The Man Behind the Curtain

General News

By Catherine Sanchez, Publications Officer

Those of us who graduated school would surely have memories of a particular teacher who made a difference during our schooling years. For some, it could have been a Maths teacher who ignited a love for numbers, a PDHPE teacher who kindled a desire for success on the sporting field or a Science teacher who lit a fire in the heart of those wanting to discover a cure for an ‘incurable’ disease. In the Drama arena at William Clarke College, Mr Russell Tredinnick is one of those special teachers who is making an impact in the education journey of many students.

Since joining the College in 2017, Mr Tredinnick has revolutionised the Drama Co-curricular offerings for Primary School students, creating a variety of new opportunities for our students to explore. Students can now play an integral part in some awe-inspiring musicals and captivating ‘story-dance’ Wakakirri productions, all of which bear the personal touch of Mr Tredinnick as the mastermind behind their creation, from writing and composing to often directing and producing. He admits that he loves that students aren’t “simply re-presenting something that has been done before. Rather they get to experience something new and become part of the whole creative process,” giving students the opportunity to take a genuine and unique ownership of the work, according to Mr Tredinnick.

With a love for music, courtesy of his mother who was not only a Music teacher but also a Choir Conductor, Church Organist and Musical Theatre Director, Mr Tredinnick was encouraged from an early age to embrace the performing arts. “I’ve always been someone who likes to do things differently,” said Mr Tredinnick. “I remember listening to the pop stars of the day and reading the novelists of my time, thinking ‘well, I can do that’. So I set out to find patterns and techniques in what they did and develop those in my own work. I started writing songs – not very good ones – at a very young age. And I remember taking poetry books off the shelf at home, starting with Banjo Paterson, and turning old poems into songs. That’s where it started,” he recalled.

Influenced from an early age by a variety of Australian poetry and stories, it’s little wonder that Mr Tredinnick has joined the movement to create original Australian narratives for Australian audiences. Inspired by David Williamson’s quote from Emerald City that “if we don’t tell our own stories, we will always feel that life is lived somewhere else”, Mr Tredinnick states that it is vitally important to continue to stand up courageously and tell our own stories. “Most musical theatre performed in Australia are American or English stories. There’s nothing wrong with this, but they’ve been done and they’re not ours,” he says emphatically. “We are a rather conservative lot in Australia. Too often, we won’t support homegrown work in this country, preferring to experience work from overseas. I’d love us to start to break these shackles somewhat moving forward.”

Mr Tredinnick’s latest masterpiece is The Reasons Why musical, an adaptation of In the Bag which was scheduled to be performed in 2021 before COVID-19 put an end to rehearsals and the final show. The Reasons Why is a story of how we all have to make difficult decisions based on some often crazy situations we find ourselves in. “Story telling is all about characters,” states Mr Tredinnick. “Characters who are not all good or all bad, who all make mistakes and who all require help from others when things go wrong. We are all at our best when we seek this help and work together to bring out the best in others.”

With a cast of more than 120 students from Years 3 to 6, Mr Tredinnick admits that he got “somewhat creative” with this production, bringing in a number of Secondary students, including some from his Years 9-10 Xplore Musical Theatre class. “I think that the younger children, and those young in their theatre journeys, have enjoyed and learned much from working alongside the Senior students,” he said.

In addition to those gracing the stage, a multitude of students and staff have graciously given their time as part of the orchestra or have worked tirelessly behind the scenes within makeup, sound, lighting, costumes, curtains, general supervision, ticket sales, posters and program, marketing, photos, catering and more. “And this is not to mention all of the parents who have supported this show in so many ways,” Mr Tredinnick declared. “It takes a large team of people to make a show like this work. Musical theatre is the ultimate team experience. In fact, it is like a jigsaw with so many different parts, all needing to work together in order to produce a work of quality. It’s not just about the final product but very much about the process, the journey, the learning and the collaboration along the way.”

For Mr Tredinnick, the greatest joy he has as a teacher is to “provide opportunities for others to grow and learn, and to try new things. It is a real thrill to share these experiences with others, young and old, and to watch them develop their skills and attitudes. Bringing people together for a common cause, with a common sense of belonging, is one of the great things we can do in this life.”

The big question, when I set out to write this story, was to find out why the performing arts is such an important aspect in the education journey and what lifelong skills students are taking from this experience? According to Mr Tredinnick, there is so much to gain from being part of the creative arena. “It is good for the mind, soul and spirit, and the shared experience is really the most special part. It is where hard work meets fun and where singing, storytelling, dancing and acting all combine to create an emotionally, engaging experience for the audience. Ultimately, performing arts is a gift – a gift to the audience and a gift to the world.”

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