The third MUST (Monash University Student Theatre) Container Festival runs at the Monash Clayton campus from 31 July to 15 August. Last year’s festival had over 350 performances and events from 600 Melbourne artists – student, emerging and established – and had an audience of over 3000. Tess Chappell, who studies law and performing arts at Monash, is the co-curator of the festival and talks about her experience.
Shipping containers will again pop up around campus and be converted into intimate theatrettes, and the MUST theatre space will transformed into a buzzing hub and lounge bar. These and other surprising venues will be filled with brilliant new music, dance, theatre, visual art, games, interactive performances, poetry, burlesque and more. With performances lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, audiences can design their own festival experience each evening: anything from a few tasters to a non–stop entertainment indulgence!
MUST’s Artistic Director, Yvonne Virsik, instituted a curatorial model for the festival by which a current student is hired from applicants to work alongside her as a co-curator. It was a brilliant opportunity that I leapt at.
Working on The Container Festival has been a challenging, sometimes exhausting experience but extremely rewarding. I’ve had to juggle my commitments towards my study and stay on campus a lot. But we have breakfast and coffee meetings, so it all balances out.
I was so excited to take on this position because I recognise the importance of The Container Festival and the kinds of opportunities it presents to the student at Monash and the wider artistic communities in Melbourne. It has been an enriching experience to contribute to this project and utilise the skills that I have developed through my years of work with MUST.
The intimacy and closeness of the shipping container theatrettes enable artists to feel confident to take larger risks and attempt projects that leave them vulnerable or exposed.
As a curator, I have been following the development of each project from the first informal coffee meeting and I will hopefully be able to see each one in their realisation. It has been exciting to see how the fledging and sometimes uncertain concepts articulated in these meetings have evolved into strong, tangible projects of integrity. Watching friends, colleagues and new acquaintances become more confident in their ideas and abilities is great.
The intimacy and closeness of the shipping container theatrettes enable artists to feel confident to take larger risks and attempt projects that leave them vulnerable or exposed. It is a testament to the The Container Festival community that these artists feel supported in exploring these sometimes confronting topics and performance styles.
What I love about The Container Festival is that it is unique in both its innovation and accessibility. Audience members can attend performances that aim to entertain or relax, or they can challenge themselves by seeing a more experimental or confronting piece. The artists and volunteers can also choose to participate in the festival as a fun and a way to gather experience or as an opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone.
It has been interesting to watch the emergence of artistic themes and trends. This year artists have been interested in extending their concepts beyond individual works and into the creation of an artistic series: Tensions: Curated Works, the Yours or Mine series, Landscapes. There has also been a strong resurgence of comedy, from stand up to impro, interactive comedy and sketch comedy.
The last few months have been a lot of work and I’ll be very excited (and relieved) at our opening night launch party on Friday 31 July from 6pm. We have programmed over 80 separate acts at and I feel proud of every single one.
The Container Festival
31 July–15 August
The Festival Hub is in The MUST Space: Ground Floor West, Campus Centre, 21 Chancellors Walk, Monash University, Clayton