The Australian Musical Theatre Academy (AMTA) offer workshops, short courses, and mentorship for aspiring Music Theatre students of all ages and skill levels. Founded and led by Queenie van de Zandt, the company operate out of their Melbourne HQ, but have recently pivoted to also deliver some courses online.
Queenie is no stranger to the stage. One of Australia’s most loved performers, she has worked extensively in theatre, film, music theatre, and cabaret, making her an incredible wealth of industry knowledge – and AMTA is Queenie’s way of giving back. “I have always felt passionate about passing on knowledge and sharing skills” she says. “Early in my career I met so many talented and generous artists who helped me get my foot in the door and develop as a performer. I made the decision there and then that I would be just like them – and always help those that come after me, the way they did”.
AMTA is the perfect response to that, running numerous classes and courses with stalwarts of the theatre industry at the helm. Opportunities include weekly music theatre masterclasses, audition bootcamps, creative coaching, and currently they are taking enrolments for their Creating Cabaret Course.
The Creating Cabaret Course runs over a 12-week period, and can be taken either online or at the AMTA studio in Melbourne. Artists will learn how to write, produce, and perform their very own cabaret show, be it musical, comedy, burlesque, drag, circus or any other form of cabaret. Even if you don’t have an original concept in mind, Queenie and the incredible lineup of tutors, will help you craft your perfect show, ready to pitch to festivals and venues!
The Creating Cabaret Course is based on another course AMTA runs called the Cabaret Winter Workshop, which had its first incarnation in 2014 and 2015 at the Hayes Theatre in Sydney. However, besides the Cabaret Winter Workshop, Queenie says that in her research she’s found nothing like this course either in Australia or globally, making it incredibly unique. While the course came out of the necessity to pivot during COVID, the shift to holding the course online in 2021 and again in 2022 has proved to be extremely beneficial, allowing not only cabaret artists nationwide to partake, but the ability to pair them with an array of professionals who may not have been able to be a part of the program due to the course being Melbourne-based.
“Getting access to great teachers can be very difficult when you don’t live in a main city. Getting a bunch of great teachers together can also be challenging when they live and tour across the country. Because the course is run online, we have been able to give emerging and mid-career cabaret artists, no matter where they live, access to the best cabaret practitioners in Australia! This makes the course incredibly distinctive and it’s a very happy byproduct of COVID that we now realise these things are possible.”
The formidable line up includes International queen of cabaret Trevor Ashley, burlesque legend Maude Davey, and transgender diva Mama Alto, as well as the artistic directors of Australia’s top cabaret festivals like Ali McGregor (formerly of Adelaide Cabaret Festival), Alison St Ledger (QLD Cabaret Festival), Michael Griffiths (Perth Cabaret Festival) and David Read (Melbourne Cabaret Festival). The course covers many crucial areas of cabaret development, such as writing, directing, design, and musical direction, and over the 12 weeks, participants work intimately with Queenie on developing their ideas as well as taking part in the specialised masterclasses with the 16 other tutors. Another thing that makes the course unique is that participants also learn the integral ‘back of house’ happenings of a show, like how to apply for funding and grants, social media and publicity, the ins and outs of international touring, and how to market and pitch your show.
“Of course, developing a great idea into a show is the starting point, but if you don’t know how to pitch your show and get it in front of the right people, it’s never going to have a bigger life. Cabaret is a unique art form in that, to do it, you need writing, performance and producing skills. So the course is split into these 3 sections. Alongside that, we focus on giving participants access to the ‘gatekeepers’ who decide on what gets programmed and where. This course is not just about teaching people how to ‘put on a show’ it’s also about giving them access to the people who can program their work, so the work we get to see on our cabaret stages is as diverse as Australia is, and truly reflects the stories and ideas and talents of the artists living here”.
Because of this philosophy, when curating the tutors who deliver the 16 specialised masterclasses at the course, Queenie emphasised how important it was to have a broad range of artists with a focus on diversity at every level. There is a strong focus on having female-identifying artists, BIPOC and gender diverse tutors, as well as tutors who are involved in the various styles and genres of cabaret.
As cabaret is all about storytelling, and often the stories of the individual performer, Queenie felt it crucial that the tutors were able to nurture artists in discussing their lived experiences.“The course is open to performers from anywhere and from every genre of live performance – singers, circus, comedians, burlesque, drag – all will find themselves reflects in the diversity of the tutors,” says Queenie. “And because diversity and accessibility are important to us at AMTA, we will be seeking out and encouraging enrolments from artists in regional areas as well encouraging enrolments from First Nations and BIPOC artists, LGBTIQ+ artists, body and age diverse artists, artists with a disability, and culturally and linguistically diverse artists. We also welcome artists who are financially challenged to get in touch as we have a number of scholarships we are giving to people in difficult financial positions.”
So, if you have a story or an idea brewing, or have always wanted to, as the song goes, come to the cabaret, check out AMTA’s Creating Cabaret Course, and become part of the next generation of diverse, innovative, and enthralling cabaret artists to make their voices heard.
For more details, and to enrol in the Creating Cabaret Course, please visit the AMTA website.