Actors Centre Australia breathes new life into HSC plays 

ACA Company will stage new productions of The Female of the Species and The Shape of Things in September, and is encouraging new students to apply.

Continuing its excellent run of bringing HSC texts to life, Actors Centre Australia’s ACA Company will stage new productions of Joanna Murray-Smith’s The Female of the Species and Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things in September. 

The shows follow on from well-received performances of Moisés Kaufman’s The Laramie Project and David Williamson’s The Removalists in May, and come as the Actors Centre Australia encourages future students to attend auditions for its Bachelor of Performing Arts (Stage and Screen), for which applications are currently open. 

The ACA Company – made up of ACA alumni – is staging the run of shows in Sydney to school students and the general public, and free for teachers, with live cast Q&As following the performances. The Female of the Species, which opens on 5 September, will also include a pre-recorded Q&A with the playwright Joanna Murray-Smith.

On 12 September, accomplished stage director and producer Kim Hardwick, who also teaches into the ACA degree program as a guest director, will present LaBute’s 2001 play – adapted in 2003 to a Hollywood movie – The Shape of Things, a story focusing on young American students who have a profound, and unexpected, impact on each other’s lives. 

‘It will be performed in a very intimate space,’ Hardwick says. ‘The audience will be on the same level as the actors because I very much want it to feel like a voyeuristic experience. 

‘In this story, a young woman, as a part of her thesis, creates a work of art in which she basically takes a young man that she has a relationship with, and transforms him. I think it’s really lovely for the audience to be able to sit down and see all the real nuances and subtleties in that kind of manipulation right there in front of them.’

Hardwick, whose recent directing credits include the Arts on Tour NSW Tour of Wild Thing by Suzanne Hawley, and Dead Skin by Laneikka Denne, says HSC students attending the new play will have an experience that deepens their understanding of the text.

‘We’re all absolutely pummelled with images that present to us what is the correct shape of things. And for students at an age when they’re developing their own identity, I think this play and the questions it raises are particularly relevant.’

Hardwick agreed to direct The Shape of Things for the same reasons that see her return as a regular guest director at Actors Centre Australia.

‘I love directing as a teaching mode,’ she says. ‘It’s a continual learning exercise for the students, but also for me. You’re dealing with people who are emerging artists and their points of view and experiences are very different to mine. I need to be clear with my language. I need to honour their point of view. And I think they also teach me about how other people view the world.

‘At ACA, the main focus is on acting, and not on design or costume making, so it’s very much about the actors relying on their craft. It’s really exciting to work with actors in a place where that’s the primary focus.’

As to who might be best suited to apply for a Bachelor degree at ACA, Hardwick doesn’t hesitate. ‘ACA is looking for flexibility – the ability to be able to learn and to listen, and to want to transform. Are you interested in what really makes humans tick? That requires people who are good listeners, who are spontaneous, who are playful, and good collaborators.’

With that in mind, she encourages anyone with an interest to apply. ‘It’s a very active, friendly place,’ she says. ‘There are lots of fantastic teachers on hand to guide you through the various sections of the training. And it has a really fantastic reputation within the industry for producing well-grounded actors. 

‘If in doubt about auditioning, you should just give it a go. The worst that will happen is you’ll have a very joyful experience and come away learning something about yourself.’

For more information on the ACA Company’s forthcoming productions and to apply for the Bachelor of Performing Arts (Stage and Screen) visit the Actors Centre Australia website.

Paul Dalgarno is author of the novels A Country of Eternal Light (2023) and Poly (2020); the memoir And You May Find Yourself (2015); and the creative non-fiction book Prudish Nation (2023). He was formerly Deputy Editor of The Conversation and joined ScreenHub as Managing Editor in 2022. X: @pauldalgarno. Insta: @dalgarnowrites