Sydney Access

Sydney Theatre Company

In the spotlight

Alex Casanova is not shy when it comes to bright lights. At 17, he has been involved in numerous sound and lighting projects in theatres, school and for work experience. He is the leader of the technical team at his school and attends Bradfield College, where he studies Cert lll in Live Theatre, Production and Events as part of his HSC. Alex is taking up an incredible opportunity to do a five-day work placement with Sydney Theatre Company (STC). As a Sydney Access partner, STC provides placements for students studying Vocational Education and Training courses in Year 12.

STC offers many placements as part of its extensive Education Program and Toni Murphy, Education Coordinator says, 'Competition for placements is extremely high but when we have a match, we try to accommodate students' interests.' Toni has certainly done that for Alex, placing him under the supervision of Graham Henstock, Head of Lighting. Alex is in his element.

Exposure early on

'It's great for young people to get exposure early on to the workings of theatre, and for us to see the talent out there,' says Graham, who followed his passion for a career in lighting in Year 12. 'Sydney Access offers an opportunity to both parties. Anything practical and hands on is really valuable.' Alex's application is taken care of by Sydney Access, and STC provides the mentoring and work program for the week. 'We are proud to be a partner of Sydney Access and having Alex on board this week is exciting.' Says Toni Murphy, who made it all happen. Graham and his team are involved in around twelve main stage shows, four education productions and three to five development shows a year. Alex has learned how much preparation is involved. 'Communication between departments here is amazing.' Says Alex. 'At production meetings, these guys work it all out, or one team goes away and comes back with a workable plan.' He comments. 'I have learned that the key to success is in agreeing the design and planning up front.'

Flying high

Alex has experienced so many things during his week. He has experienced the operations, professionalism, team-working and pre production side in Australia's finest theatre. 'At school I have to sort everything out. I set up and then I'm there to carry it out. In most productions here, there isn't a lighting technician required on the night. It's all handled by the equipment so that each production is high quality and technically consistent.'

This week, Alex got to climb up high, reset a stage after rainfall (part of the production), tour the building, see the installation of a new lighting board and use the best technical equipment in the business. He discovered the enormous world behind the walls in the theatre's Wharf setting. 'I never imagined how much goes on behind the scenes.'

Meeting Andrew Upton, one of STC's Artistic Directors, was a memorable high point of the week too. 'He stopped to say hello.' Alex says with a proud smile. His grin widens even more however, when he tells me that he went up on the rigging, using special harnesses.

Green light

STC has installed solar panels along the length its roof which, coupled with the Company's drive towards energy-efficiency, will provide up to 70% of STC's electricity needs. Alex is impressed with this. 'Young people are really into the environment', comments Alex, 'but I never thought I would see it in action. It's amazing.'

In terms of giving Alex the green light, Graham has the final word. 'Alex was really personable. He absorbed information so well and asked great questions.' He looks at Alex. 'He is a good team player and that is very important in this industry too.' Graham believes that all the technical know how in the business cannot replace these other vital employability skills. Both are important. Well it seems that Alex has had his chance to shine this week, in all aspects, thanks to Sydney Theatre Company.