RAY COLLINS: A much deserved award

On Saturday night, before a packed auditorium at Western Suburbs Leagues Club, New Lambton, the annual CONDA Awards were held.

These awards are presented by the Newcastle Performing Arts Community and recognise the diversity and excellence of the full range of the Performing Arts in the Newcastle area.

In its 38th year the CONDAS have become a much sought after recognition, honouring excellence in the various aspects of productions in drama and musicals across the city and like the famous OSCARS they feature awards for excellence in acting, ensemble acting, lighting, choreography, sound, sets, costuming and recognise the contribution of singers, dancers, directors and all who make up a performing arts production.

In 2016 our ASPIRE production, “There’s Something Strange about Marvin McRae”, received 5 nominations for excellence in or by:

                Costume Design (Lauren Wheatley)

                Lighting and Audio Visual Design (Lachlan Thomas)

                A Male Actor Under 18 (Benjamin Doran)

                Best Special Theatrical Event

                A Director – Musical (Anna Kerrigan)

For those who regularly attend Drama and Musical productions in the Hunter and elsewhere in the country and indeed overseas, you would be aware of the quality of performances you can experience in the Newcastle area. I have seen shows on the West End in London where the quality of performance in particular has not exceeded what I have seen in Newcastle theatres.

ASPIRE received a CONDA for Best Special Theatrical Event on Saturday night, its first CONDA since it commenced its productions 5 years ago. There were seven other productions in this category which recognises those that are more than a musical, more than a drama piece but embrace each of those aspects, along with dance and instrumental music in the one production.

I have been saying since I saw this year’s ASPIRE production that for a show featuring 125 cast members involving actors, singers, dancers and musicians, all of them students in our Catholic schools, I have never seen something of this quality before. In fact there were scenes in the show, the quality of which I have never before seen in any amateur or professional production, anywhere.

ASPIRE was developed to enable those students in our schools who have significant talent in the Performing Arts, to come together, learn from each other and specialist in their fields, enjoy the thrills and fun of rehearsing and performing together and to give expression to their talent in a quality production. This has been achieved magnificently in such a short space of time.

I congratulate all involved in this year’s production but especially our Creative Director, Anna Kerrigan, who has brought imagination, experience, passion and excellence to the task allotted to her, to enable our gifted performers to shine in a quality setting such as the Civic Theatre.

Six years ago, as we were establishing the ASPIRE program, I asked Mr Craig Wattam, Assistant Director of Schools to chair the ASPIRE committee and Mrs Lisa Little, Education Officer (COSI) to be its executive officer and what they have achieved, along with Anna, is something of which our diocese can be very proud. I have many parents thank me for what ASPIRE has done for their children but the full credit belongs to Craig, Lisa, Anna and the host of Ensemble Directors, teachers, parents and volunteer who ensure that the ASPIRE program achieves every goal that was set for it in 2010 when it was first proposed.

The award of this CONDA is deserved recognition of what has been an enormous commitment from everyone involved and a wonderful expression of the talent of the young people in our schools.

Ray Collins Image
Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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