About Us – Media Articles

Joining the cast of Neighbours as a regular character in 2009…

Kaiya JonesWe would like to congratulate our student Kaiya Jones for the recent announcement of her role as a new ongoing resident in Ramsay Street on Neighbours. Kaiya underwent a highly competitive audition process and the network and producers have now made their decision. We look forward to seeing her on the screen!

Drama With A Difference presents Divine Dining

Maggie Baines as Midge in Divine Dining

Melbourne Fringe Festival 2008: Summary of Review from Beat Magazine/Buzzcuts

Cast: Maggie Baines, Rebecca Fletcher, Allyson Hunt,  Belinda Lack,  Nicole McManamny, Andrew McNess,  Julian Mulcahy,  Rojeur Namour,  Sanjay Parbat

Devised and Directed by: Michele Williams

Photo: Maggie Baines as Midge in Divine Dining at the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

The subject matter is raw, raunchy and tackles taboo subjects with moments that will leave you squirming in your seat.

The script is bold and fearless and journeys into some dark corners of the human condition… spotted with moments of gold.  The ending will leave you offering a moment of beauty in an ugly world.

The performance shows great potential from a mostly young and energetic cast. Sanjay Parbat is controlled and well paced. Belinda Lack gives an honest and unaffected performance as Sarah and Maggie Baines livens up the stage as the spunky Midge.

See more information about the Performance Group.

Going up on billboards in the US!

Lara SacherCurrent Drama With A Difference student, Kaiya Jones, plays a lead role in the upcoming THIRD SERIES of The Saddle Club, which is about to screen in the USA (Sep 2008) and will then come to Australian TV!

CONGRATULATIONS TO KAIYA!

Working in an acting capacity

An extract taken from an article by Trevor Robbins (about Michele Williams) for The Age on 21/7/2007

You just never know where an acting qualification might take you. Take Michele Williams for example, a classically trained actor with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and diplomas from international drama schools, … with a rich body of acting roles in theatre and television behind her… Ms Williams believes that drama precepts can be very useful in the workplace. Staff at many levels can benefit from the rules of improvisation – thinking on your feet – and by adopting audience communication strategies… “Actors”, she says “are trained to be open and vulnerable and to allow their imaginations to flourish. Within the actor’s world a wide range of behaviours is acceptable, but within the corporate workplace people are more restricted professionally.” Role play can be good for your career. “A lot of what acting is about is quieting what we call ‘the doubt mind’.”

A step towards stardom

by Wendy Howell, The Age, EG, Friday 11 April 2008

You can’t just whip out a scalpel and start operating on people without medical training, so why would you embark on a creative career without first arming yourself with the right tools for the job. Look no further than Drama With A Difference. Highly respected within the entertainment industry, the school has helped launch the careers of a number of well known actors… and boasts an impressive staff and excellent relationships with casting directors, producers and other industry professionals. The director of the school is also in the process of converting a warehouse in Northcote into a theatre and small studio place for hire – a welcome development expected to create many new opportunities for actors and producers looking for an alternative theatre space.

This drama queen real thing

Northcote Leader, 11 August 2008

Look at the cast of some of the best recent Australian films and you’ll likely spot a student from Drama With A Difference... Student Kodi Smit-McPhee won numerous awards for his turn as the young Raimond Gaita in Romulus My Father. From this spring of talent Michele Williams will create a youth theatre company (with fellow actor/teacher Mark Wilson), based at the school, on the Northcote/Fairfield border. “We are looking at cutting edge theatre...”

Feature article on Michele Williams

by Stephen McKenzie 2004, The Melbourne Weekly magazine

Acting, according to Michele Williams, is the best damned work in the world. But it’s a tough, exhausting and somewhat surreal night at the office. Preparing for Flame, for example, Williams will morph into Louisa, a widow desperately seeking her husband’s forgiveness. She’ll grapple with grief, loss and guilt, before emerging, after interval, as a totally different woman in Still. And it won’t end there… (A major part) of her training was spent at the renowned North Carolina School of The Arts, (where fellow classmates included Mary-Louise Parker and Tom Hulce)... "It was very much strip them back as much as possible and see if they’re tough enough to deal with this industry.” Williams… devised Drama with a Difference with its professional, recreational and corporate sections, “I’ve taught some very successful adults who struggle with presentations and conferences… we teach them to come out of themselves.” A senior Quantas executive rediscovered his inner Bard after years on the board. …by program’s end he was singing Sweet Transvestite in fishnet stockings… ”That’s what I like about acting. People like to break out. You don’t have to be one role in your life.” Williams prepares and unwinds with the techniques of Michael Chekhov, a fabled actor whose performances not only mesmerised audiences, but, for many years, himself. After delving into the collective unconscious, Chekhov developed a form of acting that didn’t rely on personal memory for impact. “It was done through the imagination, which is often safer and more empowering.”

Love in the Rain

Produced by Drama with a Difference as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2003, Cromwell Road Theatre

The Sunday Age 28/9/2003

Love in the Rain image

The Melbourne Fringe Festival has begun. … Love in The Rain … with input from 16 actors including an Irish backpacker, a black Englishman and a bubble blower who can place a human being in a bubble…

Love in the Rain photo

Love in the Rain photo

Love in the Rain photo

The Drama with a Difference production of Love in the Rain (Photos: Danielle Harrison)

Star’s dramatic turn

Lara Sacher

Progress Press, January 2006

Lara Sacher has wasted no time landing a new role after her dramatic exit from an Australian TV soapie. The Stonnington resident, who played Serena Bishop in Neighbours, is now sharing her small-screen experiences with students in a guest teaching role at Drama with a Difference.

The job allows Sacher to give something back to the school that helped to launch her career.

‘At the age of 12, I began lessons at Drama with a Difference and it was my experience there that really changed my life,’ Sacher said.

‘Besides wanting to act, I gained many lifelong skills that I have benefited from immensely, including confidence, social skills, leadership qualities and patience.’

Drama with a Difference owner Michele Williams encouraged Sacher to join an agency and roles soon followed, including a short stint in children’s TV series Noah and Saskia and a two-year role with Neighbours. Her character Serena was killed off late last year in a light plane crash.

Putting the pack into backpacking

Wolf Creek

The Age, October 2005

Kestie Morassi and Cassandra Magrath (previous Drama with a Difference students) star in the major Australia film Wolf Creek.

Photo by John Donegan, article extract below from ‘Inside’ section, 23 October 2005, The Age

There has been any amount of trouble about Wolf Creek, the home-grown horror film that was picked up by Miramax late last year. Wolf Creek tells the story – with maximum efficiency and a lot of gore – of three travellers who are terrorised by a crazed outback murderer. The kind of story that is familiar enough to anyone who has read a newspaper in the past few years…

Greg McLean, a Bendigo boy who studied visual arts at RMIT, shot it on high-definition video on location in the bush with a small crew… McLean’s debut feature… [has] been an unalloyed Aussie success story.

Not just for budding actors

A Drama with a Difference class

Melbourne Weekly, 2006

Drama with a Difference has introduced many of Australia’s best-known actors to the industry, but the school isn’t only for budding actors. [Drama with a Difference have] taught hundreds of young people who have gone into other professions and tell … how drama classes assisted their confidence and life skills.

Actor to teach the tricks of his trade to aspirants

Mark Wilson

The Prahran Leader, 2000

Actor Mark Wilson knows how difficult breaking into the television business can be… he will be spending summer helping other young actors to learn some tricks of the trade… Mark, a semi-regular on Blue Heelers, will be teaching at the Drama with a Difference holiday program… For the past eight years, the school has helped actor wannabes to make their mark in the industry… “The industry is very competitive and there are thousands of people who want to be actors,” Mark said. “We never sit anyone down and tell them that they’re going to be a star… We’re not about deluding people… We’re about helping them and promoting them.” According to Mark, the school provides real opportunities (for all young people, not just those who want to be actors). …“There is a lot of diversity in the courses…we cater for pretty much everyone.”

Back to School

Impress Magazine, 2000

Cassandra Magrath is a very happy girl… Having just completed three series of the ABC’s Sea Change, she can’t wait to get back to the fourth... (she) overflows with effusive descriptions about what it’s like working in the industry and how much fun she’s had… (her) effusive enthusiasm is refreshing, but almost scary in her unaffected love for such a precarious and unreliable industry. She is adamant however that she is no wide-eyed innocent when it come to knowing the pitfalls of the profession. Magrath’s unstoppable positivity and success is tempered, she expleains, by great teaching and guidance, and an exceptionally supportive network of contemporaries at her drama school, Drama with a Difference. Having spent eight years at the school, Magrath considers much of her success can be attributed to the environment created by the school, which nurtures a supportive creative relationship between the students in the class while teachers keep a realistic perspective… Magrath says, “Students here have a high level of respect for one another… we have a very large commitment to one another, because we are very supportive of one another.” In a savagely competitive industry, the drama school provides an environment where it’s “Us against the world, not us against each other.” Her professional experience has qualified her to impart some of her knowledge onto younger students who will be coming to the school… “A lot of people who want to get into drama do so for different reasons. There’s a lot of shy students with low self-esteem who blossom in a drama class, and others who just go along to have a cool time… all levels of drama classes are about personal development.” The holiday program run by Drama with a Difference will feature other young professionals such as Mark Wilson, Emily Milburn of Neighbours fame, and visiting guest Dylan Lewis (who will be working on a lot of impro and confidence stuff).

Cass’s bold new move

Herald Sun, Jan 2001

…both television characters, (Miranda from Sea Change and Pi from Crash Zone), have put Magrath before millions of viewers… Theatregoers will be next to see her, as wilful Irish teenageer Deidre in the Melbourne premiere of…playwright Rona Munro’s Bold Girls. “I am interested in all mediums of acting,” Magrath, 19, says. Michele Williams, actor and also the director of Cassandra’s drama school, Drama with a Difference, gave Magrath the break into theatre…by asking her to read Deidre’s part in Bold Girls. Magrath didn’t hesitate. “The script is great and the character is deeply disturbed.”

Drama with a difference

The Age Green Guide article featuring Cassandra Magrath and Michele Williams, Jan 2000

After completing her VCE, Cassandra Magrath has two simple goals: to learn to drive and to establish a successful film career – although not necessarily in that order.

At 18, Magrath is perhaps best known for her role as Miranda Gibson in the ABC’s top-rating comedy-drama SeaChange, yet younger viewers are more likely to know her as Pi from Crash Zone and Ocean Girl’s Zoe…

… Her career got off to a dream start after she joined Melbourne drama group Drama with a Difference at the age of 11. Within a week she landed her role in Ocean Girl, the result of her first audition, and by 15 she had also appeared in an independent Australian film, Hotel de Love, and the television series The Wayne Manifesto…

… [says actor Michele Williams, who established the Drama with a Difference group eight years ago:] “She’s someone I call a real actor. Some young girls just want their faces on the front of a magazine or something, but I know that Cassandra has got the ability to probably become one of our finest actors.”

… [SeaChange producer Sally Ayre-Smith says] “Magrath has a bright future ahead of her and a maturity and intuitive understanding of the characters unusual in an actor of her age … She’s what you call a natural, and she is a star. She lights up that screen in a similar way to Sigrid [Thornton, who played Laura Gibson in Sea Change] in that the camera loves to look at her. If she wants to be, she will be huge.”

Dirty Deeds

Kestie Morassi

Article and image: Ninemsn Movie Guide

MARGARET [is played by] Kestie Morassi. MARGARET is Barry’s mistress. More than a bit on the side, Margaret has big plans and a mouth and attitude to match. If she can't be Barry’s number one, then she’ll move on to better things, whether he likes it or not.

Kestie Morassi had to be able to appear all things to all people to score her first major feature film role.

“It was really tough to cast (Margaret) because we really needed someone who was able to play Bryan's character's lover, but who also had an innocence about her which allowed her to fall in love with the innocent Darcy,” says producer Deborah Balderstone.

After an exhaustive search and audition schedule, Kestie scored the complex role, which is destined to be a showcase of what a truly diverse and complex array of emotions the rising star is capable of bringing to the screen.

“From the minute she came on call, all the chemistry that she had to pull off worked tremendously,” Deborah says.

Writer and director David Caesar says he relished the opportunity to guide the relative newcomer through the pivotal role: “I had a much more hands on approach with Kestie than I did with some of the more experienced actors and it paid off in the end. She did an amazing job.”

Kestie Morassi graduated from the National Theatre Drama School in 1994 and spent five years working with Michele Williams at Drama with a Difference.

Film credits include the short films The Merchant of Fairness, Miss Tauras for which she won Best Actress at the Watch My Shorts Festival in 1999 and Pretty Penny.

Television credits include guest roles in Alliance Atlantis’ Beastmaster Series III, Crawford Productions’ Saddle Club, Crash Zone 2, Eugenie Sandler PI directed by Ana Kokkinos, Flipper, State Coroner and Neighbours.
Theatre credits include Off the Point at La Mama Theatre, directed by David Symons, and The Brink at the Polyglot Theatre.

Pirate’s treasures

Eliza Taylor Cotter

The Age Green Guide, July 2003

Young actors Oliver Ackland, Brooke Harman and Eliza Taylor-Cotter appear to have won a few hearts. In the past fortnight, the Ten Network has been inundated with requests for video or DVD copies of Pirate Islands, in which the trio star. The network had screened the series weekdays at 4pm for four weeks until June 30. In the first week, 1.3 million viewers tuned in but by week two the audience had swelled to 1.9 million. It is a whopping result for a children’s drama and another success for Melbourne producer Jonathan Shiff, who also created Ocean Girl and Thunderstone. But those waiting for more will need to be patient – a second series of Pirate Islands is in development and won’t screen until next year and video or DVD episodes of series one are not yet available. Stay tuned.

[Eliza Taylor-Cotter is a long-term student of ours, obtaining this role through our recommendation. Producer Jonathan Schiff has cast many of our students in his productions.]

Mallboy

Mallboy video cover

Article and images: Urbancinefile

SYNOPSIS: Shaun (Kane McNay) is a 15 year old going through the turmoils of adolescence – and a chaotic home life with his mother Jenny (Nell Feeney) and sisters Tanya (Maxie Rickard) and Joanne (Sarah Naumoff). He hangs around the local shopping mall with other kids for want of anything better. With his dad Sam (Brett Swain) just out of jail, he hopes their relationship will improve – but he hopes in vain. His mother is finding it hard to cope and Shaun has to decide how to make the best of it for himself. He has one option, but it means a break from his mum.

Lauren Hawker as Sue in Mall boy

An engaging and moving film with well judged performances that don't scream at you, but gradually reveal character, Mallboy is a glimpse into what may be an almost typical suburban teenager’s life. Almost, since Shaun's dad is just out of jail and perhaps that’s a minority. But that aside, the sadly dysfunctional father–son relationship is all too common. So is the sense of waste and emptiness in Shaun’s life, the lack of direction – and the nihilism of his family …

Picture: Drama with a Difference student Lauren Hawker as Sue in Mallboy

School’s out and success follows

Lauren Hawker

Progress Press 2001

Lauren Hawker has always wanted to act… the 17-year-old eventually signed up for classes at Drama with a DIfference. “I had been to most other drama schools in Melbourne, and this was the best one I found,” said Lauren. “They were serious about helping young people crack into the industry. But they also taught us to be realistic about the competitiveness and knockbacks we would face.” Lauren was prepared for knockbacks, but she faced only two before gaining her first “big Break”. She won a part in the film Mallboy and has received rave reviews in Australia and around the world. …it was the only Australian film selected in the director’s fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival and closed the Melbourne International Film Festival. “…I wasn't used to seeing myself on screen and so big,” says Lauren. “I spent the whole movie being critical of myself … however, the next time I saw it, I could appreciate it as a film.”