The Exile Project

The exile is a ball hurled high into the air.” – Salman Rushdie

Arena Theatre Company is currently exploring ideas of community, acceptance and exile through a residency at Westall Secondary College, a small, friendly and culturally diverse school in Melbourne’s south east.

With Year 7-9 students, we’re probing realms of finger tutting, the value of eye contact, and just how essential free wifi at Maccas is for on- and offline friendships.

We’ve also learned that there are lots of different types of exiles, and that it needn’t always be a gloomy concept.

The Exile Project is supported by the Newsboys Foundation and an Extended School Residency through Arts Victoria.

Performance, December 2012

From the outset we asked the students what sort of show they would make if they could put absolutely anything they wanted into the performance. The challenge for us as theatre makers was to find a way to re-invent our own practice and processes to be able to create the kind of event the students presented to us. 

Students from years 7-9 attended the weekly drama workshops at the beginning of Term 3, and 56 students volunteered to continue with the project into Term 4.

The stories and creativity that were shared with Arena’s artists were extraordinary, inspiring, funny and sometimes deeply moving.

The plan for 2013

In 2012 The Exile Project was an Extended School Residencies funded project: a collaboration with Arena Theatre Company and Westall Secondary College exploring nationhood and belonging. Students and teachers used visual arts and performance workshops to devise a new multi-platform theatre performance and an iPad-based interactive visual artwork.

Arena undertook a two-term artistic residency at Westall during Terms 3 and 4 2012. We will continue this with a series of follow-up activities in Term 1 2013. 

About Westall Secondary College

Westall is a small school of approximately 400 students.

A very high proportion of students (73%) drawn from a non-English speaking background.

The school is a culturally rich and diverse learning community that is highly regarded for promoting harmony and social justice.

Due to slowing enrolments over the last few years, the school’s Arts and Technology curriculum has taken a number of cuts. The school can no longer offer Drama and Dance above year 9, Woodwork above year 9, Information Technology at all between 7-12 or VCE Theatre Studies.

Westall has been a pilot school in the DEECD “iPads for Learning” program during 2010-11. The program is exploring and seeking to maximise the ways that technology can be integrated across all subject areas. All of Westall, every year 7 and 8 student, is equipped with and iPad and uses it right across the curriculum. 

The combination of the school’s student population, financially dictated curriculum constraints and embedded technological capacity provides a unique and fertile environment for a creative process.

Who's leading the project?

This project is lead by Arena’s new Artistic Director Christian Leavesley.

Christian is collaborating with an awesome team of theatre artists including Declan Greene, Petra Kalive, Marg Horwell, Emily Taylor, Robert Jordan and Lachlan Woods.

What is an Extended School Residency?

Extended School Residencies is an Australia Council and Arts Victoria funded program which;