While tackling his VCE studies this year, BSSC Year 12 student, Liam Duivenvoorden, also had the lead role in Bendigo Theatre Company’s production of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.

While Liam says it wasn’t easy balancing a lead role with Year 12 studies, winning the role is possibly as important to his future as his schoolwork.

“I’m hoping to study a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre at either the Victorian College of the Arts, or Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts,” he says. “We did 20 performances of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so it was a great experience to take forward.”

Liam is planning a gap year for 2023 so he can get involved with as much theatre as possible and adjust to being out of school and in the ‘wider world’.

Unsurprisingly Liam admires those who have already achieved renown in the area of musical theatre—people like Steven Sondheim who wrote the lyrics to ‘West Side Story’ and music and lyrics for at least 15 other hit musicals.

He would also love to meet Lyn Manwell Miranda, composer of ‘Hamilton’ and soundtracks to movies such as Disney’s 2021 ‘Encanto’.

“It would be great to ask them about their journey after they left school,” he says. “What they see as the most important factors for a career in theatre.”

It was Liam’s mum who initially suggested he try drama classes.

With some apprehension, he joined Helen O’Grady’s (these days known as ‘Props Theatre’) and quickly settled in.

It was after getting his first role as a villain in a space-themed production that Liam connected deeply with theatre and the challenge of being in character.

“There are two major types of actors,” he explains, “character actors who really ‘become’ that character and actors who use the qualities of their own personality in their interpretation of a role.

“I’d like to train towards character acting, but my really big dream is to write my own musical theatre work I know that’s a long way off.”

Liam has found the drama/theatre community a wonderful place to build friendships. This year he studied VCE Drama with Halle, who he first met in drama classes back in Grade 4.

Musical theatre has made life very busy, but once he realised he wanted a future on the stage, he decided to take singing and dance lessons to supplement his performing skills.

For Year 12 he’s chosen Theatre Studies and Drama alongside English and Further Maths.

His experience of BSSC has been a positive one and he describes the college as “open”.

“It’s freer than a traditional school campus and I love how it’s a separate senior college with no uniform,” Liam says.

“At senior you can explore ideas, but still have the support of teachers. Make choices, but still have some direction. I think it gets you into a more adult mindset.”

Ulumbarra Theatre is one of Liam’s favourite spaces—no surprises there!

However, Liam observes that the education system as a whole does not seem to value the Arts.

“I’ve never seen a revision lecture for the performing arts, or the level of support given to most traditional subject, directed towards the Arts,” he says.

“Despite this, what we have here is amazing… I’d recommend the college to anyone thinking about performing arts.”

Liam’s study tip is simple… talk to teachers and show them your work.

“They are our best resource,” he says. “They know everything you need to know and, in my experience, appreciate you reaching out.”

Liam found the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns ‘tumultuous’ and arrived in Year 12 determined to do well.

He’s worked hard, but also believes the year has been less difficult because he’s immersed in subjects he loves. He’s also had great support from his family and friends.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve put in to grow myself as an artist,” Liam says. “Getting a role like Willy Wonka was like reaping the rewards of that effort.”

He also feels very lucky to have grown up in Bendigo.

“I’m a big fan of decentralisation and while Bendigo is a city, it’s not too big,” Liam says. “I love that I have a backyard—something that’s becoming rare in many housing developments and impossible in an apartment.”

If Liam could travel back in time and have a conversation with his 12-year-old self, he would tell him that failure isn’t such a big deal.

“What’s important is committing to things so you get more out of experiences and opportunities,” Liam says. “I generally did well at school but worried about failing. If I’d relaxed I might have had more of a go at things and enjoyed those years more.”