Hollywood mentor helps Curtin students put disability on centre stage

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Curtin theatre arts students will star in a reboot of Shakespeare’s play Richard III, with the modern rendition drawing on Hollywood greatness to bring a spotlight to disability representation and inclusion.

Hitting Curtin’s Hayman Theatre between October 11 and 15, the show, Teenage Dick, is directed by acclaimed neurodiverse director Dan Graham and will cater for all audience members with an AUSLAN-interpreted performance and an audio-description supported option available.

The lead role of Richard is played by Curtin theatre and marketing student Crystal Nguyen, a disability advocate who lives with Brittle Bone Disease and kickstarted her career at just 15 after placing sixth in the inaugural season of Vietnam’s Got Talent.

The student production, a co-production between Curtin’s theatre art students and the University’s Centre for Culture and Technology – a group that researches disability representation – is proudly supported by Curtin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran.

Curtin’s Centre for Culture and Technology Director Professor Katie Ellis said she was proud of the team’s commitment to diversity and commended their consideration for all audience members.

“Not only do we see disability represented front and centre in this exhilarating student production, but it will also ensure no one in the audience misses out either,” Professor Ellis said.

“We are particularly lucky to have been guided by the unrivalled expertise of Sydney-based theatre director Dan Graham, a powerful disability advocate with a particular interest in access and support for neurodiverse performing artists. And our brilliantly talented Curtin graduate Kate Mulvany, an Australian actor best known for her roles in The Twelve and The Great Gatsby as well as an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, has so generously given up her time to mentor the Curtin student playing the lead role of Richard, Crystal Nguyen.”

Crystal Nguyen, the lead actor, said working with Kate Mulvany helped her find the human in the misunderstood character of Richard III.

“I continually discover new ways of taking ownership of my strengths as a disabled performer. Throughout the mentorship, I continue to be in awe of Kate’s artistry and integrity,” Ms Nguyen said.

“Playing Richard is a big role to fill, and with her support I hope I can do him justice.”

Hayman Theatre’s Leigh Brennan, from Curtin’s School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, said audiences would be treated to a stylistic, surprising reimagining of Richard III in this Hayman Theatre production.

“The theatre is a flexible 50-90 seat space replicating industry standard equipment in all technical departments and produces about 50 plays a year including five major productions,” Mr Brennan said.

“These productions are where some of the now-famous actors and actresses started out their stellar careers including fellow Curtin graduate Mandy McElhinney, best known for her performance as ‘Rhonda’ in the AAMI Insurance advertisements, as well as Love Child and Ned Kelly.”

Curtin theatre arts students study a range of units, taught by working industry professionals, that build the theatre maker’s toolkit by exploring approaches to acting, devising, dramaturgy, directing, movement, voice and technical theatre in preparation for them to work in The Hayman Theatre Company and beyond.

More information about studying theatre arts at Curtin can be found online here.

Tickets to Teenage Dick can be purchased online here.