Catherine Steer, Artistic Director of QSPA, was Associate Artist with Zen Zen Zo Theatre Company, Brisbane, 2013. She was now the Artistic Co-ordinator for a large project 'Anzac Dawn', a production with massed choir and acting taking place in Nambour in June 2015, and undertaking a Masters in Performing Arts.
With experience of working in theatre and with young people for over 30 years. A qualified actress/college teacher, ex Head of Drama who has toured theatre with her own company, directed over 40 published productions, written 30, and has performed in over 50 stageplays and musicals. Specialisms; mask work, puppetry, carnival, prop making, directing, composition, script and improvisation work, confidence building in young people and adults, making Shakespeare accessible, teaching acting and encouraging young people to write and direct for the theatre.
'I never ntended to start a theatre school, it happened out of passion for theatre. My philosophy is that theatre productions should not be presentationally safe. Productions should challenge the actor, the audience. Observers should experience a memorable, stunning visual performance. Bedroom farce and dainty drawing room comedies are not part of my world. My theatre school teaches young actors that there is a whole lot more on offer than those styles. We are not an all singing, all dancing company. Thats too easy. QSPA is far more.
Q. Why establish a theatre school?
A. QSPA is the first step towards learning what acting training encompasses; the challenges, the need for a healthy physical body and vocal experiences are of the utmost importance in an actor. QSPA prepares students for careers in theatre OR the training can be used as realistic step up in the confidence game. The training breeds a higher level of assertiveness, and serves students well in the real world. All students experience performances. Often we perform in non theatre spaces to give students experience in touring . This also gives them ability to accept massive change in their lives should that happen.
Q. Why Brave, Confident, Fearless and Leading?
A. These are the classes of varying age groups and I wanted titles that would sum up what each age group could/should offer to theatre performance. Young children like to try and prove their boldness, teenagers like to stand out and be noticed and do brave, confident and even fearless things, their theatre ethos should be the same. QSPA specialises in a concept called Fearless Acting; get confident in training, open your imagination and don't be afraid to offer audiences a peek into what scares them most. Actors should always be bold, brave, confident, fearless or dangerous regarding emotions and attitude towards art. Only then can they be real actors.
Q. How did this theatre school begin?
A. After 25 years of teaching drama in High School and theatre touring in England, I emigrated to Oz. Upon arriving I approached a local theatre and starting a youth company. After two years, the time came to move on. I started a private school, changed from youth theatre to training school so I could instil artistic discipline and get young people to think 'outside the stage'. I used to think teaching in school was fulfilling, but running QSPA is amazing.
Q. Why do you like working with young people?
A. To see young people experiencing challenges and rising to them is the best sight in the world. I meet a lot of young people who get no support from home in whatever they do and quite often being artistic is the only thing they are good at and if no-one else will support them then I am there to push them on and up. There should be a broader arts curriculum in schools. Young people benefit from occasional drama lessons between maths and literacy learning. Usually the most challenging children shine..... I see a need for alternative eduation in life skills away from the classroom. Drama is a communication, literacy, history, life skills, and SOSE subject all in one. Some schools recognize this, many do not. Giving the most badly behaved children a moment to escape from a less than perfect life brings unexpected results and can give the most unpopular, challenging young person a chance to be admired by teachers and peers for their sparkling onstage talent, inspiring them to become successful. I aim to build confidence in the young and give those who may be failing at school something to be really good at. I've lost count of how many 'bad' teenagers I've helped along the way just by giving praise. As a teacher who has worked in Primary and High schools I am able to say the power of the arts is underestimated in schools.
Q. How do you join QSPA? Is there an audition process?
A. No. If a young student is keen, has found QSPA via friends or the internet and then got a parent to contact me, then that is a sign that stagework is what they want to be doing. This isn't a social club, nor a youth theatre. What we do can be really tough and challenging...and nobody seems to want to leave!! Everyone is welcome, whatever the ability, Ensembles are based on age not ability. However, members can be moved into the next Ensemble if ability and experience is outstanding. Even the most shyest student is challenged in session and excels. Sessions are cathartic, energetic, and spiritual and everyone bonds. Less confident people need that rather than the pressure/failure of an audition. Students are assessed continually in sessions for roles and pushed to limits of their ability...and beyond. Members for Fearless and Leading Ensemble must be capable of working in an intensive training arena with dedicated others. No audition process for any member, just high expectations and progress built on lots of genuine praise, challenge and friendshp....
Q. Lets talk about Special Needs and Disability.
A. QSPA is colourless, raceless, classless, disabilityless, religionless and we are all are part of one healthy, acting body. As a company we all face together any challenges in learning how to best accommodate any personal need of any member. Children with history of challenging behaviour are welcome but must be able to behave appropriately in sessions and not disrupt class; acting can be the answer to behaviour issues but the behaviour must not interfere with the smooth running of session.
Q. What can QSPA offer the student?
A. Fantastic insight into an actors world. Excellent, challenging training. Preparation for auditions and confidence for job interviews and work in the real world. Continuous training, development and productions. Opportunity to learn to teach drama by voluntarily working with the Ensemble below them. Mastering technical knowhow for productions and training in Theatre Directing and Writing. Excellent stuff to put on CVs with an outstanding reference from me to take along to their Uni interview or acting school audition. In the short time we've been established QSPA already has students at QPAC and QLD Uni's, we have students getting lead parts in their school musicals and plays and becoming School Leaders. I've had students who after being home schooled for years join and make wonderful friends at QSPA, and then decide they want to attend school so they can learn and be with those friends. That's happened about three times. And that s been life changing for those students.
Q. How much is the training, when do I pay fees and how?
A. Fees are between $120 and $160. In this economic climate I don't think its feasible to charge higher fees. The fees are affordable and often there are other sessions added in at no charge. This is real training at an affordable price tutored by a qualified, experienced, industry professional in comfortable, large, local spaces. Fees must be paid at the beginning of term, in cash, by cheque or by bank transfer. Any student who has not paid fees in full by the third session of a new term will not be allowed to participate until fees are paid.
Q. Final word?
A. Well, if you just read this whole page, and you are not a member of QSPA. I think you are showing a real interest in what we do. So join. Today. And change your life.