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?