22 February 2011

SMH on Emma Buzo

A rather nice piece on Emma Buzo was published in the Monday 21 February edition of The Sydney Morning Herald. Unfortunately it does not seem to be in the online edition, so I reproduce it in full below.

For an earlier post on Emma and the company she founded to promote her father’s work, see The Alex Buzo Company.

A father’s legacy takes centre stage
Natalie Muller

Few people follow in their father’s footsteps to the extent that Emma Buzo has done.

The Sydney-based actor and theatre producer has moved to Armidale to teach at The Armidale School, where the late Australian playwright, Alex Buzo, first discovered his love for language and drama about 60 years ago.

She is also teaching his first play, Norm and Ahmed, which rose to national prominence in the late ‘60s after being at the centre of a fierce censorship battle, being banned in three states.

Now the work is part of the HSC drama syllabus and year 12 students at The Armidale School would be hard pressed to find someone more qualified than the author’s own daughter to teach it.

“They’re being taught by the daughter of the playwright at the school the playwright went to,” Buzo says. “I know the background and can talk about the inspiration behind it that hasn’t been published anywhere.”

After the theatre great’s death in 2006, Buzo founded the Alex Buzo company and produced several plays, including Norm and Ahmed, under its banner. Then she lobbied to get the text included in the 2010-2012 HSC syllabus.

The play’s themes of racial tension, as valid today as they were in the 1960s, are talking points in the classroom. “It’s eerie, the journey of that play,” Buzo says.

“Since 9/11 and the Cronulla riots, it’s only gathered momentum.”

Buzo says exposure to theatre was lacking in regional schools.

Besides teaching drama, she will also manage the school’s Hoskins Theatre, a 200-seat performance space, where she is hoping to bring theatre professionals from around Australia.

Buzo says she is excited to evoke the potential in her students.

“It only takes one teacher who sees the potential in a student,” she said. “I hope I can light the flame, because once an interest is established they’ll seek more.”

The school’s headmaster, Murray Guest, says her experience in the industry is a plus.

“That means a lot for the boys, that she is not a teacher pretending to be a theatre producer, she’s the real thing,” he says.

Buzo has been a teacher for the last 15 years and has taught at NIDA and the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP).

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