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Seeing yourself on stage with Education Program Manager Fiona Lukac

Until the age of 14, Fiona Lukac didn’t know a thing about the theatre, let alone have the chance to see a play on stage. Like many other country kids, growing up in a regional area meant limited to no access to theatre and the arts.

Now she’s the Education Program Manager at State Theatre Company South Australia, and through her work with State Educate, helps thousands of regional students the opportunity to see and engage with theatre each year.

We spoke to Fiona about connecting young people with theatre experiences, the importance of seeing yourself on stage and the invaluable support of our Education Giving Circle.

In a world of Netflix, TikTok and YouTube, theatre experiences are more important than ever for young people.

“Theatre requires the active involvement from an audience,” says State Theatre Company South Australia Education Program Manager Fiona Lukac. “For young students to develop a sense of engagement, of being present, is a valuable thing in a society that asks us to be passive rather than engaged.”

It’s this experience of engagement that State Theatre Company South Australia fosters through State Educate, our hugely successful education program.

The program, encompassing schools’ performances, regional touring, study guides, workshops, intensive holiday programs and work experience, reaches many thousands of English and Drama students every year.

In 2021, we welcomed a total of 6,880 students to the theatre across four productions. Our education show Euphoria (commissioned by Country Arts SA) reached 1300 students across fifteen country towns as part of its regional tour.

And for the very first time, we expanded our schedule of workshops, work experience and Summer School classes and offered a week-long Winter School program to a group of budding young artists.

It’s a program that meets the needs of a diverse range of students from around South Australia, and it’s all overseen by Fiona.

When she joined State Theatre in 2015 as Administration Coordinator, Fiona was already a seasoned theatregoer.

Seeing Juliette Binoche perform in Naked at London’s Almeida Theatre set her love of theatre on fire. “The whole experience was magic, being in the foyer, sitting in the audience and letting myself engage in the story” she says, “I was hooked from there.”

But for a country kid growing up in a 200-person farming community, it wasn’t always that way. “I didn’t even know about [theatre] until… the age of 14, it just wasn’t on anyone’s radar,” she says.

It’s a common predicament of schools in regional areas, some with limited resources, for whom access to the arts can require a significant financial investment and take up precious travel time.

Now, through State Educate and the generosity of donors and sponsors, Fiona helps to give thousands of regional students the opportunity to experience theatre in real life.

For each production, students receive a complementary study guide that acts as a guide to themes and content, provides direct access to cast and creatives, provides suggested research questions and study activities.

A robust arts program is an integral part of education and is a mainstay in the Australian Curriculum. State Educate shows are programmed for their themes, content and ability to connect with young audiences.

“It is essential that young people see theatre,” says Fiona. “And that they have the opportunity to see themselves on stage, or people and situations they identify with.”

Theatre’s range of educational outcomes, from textual analysis, acting and production, to social and emotional development, make it a vital learning tool for students.

For Fiona, the pathway into education was a natural transition, framed by an involvement in her own children’s education.

“I really enjoy seeing students allow themselves to be open and curious about theatre. Not just attending, but also absorbing and engaging,” she says.

State Educate is not only an invaluable learning opportunity for students, it is also a significant way for the company to connect with younger audiences and develop the next generation of theatregoers.

“Students attending our programs feel safe and brave enough to be honest and vulnerable in their learning. Many of them keep in touch with me to let me know how their pathway within the arts is going, which I love.”

Join our Education Giving Circle and help us reach our goal

Your $1500 donation goes directly to supporting State Educate, helping us to cover the costs of engaging young communities in theatre experiences:

  • Sponsor a student for Winter/Summer school $300
  • Sponsor a school to see a production $1,000
  • Sponsor an artist to support students in a disadvantaged school $2,400 
  • Regional tour for a week $5,000

Each year, the Education Giving Circle supports one dedicated Education show. After the success of Euphoria in 2021, we’re excited to announce that in 2022 the group will be supporting Cathedral, a powerful, visceral production starring beloved Adelaide actor Nathan O’Keefe.

Cathedral is on at the Space Theatre in Adelaide 6 – 22 May and tours outer metro South Australia followed by a regional tour of five towns from Port Pirie to Mount Gambier.

In 2022, we’re aiming to double the size of our Education Giving Circle. You can help us by joining this incredible donor group and give regional and metropolitan students the gift of theatre. For information on joining in 2022, contact Catherine Bauer on cbauer@statetheatrecompany.com.au or call 8415 5380.