Her Sydney Theatre Co project brings Helen home to Armidale

Published 08 October 2012

Helen Machalias, a University of New England graduate now working for the Sydney Theatre Company (STC), is managing the STC’s New England Project, which culminates on stage in Armidale this week.

The project, which has involved hundreds of New England school students over the past year, has seen the creation of a new play – In a Heart Beat – that will be staged at The Armidale School’s Hoskins Centre in a five-day season beginning today, Tuesday 9 October.

Helen (pictured here) is the Acting Education Coordinator of the STC’s Communities Department, which provides workshops and mentoring opportunities for young people through conducting projects in schools and communities. The New England Project was initiated to create a new Australian work within an artistically vibrant regional community, using the expertise of the STC to support regional students’ drama education.

In a Heart Beat follows the story of a frustrated teenager – an outsider in his own town – who wants to leave school and family behind at the first opportunity. Written by Jo Turner and directed by Susanna Dowling (Artists in Residence at the STC), In a Heart Beat features professional actors Eamon Farren, Georgina Symes and Andrew Tighe, together with local performers Ethan Cranfield, Sam Kreusler and Eleanor Prokop (all from Armidale High School), Rheyanon Shields (Duval High School), Jack Tearle (The Armidale School), Emily Roberts and Adam Williams.

Helen Machalias graduated from UNE in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Theatre and Communications. Beginning her career as a graduate at the Department of Water, Environment, Heritage and the Arts, she received an Australia Day Medal for her work on the Indigenous Broadcasting and Media Sector Review. In 2011 she was one of 12 arts managers from Australia to travel to New York to participate in the Bite the Big Apple Arts Management Tour. She began work with the Sydney Theatre Company last year, and is currently on the board of Young People and the Arts Australia.

“I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have studied in the School of Arts at UNE,” Helen said. “My degree was rigorous, fun and intellectually stimulating, and prepared me for a career in the creative industries and further developed what will be a lifelong passion for the arts. My lecturers were all knowledgeable and passionate about their subject, and because of the smaller class sizes knew all of their students as individuals.

“The University has contributed greatly to the New England Project, with other UNE alumni – including Chris Curcuruto, Alex Robson and Ben Bible – working on the production. We’ve also received support from the UNE Theatre Studies department, which provided us with a venue for our afternoon workshops, and the UNE Printery, which is an official sponsor of the project and has provided support through the printing of posters and programs for the production.”

“I’m still pinching myself that I got to manage this project,” she said. “For a proud Armidalian and lover of youth arts, it doesn’t get much better than the New England Project. Throughout the year I’ve been reminded of what a generous and artistically vibrant place Armidale is.”

Performances of In a Heart Beat are at 7.30 pm Tuesday 9 to Saturday 13 October, with matinees at 1.30 pm on Tuesday, and 11 am on Thursday and Friday. Bookings can be made online at www.trybooking.com/ZXL or by phoning the Hoskins Centre on (02) 6776 5878.

The STC is offering free tickets to UNE staff members and students for the performance on Thursday October 11 at 7.30 pm.