Build confidence in kids - through theatre

Actors Centre Australia, MindChamps offer classes that help children realise potential

Hugh Jackman (left) with Actors Centre Australia founder Dean Carey. ACA will be partnering MindChamps to start ACA Kids.
Hugh Jackman (left) with Actors Centre Australia founder Dean Carey. ACA will be partnering MindChamps to start ACA Kids. PHOTO: ACTORS CENTRE AUSTRALIA

Some may not think that actors need school, but Hugh Jackman gave up an acting job for the chance to attend the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (Waapa).

The star of the X-Men franchise was 23 when he asked to speak to Mr Dean Carey, who was head of acting at Waapa, after his audition.

Jackman said he had to get back to the producers of Australian soap opera Neighbours the next day, and wanted to know if Waapa would be offering him a place.

After telling him that the protocol was to get back to students in a few weeks, Mr Carey asked: "If I couldn't tell you for another three weeks, what would you do?"

Jackman's response did not disappoint. "He told me he would turn the job down and wait. That was the measure of the man," said Mr Carey.

"He was willing to give up three years of full-time work for the chance of getting into a school he may not even get into," he added, emphasising the word "chance".

"He knew education was that important," he said.

When Mr Carey contacted Jackman and told him that Actors Centre Australia (ACA) was starting ACA Kids, Jackman responded "within 24 hours" to say it was very exciting. "He said it was a gift to give education in theatre to kids," Mr Carey said.

ACA will be partnering MindChamps to start ACA Kids, a series of classes that aims to help children become confident, creative and connected through theatre, in Singapore and Australia.

MindChamps Holdings owns a 50 per cent stake in ACA.

MindChamps founder David Chiem said: "It's about nurturing every child to become confident. From that confidence comes the ability to explore, be creative and say yes to things."

He added: "When a child is confident, curious in learning, they will excel in any other area."

Mr Carey said this is one way that Jackman developed through his training in theatre. "He said the greatest thing he learnt from me was to say yes. Yes to play, yes to the next step, yes to creating," he added.

The course, which is targeted to launch in the last quarter of this year, consists of four 10-week terms for children aged three to nine years old. All the teachers will be professional actors.

Said Mr Carey: "Every story in theatre is about a bigger idea of who we are as human beings, so for kids to engage with stories that give them a bigger idea of what they are capable of and what their potential is - that to me is the most exciting thing."

He shared an anecdote of Jackman choosing Stars by Javert from the musical Les Miserables for a singing module - and Jackman did not hit all the notes.

"I thought, well, there's someone who's walking out on the tightrope again and again. Not playing it safe, not staying comfortable."

Jackman played Jean Valjean in the movie version of Les Miserables, released in 2012.

Mr Carey said he believes theatre will help children become more courageous and embrace the world in a fuller way. And an added bonus for participants is a Certificate of Achievement at the end of each term signed by Mr Carey and ACA patron and graduate Jackman.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline Build confidence in kids - through theatre. Subscribe