In fact as well as being aspirational, it was undoubtedly inspirational as over 120 young people demonstrated their wonderful talents to a very appreciative audience in matinee and evening performances over three days at Newcastle’s iconic Civic Theatre.
I would venture to suggest that in its long history of amateur and professional theatre, the Civic Theatre has rarely, if ever, witnessed as dramatic, creative, engaging and transportative a scene as was the last act before the interval.
The aquarium scene was simply outstanding and worthy of the finest production companies who have ever ventured to entertain an audience in this city’s most sought and highly regarded theatre venue.
Yet, incredibly, it was just one aspect of a locally written, produced, directed, acted and performed production by the students of the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
Artistic Director, Anna Kerrigan, drew on a theme of student acceptance and the quest for achieving normality in a school environment to create There’s Something Strange about Marvin McRae and shared it with the students, the ensemble directors and supportive parents, ensuring that all involved would have the dramatic experience that would be remembered well into their advanced years.
It was humorous, reflective, witty, full of pathos, incredibly acted, with superb solo and ensemble singing and dancing and with local students providing the musical score from a variety of well-known musical pieces.
As I sat down on Saturday night for the last ASPIRE production I would attend as Director of Schools, I knew that the performance, following on last year’s creative experience, would thrill me but I had no idea what was in store.
To say I was proud of the performance of our young people would be the understatement of the year and I can only guess how the thousands of students from our schools across the diocese who were able to attend the matinee performances must have been thrilled, and maybe even challenged by what they experienced at the hands of their talented fellow students.
To all involved, I can only say that the 2016 ASPIRE production demonstrated once again that the ASPIRE team led by Assistant Director of Schools, Craig Wattam, has achieved every aim of the program and surpassed each one of them.
The most important, in my eyes, was the aim to bring our talented performers together, allowing them to interact, collaborate and share with equally talented, passionate and motivated students the joy of performance and develop life-long friendships across the diocese.
To Anna Kerrigan, Craig Wattam, Lisa Little, Lauren Wheatley, Jeanette Chapman, Lisa Hall, Dominique Cunningham, Loreta Foster and so many other contributors to this wonderful program, I extend my deep appreciation for all that you have done to create such excellence in our performing arts.
I know it will only grow in strength and quality in the years ahead.