When Year 11 student Mackenzie Callan performed in his first Theatresports competition in Year 7, he stood on stage in a shocked silence for 30 seconds before being rescued by his fellow teammates.
Three years on and his team came first in the 2017 Theatresports Schools Challenge Junior Grand Final.
“I panicked,” Mackenzie admits, recalling the moment they found out they won. “It’s really daunting being up on stage,” he says. “We were thinking, ‘Are we going to win? Are we going to win?! Please, we’ve tried so hard.’ It went from panic to joy, really. It was a very unique experience.”
The experience was made all the more unique with the knowledge that the things he was learning in Theatresports – an improvisation competition where performers compete in teams in a range of games to gain points – were useful for school and life in general.
Mackenzie says Theatresports “definitely builds self-confidence, like nothing else that this school offers”.
“Having coached [junior teams], I’ve seen new students who have come in and not been able to talk, or have been very, very nervous, or not willing to speak up. Within a few weeks, they’re very social, they have a [group of friends] and they’re ready to get up and perform.”
Mackenzie relates to their experiences. Coming to St Andrew’s in Year 7 as the only student from his suburb, he says coming into the Theatresports community was vital in adjusting to high school life. “I had seen my friends in Theatresports be silly, so I didn’t need to worry about looking silly in front of them,” he says. “We would all look like idiots in front of each other. It made it a lot easier to interact with others.”
There’s something about the improvisation of Theatresports, as opposed to scripted drama, that keeps Mackenzie coming back for more – so much so that earlier this year he participated in the Theatresports All-Stars Battle of the Champions external event, with his dad and school Theatresports coach, David Callan.
“In Theatresports you get to create everything. You get the opportunity to make it as absurd as you want, without catering to any one genre,” he says. “You know it’s stupid, it’s just a scene, and then it’s gone forever, which is the cool thing about theatre.”
That’s not to say that he doesn’t like scripted drama. He’s been in almost every school drama production since Year 7, and, most recently, he played Snug in the school’s punk adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“Snug is one of the mechanicals; he plays a comic role, which is perfect for me,” he says. “It was fun because we got to experiment with making things as stupid as possible.”
While drama and Theatresports isn’t something Mackenzie wants to get into professionally, the skills you acquire in the experiences are useful in any field of work. “Being able to think on your feet, being able to work in a team, to act in general … they are such valuable skills to have in any career.”
“I’m just happy that I was lucky enough to be born into a family that was already into drama, and go to a school that really embraced what Theatresports had to offer.”
– Anthony Segaert