If you were fortunate enough to see Nexus Theatre Company’s recent production of Shrek you might recall a particular elf who gave a stellar performance.
This elf, aka Halle Blake-Burrows, is a Year 12 student at BSSC with career aspirations that revolve around the theatre.
“I loved being part of the Shrek production,” Halle says. “It went so well and I was pretty overwhelmed to be awarded the Nexus Spirit Award.”
Voted by the whole cast, this award is given to someone who has been a positive influence in multiple ways throughout the production.
Halle has been acting since she moved from South Australia to Bendigo at the start of Grade 4.
“We came here because Mum was offered a job and realised the move would bring more opportunities for me and my sister,” she recalls.
“It’s really because of her I took on drama classes. I made friends with some kids who were already at Helen O’Grady Drama Academy and Mum suggested I get involved too.”
Halle and her mum went along to watch a session and Halle was hooked.
During Year 9 she made the step up to Nexus and at the start of her final year at Bendigo South East rallied the courage to audition for the BSE Academy of Creative Arts.
“I actually had an application ready to go when I was in Year 7,” she says. “I threw it in the bin because I didn’t believe I was good enough.”
While Halle might have missed three years of theatre and acting opportunities—for all the wrong reasons—she did enjoy dipping into languages and thoroughly enjoyed BSE’s Year 9 trip to China.
All the while she continued her community drama classes.
Halle knew she would be heading to BSSC for her VCE, but when she looked more closely at the subjects on offer she was incredibly excited by what was on offer.
The college offered a perfect combination of subjects and opportunities for someone hoping for a career as a Dramaturge.
The online Oxford Dictionary gives the following meaning to this mysterious job—a role vital to all successful stage performances:
A dramaturge is a literary adviser or editor in a theatre company who researches, selects, adapts, edits, and interprets scripts, texts and printed programmes (or helps others with these tasks), consults authors, and does public relations work.
Halle has chosen Theatre Studies, Classical Studies, Drama, English Literature and Further Maths.
“All my subjects are useful towards this goal—even Maths—which gives my humanities and creatively-focused brain a break,” she says.
“Theatre Studies has been even better than I expected. I assumed it was mostly focused on what happens on stage, but it’s a fantastic mix of practice and theory and learning about backstage too.”
If Halle could have a conversation with anyone from history it would be William Shakespeare.
I’d ask what inspired him and how he could write such diverse and incredible plays,” she says. “I’d love to get inside his head!”
Halle is also relishing Classical Studies which includes studying Greek theatre.
She has formed some really close friendships at BSSC and enjoys great connections with other students in her classes. She loves her teachers too, and knows she’ll miss them once she leaves Senior.
“I’ve had some all-round amazing experiences at BSSC… it’s an eclectic place,” Halle says.
“There are so many different opportunities to participate, to mix with new people, to be part of great events and to learn in ways that suit you as an individual.”
One example is being able to review work soon after it’s presented, because of the way the timetable schedules frees.
“I also love the general learning environment and the variety of places to study,” Halle says.
Occasionally she also heads down to the Goldfields Library for a change of scene.
Her biggest challenge has been time management—balancing studies with part-time work at Wendy’s and her community theatre commitments.
“I’m also easily distracted,” Halle admits, “so frees are especially important for me in consolidating my work.”
This year she’s discovered cue cards are her best study hack.
“I have over 500 of them—all handwritten—and they’re all over the house,” she explains. “I even took them to Shrek rehearsals.”
Any family who supports a student like this is worth hearing more about.
“I’m so grateful to my family,” Halle says. “We feel very connected and I have forgiven my older sister for trying to make me into a snow leopard when I was three by drawing all over me in permanent markers.”
If Halle could travel back in time and offer some advice to her 12-year-old self some advice, it would be to stop second-guessing her capacity.
“I’d tell her to stop asking ‘will people like me if I do this’ and start doing what you really long to do.”
This habit of second-guessing herself may have blocked some great experiences, but it’s been a path to discovery too.
“I’ve learnt about the power of a positive and determined mind to help bring great outcomes,” Halle says.