a pastor who lost his family and cried out against God. I’m also a big superhero fan so naturally this pastor finds sci-fi technology and becomes a super villain which is obviously where he and Job diverge. We had to cut out the three friends. I played the pastor in this play and had another student as the equivalent of Elihu where he’d rebuke me. This play came out of a fragmentation of my faith that held resentment toward God but now, as I study the words of Elihu, it’s not just God speaking through me but God speaking to me as well.
We can’t wait to see Tim take to the screen and be a part of a film that will educate the world, especially as we navigate times in a post pandemic world.
Anthea Agoratsios graduated from Excelsia College in 2021 with a Master of Counselling, having previously completed her undergraduate studies with a Bachelor of Dramatic Art (majoring in Performance) in 2017. ‘I always knew after I completed my drama degree that I wanted to pursue counselling and specialise in working with actors and other creatives on a therapeutic level. The Master of Counselling offered by Excelsia covered a wide range of therapeutic modalities that aligned with the kind of therapy style I wanted to pursue. I felt a degree like this one would be a great starting point for me,’ Anthea explains.
Over her seven years spent at Excelsia, Anthea has seen the community grow and change as the College has expanded and diversified in its course offerings. Despite the changes, she has noticed the consistent love and support within the student community. ‘Excelsia is welcoming, diverse, and creative; I fell in love with the warmth and hospitality of the community atmosphere. The students I have met during my studies have left a lasting and special impact on my life; the memories I have made are ones that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Through Excelsia I have met my chosen family and for that I will be forever grateful,’ she says.
Life can be scary and uncertain at times, especially during seasons of change such as completing your studies and moving into your chosen career, however Anthea feels that the student community at Excelsia has supported her in this transition. ‘No matter how uncertain things may seem, there will always be a support network rallying behind you while you complete the transition. Additionally, the importance of hard work, dedication and resilience when striving to achieve your ambitions has been reinforced countless times.’
Anthea has many highlights and defining moments from her seven years spent at Excelsia College, however a defining theme she has noticed is her personal and professional growth. ‘Both counselling and acting training require a great deal of introspection and, for me personally, that has led to an immense amount of transformation. I can sometimes hardly recognise the girl that started at Excelsia seven years ago and I am extremely proud of the woman I’ve become,’ says Anthea.
After finishing her studies at the end of last year, Anthea took some well-deserved time off to travel. Now, she is working as a clinic coordinator at a healthcare clinic whilst continuing to aspire towards her goals to becoming a counsellor.
We are proud to have inspiring graduates such as Anthea who embody the College’s values of hard work and a desire to grow not only intellectually but also emotionally. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for Anthea as she uses her knowledge gained to assist actors and creatives. If you want to be transformed, why not explore what Excelsia College can offer you? With courses in counselling, social work, education, creative and performing arts and business, you will be extended in ways you never thought possible.
Enquire with us today by visiting https://excelsia.edu.au/
Since graduating from Excelsia College with the Bachelor of Dramatic Art in 2020, Esther Williams has started to make a name for herself in the performing arts industry, having been cast in a film, and more recently in a television show and lead in a commercial, both soon to be aired. Esther is about to star as a main character in a play titled The Sweet Science of Bruising. The show is set in London during the year 1869 and revolves around four very different Victorian women who find freedom inside a boxing ring. We talked to Esther about how Excelsia helped to train her for her creative pursuits, what attracted her to The Sweet Science of Bruising and what it has been like working alongside other alumni and current students at the College.
How did Excelsia help you to develop your acting skills and confidence to pursue a role in the creative arts industry?
Excelsia has some amazing teachers (some of whom I keep in contact with to this day). They have taught me to be brave and to trust my work and myself. The drama performance degree had so much to offer from movement, to voice, to the vast array of acting techniques and much, much more. Being then able to perform several times at Excelsia’s theatre in front of an audience throughout the degree, with all the techniques I learned, made the transition into the real world a lot less daunting! These techniques and the confidence the degree gave me are the very things that aid me in terms of adaptation to a character when I am performing on stage or on screen. Excelsia also offers great networking for their students, to help with developing connections inside the industry, and is one of the things that contributed to me getting my role in The Sweet Science of Bruising!
What are your career aspirations?
My heart will always feel at home on stage, and I can only thank Excelsia for that as their amazing theatre productions gave me that confidence. I want to keep building on my career in theatre, but down the line, I’d also love to have some roles in a few indie films. I’m obsessed with films that are unapologetically raw and showcase the pure essence of human emotions.
What appealed to you about The Sweet Science of Bruising?
What drew me in most about this play is that it puts women at its core. It’s a true depiction of all that we are capable of as women, when it comes to getting what we want both alone and untied. It strays away from the stereotypes that often label us. We need more stories like this! Reading through the script for the first time, I instantly fell in love with my character, Polly. She’s fierce, extremely cheeky but most of all, powers through whatever life throws at her. I admire her strength and am thrilled to be walking alongside her through this journey.
What has it been like working alongside other Excelsia alumni and current students?
It’s been so, so great! In The Sweet Science of Bruising, I am working alongside four other Excelsia alumni and current students. To know that we’ve all come from the same place and are working towards our passions, is so exciting and inspiring. All of them have come so far and ooze zest and talent, so I feel super privileged to be taking on this production with such an awesome team!
Excelsia loves to work alongside passionate individuals who aspire to work in theatre, film, and television, or in producing and directing their own plays. Please contact Excelsia College if your desire lies within the creative and performing arts space just like it does for Esther! Visit https://excelsia.edu.au/study/creative-and-performing-arts/
Malcolm Frawley is a drama lecturer and has been with Excelsia College since 2014. He brings over 35 years of professional experience, with a background in teaching and producing plays across Australia. Frawley’s latest play Lawfully Short was written for first-year Excelsia College Bachelor of Dramatic Art students. The play explores themes like neuro and racial diversity, stereotyping, typecasting and the life purposes of the group of students. We asked Frawley about his creative process whenever he puts a new show together and how working and getting to know the students helps him to craft the play.
Frawley explains, ‘I have now created three short programs in a row for Excelsia. In 2020, I was pretty sure that, no matter who they were, the students’ families would probably have no idea what the student did at an acting school, and no real idea of the type of life they were considering. So I decided to explain it to them in Dramatically Short. I devised three new short (30–35 min) plays that focus on different aspects of the performing arts – writing, directing, and acting.
‘I had worked with my likely 2021 cast in 2020, so for my second Shorts program I consulted with the group and discussed possible themes or issues we might like to explore. I also asked each of them to define, in one phrase or even one word, the type of role that they would like to have a shot at – romantic, powerful, vulnerable, deceitful etc. I then put together several much shorter plays. To keep it consistent, I had one character from each play appear in the following play. Roles incorporating their chosen phrase or word were delivered to every member of the cast. During the time I was putting it together, Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame appeared in the media spotlight so I felt that the time was right to explore the treatment of women in modern Australia.
‘This year, I started with an eight-minute play I had produced years before, a send-up of the “Previously On” section of many television dramas. It was set in a law firm soap opera, hence the title Lawfully Short. This time, I did not consult the cast about roles they might like to play, but I wrote specifically for each of them as I began adding 20 more short plays – this time very short, the longest was 8 minutes – alternating between scenes from the soap opera (Harbour City Solicitors) and scenes in which the actors who play the characters appear in their “real” lives. I also explored character traits of the actors and through collaboration utilised those in the plays and made them aspects of the play.’
When asked what makes Excelsia College productions unique to other creative and performing arts institutions, Frawley explains, ‘Although I have written and directed plays for several other acting schools over the years, Excelsia provides me with the option of thinking bigger, of how I might envisage staging my productions. While the performance space is huge, its shape and even size can be altered depending on the nature of the production. Because of the school’s multiskills training format, it also provides me with students who are learning stage management, design, costumes and prop making under the guidance of experts. The production team can be filled out by individual students who take on those roles. This provides me with a back-up that is not available at other schools.’
If you are inspired by Frawley’s passion and want to learn drama from our outstanding academic staff, why not explore our School of Creative and Performing Arts?
During lockdown in 2021, Excelsia’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art students had the unique opportunity to collaborate with video artist Michaela Bartonova for their modern retelling of Macbeth.
Bartonova, who is based in the Czech Republic, and Director Fiona Gentle had previously worked together in Australia, and Director Gentle invited her to design a series of projected, animated sets for this production. Bartonova is an incredibly talented and versatile artist who has performed and exhibited throughout Europe and Scandinavia. The Czech Republic has a long history of puppetry and Bartonova started out as a puppet-maker and theatre-maker but is also a playwright, author, director, and visual/digital artist, developing the technique of creating digital sets live on stage, via her iPad.
During lockdown, Director Gentle and production students worked with Bartonova via Zoom, sharing ideas and concepts, and solving the daunting task of designing a show from across the world. She also took them on a virtual tour of her studio, showing them her artwork and puppets, and the Czech landscape outside her window. Bartonova attended Zoom rehearsals and even wished the students well on the opening night of Macbeth via video!
The show was a resounding success, and the projected images and animations created an incredible atmosphere and powerful allusions to the themes in Macbeth. Students had the opportunity to be part of an international collaboration and experience working with a respected and accomplished artist, and all have an open invitation to visit Bartonova in her home in the Czech Republic. Details and photos of the production can be viewed on the artist’s portfolio here, which has already received over 9,000 views across the world!
If you want to join Excelsia College’s Bachelor of Dramatic Art and be a part of cutting-edge productions, please enquire with us today.
With her mum a music teacher, and having spent her early years honing her craft in dance and music, Georgiane Deal’s path to a career on stage had a great foundation. The artist is a woman of many talents, and her passion for stage management may be the most interesting of all. She graduated from Excelsia with a Bachelor of Dramatic Art and has since climbed the competitive ladder of the arts, working across a range of productions in both Australia and abroad.
‘I really enjoyed my time at Excelsia,” she explains. ‘It was such a buoyant, vibrant, tight-knit community with lots of energy and empathy. I dedicated a lot of time and effort to my studies. I put my hand up for every opportunity there was to be a part of a show or event. The lecturers became my friends, my friends became my family, and the stuff we put on (and pulled off!) was brilliant and incredibly rewarding.’
Deal is a woman who exudes a very grounded, down-to-earth, honest, and brave approach to her work. She began working on very small-scale independent productions in makeshift theatres and spaces in Sydney. Much of this was for very little pay or on a profit-share basis – opting to work in hospitality and retail at the same time. Deal earned her stripes doing this for a while before being offered better contracts by generous producers who gave her a chance at bigger, longer-running, more technically advanced shows, including a few small tours.
“After a few years, I came into contact with mainstage state theatre companies and worked with some of Australia’s best theatre makers on some very cool shows for people such as Bell Shakespeare, Belvoir St and Sydney Theatre Company,‘ she explains. ‘In the last year or two I’ve moved into a commercial theatre environment, meaning big-budget, large cast and crew, and larger capacity venues.’
Deal is currently putting her deep love for the arts to good use – working as a professional stage manager for the award-winning production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in Melbourne. A gig Deal calls a dream come true.
‘It was a very daunting, very exhausting transition into working in this capacity, but I haven’t looked back since,’ she says. ‘I still have lots to learn and perfect on this show and that will take a while! It is a five hour play, after all.’
With a true talent for managing mainstage production, Deal has caught the attention of the theatre world. It’s fair to say that she is having a moment. When you sit down with the talented professional, you quickly learn that she isn’t afraid of hard work or real talk.
‘I’ll accept that I am in an incredibly enviable position with a very cool job title, working alongside some of the best, most talented people in this industry,” she says. “Particularly in a post-Covid world, where I’m lucky enough to be back at work in a theatre on a large-scale show, I just feel immeasurably grateful for the people that have offered me opportunities and vouched for my skills and ability to get me to this place. I also feel very humbled by the job and its demands in the sense that I’m constantly learning new things about theatre by encountering unique challenges every day.’
The future appears bright for Deal, who has several projects in the pipeline. So, what does she wish she had known before learning it the hard way?
‘I wish I had learned about balance,” she explains. “I’m still learning about balance! This means saying no to offers that your gut is saying aren’t right for you or your situation. It means choosing to make time for things and for people that make you happy but might have absolutely nothing to do with theatre or your work. I wish I’d learned not to take criticism so personally. And I wish I’d learned to laugh at my mistakes and stuff ups. It would have made the whole journey a lot less fraught! Only now am I feeling really affirmed in my ability and carefree when I make earnest, one-off errors.’
In the fickle world of theatre, it can be hard to stand out. Deal has some solid advice for aspiring stage managers who want to make sure people know they are seriously committed to making this a career.
‘See lots of theatre, get familiar with the industry, write a good CV and then apply for internships and secondments’, she advises. ‘Nothing compares to real-life rehearsal room exposure as a learning environment. Also, realise that there is no ‘model’ stage manager personality. Successful stage managers come in all different varieties. There is no better or worse approach to stage management when it comes to your natural way with people. But you do have to have a way with people – just be friendly and you will be halfway there.’
Excelsia Bachelor of Music graduate Brett Macinnes is inspiring and empowering the next generation of musicians. He works as a Years 1-6 performing arts teacher and Years 7-8 music teacher and his job is all about looking at globalisation and sustainability through the perspective of music.
Macinnes did not really know what he wanted to be when he grew up. The musical path was one that found him, not the other way around. The desire to teach began to niggle at him until he could not ignore the niche in teaching he believed he could fill. ‘I had started learning piano around the age of 8 and while it interested me, I didn’t connect with it and as an 8-year-old I never practised it, so I stopped having lessons,’ he explains.
‘In high school I took up guitar lessons after some encouragement from a friend. After practicing for 2 years, I started playing at a church youth group. It was at this youth group that I discovered the ability of inspiring others as a leader and the joy in seeing people you helped, achieve more out of life. This, and my impactful teachers, lead me to pursue teaching as a career choice.’
Teachers help students develop, learn, and have a positive influence on young lives. Music and creative arts teaching offers a diverse career where the possibilities are endless. If you have a love for music and want to help others develop a passion for it too, then teaching could be the right fit for you. For Macinnes, pursuing a career in education is as simple as giving it your all. ‘My best advice to any music students who want to study teaching is to focus on the areas you would help most in a school,’ he says.
‘I was passionate about learning more about live sound as my school didn’t have the equipment or knowledge of how to use it. I felt this was important for music in the future. My second piece of advice is to enjoy all that your bachelor degree has to offer. While you can try to become a jack-of-all-trades, at the end of the day your degree will help you most when you look back at it knowing you gave it your all.’
Macinnes’ journey to teaching has not been without its challenges. Despite these obstacles, he has continued to follow his dreams of becoming a teacher. After studying a Bachelor of Music at Excelsia, Macinnes then completed a Master of Teaching degree. Passion, persistence, and dedication eventually allowed the musician to land a unique role as a music teacher at an Islamic school in New South Wales.
‘At first, I was a little hesitant being a Christian going to a job interview at an Islamic school. It was a culture shock,’ he explains.
‘The school followed the international teaching system, as well as the New South Wales system, so connecting the two was hard. But with this I have also been blessed with a highly supportive team of teachers who respect my faith as much as I respect their faith, been given a rare chance where I can write my own program, and the opportunity to teach both music and drama is a huge blessing from God.’
A child’s experiences in his or her early years form the building blocks of that child’s foundation. Considering that, on average, children spend about 1,200 hours in school each year, the people with whom a child interacts during this time frame will have a profound impact on their development. Macinnes feels compelled to lend a helping hand through his work and make a difference in society. ‘My workplace teaches and guides young minds and provides opportunity to grow in a range of areas,’ he says.
‘We teach life lessons, catering to their education overall from a young age until they are ready to take on the world. In my job I now get to teach Year 1 all the way to Year 8. That is 7 years of their lives that I can make a positive impact and lead by example. I hope that the students reflect on these kinds of lessons when they look at the impact they can make in the world.’
Meet Kristelle Zibara, the Sydney actor set to hit the big time. Every so often a certain type of person crosses your path that mesmerises with their talent and gusto. Take Bachelor of Dramatic Art graduate Kristelle Zibara. She approaches her work in a refreshingly frank and brave way. Empowered, resilient, and yet still happy to be vulnerable, Zibara is a breath of fresh air.
This year saw the actor make her stage debut as Fatima in James Elazzi’s sold-out show Queen Fatima. The high energy comedy directed by Paige Rattray played at the Riverside Theatre last month as part of the Sydney Festival and received glowing reviews from major mastheads such as the Sydney Morning Herald and ABC News. Zibara admits she was drawn to playing someone who was not the conventional image of beauty.
‘Stepping into this role has felt like trying on a dress for the first time and it being tailored to your every curve,’ she explains. “In reading the script, I found myself relating to Fatima on more levels than one, and in parts of her story I felt like I wanted to be as strong and as confident as Fatima. When playing her, I felt just that. I was able to embrace my body and my culture for what felt like the first time. Fatima gave me the strength to listen to myself, and my heart, rather than the ridiculing mouth of society, or other people’s ideas of who I should be.’
Zibara has never been one to shy away from speaking up about topics that matter to her most. Last month, she told ABC News, ‘So much of the time bigger girls have to be down on themselves because of the way they look, and how they’re perceived.’ Zibara’s personal take on female empowerment and representation in general is both refreshing and inspiring.
‘People of any gender, age, cultural background, weight or sexuality can relate to feeling societal pressures when it comes to how people should act, look and be, and I feel as though this play turns those standards on their head,’ she explains. ‘For a character to be bigger and confident is a rare find. I’m hoping that people walk away from this play loving themselves and feeling empowered to take on anything.’
Zibara graduated from Excelsia College back in 2016 and partook in three months of study in the United States with Excelsia’s exclusive OZ to LA program. Since graduating, she has had an impressive and steady career, though she argues that Australia is not quite there yet when it comes to achieving true diversity and representation in performing arts. ‘In some cases, a production’s definition of ‘diversity’ would be casting a person like me (a white passing, half-Lebanese, half-Australian actress), as the most diverse cast member, which to me is a shame,’ she says.
‘The arts still whitewash to some extent and don’t always give opportunities to disabled performers, larger people, or persons of colour in general. In saying this, I have seen a shift in the arts as of late, especially during 2020, beginning with the Black Lives Matter movement starting in America, and spreading to our own backyard, with First Nations and people of colour living in Australia. I feel like it’s just the beginning, but I’m very hopeful for permanent change in our industry.’
Zibara believes casting directors can play a role in encouraging authentic casting and believes Australia must eliminate disparities in the wider culture that result in already marginalised groups having a much harder time breaking through. ‘I have always felt comfortable with my Australian heritage, but initially, I was nervous to tell people of my Lebanese heritage, because of some of the negative portrayals of Middle Eastern people in the media or the stereotypical roles seen in the arts,’ she explains.
‘Seeing the different sides of people of my Lebanese heritage slowly being represented in the arts and other medium has helped me to accept and embrace that culture. When securing the role of Fatima, it was extremely special to be surrounded by a cast all being of Middle Eastern background. That almost never happens, and it’s important for younger Lebanese people to see themselves being represented on stage in a positive way.’
Dedicated to her craft and devoted to making an impact, Zibara is as empathetic as she is funny, and Australia is responding in kind. ‘Theatre will always have my heart, so I would love to continue to perform in and create works that push the boundaries,’ she says.
In the fickle world of the arts, Zibara has proven herself to be both adaptable and astute, realising the power she has to make a difference in the industry through her work. ‘I would love to become a triple threat in the professional world. Be it stage or screen. I see myself working worldwide and producing many different works that show different bodies, cultures, relationships, and I would like to be a voice for people who may not have the opportunity to be heard,’ she says.
Zibara tells it like it is. She is a woman on a mission making the most of her success and we are all along for the ride.
The creative and performing arts industry is one of those fields which requires a combination of passion, persistence, and dedication. Enter Talia Chenaye. Since graduating from Excelsia with a Bachelor of Dramatic Art, the actor has developed a reputation as a force to be reckoned with.
Chenaye is currently playing Frenchy in So Popera’s recent production of Grease. The upcoming performer admits she was, understandably, nervous to play such an iconic role.
‘When I got the call from Amy, our Director at So Popera Productions, asking me to play Frenchy, I was so overwhelmed with excitement, but I also felt my heart drop, knowing I had big shoes to fill,’ says Chenaye. ‘Frenchy is such a well-loved character, and I couldn’t wait to start character development on her to create her voice and little quirks.’
Chenaye’s role as Frenchy has seen her reunited with Excelsia’s Acting for Screen Lecturer and acclaimed actor Jay Laga’aia. Working alongside Laga’aia was a special experience that allowed her to learn from one of the best in the business.
‘Jay is very well-versed in theatre and screen, so it was a privilege to work together,” she explains. “He was really invested in the story we got to tell together in ‘Beauty School Dropout’. It was great to collaborate to see how much of a story we could portray in one song! (even if it involves being hit on the head with a beauty school diploma).’
Chenaye’s success is proof that perseverance pays off. What keeps her on a path of continued growth is the ultimate ingredient – persistence.
‘No matter what the industry throws at you, keep going,’ says Chenaye. ‘There is lots to learn and many obstacles to overcome. It takes time and nothing is an overnight success. Be patient, ride the ups and downs and when opportunities arise, trust yourself and do the best you possibly can in that role.’
The arts community was hit early and hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Despite this, Chenaye is ready to live intentionally in 2021 and make her dreams a reality.
‘At the moment I’m loving musical theatre and voice-over acting so I’d like to keep progressing in those streams of the industry. With the industry being shut down during COVID-19 it was tough at times, but my goals for 2021 are to act in more film projects, keep expanding my industry network, create a structured client base as a voice-over artist and take up defence/stunt classes.’
Chenaye is deeply, honestly engaged in the world around her, realising the power she has to make a difference in the industry through her work.
‘I’d love to somehow increase the funding for the arts so aspiring actors and performers can be paid for their work,” she explains. “There is a huge gap in the industry between study and professional theatre/productions and it would be nice to be an ambassador for the smaller artists who would also like to make a living doing what they love.’