The ANU Musical Theatre Company announced on Thursday that its major production for 2018 would be Benji Pasek and Justin Paul’s Dogfight. The production marks a big turning point for the campus society that wants to make theatre more accessible than it has been in the past.
“In terms of events and stuff that we’re putting on, in the past we’ve only really had the one musical production and if you haven’t made the cast or the orchestra or the production team, there hasn’t really been opportunities for people to engage otherwise,” ANU Musical Theatre Company president Nell Fraser told Woroni. “This year we’re really pushing to have more skills workshops, as well as social events.”
The musical production isn’t the only big change that has happened recently: at a special general meeting in October last year it was decided that the ANU Interhall Productions would have its name changed to the ANU Musical Theatre Company. This decision marked significant changes to the society’s inclusiveness and ability to engage with students.
Most notably, the aforementioned name-change allows off-campus students as well as well as on-campus students to participate in the society’s events and production. According to Fraser, the society’s executive considered the name change to be more indicative of their aim to involve as many people as possible, as well as of their professionalism.
The first of these events was a screening of the 1988 film, ‘Heathers’ in late February, which was met with much enthusiasm and participation. Another event was a musical theatre dance workshop held at the Canberra Dance Theatre in March, which attracted a number of attendees who did not previously possess skills in dance or musical theatre, but were fans of this art form and willing to try something new. Fraser spoke of the ability of such events to include students from all walks of life and the positivity with which many students have responded to the creation of the society:
“We’ve found already just through engagement at Market Day, and also at the first film screening that we had, that quite a few people who had signed up and attended that event mentioned that they were off-campus students that weren’t part of a residential hall. Without any push on our part, there’s kind of been an organic response to people off-campus joining in, which is great.”
Despite the ANU Musical Theatre Company’s early success, it will not be without its challenges in the coming year. The Kambri renovations have seen the demolition of the ANU Arts Centre, which the society has previously relied on as an ideal venue in which to host its annual production. This has forced the executive to source a venue off-campus that is both accessible and affordable.
Dogfight will run from the 15th to the 25th of August at the Belconnen Community Theatre.