Head of School Production and Drama Claire Wearne
As a student, Claire Wearne had a unique educational experience – changing school nine times – before finding her vocation as a drama and theatre studies teacher at Mentone Girls’ Grammar. She brings a passion to her role, leading students in class and in school productions.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE MEMORY AS A STUDENT?
Incursions, excursions and sneaking my new puppy to school in my blazer pocket for three days, without being caught. Looking back, I think my teachers knew the whole time; but him, being a very tiny papillon, and those being very different times, I was allowed to get away with it … somehow.
WHEN DID YOU START TEACHING?
After five years working in fashion and theatre full-time, and volunteering part time, I decided instead to focus on giving full-time, which is what great teaching is to me, and allow my creativity to become a part-time enterprise. Interestingly, each day at my work enables a gratifying balance between the two.
WHERE DOES YOUR LOVE OF THEATRE COME FROM?
There is a photo of me somewhere, at about the age of 7, in the foyer of the first professional theatrical production I ever saw: Cats. My head is pretty much cracked in half with grinning. I suppose, as a very young child, I fell in love with the idea that adults could still play. This was a revelation, and it struck me as a most wonderful and important act of rebellion; it was a terrible relief.
TELL US ABOUT THIS YEAR’S PRODUCTION OF PETER PAN?
We have selected a version of the story, true to the original but not saccharine, with characters who have depth and pathos. Our Wendy wants to be a mother, but she’s also a deft swordswoman. Hook and Pan are male, played by female performers. We will combine classic stage magic with cutting-edge theatre technologies. For the first time, we have a professional choreographer, Lisa Wright, working with the students, which has brought a dynamic new edge to our musicals, and really extended some of our most experienced dancers.
WHAT DOES THE THEATRE MENTORING PROGRAM INVOLVE?
Students are invited to nominate potential productions and then vote on the show of their choice. We recruit industry professionals to help us with stagecraft and production, including costumes, sets, lighting and sound design, puppetry and animation, stunt choreography and stage management. These amazing theatre makers work with us in planning, development and presentation. Mentees meet and observe their mentors, and then become part of the creative and managerial realm of the production. This equips students with the hands-on skills required to do their jobs in the show, and also the skills they’ll need for future employment, such as communication, collaboration and confidence. The greatest insight our mentees gain is that the most valuable resources are within themselves and the people around them.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE TO STUDENTS WHO MIGHT BE NERVOUS ABOUT PRODUCTIONS?
I tell them two things:
- that performing is scary only because you care so much about it, and
- that it’s not about you, it’s about the story you are telling.
WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?
“Put your best shoes on, and keep walking.” That’s courtesy of my mum, whose shoe collection is genuinely inspirational.
WHEN YOU’RE NOT TEACHING, WHAT WILL WE FIND YOU DOING?
One of my other full-time, unpaid jobs: child-wrangling, theatre-making, housekeeping, or Netflixing. In that order.
Mentone Girls’ Grammar
11 Mentone Parade, Mentone
03 9581 1200