Our students with a passion for the performing arts are fortunate to have Mr Andy Fraser at the helm in the new role of Director of Dramatic Arts at Matthew Flinders Anglican College.
Andy brings vast experience working in the UK and across Australia, including for major arts companies the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, the Black Swan State Theatre Company and West Australian Opera.
We asked Andy to share his career story and vision for the role in this Q&A profile.
What inspired a young Andy to pursue a career in the dramatic arts?
I was bitten by the performance bug at the age of 10 when I appeared in a local amateur production of Oliver. This led to many years’ involvement in further shows and then a Bachelor degree in Theatre Arts at Acadia University in my native Canada.
In 1990 I moved to England, enrolling in the three-year acting course at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. While training at Bristol, I experienced my first sessions in Stage Combat and decided to specialise as a fight director. For the remainder of the 1990s, I taught Stage Combat and choreographed fight scenes at three London drama schools before emigrating to Australia in 2001.
Tell us about your work across industry and schools in Australia?
With my wife and young daughter, we settled in Perth and I began teaching at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) as well as working for the major performance companies in Perth, including Black Swan State Theatre Company, West Australian Opera and others. I also began running workshops at several high schools in Perth and regional WA, kickstarting my love of working with young people.
Early on, I first met Mr Danny Parker - the previous Director of Creative Arts at Flinders - when he was at Hale School. Danny engaged me to choreograph some fight scenes for one of his student productions there - little was I to know that I would eventually succeed him here at Flinders!
A move to Queensland beckoned in 2019 and I continued to work (in and around the vagaries of COVID!) at schools and companies in the far north of the state and as a guest artist at Flinders. So, when the opportunity to apply for the role of Director of Dramatic Arts became available, it was an easy decision to put my hand up. I’m tremendously excited to be here!
What's your vision for your role as Director of Dramatic Arts at Flinders?
It's a multifaceted vision, but at the heart of it is ‘the students’. I am eager to provide a wide range of opportunities and experiences in the Dramatic Arts: performance roles, backstage roles, technical roles, touring and more. As someone with over 30 years’ experience in the performing arts industry, I look forward to leveraging my network and inviting industry experts to inspire and extend our students.
Furthermore, with connections to most of the premier performance training institutions in Australia, I am eager to support our students who aspire to journey in that direction. This is a process I shared with my daughter, and I welcome conversations with parents about navigating this pathway. Most of all, I want our students to enjoy their time in Dramatic Arts activities, whatever their motivation is for being there.
What are your hobbies on the Sunshine Coast?
I am excited to be on the Sunshine Coast and looking forward to a slightly gentler climate - one that differs from the raging furnace of WA desert heat and the crippling humidity of FNQ.
Outside of Dramatic Arts, I am an avid sports fan and participant - an area of passion that I share with my son. I’m also a bit of a petrol head and love just about anything with wheels and an engine.
What do you enjoy about working in a school community?
I enjoy witnessing the enjoyment students experience from participating in Drama and how they grow as a result. The phrase ‘Drama builds confidence’ is quite often thrown around without significant thought. I believe that confidence is an emotional by-product that comes from getting better at something.
Do you have words of wisdom that inspire you in life?
Guiding and inspiring me are the values and actions I hold dear - having empathy, seeking improvement, having a go, listening, accepting feedback and taking responsibility.
There is also one piece of advice that resonates by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. It’s taken from a letter he wrote to his wife, an actress:
“Art, especially the Stage, is an area where it is impossible to walk without stumbling. There are in store for you many unsuccessful days and whole unsuccessful seasons. There will be great misunderstandings and deep disappointments. You must be prepared for all this. Accept it and nevertheless stubbornly, fanatically, follow your own way.”
To learn more about the Dramatic Arts opportunities at Flinders, click here.