Oscar Grant runs his own show. He literally wrote, directed, produced and performed his own show. With that passion for theatre, Oscar, an alumnus of Class Act Productions and creator of Flicker, sheds light on Gippsland’s “fantastic musical scene” and the life lessons he’s learnt from the stage.
Please provide us with some details on growing up in Gippsland?
I’ve lived my whole life in Traralgon. I went to primary school at St Michael’s, and then went to high school at Lavalla Catholic College, before transferring to St Paul’s Anglican Grammar School. When I was about fifteen, I got involved with Class Act Productions and started doing everything they had on offer: from kids’ shows and adult productions, to trips and dance classes.
What was the catalyst that led you to explore the theatre?
I received a drama scholarship to attend St Paul’s, and I think [that] when that happened, I sort of realised that I could actually do this and it could be more than a hobby.
[Before that], I never really saw myself as particularly talented. I wasn’t usually picked to play the lead roles, [instead] I mostly played villains or character parts, which was so much fun. It always made me work that little bit harder because I knew I had only so much time on stage, so I would just milk the hell out of it.
What led you to start performing professionally?
I started actually trying to do it as a career when I was sixteen because that’s when people start asking you, ‘What you wanna do with the rest of your life?’. All I had really worked hard on up to that point was trying to get lead roles in local musicals, so I figured that it could be a career for me, and here we are!
Did you have any great teachers or programs that encouraged your creativity?
Mandie Black, David Williams and Michael Mendez run Class Act, and they were just always so excellent with me. They gave me so many opportunities to perform and grow as a performer. Chris Staben, Kylie Sinclair, Casey Hall and Prudence Scholtes were also amazing teachers, who were absolute angels when it came to encouraging me to pursue performing as a career, too.
Are there any skills or techniques from theatre that you apply to everyday life?
The biggest rule in improvisation is ‘to go with it’. No matter what anyone says, if it’s not as funny as you’d hoped or if it’s something you don’t quite get, just go with it.
I find that a person’s ability to take whatever comes at them, to be willing to play and work with what they have, is something that is valued by everyone you meet.
Can you describe how vulnerability and your sense of self plays into your art?
For me, vulnerability is all that there is to art. No one wants to see someone get up on stage and risk nothing. You have to risk that people might hate it. You have to risk that what you’re trying to show the world isn’t what the world wants to see. Funnily enough, that really only happens when you’re not vulnerable. People say no, audiences don’t laugh at your jokes or cry in the sad songs, but I believe that if you truly risk everything you have just for a laugh, if you can honestly show the world just how messed up you are for a reaction, then people cannot help but be moved by your vulnerability and the strength that comes with it.
What steps do you take to get into character?
I try and figure out what a character’s objective is within a scene or play. Then, I decide what action (to grab, to push, to pull) to play on each line, so that every word and line I say is in pursuit of that objective and, therefore, it creates a character that is relatable, that can react to things going on around them, because they wonder how that will affect them and their objective.
What are your proudest accomplishments so far?
My Fringe Festival show, Flicker, by far. It was truly an incredible experience to create a show [that was] so personal and send it out into the world, and then for it to yield such brilliant responses.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Fringe Festival?
It’s a fantastic festival. There’s no auditioning, you simply pay your entry fee and you’re part of the festival. The Fringe team are so supportive of you and work so hard to make sure your show goes smoothly. There’s meetings and support for literally anything that you could possibly worry about. All they want is to encourage new art.
If you’re lucky to have partnered with a big venue, like The Butterfly Club as I did, then they have so much experience in putting on shows that they can help you with next to anything. No matter what your show or your talent, Fringe is a great way to get yourself out there as a performer.
What could be done in Gippsland to better promote creative and artistic careers?
Interestingly, Gippsland has a fantastic musical theatre scene. There are so many companies operating, all of which are doing truly incredible things. However, I think the more time and energy that schools are willing to put into making their musicals and performance opportunities (choirs, drama classes, etc.), the more students this will inspire to being involved in the art itself [beyond school], and then they can find the local [arts] company that suit them.
What kind of project or showcase would you like to see in Gippsland?
I would love to see some sort of ‘homegrown’ style event, where artists from Gippsland of all mediums can present their original work together: i.e. music, dance, visual art, comedy, film, circus. It could be anything to showcase the incredible talent that’s been grown in Gippsland.
Theatre is for everyone! Find out about Class Act Productions – A Gippsland-based, dedicated Youth Theatre Company here: classactproductions.com.au