Huw McKinnon

As the Resident Artist in Education, I work with many young people in regional communities and Juvenile Justice centres who have challenges in their lives. I’ve seen how our work can broaden their world and give them the confidence to dream.

On more than one occasion, I have had a young person say to me after performing at the end of an Artist in Residence program “I am so excited, but I don’t know why.” I explain, “dude, that’s pride – you are proud of yourself.” It makes me realise the impact we have as a company and the sense of achievement we can imbue in young people.

My journey with Bell Shakespeare began before I ever worked for the company. When you graduate from acting school, there is an agent’s day where you get to perform a piece. They tell you, “don’t do Shakespeare” but I really wanted to do the nunnery scene from Hamlet. Thank god I did because Bell Shakespeare was there and that was the start of the journey.

I was part of the Actor’s at Work program (now called The Players) in 2004. You really felt like you were following in the footsteps of John Bell in the early days of the company when everyone was out in schools between the mainstage productions. After that I got some mainstage work in Romeo and Juliet and then Macbeth. The company has always been good about nurturing people and encouraging people to try different things and I just kept saying “yes”.

2020 was frantic and scary at first, but oddly very exciting. What we managed to do has forever changed what we are able to do and the communities we can reach. Our digital studio enabled us to broadcast seminars all over Australia. Usually, we can only offer these seminars in Sydney because of the expense of sending two teaching artists.

I was concerned about transitioning the John Bell Scholarship auditions to a virtual environment because it is more challenging to build raport with students but we found it affirming because for the first time, students were doing auditions in the presence of their parents rather than while at school so their parents could hear the audition. On a number of occasions, parents expressed their thanks and how valuable the experience was for their young person.

My dream is for Bell Shakespeare to be able to reach any community that will have us, so we can continue to provide inspiring experiences to students and teachers across Australia.

To support Bell Shakespeare, you can donate online or contact our Philanthropy Team via email or phone at 02 8298 9080.