From My Father: Who Is Jack?
By Anna Robb
It is 1990. A small country hall allied to the neighbouring parish church and school and bordered on two sides, east and south by the same said buildings.
Over distant and recent decades this iconic venue had witnessed many and varied gatherings of the surrounding farming and its rural town settlers, steeped in generations of survival from the pioneer days and their often parochial attitude.
In this instance, parochial is not of an inward-looking mind but rather “of the parish” and how things are done that have been tried and found true. Distilled so to speak out of hard won experience of 140 years when their ancestors first arrived in the district.
So this tiny hall now worn with maintenance and structural updates only possible when funds are intermittently available or forced on relevant committees out of necessity, still continued its innate existence, its raison d’etre.
On this occasion it was the primary school’s senior grade play.
Jack and the Beanstalk.
I took my seat with expectation and with some pride as I was acquainted with the actor who played the lead.
So it was within the humble walls on the stage of this theatre of life that I witnessed, “Jack”, this diminutive girl strut onto the boards with a presence and an air of composure that veritably surprised me.
With the pendular movement of her tiny ponytail adding to the perspicacity of her performance from her very first lines, I watched with wonderment as the obviously well-rehearsed cast went about entertaining its biased audience of parents.
As the time-honoured fairytale unfolded it became obvious that our lead role was much more than a one dimensional “Jack”. Not only did she know and deliver her words perfectly but it became obvious that she knew the script of all her fellow cast members.
It was by no means disruptive with only a slight hesitation, where to move here and a minor stammer over a forgotten word there that “Jack” in the small confines of treading the boards in our hall would unobtrusively whisper the lost lines or motion a fellow actor into position.
What is more, her fellow classmates/actors readily accepted this assistance as it was given in such a manner that it was given with respect and in turn, they respected her leadership.
With “Jack’s” preparation and total insight and knowledge of the show, I not only saw an excellent lead role performance but also the birth of a Stage Manager.
I am still not sure where this talent came from but it was already intrinsic to her nature. This young woman went on to perform and be an intricate part of school plays for the next 6 years. But her future lay in Stage Management.
That 12 year old is now 39 with a wealth of experience hard won through equally very hard work, passion for her profession and above all total commitment to the safety and welfare of those on her team and those in her charge.
Fast forward to 2010. I am standing behind “Jack” in the Stage Manager’s Booth of The House of Dancing Water. “Jack” is now calling the show in the “hall” of the biggest water show on earth.
Yes, that “Jack” in 1990 was Anna Robb.
From that small “family” community in North-East Victoria at the foot of the beautiful Australian Alps, Anna now aspires to create a true global community in all aspects of the profession that has been and is her passion. Theatre, Art and Life are all intertwined and are an integral of a healthy society.
Out of this dream and hope to bring artists and creatives together to share their experiences and ideas and to provide a platform to further educate, inform and gain opportunity the TAL website came into being.
I am extremely proud of my daughter’s achievements to date but more so for her philosophy of care for family, community and our precious earth, we all share no matter what creed, colour or race.
Author: Christopher Robb