After an incredible 30 year career at WAAPA, the Academy’s Head of Acting, Christopher Edmund, is retiring. There are plenty of household names who have studied at WAAPA under Chris’ guidance. Hugh Jackman, William McInnes, Frances O’Connor, Jai Courtney (from the latest in the Die Hard franchise) and Marcus Graham have all been lucky enough to learn from him. We bet he has some fantastic stories to tell from over the years! We’re not the only ones either – WAAPA are putting together a special event so that we can all hear from Chris before he leaves. On Friday 2 August, actress Angela Punch-McGregor will interview Chris Edmund about his life and times, interspersed with vision, interviews and reminisces from some famous friends.
He’s a bit of an all-rounder really, as well as his teaching work Chris is a playwright, a director and a fine painter too. Retirement will not be so quiet, we don’t think!
Chris Edmund will be sorely missed around the WAAPA corridors.
You’ve been involved with WAAPA for three decades! What has kept you inspired over the years?
By constantly trying to evolve the course. In particular taking students to Paris to the Conservatoire, their leading drama school, and developing links and exchanges with Russian training schools. My own work as a playwright has always kept me stimulated as I had to write plays for demanding and intelligent students!
Can you share a memorable event from your time there?
The most challenging was when one of my plays The Devil’s Tunic, which had as its subject matter the bloodline of Christ, was attacked by unknown groups. We had to hire extra security as the theatre was broken into and salt thrown on the lighting board, posters were torn down, strange people nodded and shouted out in the foyer before the show and there was an atmosphere of danger. Just as theatre should be! Provocative and bold!
Hugh Jackman in The Season at Sarsparilla at WAAPA in 1994.
Some students who trained under you at WAAPA have become household names. Is it obvious to you now, when teaching, which students are going to become stars?
No, but often as in the case of Hugh Jackman, Frances O’Connor and others there was a clear indication of willingness in them to be bolder, to be more industrious and focused than some other students which gave a clear indication that they were likely to succeed at a high level.
Is there anyone we should we be keeping an eye on in the next few years?
I can’t pick particular students out but don’t be surprised at some more household names.
Do you have any advice for those young people who want to get into the world of acting, or on the other side of the action, writing or directing?
Do it. Get people together, inspire them and you will learn much more than if you observe or just study academically. It’s a very practical business so DO it!
Jai Courtney with Bruce Willis in A Good Day to Die Hard (2013, Dir. John Moore, USA).
What has been your proudest achievement over your decorated career?
When one of the world’s leading literary agents, Margaret Ramsay, wrote and told me she liked my first play and would try to get it on in London. I’m not a particularly emotional person but I remember crying with happiness and relief.
What are you going to miss most about WAAPA?
The students and my colleagues.
And what will retirement bring for you?
More painting, writing and a great deal of red wine. Chris.
You can find out more about the Talking Heads event with Chris and secure your tickets over on the WAAPA website. And if you fancy checking out some of his paintings, get along to Kurb Gallery at 312A William St, Northbridge from this Sunday 23 July where they will be showing some of his latest work.
All images courtesy Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.