Some of our Acting students recently cleaned up at the Short & Sweet theatre festival, the largest short play festival in Sydney, with hundreds of actors, writers and directors putting on new plays.
The play, Arthur & Marilyn, directed by Danen Young, won the Festival Director’s Choice, moving their entry into the Gala Finals. From here, AFTT current students Alec Ebert and Meg Hyeronimus won Best Actor and Best Actress across the whole festival for the play written by Jasper Lee-Lindsay who also won Best Script!
Head of Acting at AFTT Glen Hamilton described how “I personally saw this production and it is a testament to the talents and craft of the writer, director and actors – all of whom are graduates or current students of AFTT. The script, written by Jasper Lee-Lyndsay (2016 AFTT graduate) captures the 1950’s nuance of dialogue beautifully. The performances by Alec Ebert and Meg Hyeronimus both being current Tier 4 AFTT students, were highly crafted, subtle and believable. The play was very well directed by Danen Young (2016 graduate). This work reinforces the talent, skill and commitment of each of these artists. I congratulate them on this significant achievement.”
We caught up with some of the team to find out what the play was about, how they feel about winning, and about their time at AFTT.
About The Play
The play, Arthur & Marilyn, is a fictional recount of the fateful night in 1951 where Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe met. It’s around the time that both of their careers are hitting their stride, and they’re both struggling with the very commercial and impersonal reality of their fame. Along with wanting to present the humanity of these two icons and the connection they shared, we used this real-life setting to explore the dichotomy between self-identity and the identity prescribed to you by others, and to understand the power one has over the other in dictating the life you lead.
“Danen, Meg, Alec and I aimed to do justice to this story and put on something we felt proud of. So winning Festival Director’s choice was a huge compliment and very encouraging for us, and then going into the Gala Finals and winning Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Script left us speechless. We were stunned with joy and excitement and gratitude, and we’re all so incredibly proud of the work we did. It’s a wonderful accomplishment and I hope Meg and Alec get some well-deserved rest.” – Jasper Lee-Lindsay, Script Writer.
“We were all extremely overwhelmed with how well it did, having no idea what to expect going in. But we did know how hard we worked. Having acted for professional directors on productions at AFTT was amazing. It gave me an insight into the rehearsal process, and ways to work with actors to nurture their best possible work; pushing them, but keeping a supportive and open environment. I loved that aspect of college. The professionalism, hard work and dedication that Meg and Alec put into the play and the characters is a testament to AFTT and what it expects of professional actors.” Danen Young, Director
"I'm blown away with the success and recognition we've received. Two years ago I was taking my first steps towards becoming an actor. I now know this is what I'll do until I can't do no more.
I came to AFTT to find confidence in my process and to leave with a foundation of skills to take me into this crazy beautiful profession. I feel I have found that through hard work and persistence and the help of many amazing peers and teachers. Thank you! ", Alec Ebert, Actor
Jasper, how did this script and team come together?
I actually came up with the idea at AFTT. It was a class with Lex Marinos, and he was showing us an old Charlie Rose interview with Arthur Miller from 1992. They were talking about his life and Arthur was very eloquent and open until Charlie Rose brought up Marilyn, and there was this reclusive shift in his energy. At the time, I had no idea the two were even married, so I decided to investigate. The story I found was incredibly tragic, but to me, that was because the beginning of the story, in it’s simplest form, was such a beautiful victory for both of them. I started working on a full-length play about their relationship and showed the first few pages to Danen, who was in my acting tier at college. Danen had mentioned he was interested in having a go at directing, and when we heard about Short+Sweet, we decided it would be a great place to cut our teeth as a first-time writer and a first-time director. The first scene of the full play became the S+S script and we wanted to workshop it with actors, so we asked our friends from the previous tier, Meg and Alec, to help us out. We liked what they did with the roles and how easy it was to collaborate with them, so we offered them the part and luckily they said yes. We also asked our good friend, Emily Buxton, to be a sort of “stage manager” for us during the rehearsal period, and help us keep track of everything. Then we submitted the project to Short+Sweet Sydney as an independent theatre company and a few weeks later, we were told we got into the Top 80, and here we are.
How did AFTT help you?
The AFTT acting course has helped me greatly with the understanding of how to get a production made. We were taught a lot about independent production while at college, and while the budget wasn’t a huge issue for our Short+Sweet show, we still felt very strong from the beginning with how to approach rehearsals and collaboration and what that process involved. We made sure we were well-prepared even before we were chosen for the Top 80. We locked in our team and worked on a strategy plan so that when we got to rehearsals, it could be all about the creative process. This approach was definitely born from what we were taught at AFTT. I would’ve had no idea where to start if this was all going on a little over two years ago.
My entire experience in the AFTT acting course was just perfect for me. It is a great environment that encourages creative exploration and growth. My favourite thing about the course was the people. You had people from all walks of life, with various amounts of experience, all unified in one place. Tutors and students were on the same level and could converse freely about anything, and having that mutual respect made talking about acting and creativity so much more impactful and helped with our understanding of ourselves as artists as well as individuals.
Advice from the ‘Arther & Marilyn’ team.
Jasper; “Stay creative. Write down all your ideas and work on them. Creativity is a muscle that has to be exercised and if you work at it, you’re bound to strike gold. I had so many ideas for scripts before I got to Arthur & Marilyn, but none of them made it past the first page. That being said, I honestly believe I wouldn’t have written this play without at least trying to write those scripts. Also, keep collaborating. I know sometimes it can be tense, but having people who share the same passion while offering different ideas can open up a world of possibilities for your project and make it something truly special.”
Danen; “If you're still studying, don't miss out on what your tutors have to say. They are amazing. Be brave and push yourself. Let yourself fail. We grow when we make mistakes, and the college is a safe space with a very supportive environment. Remember that there is no courage without fear.”
Find out more about studying Acting at AFTT.