"The wonderful work and outcomes of the Clemente Australia program are inspiring for the entire University and broader community."
All the World's a Stage
Bell Shakespeare founder and Australian Living Treasure John Bell OBE AM was among the audience when an unusual troupe performed Shakespeare: Explorations in Life, at the Mission Australia Centre in Surry Hills, Sydney.
On the makeshift stage, actors aged 22 to 80 became wild witches, ambitious and broken kings, heartbroken lovers and more. All were Clemente Australia students who had been studying Shakespeare with Bell Shakespeare actor and arts educator Sarah Woods, and made their own selection of scenes to present from As You Like It, Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth.
"The students are diverse and their needs are vast, yet Shakespeare is aptly giving them a connection to each other and to the world around them," said Bell Shakespeare head of education Ms Linda Lorenza. "The key facet for people coming to Shakespeare is to experience it as performance. Our work is always practical and we encourage participants in our program to speak the language and experiment with the plays. There is certainly something in his work that inspires people from all walks of life."
Bell Shakespeare is collaborating with ACU through Clemente Australia. John Bell said the company had run a range of programs for rural and Indigenous audiences. "I have a very great interest in reaching people who are marginalised either by geography or circumstances," he said. "If we can reach them and give them any sense of joy or pleasure, that's wonderful."
Sarah Woods was thrilled with the students' performances. "The first week, I went home thinking, 'wow, that's a room full of issues', and I have not stopped thinking that, but what's really been fantastic is that I have completely fallen in love with the whole process," Sarah said. "I am just so impressed with the students' commitment."
Mission Australia program coordinator Dr Astra Howard said the program was inspirational. She told the audience it was about forming a community and becoming engaged with others. "As one student said, 'It gives you self-esteem. We've got focus, we've got a role. It takes your focus away from your own problems.'"