Here we ask members of our community to reflect on their experience with youth drama and discuss how it has impacted their life and career. In Volume 4, we hear from performer Laura Djanegara, playwright and author Katy Warner, and producer Imogen Gardam.

By Laura Djanegara (Performer)

“I first started performing back in Perth. My very first production was with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society as a chorus member. After that I auditioned for a Youth Theatre Company and kept my eyes peeled for audition notices in the newspaper (showing my age there!). I really love the way a play can affect people’s emotions and ways of thinking and that drew me to performing. When I was 16 I toured a show around the UK as a stage manager and small chorus role. The lead actress was unable to continue the tour when it came back to Australia and I was offered to step into her role. Have been in love with acting ever since.

When I was younger, performing in a variety of plays exposed me not only to a beautiful range of theatre shows but also led me to making heaps of new friends from other schools. The theatre industry is quite well connected in Perth and so making new connections made it easy to learn more about the theatre industry. Being able to perform different characters whose experiences differed from my own helped me build a greater empathy and understanding to other people’s unique human experiences

I am lucky enough to still work as an actor. I also work other casual jobs in order to support chasing my dreams. As much as possible I have tried to keep my casual work within the arts industry so I always feel connected to performing. COVID has meant that all the theatre jobs I had lined up for 2020 are temporarily postponed. Though I am currently in rehearsals for Animal Farm at the New Theatre and enjoying staying creative by singing and painting during this time of government enforced introspection

Being an actor has really helped broaden my understanding, patience and empathy towards others. Stepping into a character without judgement is such a valuable lesson for how to address people in everyday life. We never know what people are dealing with or going through, so keeping that in mind when dealing with people in states of heightened emotion has been a useful reflective tool. Furthermore, learning control of voice and movement has helped in everyday life to make me a clear, confident and effective communicator.”

Laura performing onstage at NIDA

By Katy Warner (Playwright & Author)

“I was a very shy and anxious kid. My teacher wrote I was ‘as quiet as a little mouse’ on my Grade 3 school report. I was thrilled to get chicken pox in my first year of high school because it meant I could stay home. However, it was also during that first year of high school that Mum got us involved in the local community theatre company. And that was the year everything changed. I want to be poetic and say ‘ I found my voice’ but I actually think I just found my people and a passion for something. That something was the stage. Being involved in theatre at a young age helped me develop the confidence and self-esteem I was so sorely missing. I went from being the kid who didn’t want to go to school to school captain. I went from being as quiet as a mouse to public speaking and debating and performing in plays and teaching drama in high schools. I went on to pursue acting and found a way to weave my love of writing with the love of the stage and started writing plays. And perhaps it was from doing so – seeing and hearing my words and characters realised on the stage – that gave me the confidence and drive to sit down and write my first book. Theatre didn’t stop my shyness or cure my anxiety, I am still both those things and that’s OK. Theatre gave me a sense of confidence regardless of that. And it has shaped my life. And I will forever be grateful to my Mum for getting me involved in the world of theatre. Otherwise I might still be that little mouse …”

By Imogen Gardam (Producer – Associate Producer, Programming at Griffin Theatre and co-founder of Montague Basement)

“I got involved in drama quite late, at university through the (and I say this with all love and affection) infamous Sydney University Dramatic Society. I was working part-time in film development and distribution and was keen to get more production experience. I stage managed the Arts Revue and then found my way to SUDS, started producing shows and never looked back. My arts degree very quickly took a back seat to my student producing which soon morphed into independent producing through the company I co-founded, Montague Basement, and then a job at Bell Shakespeare just as I was coming to the end of my studies. I wouldn’t hesitate to credit my time in SUDS as making an equal contribution to my employability and professional development as my degree, if not more.

I’m now the Associate Producer, Programming at Griffin Theatre Company and I continue to make independent shows through Montague Basement with my co-founder and collaborator Saro Lusty-Cavallari – we met through SUDS and made a bunch of shows together there before jumping into the big bad world of indie theatre.

Student drama was absolutely my training ground and the place where I built the foundations for what I do now – where I got to make mistakes and learn processes and find collaborators. It was also a really important place for me personally – it was where I found my people and my home at university and many of them remain my people to this day. I would be a very different person today without it, and I would definitely not be in the role that I’m in. Which would be sad, because I really love my job. I love supporting artists and helping to bring work to life, and I love making things, and that hasn’t changed between student and professional producing. I am incredibly lucky that I get to do that every day.”

Tell Us Your Story

We want to hear from YOU! Send your story on the topic of HOW YOUTH DRAMA CHANGED MY LIFE, and an accompanying photo, to

Not sure what to say? Here’s some ideas:

  • How did you get involved in drama?
  • How did drama it benefited you at the time / your development as a young person?
  • What you do now?
  • How you applied the skills or benefits of drama to your life as an adult and/or in your career?

We can’t wait to hear from you!

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