NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Pushing the limits of theatre making in the time of necessity and the unknown

Continuing to study the arts in isolation required self-motivation, perseverance and the ability to think, even further, outside the box. The sudden shift from practical exercises to the confines of a screen was … frustrating for professors and students alike.

By Rhymney Mazza

Continuing to study the arts in isolation required self-motivation, perseverance and the ability to think, even further, outside the box. The sudden shift from practical exercises to the confines of a screen was (as expected) frustrating for professors and students alike. No longer able to integrate physical connection and presence within my practice, the role that I undertook in devising and studying theatre throughout this time completely diverged from the norm. More than anything, I realised that my new responsibilities related most to the role of a cinematographer. Editing takes and inserting effects in post-production became the (less exciting) ‘stage’ elements of performing to an online audience. Lapsing into a state of indolence had also never been easier due to our restricted access of stimuli from the outside world.

In more ways than one, Zoom unarguably became a lifeline for creative students to continue collaborating on their craft beyond the walls of their home.

However, it is critical to appreciate that devising online has opened a breadth of new possibilities and allowed the opportunity to master learning outcomes beyond those set prior to the health pandemic. The video conferencing tool Zoom, for example, was advantageous in connecting with geographically diverse audience participants. In addition, the smooth transitions between live and pre-recorded material along with the Q&A and chat features were ideal for digital props. In more ways than one, Zoom unarguably became a lifeline for creative students to continue collaborating on their craft beyond the walls of their home.

The ways in which we enjoy, rehearse and connect with the arts may undergo significant transformations but fortunately for society, there will always be one thing that artists never lack: passion.

It was most important to take on the challenge of remaining creative throughout this time rather than simply abandoning any hope of devising dramatic content. One day I strive to be fortunate enough to collaborate on artwork with devisers from around the world but of whom I may never actually connect with face-to-face. The tools and patience that I would need to make that happen are being developed throughout this time. It goes without saying that creatives are known for pushing the boundaries, would it not be fascinating to explore how far we can push virtual reality?

The exact extent to which COVID-19 has affected the future of the creative arts is still unknown. However personally, I can assure the reasons behind needing to perform and devise are stronger now than ever. Artists now face the mammoth task of documenting the struggle of this period through playscript, installation, film, painting and so on for future generations. The ways in which we enjoy, rehearse and connect with the arts may undergo significant transformations but fortunately for society, there will always be one thing that artists never lack: passion. Like many other artists, I will emerge from lockdown with the ability to not just perform my craft, but to independently produce, promote, write and create.

Although I am disappointed that I was not able to study and devise theatre provided with the normal opportunities, I am positive that I have in the very least, learnt to adapt. Studying theatre online has challenged me to focus on areas of production that I would otherwise not have incorporated into my degree. In addition to experiencing collaboration in new and surprising ways, studying in isolation has made me more appreciative of the skillset belonging to artists in other creative disciplines.


Rhymney Mazza is a final year Bachelor of Creative Arts (Drama) student at Deakin University, Burwood. Rhymney practices theatre with a mission to entertain and reconcile the greater community. Her performance background includes several musical theatre productions in addition to starring in various award-winning short films. Alongside five creative peers, Rhymney recently founded Bark Theatre Company, a non-for-profit company aiming to provide a safe and accessible workshop space for youth to explore their creative identity. With an additional minor in Journalism, Rhymney is eager to build a career involving Media and Communications within the Creative Arts.

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Art for me has always been a process to make sense as I am a performance artist that utilises endurance to challenge the contingencies of space, time, and the body. The focus of my PhD research is precisely this.

The portal is closing, and the artists in Australia have managed to seize control of their sector. The career ladder has broken down into snakes and slithered away. The old models of making and presenting have shed their skin, to reveal new ways.

As I began the journey of my PhD candidature, my main drive to proceed was a social conundrum. I wanted to explore and if I could, rationalise, the visceral empathy which at times many are affected by, when witnessing upheaval in the lives of those around us.

To describe this semester as anti-climactic would be an understatement. For my cohort and I, this would have been our final year of music school. As the new semester approached, our anticipation to collaborate, create, and learn together for what would have been the last time at Monash was almost unbearable. We were excited to perform, explore, and to succumb to our collective desires to make art and music.

It begins with me buying two 10kg bags of bread mix. I think we might have to bunker down for a while even though my husband’s words “Don’t worry it will all blow over in a day or two” continually float around the house.

How has it been for the students, as we slowly and carefully manage the return to campuses across the country? There is no doubt that the impacts and challenges will be ongoing particularly for students entering the workforce and coping with extended study after deferrals, which some have indicated will come.