In this series of blogs, we take some time out to interview our wonderful Q Theatre team and Studio Q tutors.
Justin Butcha was born in Sydney and grew up in the Central West, NSW. After joining many school productions and community shows such as musicals and plays in the country and then in Sydney, he trained in Paris under the tutelage of Jacques Lecoq during the mid to late 1990s.
Justin currently teaches our Studio Q Ignite Saturday morning class and has been involved in The Riff: Youth Theatre Festival since 2022.
Hi Justin. Can you please tell us about your creative/performance practice and how did you get your start?
My creative practice is primarily in theatre. I am an actor, an artist and a teacher. I also facilitate and direct many students of all ages and stages in the dramatic arts.
At 19 years of age, I started as an apprentice teacher under the supervision of Richard Hayes-Marshall (RHM) and began teaching acrobatics and stage stunts at the Actors Centre Sydney in 1990. The following year, I was invited to become a full-time company actor in RHM theatre company called TheatrElan based in Glebe, Sydney.
What’s your favourite type of theatre and why? Can you share a performance or artist that has had a great impact on you and your career?
I’m a fan of all theatre. Especially a fan of festival theatre. However, new works that are staged for theatre, are generally more preferred for me, than an interpreted or classic work. I also enjoy work that has been presented or restaged before, however my preference is to experience the new in art.
Kathryn Hunter is spellbinding! An extraordinary all-rounder, one of the best character actors today. A genius actor, her work both solo and within an ensemble has definitely a profound impact on my imagination and understanding of the actors craft and discipline.
How did you first hear about Q Theatre and Studio Q? How did you first get involved? How else are you engaged with Q Theatre/ Studio Q?
The Q Theatre, or Theatre Q, was well known in and about the theatre circles for as long as I can remember. I attended theatre classes at the Actors Centre in Surry Hills during the late 1980s and early 1990s. There, I had met fellow actors who worked and staged shows with the Q Theatre company in Penrith.
In 2022, I was privileged to work with high schools from Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains as part of Q Theatre’s Annual Youth Theatre Festival (now known as The Riff: Youth Theatre Festival). My involvement with Studio Q has permitted me to work creatively with wonderful drama students and their drama teachers. more so, to stage short original theatre productions on the main stage at The Joan!
How did you first get involved with The Riff: Youth Theatre Festival? How is directing The Riff: Youth Theatre Festival different from weekly teaching at Studio Q?
Directing as part or The Riff: Youth Theatre Festival is different from weekly teaching, in that I work closely with a drama teacher for and during The Riff: Youth Theatre Festival program. In that way, both the school drama teacher and I collaborate together with the school drama students. The weekly drama classes on Saturdays, is just the students and myself.
Have you worked with students onThe Riff: Youth Theatre Festival who had never done drama previously? What is your strategy for that?
Yes , many students are first-timers. That is not a problem. The students, when given simple theatrical rules for stage, actors craft and knowledge and skills are fantastic. They all level up together.
What’s the most exciting thing about directing The Riff: Youth Theatre Festival? What’s been the biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?
It’s exciting to let go of the work! After the Tech run, there is not much I can do. The actors now have total responsibility and it’s very exciting and enjoyable to watch them celebrate staging and defending their work to their community, schools and families.
The challenge for me this year at The Riff: Youth Theatre Festival, I was working the one show, with two actors who had to learn and play the same part at different times. Yes, it was challenging, however the two actors were intelligent and brilliant. As were their company who also had to adjust with the change of the lead roles…In short, the one company had to learn two different version of the one show. And they did with success!
What do you think about the theatre/performing arts community in Western Sydney? How do you think artists in or from outside the area could be more engaged with the Western Sydney arts community?
I am very impressed with the high talent and enthusiastic energy demonstrated by the drama students, the youth in the Western Sydney. Since 2022, I have engaged directly with many school drama students and their teachers. Festivals are a fantastic way to bring theatre companies and artists together with the local community.
Tell us about the class(es) you’re teaching. What is the best or most exciting thing about your class(es)? What’s your most memorable experience from teaching at Studio Q?
The classes I teach at the Joan are targeted towards lower secondary school students (Years 7 – 9). They are movement based and we do theatre games, movement exercises and improvisation. I teach theatre skills and knowledge to help the students better articulate their story telling, creating theatre and learning to work together as an ensemble.
Do you have any advice/words of wisdom for young artists looking to pursue a career in the performing arts?
Keep moving towards what you love to do.
What was the last production you saw and loved? What are you most looking forward to seeing on stage at The Joan next?
The students performing their creative works at the The Riff: Youth Theatre Festival this year was outstanding. I absolutely loved the festival experience.
Anything coming up in your creative practice or teaching that we should keep an eye out on?
Yes – The Studio Q Saturday morning Ignite classes I teach have just presented a short work as part of the Studio Q Mid-Year Presentation. They will perform again at the Annual Studio Q Showcase in November.
And, if anyone is visiting Bathurst, I will be performing my one-man circus street-theatre show called CircusBox!
Image: Studio Q Mid-Year Presentation 2023.