Abby O'Brien, 23 June, 2022
Abby O'Brien has had a passion for performing since she was a child. Now as a new graduate she works as a Teacher Artist at Goat Track Theatre in the Gold Coast Hinterland where she inspires the next generation of children to find their creative voice and grow their courage in the drama space.
During Abby’s time at QUT she was awarded a QUT Gold Medal and was admitted onto the QUT Creative Industries Dean’s List of 2020. She credits having strong role models in her teachers as well as fulfilling work experience and internship opportunities with equipping her with the skills needed to now help children in their creative journey.
Here she talks about studying drama at QUT and her achievements since graduating.
What made you want to study drama?
Ever since I was very little, I have had a passion for performing and bringing stories to life in front of an audience. I was involved in theatre productions and eisteddfods since the very early stages of primary school, and this passion carried through into high school and then into my chosen career path. When it came time to select my QTAC preferences at the end of high school, I simply couldn’t imagine embarking on anything other than a drama degree; I just knew in my heart that I wanted to make a career in this industry.
What made you choose QUT?
I came to the QUT Open Day in Year 11 and was blown away by the Creative Industries building (Z9), studio spaces and resources, and I was really excited about the idea of studying in a place that really celebrated the arts and supported the students in gaining hands-on experience in the field!
What did you find most beneficial, or particularly enjoy about your experience at QUT?
As drama students, we learned from day one how to collaborate and build relationships with the other students in the cohort, as there are many group assessments and projects throughout the three years. I really enjoyed the camaraderie that was built between each student as a result of this and loved seeing the amazing creative outcomes that emerged from every piece of group work throughout my time at university.
I also found the QUT Production Company, Vena Cava to be an incredible opportunity for university students. I engaged in Vena Cava for two years and, in this time, was both a performer in Talking to Brickwalls - where I was able to experience the audition process as well as the rehearsal and production phases of a theatre show - and also an assistant director for Good Grief - where I was able to experience the casting and interviewing process and understand how to run production meetings and liaise with venue coordinators and technicians. This practical, hands-on experience was so beneficial to my learning and growth and I am very grateful that QUT facilitates this student-led production company!
During your course did you have the opportunity to develop industry contacts or gain experience through events or internships?
I was very fortunate in my last year of university to gain a number of industry contacts through a few different experiences. The first opportunity I sourced was an internship at Queensland Theatre in their Education, Youth and Regional Engagement department. Through this internship, I was fortunate to gain experience in the preparation and execution of the 2021 Theatre Residency Week program, where I engaged with 80 high-school students from across Queensland as they embarked on a week of theatre-making and skill development.
Through this experience, I gained wonderful connections with the Education, Youth, and Regional Engagement team at Queensland Theatre, as well as Teacher Artists and performers from around the state. It also solidified my passion for youth arts and my ability to inspire the next generation of emerging theatre-makers through a Teacher Artist position myself.
In my third year of university, I also took part in the QUT Mentoring Program, where I was connected to an industry professional with many years of experience in the creative field. My mentor was able to support me and answer any questions I had before embarking on my own professional journey.
Can you tell me a little about your role as Teacher Artist at Goat Track Theatre?
In my role I have the pleasure of engaging with students from Prep-Grade 6 as they find their creative voices and grow their courage in the drama space! Within this role, I am able to form strong relationships with both the students and their parents in order to ensure that each student is being supported in achieving their individual goals while they are on their creative journey with us. I teach two classes in the afternoons - one with the Prep-Grade 3 age group, and one with the Grade 4-6 age group - and each term we explore a different unit of drama, which is always very fun and engaging!
What is a usual day/week like?
The usual day sees me arriving at our Goat Track HQ office space in the morning and completing administrative tasks or engaging in skill development/training sessions to grow my capabilities as a Teacher Artist throughout the morning. Then, in the afternoons, I drive to the campus that I am teaching at for that particular day. Across the week, I teach eight classes.
What do you enjoy about the role?
I absolutely love working as part of a creative and supportive team who all have the same drive and passion for youth theatre that I do! I love the difference that I get to make in the lives of each and every student that walks through our doors. Every student comes to Goat Track Theatre for a different reason and with a different goal, and every child is unique, and I absolutely love being a part of their creative journey and assisting them in becoming their most expressive selves! In this same vein, I really enjoy the connections that I am able to form with both the students and the parents through my role as a Teacher Artist. The energy that children and young people bring to their day-to-day life and their zest for knowledge and new learnings is always so inspiring!
What performances have you been a part of since graduating?
I have been involved in three stage productions in my first year out of university. The first was A Matter of Material - a production that came to fruition as part of the Potentia; Festival of Future Theatre in my final year of university alongside some of my wonderful university peers. Revived and adapted again this year, A Matter of Material was a non-verbal, eco-scenographic puppetry piece commenting on the detrimental effects of consumerism and was played at the Allison Engine Testing Stands - mysterious concrete structures in Eagle Farm - as part of the 2022 Anywhere Festival. Within this project, I was both assistant director and a devisor/performer.
I was also involved as a performer in an immersive murder mystery production titled, Murder on the Not So Orient Express, by Mystify Theatre. This production transformed both the EC Venue (Fortitude Valley) and Jo-Jo’s Resturant and Bar (South Brisbane) into a 1920’s style train carriage, where the audience were invited to observe the action, participate, and solve the murder.
Finally, the third production that I am currently working on (to be performed later in the year) is Life of Galileo by Bertholt Brecht. Directed and produced by Goat Track Theatre as part of the Fast Track Plus ensemble (a cast of 18-25-year-old emerging performers), this production is staged ‘In the Round’ and tells the story of Galileo Galilei, the famous physicist and astronomer.
What advice can you give someone thinking about studying drama?
1.My first piece of advice to those considering studying drama would be to simply enrol and do it! Follow your passion and see where it leads you - if you follow your passion, you will have no regrets.
2. Perhaps the biggest piece of advice I can give though is to try to find yourself an internship or work experience in the area that interests you most within the field while you are still at university. It really is an incredible opportunity to network, grow your skills and knowledge base, and understand the opportunities present for you outside of university. Take every opportunity that comes your way while you are studying and gather as many learnings as you can during your time at university, because it is invaluable when you graduate and are looking for work in the industry!
Photography by Geoff Lawrence - Creative Futures Photography and Kris Anderson - Images by Anderson
Learn more about the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drama)