Today’s guest is Tyran Parke.
This week on A Voice and Beyond, we are so honoured to have Tyran Parke as our special guest. Tyran is an award-winning singer, actor, director and recording artist. Since graduating from WAAPA in 1999, Tyran has played some of the truly great roles written for music theatre, all of which have received stellar reviews. He is currently the Head of Music Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), the Executive Producer of the Australian Musical Theatre Festival and the Artistic Director of Clovelly Fox Theatre Company.
In today’s episode, Tyran talks frankly about the Music Theatre industry from his own personal and professional perspective as someone who has performed, written, workshopped, directed, taught in the theatre industry and has creatively consulted all over Australia and in NZ for many years. It is a not to be missed show especially for anyone who is currently involved in the performing arts in a creative role, or is a student, an emerging a performer, teacher, or who simply loves theatre.
Tyran Parke shares so many pearls of wisdom for all to learn from. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.
In this Episode
0:00 – Introducing Tyran Parke
15:18 – Finding the best idea in the room
21:23 – The greatest piece of advice he has ever been given
31:26 – Checking in with yourself and your biases
44:02 – What is the number one mistake people make in auditions?
50:13 – How the mega-musical has changed the sound of musical theatre.
1:02:30 – Why do we have sensitivity readers for productions?
1:12:23 – Advice for those who want to get into the performing arts industry.
NEW CCM BOOK
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith is excited to announce the release of her new book “Singing Contemporary Commercial Music Styles: A Pedagogical Framework” published by Compton Publications UK. Marisa offers this book as a starting point and as CCM markets continue to evolve, she encourages that we, as a voice community, continue to evolve, debate and communally add to this framework.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:00
Hi it’s Marissa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include healthcare practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond, your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. This week on voice and beyond, we are so honoured to have Tyron Park as our special guest. Tyron is an award winning singer, actor, director and recording artist. Since graduating from Wall Park in 1999 Tyron has played some of the truly great roles written for music theatre, all of which have received stellar reviews. He is currently the head of music theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, the executive producer of the Australian Musical Theatre Festival, and the artistic director of Clovelly Fox Theatre Company. In today’s show Tyron talks frankly about the music theatre industry from his own personal and professional perspective. As someone who has performed written workshops, directed taught in the theatre industry, and has creatively consulted all over Australia and in New Zealand for many, many years. It is a not to be missed show, especially for anyone who is currently involved in the performing arts in a creative role, or is the student, an emerging performer, a teacher or simply a music theatre lover Tyron Park shares so many pearls of wisdom for all of us.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 02:48
So, without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. Welcome to a voice and beyond Tyron Park, how are you?
Tyran Parke 03:10
I’m good. I’m good. I’m so pleased this has happened because we’ve tried a few times. And you know, life is busy and crazy. But I was determined determined to do it before the end of the year. So I’m so happy. We’re finally connecting. And I’m
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:22
so happy to we have been both trying to get together at the same time. And it’s been hard. You’re a very busy man. And we’re going to talk about that. So I’m going to start off with a little bit of an intro then I’m going to get into some of that stuff.
Tyran Parke 03:37
Mother or something. We’re going to have a talk we’re going to sit down and have a talk about this Tyron
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:41
you and I need to have a chat now. All right, so Tyron you’re an award winning singer, actor, director, and recording artist. You’re currently the head of music theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, otherwise known as VCA, the executive producer of the Australian Musical Theatre Festival and the artistic director of cleverly forks Theatre Company. Now, busy talk about busy since graduating from WAPA. In 1999. You’ve performed written workshops, directed, taught and creatively consulted all over Australia and New Zealand. You’ve played some of the truly great roles written for music theatre and all of these have received stellar reviews. So you have a huge busy career. You continue to have such a diverse Korea and just starting with that how important is it to be diverse and to to be able to fit into all these different roles, especially in the performing arts and music theatre.
Tyran Parke 05:05
But it’s really interesting because when you when you talk about those things that don’t always feel like, it doesn’t feel like I carry all of those things with me, it feels like versions of myself. Does that make sense? Like, yes. When you talk about, you know, like, being a performer? You know, I guess I do compartmentalise a little bit. My life and what I mean this time last year, I was casting director for hairspray. You know, the productions have been around Australia. And I think that was just that absorbed me. And then that’s done. I think the question about you know, diversifying, people used to talk about it, when I was a student, they used to go, it’s really good to diversify another Well, I won’t need that, because I’m gonna be Hugh Jackman. So whatever, you know, we all thought we were gonna be huge. But as you get older, it’s not just important so that you can maintain a, you know, an income, which is important, and keep connected to the industry. It’s just damn interesting. Yeah, like, it’s really interesting. And I find that more and more as I get, I think, I want to I’ve always been obsessed by the theatre. And so you know, I’ll be in rehearsals. And I would be going, what does that person do over there? So what is the flight meant? And what is why do we need a flight? And where are they? And I’d be the one sitting backstage. The first show that I did professionally was the sound of music was Lisa McCune. Oh, wow. Yes, yeah, wonderful people. And I used to I never lived backstage, and I was barely on, because, you know, that shows all about kids and nuns and I played roles rather than on very often, but I would be backstage the whole time watching the stage manager call the show and understand the relationship with that. So, you know, for me, it’s part of telling stories is understanding the team sport that is, you know, and is, you know, creating theatre. And so, it was always a natural progression to go, you know, how do they how does this written, how do you? How do you direct? How did how was where’s that wasn’t coming from. And so, in a way, while that is a wonderful way to kind of maintain a career, it’s also just my life’s passion, which is how do we tell stories in a scenario that is a team sport?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:20
I was going to ask you, and you kind of touched on it a little bit is, are you curious by nature? Or are you just driven? Are you a workaholic? I, you know, no,
Tyran Parke 07:35
no, look, it’s interesting, because I mean, Pete from the outside people would say workaholic from the outside people would say ambitious, but I’m remarkably unambitious. I am just curious. So we were just talking before, I’m going on a holiday tomorrow. And I haven’t been on holiday, literally for years. And I’m going to a place that I often go to off the coast of Lombok, in Indonesia. And part of the reason I’m going is that the island is so small, I know my way around it. So my own sense of adventure is curbed. Because I don’t go door to just above that, what’s over that hill, what’s around the bend? Because I could, you know, otherwise, I just never be able to rest. And so I go there, because I go, you just have to rest. So I think I am by nature, really curious. And then how that is perceived, or how that plays out is I know, as soon as I get on the plane tomorrow, I’ll go space, and then I’ll start dreaming of an idea. And I think oh, you know, I didn’t mean like
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 08:33
that would be me, I would lie there literally for five minutes. And then the next thing my mind would be wandering on to the next great idea. I wrote a whole marketing plan on an aeroplane once thinking, Oh, I’m just gonna watch a movie. And I sat there for five minutes, and this whole thing just spewed through me. So I totally get it. Totally.
Tyran Parke 08:59
There was once I mean I think that the way that I remember that first understanding that was I was in a production of Oliver Cameron Mackintosh his production was beautiful, massive production. We toured everywhere. And and I remember we want it I thought one day I thought, You know what, this cast the makeup of this cast? That’d be really good doing into the woods, Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods. It just was something that occurred to me, and then I kept thinking, I’ll just keep pushing the idea. And as long as it’s not No, it’s a yes. So I’ll just keep going. And then we ended up doing it as onstage at the Regent Theatre. In Cameron Mackintosh gave us all this support and, and it was for equity Fights AIDS. And, you know, it was it was a wonderful thing to do that. I was like, Wow, just because I had that idea sitting over dinner at that time, it just progressed to this huge thing. And so I’ve always been quite interested in like, as they pass, what are the ones you catch? And what are the ones you let go you know, and one of the ones get their own, they get their own life and before you know it you just you You’ve got to drive them.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 10:01
Sounds like you’re a visionary too.
Tyran Parke 10:04
It’s an interesting word because I’ve just recently been doing some workshops down in Launceston as part of the Australian musical theatre festivals makers weekend. So it’s a weekend just a bit for theatre makers. And we talked in the directing work that I was taking about the idea of vision. And what that is, and it’s something Marissa, that stopped me from being a director for a long time, because people would talk about their vision. And I thought it was supposed to occur in a particular way. And I thought, I don’t have that. So therefore, I’m not a director. It was only through, like developing a process for me and how to direct that I went, Oh, that’s, that’s vision. I still feel a bit weird about the word. It sort of feels like it’s, it’s reserved for, for the important people. And I go, Oh, no, I think we all have vision. Sometimes it’s not as, as literal as I have a vision. Sometimes it is, yes, sometimes it’s a process you have to go through. But, but I guess, it always stopped me. And now I understand that I start with an idea. And the vision of that is can be collaborative and can evolve over time.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:15
And it’s interesting that you’ve said it stopped you. However, it can also stop other people, if your ideas are too big. If your ideas are overwhelming, if you’re around people who who don’t have that curiosity, who don’t have that ability to see into the future and to see what it is that you’re wanting to put together to two grand that can also be limiting, countered. Okay,
Tyran Parke 11:48
and I guess that’s my, I mean, my passion had over the past sort of 10 years really has become process. My process as a director, what is that, you know, I, I did my masters last year while we’re in lockdown, to try and understand that a little more. I teach to understand what the actor’s processes not just getting up and playing dress up. So I’m not really interested in that. So it you know, that idea of a vision that is somewhere that something sparks, but then it’s processed, that gets you there. And so I just today, just this morning, Marissa, we just did our, our presentation for I’m directing, tick, tick boom, at the Comedy Theatre, in Melbourne, and then at Cooper connects to Yes, and we did our our set presentation. And that’s beautiful that’s evolved over the past month in the series of discussions. And now it’s there. The vision is a three dimensional set model. And so that’s very exciting when when you see it, live out and keep developing and evolving.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 12:47
So how do you feel personally, when you see that, or when you have moments like that, in your career, something that you’ve been able to visualise actually come together?
Tyran Parke 13:01
Honestly, and this is not the answer that, you know, you potentially want to hear. Mostly, I’m dissatisfied. Because the nature of directing and that’s what kind of I’m talking about in this is a nature of Yes, collaboration. Yes, building that excitement. You just heard me about tick, tick, boom, ultimately go through a period of compromise. Now, we didn’t quite get that finished to look the way we thought it didn’t quite that you know, so a director’s job is to hold on to that vision and then give up the things that they can’t fight for anymore. And I feel the missing thing in my life as a practitioner is time. So it’s no long for more than anything. So I am doing musicals now. So if you think of musicals I’ve done this year I did anyone can whistle in a day at a great song time piece. It was delivered as part of the it’s part of the company. They do these staged readings, but you know, I put it together in a day. So you can only ever give a moment of it. I mean, Barnum, which I did a few years ago with Todd McKenney. I had three weeks but the equivalent production in London had three months
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 14:11
to say that’s not very long. Yeah,
Tyran Parke 14:15
follies, which I did had two weeks with Lisa McCune and Phillip cost and all these people so I’m used to working quick and then having to discard what doesn’t work and not having the true alchemy of time that come I haven’t in my teaching. So that’s the beautiful thing about working with people over three years is that there is a there is a an exchange of ideas that evolves and grows and even when I direct stuff here at the VCA it might be like um, this year I directed elegies William Finn’s allergies and the nature of the timetable is they’re still doing other things. So I was only working one day a week for eight weeks and the breath in the piece because of that is really beautiful and Most of the commercial work is like, get it up, get it up as quick as you can. So I am often and it doesn’t. It’s something I’ve got used to, I understand that the audience response is more important than mine in many ways that they are enjoyed. They can’t see what’s not there. But I always leave with a little bit of like, Oh, I just wish we could have adjust. I only want you know, all of that.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 15:25
Sounds like your career, especially as a director is constantly figuring it out. Yeah, it’s a problem. Yes.
Tyran Parke 15:37
Yeah, probably one of the things that freed me as a director, was the notion that I didn’t have to have the best idea in the room, I just had to edit the best idea. And so that was always for me. I was like, Oh, God, because as a as an actor, I needed a director. Last year I did Next to Normal. And I was in it. And I needed mark, the director, I needed him to be my director. And so always, as an actor, then went, Well, how am I going to be a director? Because that’s the person I need. And I don’t have that it’s a different perspective, of course. But it’s something that, yeah, it’s always a puzzle I’m trying to undo and knowing that it is collaborative, and that I can take the best idea from the 26 minds in the room rather than always have to come up with it is, is part of the farmers. Well, the joy of it.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 16:30
I think in any role that we play, or any career path that we choose in the performing arts. That is what we do, though, isn’t it? We have to figure things out. We’re not always given all the information. We’re not always receiving all the training. We don’t always have the luxury of time. We don’t always have all the pieces of the puzzle. And I think to be successful, that’s what we have to do, isn’t it? Constantly things out?
Tyran Parke 17:01
And I think we should if you’re going to be successful, it’s is finding enjoyment in that I was recently on another podcast where I was talking about the work of Stephen Sondheim. And I don’t know if you know that Stephen Sondheim wrote these books of his lyrics, like about his work called, look, I made a hat and finishing the hat. And I never use them. In fact, I slightly resent that they exist, because I go, my job as a director is to, um, puzzle, the puzzle. So I don’t want the cheat notes. I don’t want to be let in to how to do it. That’s my job. And that’s really fun. And when I’m in that job, I learn something that I didn’t know, I didn’t know about myself. So I’m always interested in sitting in the puzzle. And sitting in the unknown, for as long as we can and exploring as my relates to my previous thing about not enough time, because that’s where their true discoveries get made. Beyond what you just think it should be, you start to ensure you know why. So that’s really important, I think,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 18:06
yes. Have you ever had someone mentor us through any of this or inspire you along your journey of learning?
Tyran Parke 18:16
Not in the traditional way, like not in this particular I mean, I have been handed from significant person to significant person in my life. And I certainly think that my own training at WAPA was defined by a woman called Marcel Schmitz, who she was not in musical theatre, but she ended up teaching us and so she had an approach to acting that was really refreshing and in a very healthy kind of cynicism and, and kind of interesting about musicals and going, why would you do that? Why wouldn’t you just do this? And she, you know, you we all have, you will have somebody I’m sure, Marissa, we all have a teacher that unlocked something in us. And she was certain I mean, she’s with me every day. I mean, she’s still around. She lives in Perth. And but she, I mean, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. And now that has been Yeah, and I hear her I hear her in my speaking and I hear her Wow, that’s incredible. Yeah. Oh, yeah. And, and then for years afterwards, I mean, before I was a teacher, sometimes I would be let into team teach with her would teach at different things. And before I was a director, I’d be interested in directing and she was very close to Nick Kenwright, who was a great playwright, an Australian playwright and filmmaker. And so I worked with him a bit and sort of it kind of got passed along. And then I think, you know, quite significantly here at the VCA it was Margo Finley who was running the VCA when I arrived, and had and still has a kind of magic in her teaching that is bigger than just we teach is at this point, and they get up and do that. And so I think I’ve been lucky. I’ve also been lucky because I was in lots of rooms with wonderful directors when I always wanted to work with John Bell. And I made sure that happened. I was like, I want to work at the Bell Shakespeare Company, while John Bell is there, and I did. And I worked with, you know, remarkable, you know, people from Broadway that I would just watch and be really interested in. So I guess not, I have no mentor, I think mentorships really important. And I do have a kind of a wish list of trying to bring together directors and artists to connect a little more. And I have those, there’s a guy called Jason Langley, who I always is a wonderful director, I invite to all of my rehearsal room runs whenever I can, and go, tell me what you think. And then I’ve been brave. He also knows where I am in the process. So he knows that he’s not going to go there. That doesn’t work, at least, I mean, he’s going to speak constructively. And he’s going to speak to a listening that we have. And I have a few people like that, Caroline, Caspar Ilaria, Rogers, you know, people that I go, I want you to come and watch this. And I think that’s important, and more and more important, to be honest. And I’ll often say that Chris Parker, or other directors come and come and watch it. Tell me what you think, even after the show’s opened? Because I want to, I want to interrogate my work.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 21:20
Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s the only way we improve to is we’ve got to keep pushing, pushing our boundaries, may we, and and we can’t put limitations on what we’re capable of doing. We have to keep growing and evolving. Otherwise, you know, that also kills our careers, but it also kills our creativity, doesn’t it? And then inspiration to keep going. So all these people that that you’ve had in your life that have come along, and in some way had some input into your work? What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve been given by anybody? You had? One thing?
Tyran Parke 22:10
Hey, this is this is almost a cliche, like it’s one of those slightly gooey lines.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 22:16
That’s all I can do goo.
Tyran Parke 22:18
But it’s, it’s the thing, I guess, that I, I encourage in actors in other edits, I try and find other ways to say it, but at the end of the day, you want to say to an artist, you’re enough. That’s what you want to say. But that, you know, the race is long, it’s only with yourself, that comparison, is the gateway to madness, you know, or at least unhappiness. And that there is that what you create and what you want like to not search outside too much to know that you can present something. And it’s what I wish I’d known as an actor earlier on. Because sometimes I find like, what we’ve just done the VCA auditions, and some of the best actors, we had actors who have just come to acting really late. Because you find when you love it, when you’re young, that becomes this thing that’s bigger than you. And so you’re always in some kind of servitude to this thing. Whereas it’s just acting. You know, you do your work, you do your process, and you bring yourself to it, and then you throw it up in the air and see what what lands and you work really hard, of course, but I sometimes think that the shining lights of it all get in the way, or make you feel like there’s something unreachable. And and you know, you’re enough, I think is important. Yeah,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 23:44
yeah. I love that. I love that. And with those students that are coming to you at that later age, they would be coming in to with a certain amount of maturity, that they would be, they would allow themselves to become more vulnerable or not, depending, I mean, you know, as we get older, we can get in in our heads more, or maybe not how, what are you finding with these?
Tyran Parke 24:14
When I went to Whopper, it was a different. It was a different kind of training, where we had people in my year who were in their 30s, we had people who were divorced, we had people who was straight out of school, 17 years old. The industry has asked more and more for younger people. And for a long time you’re at VCA we sort of gave that. But something happens when you put together. I can’t say that I can necessarily put my finger on what an older person brings or what this but what I can say is that when you’re creating an ensemble, and you have different lived experience, the experience of training inside of that is much richer. And so I’m always trying to cast in inverted commas. To the year groups at VCA, like a company like you’d cast a company with not, I don’t choose the best 20 people to come to VCA to choose the people that are most interesting together. And we’ll push each other and challenge and support underneath it or support, but bring in different voices so that the training is robust and interesting. And it is of them, not just the thing that we do every year.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 25:26
So they’re not just learning from you, but they’re learning from each other essentially.
Tyran Parke 25:31
Well, as I mean, this the student, I mean, the nature of what we know about learning is, it’s so much about critical self reflection and what they’re discovering. I mean, that’s so important to get somebody up and direct them. That’s not That’s the icing, you know. So critical. self reflection is huge. For me, it’s like, well, what do you think? I mean, if you’ve found a better way to do this, tell me and we’ll work it out, you know, as engaging in a conversation. Definitely.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 25:58
Yes. So that, to me sounds like student centred learning, which is, I 100% advocate for that, because it’s not about us, it’s about them. What would you say? Is your teaching philosophy?
Tyran Parke 26:15
So interesting? It’s a bit like when somebody says, What’s your vision as a director, and I got
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:20
Tyran Parke 26:22
I go, What is your teaching philosophy? I’ve been asked that, like, I was a teacher, like, you know, like, the nature of all of us here is we’re all practitioners who just went How do you? How do you teach this? What does this look like? So I don’t know if I have the kind of answer to that, that I know that what it’s about for me is, and a lot of this I learned from Margo Fenley. as I as I talked about previously, and and also, Marcel is, I know that it doesn’t work. If I prescribe how it should be done. I know that I know, I have to be specific in my criticism, and very general in my warmth and support. I know that students want specifics, they want something that I want Frou Frou, you know, like, they want to know what the end yet they also want a little bit of magic. They do want that because let’s face it, there’s a bit of magic that we love. So I think you know, you know, the thing that I was saying before about your enough the work gains when they’re not trying to impress me, it’s very, very hard. Because I am, my title is head of music theatre, there’s an there’s a hierarchy that is literally the title, I’m
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:45
sorry, you’re also tire and park.
Tyran Parke 27:48
Well, that’s interesting, because for all that, it’s worth like, there are a lot of benefits that my students get, because I’m in the industry. So you know, 100% Yeah, a lot of my friends come to teach and my friends happen to be fabulous directors and whatever and all that which is great. But where I find it tricky is if the students are trying to predetermine a path that involves getting a job from me, then they’re not able to fail. And so we have to set up a kind of this is our relationship in the studio. And when we leave, we go through a little rite of passage to go. And now I’m your friend, and I’m your colleague, and now what is it now, but in the studio, I have to allow them. And unfortunately, people younger and younger are getting less interested in craft and more interested in being famous. So I would be I could be perceived as towards that. Everyone shut that down right away and go, I’m not interested in that. I’m not going to do that for you. I’m not even going to work with you. Because I have a bit of a thing about supporting my students with other directors, but not necessarily hiring them for the first few years out. So in mainly, that’s just because I know them, I know them so well. And I go go and be with them.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:04
Yes. Yes, yes.
Tyran Parke 29:06
So I think you know, it’s one of the one of the tricky things about my position is there’s some the shadow of it means that people can sometimes feel a little bit intimidated. I think that’s hilarious. But I guess they’re they’re intimidated by the position and how they perceive that. And so it’s my job first up in first year to get that out of the way and go, we jump into the muck, we all make mistakes. Let’s you know,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:30
so you’re teaching them how to fail. That’s the point. Yeah, yes. So how do you then create a safe space for them to be vulnerable and to explore what they can do and to be playful? And and know that it’s okay to fail? Because that’s hard.
Tyran Parke 29:51
Yeah. Yeah, it is hard and it takes a while and that’s part of the reason the curriculum is set up the way it is with not we don’t ask people to perform for a long time. because that’s the opposite of feeling, you know, allowing them to be vulnerable, suddenly they go, Oh my god, I’m going out there, I have to do these put on these things. So it takes conversation and it takes a level of trust and a level of play. So play is very important that we realise that, you know, you fall over in it, you know, you you hurt your knees, and you dust them off, and you’re okay, the same is true of creative play. So you hold a space where people realise that risk is celebrated. And that takes time. That’s not something I can do in a few weeks. And then we move on to other things like first year really is about the individual student and him as a storyteller, and how they, what techniques they acquire and what gets in the way of their techniques to tell stories, whether it be singing, acting, and dancing. So that is very much about play based exploration. And I need to jump into it too. And I need to show them that I make mistakes. You know, I need to jump in. I need to be foolish, I need to go Oh, god, that was awful. I was you know, like, or whatever it is. So that they go, Oh, wow. Sometimes people get really surprised when I was casting hairspray people would come in, and they’d be an X VCE grass, and they go oh my gosh, it’s just like at uni to say, you know, it’s like, of course, of course it is. That’s just asinine laying, you know. So I think that’s very important.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 31:26
Yes, yes. Everything that you’re saying is exactly the same way I go about teaching voice? Well, that doesn’t
Tyran Parke 31:33
surprise me look at you, you’ve got to kind of energy about there I go. Ever since I met you. I’m like, Yes, that’s, that’s the energy you give off. I can feel that.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 31:43
Well, I’m the same everywhere I go. Like whether I’m in the teaching studio, I’ve cried in the studio, someone’s sung something so beautifully. I’m not afraid to cry. I dance when I get into the rhythm. Like I’m I’m and I’ve had notes that I’ve gone to hit and had a massive fail, because I didn’t take time to think about what I was doing. I just went there. And so I mean, yes, I’ve had those failures, too. And I show my students that I’m vulnerable, as well. And they go, it’s okay, it’s okay to do all this. I know for me, though, I have to do a lot of checking in with my biases, I have to learn to be kind to myself, I have to be authentic myself to allow my students to be authentic. Do you check in with yourself as well and with your biases, and go, Okay, I have to leave these at the door, if I’m having a bad day that has to stay at the door. So you’re checking in with how you are in that moment before you step 14, into the studio.
Tyran Parke 32:49
Absolutely. Sometimes it’s not as clean as the moment before because you’re running around, you’re really busy, and you’re suddenly in there. But I always there are certain things I know that can be problematic. I have learned over time to be a very good listener. But I also know that sometimes the energy of teaching can have an element of performing. There’s a kind of there’s a kind of entertainment to it. There’s a we’re going on this journey, and they’re looking up to me and then and I I have to be sometimes I just have to check if I go did you talk too much in that class time I go the fact that the fact that I have to ask myself means yes, I go up, you must have you know, and is there space? Did you give enough space for that moment? Or did you jump in and try and save someone because sometimes in saving somebody, you stop them from making the discovery. And again, Marcel told me that not even in my teaching, just as a person, I was like, okay, so I had to check those things in terms of cultural biases, that’s something that I check as much as I can, and then the student, I have to be comfortable with my own shame that the student is allowed to check me and go, I just want to bring that up. That I just, you know, you know, like, I’m a white man. So, you know, we have a, you know, diverse cultural student cohort. And I’m the head of the department and an institution that is inherently white institution, like, you know, and I’m trying to learn in that same way that we talk about how to, how do we allow them to learn? I’m, I need to try and give them permission to speak to the head and go, I just want to ask you about that. That feels potentially offensive to me that feels and to be able to sit in that and go tell me about that. What is the impact of that? What can I not see what did I just and to you know, clean it up, that that’s new, that’s new because you know, young people are more empowered, because the they’ve been socialised differently. Because the the the generation of post me to post the resurgence of Black Lives Matters post pandemic, you know, climate change, you know, the work that concerns and that the requirement for them to be outspoken is the planet. So they better be working because they’ve got something to fight for, and they’ve got to fight for. And so I have to sit in the world of allowing and engaging and encouraging that, and still teaching and maintaining a class. And sometimes I will take it along and go, I still think this is the way to go. I think this is right, you know, sometimes I still am the head, and I’m still being paid to be the head of department. So it’s a tricky space, sometimes for teachers in the current navigation of students, people have young people with varying degrees of mental health challenges, you know, all those things are present. And before when you said you have to check things that door, yes and no, we were always told, leave everything at the door, suck it up, you’re on. And more and more I go, bring it in, see what happens. If it’s safe, if it’s safe, if you’re safe. If you because sometimes the energy of not bringing it in and go, I don’t really feel this way is what begins people panic attacks. And I go, you know, in the space of a comfortable space where it’s about exploration. If you’re set, so I have a thing with the students, if you are at risk of your to yourself and others, you don’t come to class, whatever that risk is, can be mental health, the anything. But if you are just struggling, because I think there’s a difference with students, sometimes students go I feel unsafe, and you go, do you feel unsafe? Or do you feel uncomfortable, because uncomfortable is the requirement of our job. And we’re used to that, you know, we have to get used to that what that feels like and not try to wriggle out of it. And so sometimes I think it’s useful for students, particularly, to just maybe let some of that be in the space, I don’t need to know about it, if they as long as they feel that they can handle it. And I’m not I’m not a I’m not a fan at all of people using trauma in their work. Don’t agree with that. But sometimes the energy that’s required to leave it at the door is like, maybe you can just release it a bit and see what happens.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 37:36
And yeah, and sometimes I know if they if we can do it through your craft, if you have a student who’s up, maybe going through something, releasing it through the appropriate song that they can vent, or they can release that emotion.
Tyran Parke 37:54
It’s so funny, because you know, I’ll often teach, I’ll teach a bunch of actors, and then I’ll teach a bunch of music theatre people the same class, and music theatre people are generally happier, because they just sort of they make the noise that just like get stuff off their chest.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 38:12
Absolutely. And do you find that there are when you’re in that that teaching mode, that there’s a conflict between tire and the director and tire and the teacher?
Tyran Parke 38:26
No, I don’t, I’m pretty clear. I’m pretty clear with my students. I go this is this is technical. And this is taste. I’m not interested in directing you in the piece. I’m interested in your ideas and what you think the piece is about. But sometimes I’m certainly interested in serving the writer. So some of that will be there. Because I’ll go as a director, I do this and I go well, that’s important, actually, because that’s how you serve the writer, which is our job. So that needs to be expressed. So, but I am pretty clear with the students when I am giving them directorial suggestions, and when I am giving them technical
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:10
adjustments, so they know the difference. Yeah, which is fantastic. So in terms of this is the last question I’ll ask about the teaching industry because I’m keen to get on to the other stuff. But in terms of higher education, and the status of programmes at the moment, do you think that students are being being given the right training for the industry? Because I mean, you’re sitting on those audition panels or use a Do you feel that their needs are being served and the industry’s needs are being served when you see this fresh, lot of graduates coming through?
Tyran Parke 39:50
Yeah, that’s my job. And that’s part of the joy of being on panels. I mean, the reason I came to VCE was there’s this extraordinary artist school Jenny Liddell, and I worked with her a lot. And I thought, Who is she, she is so well trained. And then I started to cast a lot of VCA. Grads, and I thought, What are they doing there? What you know. And so I went to try and find out. And now, you know, if I just look at this year, sitting on the audition panels for hairspray, for instance, or tick, tick boom, or any number of things I do, I look at the gaps, or I look at the culture that VCA has, and then how that translates into the room. And then I go and reverse engineer, it’s the same with the teaching, I do the showcase at the end of every year, and I through the showcase, I go, wow, we need to lean more heavily into this element or the end. And I go back and make sure that so it’s the gift of being at both both ends, you know, yeah. So so when you say Do you feel like it serves the industry? I’m, I certainly hope so because I’ve taken that on as, as the role in my life feeds the other. Hmm.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:56
Because I know in my field, I teach in CCM, which is contemporary commercial music styles outside of classical music, that higher education institutions, and meeting the demands of what students want at present, and it’s been a big fight. So I’m glad to see that music theatre institutions then have pulled their socks up, and they’re working with the industry to make them make their students industry ready. And and employable. So, yeah, sorry,
Tyran Parke 41:32
I was gonna say is that that’s, that is, that’s the idea. And each each year, you know, we just had the graduates this year, do the showcase in Sydney and Melbourne? And then, you know, they all got agents. And that’s, that is the measure of success is going, you know, what happens beyond that? I don’t know, you know, we’ve just handed them to the next person who then opens the window to the next thing, and they walk through that in whatever way they want to. And it’s strangely sort of none of my business like, I’m happy for them, whether they become florists or whatever they do. I really happy yeah, I really am. But my job is to give them get them an agent that then gets them in the door that gets them you know, and to just, you know, for them to I want to try and do it VCE is create a world and a culture so that the industry is not very different from what they’ve had here. They just moved through it. And by the time they get to third year, they’re like, Oh, I see this is the industry, and then they’re in Israel go, oh, great, we’re just doing the thing we’ve always done, which is great.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 42:32
That’s just a natural progression. It sounds like it’s just like, this is where we go, we’re just we’re just going from one room to another.
Tyran Parke 42:42
You know, if you think of like, first year is all about, you know, the individual and the like sometimes the individual and ensemble, but about literally your instrument, your body, your voice, your spirit, and storytelling. The second year is about character and style and adjustments and, and text. And the third year is about performance and industry. So by the time you’ve got to the end of third year, like it just seems obvious now that we go into audition rooms.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 43:06
Yeah, yeah. I want to move along into the auditioning process. And this is you sitting on on the audition panel. And I heard the other day was someone on TV was saying, and I had to write it down because I knew I was interviewing you, and was something that Al Pacino had once said, and it was it’s not the best actor that gets the role. It’s the one who is best at auditioning. And I thought this makes so much sense. And I actually used to say this to my students, because how often do you go and see a music theatre production? Let’s just say we keep it within that realm. And you see someone who’s not the strongest dancer, and you know, so many other dancers who are way stronger than than them or you know, someone who’s a brilliant singer, but never gets employed. Yeah. So what is it that you’re looking for? What are what is the number one mistake that people are making these highly talented people? Were they missing out?
Tyran Parke 44:15
Look, I think the biggest thing that stops people from doing well in auditions, myself included, is preparation. And then it’s about being present. So you know, you can’t be present, if you haven’t done like tonnes of preparation to be truly present to be present so that you can play so that people go they have that extra thing. They have the extra shot. They had the extra thing because they knew it so well that they could be in the world of the play with you in a bad audition room. They could just enter it go great. This is what I was thinking, is this what you were thinking now, you can’t do that. If part of your job is is while you’re doing it is you know, lift that soft palate or careful of that tension or
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:58
Tyran Parke 45:00
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 45:00
yeah, technique gets in the way, you have to, it has to be in your body. So well and it has to be like muscle memory that you can then do whatever you want to in the moment and feel given, given honest performance of it
Tyran Parke 45:15
is the reason why in the old days, people used to have you know, two or three songs, and they’d come in and that those were the songs they auditioned with really well. Now, that’s not you know, there’s the the range of music theatre, the demands of the style, vocally, musically, it’s so different that you can’t do that. And also, now you have to pretty much learn the whole role just to go and present that at the audition. So it’s a different thing about how you prepare. And it sounds so simplistic, but it’s, it’s massive. Having that preparation, so that you can then treat that as the lift off, and throw all the homework away. So that is all in your backspace that is done, and you’re present with the person. That is what makes a great audition, the playfulness. And also, of course, knowing that it’s not just about the role, it’s about, Do I want to spend the next, you know, three weeks in a room with this person to come up with these things together? So there’s a generosity of spirit, none of that can happen if you are struggling to remember the words.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 46:15
And do you have an expectation that they know the backstory about the character of the song that they’re singing?
Tyran Parke 46:24
I have my own musical? Yeah, look, I have my own private thing about, I wish you knew more, you know, but that’s the old man in me, you know, people that are very interested in that these days. My main thing is, I will no more, and I will prepare that I just need you to be brave. And if I if I have to lead you to the text a little bit, what does it do for you? What how do you respond to it? So it’s not that, you know, of course, you know, if you’re going to do a piece from Hamilton, or Cinderella, or whatever, you’re doing a piece out of somebody’s life, you’re saying this person lived? They’ve had a whole life that led to this moment? Of course, all of that stuff matters. And if it doesn’t, if you just walk in and sing it brilliantly, I can bring that stuff for you. What are you going to do with the information? Because I need to see embodied very quickly in space.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:17
Do you ever have someone in front of you where they think something nicely and think I had like, but I really want them to do this? Or this? Or maybe let’s see how much I can direct this person? And then you start giving them directions?
Tyran Parke 47:35
Oh, God all the time. Our producers hate it. Because they’re like, can we just move on? And I’m like, hang on, that person can do better? I can, you know, I think, you know, being so active centric. I, I’ve been on many panels where the the musical director will go? I don’t think so. No, I don’t think that voice can blend. And I’ll go, well, let’s ask, let’s ask them to sing it again and see if they can blend. And, and you know, if you ask an actor to do something, they will turn themselves or tie themselves in a knot to do it. They will. But I find too often in this country. It’s like no, no, no, they can’t do this. And I go, Well, let’s ask them. I don’t think they can do it. Or we’ll ask them. I’ve had many when I did chess last year, there was somebody who was in that cast who kept getting cut. And the musical director was No, I just think that their their twang is too bright. Give me a second, I’d run outside and Excuse me, can you come back? Can you the trends a bit bright? Can you can sing it again. They’d solve it, they would solve it. Actors are amazing. What’s tricky. Yeah. When they don’t get invited into the conversation, and you can’t do it with everyone. But I’m, I’m frequently and because I’m interested in working with creative, imaginative people, I will always get up and work with them. But I usually read at my own audition. So I’m the reader as well. So let’s do a scene. And it’s important for me in a way more than what they prepared to know what they’re going to do when they’re engaged with another person on
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 49:07
stage. Yes, exactly. Now, I have a bit of a Peeve and that is when I go to musical theatre shows. I find that there seems to be and this is just my opinion.
Tyran Parke 49:27
A lot of like preamble here like just speak out.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 49:31
Okay, I find that there seems to be at times like a stereotype in terms of physicality, age, that kind of thing. And when it comes to singing, a lot of the singers all sound the same. There seems to be this generic musical theatre 20 sound Oh my god. Yes. Drives me in sane and I want to know like what is it like an assembly line of singers like I’m not it’s it’s bloody terrible and it messes with my head.
Tyran Parke 50:13
I’m gonna tell you the story about about my response to that. I am, I’d love to hear I’m very good friends with a fabulous fabulous singer called Natalie Gamsu. She’s a South African Jewish woman lived all over the world and has a very particular voice very, but very deep voice. You know, she’s done everything from like Disney to, you know, you know, Greek tragedy. And recently there was it might have been a while ago was I think it was the particular anniversary of Fiddler on the roof and there was a woman who does kind of impersonations. I can’t think of her name, everybody people listening will know. And she did a version of tradition. And she said, Wouldn’t it be great she sort of did this thing where she went, I’m gonna sing each part of tradition by a different singer, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Carol Channing. Azrael and blah blah blah Julie Andrews. Barbara cook did it up and you went right and then you and then and it was worth talking about it. And that said if they did it today, that all sound the same because what they do character is no longer in the voice and I blame the mega musical for that. Because what happened is once upon a time it was Carol Channing in hello dolly or Ethel Merman in gypsy or Dara M when can Mack bought out those big name is Miss Saigon did all those things. The show was the star and he was very clear about that this show was going to live on cats now and forever. The show is this the the logo, the show. And you had to sing that way to be in the show. They weren’t interested in character voices like voices that had character they were interested in. When Michael Ball played Marius, everyone after that, for the last 30 years has tried to sound like Michael Ball has. And that’s what they’re not interested in your own version of that’s the nature of that kind of theatre is they’re not interested in your your response to it. They’re interested in repeating and maintaining what Michael Ball did. And I think that has really meant that there’s become a musical theatre sound that people emulate or tried and I go off, sing with your voice sing with your voice. Thank you voice sounds more interesting.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 52:40
Yes. Because as a singing teacher, I say, Well, if you’re trying to sound like someone else, then you’re manipulating your instrument. And therefore how is that sustainable? for X number of shows a week
Tyran Parke 52:55
and just like, how was it interesting because I’ve got a past recording of markable singing it and it’s great. But I don’t need to go to the theatre. If you’re just going to sound like him. I want to I want to know what you bring, you know what you some other markable things as an example, but you know what I mean?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:12
Yeah, and on on in terms of sustainability. I know the shows are becoming more and more demanding physically, and vocally. You know, what they’re asking singers to belt and to be able to sustain? And the number of songs in in all the shows is ridiculous. Are these artists now being taken care of? Bye, bye production companies? Is there a team around them? Like? Do they have speech pads? Do they have singing teachers? Do they have physiotherapist? How are these people being taken care of that are expected to keep going and going and going?
Tyran Parke 53:58
That’s a very interesting look. I think people have again post pandemic started to understand the toll on performance. The arts well being collective here in Melbourne was created because of that survey that revealed the very very alarming mental health challenges in the industry. I think I think the thing about like, I know that this is where it all becomes oh my gosh, we could talk for days about that the the economy of theatre so you know what it once used to cost to put on a show what it costs now and how you have to be that Energizer Bunny, that machine and how even shows like Hamilton they’re not really written to do eight shows a week or the demands are so massive. Now of course we’ve seen things like we know that all the alphabets have had vocal damage and in Wicked and we know that We also know that you can do something on an album, that then somebody has to then repeat, you know, each night and, you know, forever on, you know, go on. Yes. I think a lot of that is really left to the performer to try and navigate. And I think it’s quite difficult. And I often I often don’t think people know, when they’re creating the shows what the effect is going to be long term, because you can do it in a workshop and you can do it in rehearsals, but it’s the, it’s you know, you’re a singing teacher, it’s the you get tired, or you hit that time when you’re sick. And you’ve got to go on and you don’t have the recovery time, and then you’re always chasing your tail, because you never recovered time again. So I think I think it’s problematic. I also think there’s a really a problematic value of belting. Hi. So I find it tricky with my own students, they have that American Idol thing of like, where what, you know, like, I’m all about story, and we’re watching a student’s seeing, and suddenly they hit a note and they clap. And I go, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, like, like when we’re in a Shakespeare scene, and somebody has a, you know, we don’t we don’t clap at the big emotional moment. Like we go. What? Like, no, I feel like that that’s a that’s a cultural, you know, American Idol thing where we scream at the big note. And I think that’s really problematic, because we’re valuing kind of the vocal gymnast above the story. I mean, we all love it when they belt high. And there’s a there’s a reason and they’re going for the story. But does that make us burst into applause?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 56:35
Yes. That’s like turning the chair on the voice. Right, right. That’s right. Yeah, that’s why I don’t watch the voice. It’s the people that can yell the loudest are the ones that they’ve turned the chair for. And I don’t think it’s very good that they’re encouraging that kind of thinking.
Tyran Parke 56:52
But it’s really interesting. We’re just warming has to Tick Boom. You know, it’s Jonathan Larson rock musical. And the musical director Cohen. He was very clear, I’m not interested in just like a big loud the big Thanos. He went, I want to voice that is sustainable through the range. That sounds like the one voice as the people that we cast are not those people who come out and just go. Yeah, we kind of yeah,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:19
yes, yes. So with the world of change at present in terms of equity, diversity, inclusivity and belonging? How do you handle all the politics and all that political correctness? Now within the music industry?
Tyran Parke 57:39
I’m not sure what the I’m not sure. In terms of how to answer how I handle it. I think I just have to, as I said, I’m an old or
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:47
sorry, we can make it more general like it. How do how do production companies deal with all this? Because it’s changing all the time. And it’s almost like, we have to be educated on a regular basis to keep up with it all.
Tyran Parke 58:04
Yeah, and I think you tried to save me that and go, we can make it, it’s actually easier to make it more specific. But I guess what I’m thinking about in terms of that, Marissa is when I say like, I’m an old white dude, it’s, it’s my time to listen, now. You know, old white dudes have held the space of this, of these conversations for a long time. So it’s my job to listen. And as you say, it’s changing all the time. It’s really, so I know, he has seen teachers who really feel it particularly because singing teachers are often the ones that are in a room in their studios, that is, is isolated, they don’t necessarily work with colleagues that are coming in and feeding ideas and having a space to reflect. Yes, yeah. So I think, you know, I am blessed and cursed with the fact that I work with young people who, like it’s part of we can’t step into the studio without having those discussions, because it’s between us in the work otherwise. So it is about trying to stay up to date and trying to research and trying to understand and then listening to the young people and a bit like what I said before knowing sometimes it’s okay to push back but to go only after I go, what is the impact here? What can I learn? My thesis was about reviving musicals in Australia at a commercial level and working to ensure that you’re not reviving the social aspects of the time that are homophobic, racist or misogynistic, hard thing to do, particularly if you’ve grown up with a nostalgia about musical theatre. So you know, I had to do a thesis in order to go, this is my, I tell students that I’m going to stand for something. I’m going to have to do a bit of work around that. Just to understand because it’s not my lived experience, so I need to listen quite a lot.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:07
Have ik you call yourself a white old dude which cracks me up? Because you’re certainly not old. But have you ever in your career though, even as a white guy, have you ever been silenced? Or you felt that you haven’t been heard in the industry? Someone tried to quiet new down?
Tyran Parke 1:00:35
A great question. One of the same one that I’m thinking about now?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:40
No, no, just in a general way. Have you ever felt like someone’s not listening to me here? I’m trying to tell them something. I’m not being heard. I’m being silenced in this moment. Absolutely.
Tyran Parke 1:00:53
Absolutely. And there is something about my inherent respect for people that I don’t think it’s a bad thing in my, in my respect for people in the industry, and my elders, if you like, and all of that, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing around that. Now, if I’m, if I’m not being heard of her being silenced, I try to consider what is problematic in my communication. So I try to go How can I? What is what is here that I can understand for somebody to lose receiving me in that way? What what is going on? With me? What can I learn here, and it’s not always easy, of course, of course, you know, it’s an I’ve got an ego, like, nobody has a theatre company and festival and department and you know, a career and directing and doesn’t have an ego. So, so it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a balance in a way. And it’s a struggle that is made clear up through research, whether that be formal research, or just listening, and also a trust in oneself, that you will clean up any mess. So you, I will be able to communicate my way through whatever I mess up, and sit in the uncomfortableness of that to ultimately learn from it. I think that where I have to step in most with teachers that work here at the VCA are people who are too scared now to really engage in the work because they’re worried that they might get cancelled at the highest level? Or really, yeah, a bit a bit. Yeah. Or people who, and they wouldn’t. It’s not, that’s the most exaggerated level. Or they’re nervous about students about putting a foot wrong. And, and I go, we’re telling them pull from fail, get with this going full circle for our conversation here in the studio, we’re going fail, yes, you’re allowed to fail. them seeing me fail. And me going. I’m so sorry. I don’t understand. At what do I have to do? Sometimes I will ask you to teach me but I also understand that sometimes people of colour are tired of teaching me and I absolutely, just point me towards somewhere, or I’ll go and find it, you know. So I mean, that’s a very complex system that we’re talking about, in a way. But yeah, I think where it comes from mostly is also where, if you’re a teacher years ago, I remember seeing dance teachers, particularly students would go, what does that mean, and they’ve got our you’ve just got to get the, you know, the, you know, the internal gravitas of the music that goes, you know, borrow power, and the student got, okay, great, and and then seeing it go much better. And you go, That doesn’t even make any sense. Like, what what are we talking about here?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:44
I think what is that?
Tyran Parke 1:03:47
I think we’ve got to be brave enough to sit in unknowns with each other. And we talked before about vulnerability, if we can’t be vulnerable as teachers for is trying to pass on the knowledge, the knowledge is outdated. Now, anyway, a lot of it is useful, but we have to be constantly redefining our approach into it and our doorways that we’re opening into it, or it’s not going to it’s going to be outdated.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:04:09
Yeah. And, yeah, yep. We talked about political correctness. And we’re still talking about that. But I remember at a conference that you were presenting at a couple of months ago, where we reconnected, you talked about intimacy coordination, and there are sensitivity readers for productions. So what are these roles and and how do you make decisions around what is appropriate or nope, not within a music, theatre production? Great. And can you can you make changes to a show because now, we don’t refer to a person that way or women are not treated like that. These days. Yeah,
Tyran Parke 1:05:01
absolutely. So, um, so there’s sort of two two responses there. The first one, which is the very practical response of why do we have sensitivity readers and and like the the industry has changed. And it’s changed because there were quite a large group of people who were feeling the negative impact of not really being heard. And, you know, when I think back to my year group at Wattpad, there were a lot of struggles that were happening behind closed doors there. And the impact wasn’t great. You know, it was a long time ago, and it was not you weren’t encouraged to eat well, you know, it’s just be skin.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:05:36
Yeah, yeah. The ballet world. Yes, certainly.
Tyran Parke 1:05:40
And so, you know, there was also that culturally there was that in terms of misogyny, homophobia and music theatre has been written largely with a white focus and by and by men, in a in worlds, that they haven’t known their unconscious bias. They can’t, Shakespeare didn’t know his, his bias, how could he he was in the world, you know. And we have sensitivity readers so that they read the play from a perspective outside of mine. So they will not be white people. They will not be mad, if it’s a show, I’m directing. It’ll be somebody who’s who reflects something that I didn’t know, I didn’t see. One of the examples that I often give is, when I was directing chess, I grew up with chess. So I didn’t, I didn’t question a particular lyric until I had a non binary students cast member in the, in the show who said to me, Look, this is offensive. And I was like, Oh, is that what that means? Oh, my God. So you know, my own bias, didn’t hear it in my nostalgia anyway. And so we have, we have set things set up. So like sensitivity raters to go, as a director, you need to be aware of this and the impact of that, what are you going to do about it? Intimacy coordinator, coordinators, or something else. That’s for people who are, you know, we have to use our bodies in ways in the theatre, and in intimate ways. And we have fight choreographers, this is so that it keeps people safe. So there are boundaries, so it’s repeatable, just like choreography. And my experience of intimacy coordinators is that they liberate the work, I do things way more graphically, than I would if it was just me fumbling going, is that, okay? If you just like touch, there’s that kind of, you know, there’s a language and a process. And everybody understands that. And then, in terms of the second part of the question, which is, what do you do, when you have a piece that’s problematic, which is, most pieces in musical theatre, you’ve got a few choices, you can be creative about the response, in terms of where you set it in terms of to be really clear. Also, there’s nothing wrong with seeing misogyny, misogyny or homophobia or racism on stage. There’s nothing wrong with seeing that, provided, there’s consequence to it, or irony in it provided that right, yeah, it’s not like we’re trying to go, this never happens, that would be awful, our theatre would be so boring, and never we go that doesn’t reflect life. We but what we’re saying is that the writer doesn’t believe in this, there’s a consequence to this. So there’s irony or there’s a way that it’s set up. So as an as a director, you have to look at all the ways that you can make it work that could be through costuming, through props, through delivery of lines through particular and you know, I could talk about this forever, but I won’t. All of that, you know, there’s a creative response. And then if you really can’t, there’s a letter to the, to the estate people that authors and in my own career, they’ve always been very open to that because they are largely white men who go, what are you seeing that? I that? I don’t how, like, really, is that okay? And they they don’t want it to be offensive. They just don’t like if I said to Shakespeare, Shakespeare, can we talk about Taming of the Shrew? You know, I’m sure he got, but I didn’t mean that you go, okay, where it sits. Now, this is what it looks like, can I possibly blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I think everyone is engaged in the act of listening to a piece of theatre in the context of today, which has changed very much in the last five years. And I think that’s part of our responsibility and our skill set. And I think sometimes, and sometimes you can’t change it in those instances, you maybe should consider whether it’s, you’re the right person to direct it.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:09:21
Well, that that’s a lot. I know. That was quite a big question. Oh, my God. I’m thinking that’s a lot of work for a director. That’s a lot to consider. But hey, you know what, you’re educating the the people who wrote the pieces to that’s, that’s incredible. Well, it is you are in a sense doing that.
Tyran Parke 1:09:44
It is more work. It’s part of the thing that changed is directors can’t just waltz in and go, Okay, darlings, I’m in charge. Come over there. Stand there, put your arm up. There you go. It’s you can’t do that and it’s part of what has shifted in the community theatre world is that community theatre has often had a value Which is like just doing the professional production on a smaller stage, you know, but they do that, because they’ll find them. They’re finding they’re, they’re falling into unconscious going. Issues of going, I wouldn’t mean that, but they did it in this they get they did that. But that was 15 years ago and the world changed. It has changed. Yeah, keep an eye on it part of the job, I’m afraid.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:23
Yeah. Yeah. There’s so many questions I want to so many because I mean, then you have to consider audiences and how they’re going to react to, to seeing theatre, as it was 15 years ago. But now, when they see it in the new context, how do they react to that they grateful for that? Or do they? Do they enjoy that? Or do audiences walk out because it’s changed?
Tyran Parke 1:10:56
Yeah, and I think for me, personally, my thesis was on very specifically Commercial Music Theatre in Australia, which has a very specific outcome, which is a money, right, and clarity, that’s what it’s up. So we’re not you know, you can go to the Hayes you can go to kind of an independent theatre company, you can make these extraordinary, interesting new ways of doing it, and people will accept it for where it is. What I find really tricky is you want to do the that thing. And it’s been done before, but in My Fair Lady how prints in in Cabaret where there’s singing about one thing, but there’s something else going on. So on one level, people are enjoying it, but also with what we’re saying can can land in a particular way. And, and I don’t think anyone misses the old version of My Fair Lady when they see it, because it’s not radically different than not in like punk uniforms. Or, you know, they’re still look like, it still looks like My Fair Lady, it’s just at the end, has more agency for the lead female character. And, you know, some people might go, oh, how, you know, fancy doing that to theatre? And I go, Yeah, I mean, I guess it’s, it depends on your depends what you think theatre is for? Yeah, so we each come to that with our own, with our own thing, understanding the impact on minority groups has been part of my life, particularly since being here VCA. And so therefore, it’s a responsibility of my work.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:12:23
We’re gonna start wrapping this up, because we could talk forever. You really compare things, and we got really big fear.
Tyran Parke 1:12:32
I thought we were just gonna laugh and chat for a whole bunch, you know, like, Oh, my God.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:12:36
Sorry. All right. Well get, we can laugh, we can laugh. But I was just so interested in what you were saying that I got suckered into the conversation, and I was hungry for wanting to learn more about what you were saying. So advice you would like to give to teachers that are working in the music theatre industry? Do you have anything you would like to offer them?
Tyran Parke 1:13:03
Keep your own curious curiosity? And don’t pretend to know everything? If you pretend to know everything, just don’t show up? I come in with an inquiry and engage everybody else in how might we do
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:13:15
this? Love it? And what about advice for emerging artists, people who want to get into the performing arts industry, music theatre is specifically
Tyran Parke 1:13:30
what I try and encourage in the people I work with is yes, you have to sing, you have to dance, you have to act. But that will only take you so far. Because what will happen is you’ll get really good at that. And before you know it, you’ll be in a show. And then you’ll realise the show is not your life, and it will feel empty. So add to that, a monstrous hunger for storytelling. And you’ll always be evolving and rich and engaged and soaking the marrow out of what you’ve done, even if it’s what some people might consider to be escapism.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:14:07
Well, that was thunder. That is thunder.
Tyran Parke 1:14:11
Oh my god, that was like the gods going like like
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:14:16
that was so dramatic. We couldn’t have written that into a show.
Tyran Parke 1:14:22
Sitting there on the on the sound effect button going ready to go bam, go.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:14:28
And what about legacy for you? You’ve done all these incredible things, and you continue to do all these incredible things. What would you like to be remembered for?
Tyran Parke 1:14:38
The festival? And that’s a weird thing. That’s very specific talent. I mean, you have your own company have your own, but the festival is the most the Australian musical theatre festival in in Launceston each May is the thing that I believe theatre to be about. And it is about community and storytelling, and yes, it’s about musical theatre, but it’s framed in a way that people feel Find something in themselves. That is very unique and in the end of the day is much bigger than musical theatre because it’s about empathy and communication and understanding and character and seeing things from various points of view. That it’s that yes, it’s the festival, but the festival is, you know, I’m in such a fortunate position where I have a series of events that speak to each other, and through the art form that I love, in a way that is bigger than the art form that I love.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:15:35
That is brilliant. Gunda where’s the
Tyran Parke 1:15:37
thunderclap for that? Thank you.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:15:40
I just gave you a clap. Sorry, it’s nowhere near as dramatic. I can’t find a clap.
Tyran Parke 1:15:53
Believe me, everyone. I’m not usually this earnest. But she just asking all the really big questions. I’m like, Oh my god.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:16:00
Tyran Parke 1:16:01
I love it. I love it. It’s great.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:16:04
Yes, and what are you up to next?
Tyran Parke 1:16:07
The very next thing I do is go and collapse on an island, which is fantastic. Yes, then come back and do a lot of setting up for next year for VCA. And then I go straight into the Tick Tick Boom, which is the the musical about Jonathan Larson, the guy who wrote rent, five people, fabulous band, fabulous team. And now as of today is set, which is lovely. And that will tour. And then I start, you know that I’m back into VCA, which was always a new lease of life at the start of the year about what do we want to achieve? So looking forward to it
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:16:41
amazing. Well, we’re going to share links to where people can find you your work, anything you want to share. So people can find out more and follow your next because there’s always a next with you.
Tyran Parke 1:16:55
And you’re so you’re so busy constant.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:16:59
I know we’re both busy. We’re both curious. Indeed. And we we always have to have a next even even when we’re sitting on an island. There’s still got to be a next year’s. Thank you. Thank you so much for being on the show. And good luck with everything and enjoy your island.
Tyran Parke 1:17:19
Thank you so much. I shall I can’t wait to see you in person again soon. Thank you for having me.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:17:23
I know air hug. Yeah, indeed. Thank you. Bye. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of a voice and beyond. I hope you enjoyed it as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you’d like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode have a voice and beyond