The Heart of Theatre

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By Timothy Courtman

Many suburbs in Melbourne are known for having certain landmarks and features that make them what they are today; from Ringwood being home to Eastland, Doncaster’s Westfield, and Melbourne CBD being known historically for the Queen Victoria Market. St Kilda is historically known for its theatres, from the National Theatre to the Palais Theatre, they go back more than three quarters of a century and have made Melbourne what it is today.

In my years of living in Melbourne I have always seen the artistic side of this tourist destination and the many theatres that spread along St Kilda’s body shows this, and even though it isn’t St Kilda based the Art Centre epitomizes this. Melbourne has a strong arts background and the general population see this as part of their city. St Kilda’s theatres provide a pathway for upcoming artists to express and train in their craft/skills and that’s what makes St Kilda so important. The National Theatre has been operating for almost eighty years and has seen many artists pass through its doors and on to bigger and better things. What makes this theatre scene special is one particular theatre; the Palais Theatre, it offers an authentic drama experience with the enjoyment of watching some really great performances that match the vibrant framework of the building itself. These buildings are reminiscent of a past long gone, but still they remember it all, they remember through each performance that is crafted together within their walls.

Now, theatre was a really big deal more than half a century ago and as most people lived and worked close to the CBD, on the off chance they weren’t busy with their lives, there was the Palais and the National Theatres waiting for them in all their splendour and glory. Theatre may not be as popular these days as it once was, but it still holds a lot of its magic and excitement; waiting in line with your ticket (or without, as the case may be) and walking through those legendary doors to the glamour that awaits, then sitting down in your seat and waiting in anticipation for the curtains to open to reveal the magic behind its flowing fragments. The show is what makes the night (obviously) and they’re the reason why we like the theatre so much.

St Kilda, I believe, is the centre of the theatre establishment in Melbourne – apart from the fact that there are many theatres scattered all over the CBD (like the Princess, Athenaeum, and Palace Theatres to name a few). We go to St Kilda and South Bank to learn the skill required to perform in these establishments; one thing that is special about most of the theatres in St Kilda is that they are both professional based theatres and also have educational classes in them that range from 6 months to 3 years. To most people theatre is an escape from the drudgery of life; it enables people to experience a different side of life and to express themselves without fear of ridicule and embarrassment.

Theatre has a magic about it where everyone within the assembly are equals and everyone is there to be a part of something unique and wonderful, it has a way of bringing people together in a common goal to make a performance happen, an experience. What I have discovered is that drama/theatre is one of those things that really gets the adrenaline going for many of us and the thought of performing intrigues us, the idea of pretending to be someone else is an idea that appeals to many of us.

Theatre/Acting is a way of escaping from your existence into another existence and experiencing a life apart from your own, kind of like a dream. It is why theatre has such an appeal for many people and why acting is so popular and intriguing. Its acting, its drama and its performance, it’s St Kilda; the heart of theatre.

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