The Brunswick performing arts community stack up incredibly well against the world’s best as described by Centrestage Director Ian White.
Brunswick East boasts an incredibly vibrant arts community and we can thank the many organisations in the area that support and nurture this important part of the suburb’s unique identity. One of those special organisations is the Centrestage performing arts school.
After training as a high school drama teacher, Ian moved to Sydney and became a performer in several high calibre shows for over ten years culminating in his work with the original cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats.
Changing tact, he moved back to Melbourne and embarked on a new journey setting up what would soon be the Centrestage performing arts school. The education institute was set up in a working-class area as Ian and his wife Leanne were also from a working-class background.
The concept of having a performing arts school and not just a dance school was deliberate in order to create a broader appeal to the local community while featuring an all in-one packaged service.
Combining singing, acting and dancing – Centrestage was born!
First housed under the roof of the Brunswick Bowls club, the school grew out of the space within a year and moved into their own premises on Staley Street. They were there for 17 years and then outgrew that venue to reside at their current location on Albert Street close to where it all began.
Brunswick certainly has become more diverse in their 28 years of business. Through their agency work in the performing arts field, Centrestage has seen a variety of people of different age groups and backgrounds seek guidance and go on to work all around the globe from New York to Copenhagen.
“The very first trip I did with taking kids from here I was a little bit nervous but within the first couple of days and meeting people, working with people, doing workshops, seeing shows – I felt very proud and I felt very reaffirmed, going, yea, you know what, we’re doing pretty well.”
Their students can be found in television shows, at their own gigs or as a part of a dance ensemble – each of them growing from young children to bona fide superstars.
Students and graduates have gone onto work in major shows such as: West Side Story, Mamma Mia, Wicked, Jersey Boys, King Kong, Mary Poppins (Australia and Broadway), Rock of Ages, Winners & Losers, Charlotte’s Web, Sea Patrol, Snake Tales, Hating Alison Ashley, Neighbours and many more.
On top of training and representing budding local artists, Centrestage takes pride in utilising local spaces like Howler in order to showcase their students’ many talents. Thanks to their decades in the industry, the school’s reputation has spread to all corners of the globe and they are constantly approached by parties outside the community seeking their services and tutelage.
“In the early days it was very frustrating because in Australian casting there was a lack of diversity in the demand for talent whereas we are seeing now more and more all the time on casting briefs and talking to casting people – they want more diversity. So, we are able to embrace that a lot more in our agency.”
Although musical theatre has always been their passion, Ian and Leanne encourage all forms of expression and ability. With East Brunswick Village and several other projects going up in the area, the school is very keen to expand and scale up its operations to cater for the new influx of people joining the neighbourhood.
Full time courses are available however you will need to audition however after-hours courses are open to everybody without auditions. The school promotes inclusiveness and welcomes all those willing to step onto the stage so if you have any young folk keen on spreading their creative wings, we encourage you contact Centrestage.