A multi-hatted educator, actor and director takes on his next challenge

TAFE SA's Adelaide College of the Arts students have access to both industry-standard theatre spaces and renowned professional contacts with decades of experience.

Trent Baker does not shy away from addressing the brutal realities of a career in the performing arts. ‘The most challenging aspect of the industry is the periods of unemployment,’ he says. ‘But at Adelaide College of the Arts we teach students to be responsible for making their own work through improvisation, theatre creation and exploring inroads to establishing contacts in the performing arts industry.’ 

Having taught there for the last 10 weeks as the lead Acting lecturer, Baker is a fairly new acquisition for the College. He is not just an educator, however; he has skin in the game, with 25 years’ experience as a director and an actor. A graduate of the Western Australian Academy for the Performing Arts (WAAPA, acting) and Victorian College of the Arts (VCA, directing) and an international fellow of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, Baker is also one of the original 12 actors that formed Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre in Melbourne in 2001.

Weathering the fickleness of the performing arts sector is a skill set that Baker certainly has navigated in his career and he’s enthusiastic about imparting his knowledge to the next generation of theatre makers. ‘The course is a two-and-a-half-year conservatoire-style training in acting. It covers study modules of acting technique, movement, voice, singing, mask work, film, Shakespeare in performance, plus multiple opportunities to perform to a live audience in theatre productions,’ he explains.

‘Also, in their third year, students present a showcase of work to industry – casting and theatrical agents, producers, film directors, theatre companies,’ he tells ArtsHub. ‘There is one major production slot for each term of year two and three. And the first and second year students will be appearing in the 2024 Adelaide Festival with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of internationally acclaimed theatre maker, Airan Berg.’

Adelaide College of the Arts is well-provisioned to replicate an authentic theatrical setting with three main spaces that are used for in-house performances and also for professional productions, especially during the Adelaide Fringe and Adelaide Festival. ‘There’s a proscenium arch theatre that seats 220, another performance space that seats 110 and a 50-seat intimate black box space for smaller productions. All of them are “industry-standard” and allow students to learn in an environment as close as possible to the professional world,’ says Baker.

Alumni have honed their craft not only within these facilities, but also in the multiple rehearsal and training rooms, as well as spaces that house green screens and sound recording studios. 

‘Many students have gone on to make significant careers and are often represented in local as well as international theatre companies,’ says Baker, citing Kate Kendall, best known for her role as Angie Piper in the TV series Stingers, Nathan Page, who stars in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and Nathan O’Keefe, a regular performer with State Theatre Company of South Australia and Windmill Theatre.

But working in the arts is not just about having access to venues to practise your craft; equally important are the contacts you make that will help you broaden your opportunities. Baker stresses that all staff in the College currently work or have worked in the industry, with local and international directors involved in the student productions. Along with his ties to Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, Baker himself has connections with Bell Shakespeare and various casting agents, directors and producers in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.  

And on that final note, Baker signs off, as his busy schedule means he needs to return to rehearsals. He’s directing a production of Macbeth to be performed by the second-year students in November.

Applications are now open for the Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Acting) (10906NAT) 2024 intake at Adelaide College of the Arts.
Auditions will be held on Monday 27 November and Monday 11 December 2023.

Thuy On is the Reviews and Literary Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She was the books editor of The Big issue for 8 years. Her debut, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was released by University of Western Australia Publishing (UWAP). Her second collection, Decadence, was published in July 2022, also by UWAP. Her third book, Essence, will be published in 2025. Twitter: @thuy_on Instagram: poemsbythuy