In the ever-evolving world of theatre and arts, fresh perspectives and innovative minds are essential to drive our industry forward. One person who fits this bill is the newly appointed Artistic Director of the WA Youth Theatre Company (WAYTCO), Amelia Burke.
The WAAPA graduate returns to Perth from Melbourne, where she completed her MFA in directing from NIDA, followed by work as a director, dramaturg, educator, and everything in-between. I caught up with her at the start of her term at WAYTCO to hear about her journey from a Perth theatre student to a leader in the youth arts scene.
Amelia’s first involvement with WAYTCO happened in 2018 where she participated in the 24-hour play generator, “my inner theatre-nerd loved the challenge”.
After her graduation from WAAPA’s Bachelor of Performing Arts, she headed back to the company in 2019 to perform in The Cockatoos by Patrick White. With both projects Amelia had the opportunity to collaborate with the company’s former AD James Berlyn, “James showed me a model of working with young artists I wish I had experienced when I was young.”
These experiences and more ignited her passion for youth arts and the ability to educate, free from a traditional curriculum. It became Amelia’s goal to create a space for young people that they would be excited to be a part of.
Evolution of a Vision
Amelia’s dedication to youth arts continued during her time at NIDA in Naarm (Melbourne) where she further expanded her creative horizons and took on the role of a teaching artist.
Three years later, her journey has now come full circle, returning to Perth, to assume the mantle of Artistic Director at WAYTCO. Embracing her new position, Amelia will balance creative direction, educational empowerment with logistical responsibilities. It’s a role that demands a macro-perspective, encompassing not only the day-to-day aspects of directing but also shaping the working culture and vision of the company. Amelia says her driving force is her aspiration to, “embed and live the themes of collaboration, creativity, and finding the young voices” within the organisation.
“It’s a different way of being when you are thinking on a technique or teaching level… it differs when you are creating a work and it is important to be side by side [with the students]. My goal with devising is to be led by the young people in terms of what we are making and why we are making it. This is not my company, it is about the members.”
All His Beloved Children by Frieda Lee at Kings Cross Theatre on Broadway, May 2023. L-R: Melissa Gan, Tel Benjamin, Kavina Shah, Sam Hayes
Fostering Creative Expression
The experience of working with Anne-Louise Sarks and Kate Mulvaney on Playlab Theatre’s production of Medea in 2019, taught Amelia the importance of being surrounded by like-minded individuals who live the values you want to express as an artist. Amelia describes Anne-Lousie and Kate as “empathetic creators who set an example of the collaboration and creativity”, qualities which she seeks to bring to her work.
One of Amelia’s central values is to foster an environment where young people can authentically share their stories. She says she is both conscious and passionate about the role she holds as an Artistic Director, to project necessary voices in today’s world.
“I have a responsibility to provide a space and platform to support work that is relevant and pertinent and needs to be made now! When creating work it is so important to be side by side, or even to be led by young people in terms of why and what we are making.”
A Glimpse into the Future
Amelia’s connection to the Perth arts scene has given her insights into the close-knit community that sustains independent arts endeavours. Perth’s unique isolation, collaboration and mutual support, Amelia says, “play a pivotal role in driving Perth’s creative arts landscape and the organisations within it.”
With her innovative ideas and commitment to empowering young voices, Amelia Burke is undoubtedly a dynamic force, poised to shape the trajectory of WAYTCO and inspire the next generation of artists.