Five Questions for Caitlin Overton, Master of Theatre (Directing) student

Caitlin Overton, Master of Theatre (Directing) student. Photo by Giulia McGauran.
Caitlin Overton, Master of Theatre (Directing) student. Photo by Giulia McGauran.

Having grown up in rural NSW, VCA Theatre student Caitlin Overton is looking for ways to bridge the gap between rural and metropolitan creatives.

Hi Caitlin, can you tell us what you’re doing currently in your studies?

I’m currently working towards my directing showcase. Based between Melbourne and where I grew up in rural NSW, I’m trialing the use of two-way live-streaming in remote collaboration and performance. This is new to Australian audiences and produced by a team of rural and metropolitan creatives across theatre and television. I’m testing the potential for live stream to connect makers and invigorate the discipline.

My work has a strong focus on regional-metropolitan collaboration, immersive technologies and female dramaturgies. I’ve just finished up a residency at Falls Creek with the fantastic CAD Factory team. We were devising with the community and experimenting with projection-mapping onto clouds in collaboration with the National Museum of Australia.

This year I’ve had the opportunity to assist [award-winning writer, actor, social-activist, comedian and producer] Candy Bowers on a VCA graduate show, work on a female-led theatre project for La Mama Explorations and Melbourne Fringe. Last but definitely not least, I’ve also had secondments with Cardboard Citizens, London, and Theatre Conspiracy, Vancouver.

Was directing an obvious choice for you? And was there something that convinced you to study at the VCA rather than somewhere else?

Working in the UK, I looked to broaden my technical skills in stage management and lighting design. I knew I wanted to be a director who wore a lot of different hats including community theatre making, festival production and developing immersive technologies.

The VCA offered me an opportunity to collaborate with performers, composers and designers across a range of disciplines, all on the same campus. I was impressed by the depth of study, over a full two years, including the chance to intern with mainstage Australian theatres, to help establish myself back home. Lastly, I’m an oddball – I love writing about performance almost as much as I like making it. The VCA offered a chance to work with intellectual rigour, to begin to more critically interrogate my work and locate it within a much larger national and international conversation.

Has the course met your expectations?

Somehow I thought I would leave my masters course cured of any self-doubt, with my own manual on “How To Direct”. I’ve learnt that the best directors start every project plagued by doubt and the work itself should demand something different of you every time. VCA has taught me not to shy away from the unpredictable. Whether as a director or community theatre-maker, you’re not there to offer up solutions but rather to inspect the guts of the problem.

Rather than be daunted by this challenge, my teachers have helped me develop a working ethic for my rehearsal room, grounded in generosity, curiosity and deep respect. Above all, I am humbled and inspired daily by the rigour and fearlessness of my peers – who I hope to work with long into the future.

From your own experience, what advice would you give someone at the start of their journey studying at the VCA?

Work from your personal experience but be sure to make that experience vast. Soak up different forms of arts and culture: catch some opera or cabaret, drop into a gallery, a poetry reading, attend a rally or seven and read ravenously.

For directors about to start their studies at the VCA – don’t be afraid to experiment with technology, push its limits and make it your own. Get some second-hand lights, a decent speaker or a mini projector and incorporate lighting, sound and AV early in development. Add your own twist and simple as it sounds – make the kind of work you want to see.

What does your dream career look like?

I want to keep working with the theatre makers I’ve been lucky enough to meet here at the VCA and welcome new artists to our company Bossy Theatre. I want to keep working closely with regional communities, testing technologies like two-way livestreaming and virtual reality to spark interstate and international collaborations. I’m more determined than ever to make work that cherishes the unique contribution of regional artists and situates them at the forefront of innovation.

I hope to be vigilant about the kind of shows I want to be a part of and importantly how they are made – I have learnt not to compromise on my principles and fight to work in an environment that is inclusive and respectful.

Find out more about the Master of Theatre (Directing) at the University of Melbourne