• Teachers say students at Croydon State School overcame their shyness during a week with the JUTE Theatre Company crew. (Supplied)
An all-Indigenous acting troupe is empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in far north Queensland to stand up and be heard.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

22 Dec 2017 - 1:24 PM  UPDATED 22 Dec 2017 - 1:24 PM

The year is 2067 and the Republic of Australia has its first Aboriginal President. 

So begins Proppa Solid, a play written by Brisbane actor, writer and comedian Steven Oliver, best known for his work on ABC's Black Comedy. The story follows President Paul Toppy as he travels back through time to the present day to be confronted by a very different Australia, and some very funny ancestors who teach him a thing or two about his roots.

Described as a "riotous comedy" that sheds light on the "true meaning of success and family", the play was inspired by real-life success stories from the First Peoples of far north Queensland. It has been brought to life at 10 regional and remote locations this year, including Bamaga, Thursday Island, Weipa, Lockhart River, Pormpuraaw, Innisfail, Cooktown, Yarrabah, Herberton and Croydon.

A team of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander actors from the Cairns-based JUTE Theatre Company spent almost a week in each community, conducting workshops with local kids before a free community performance.

"We’re not just doing a show at the school or in the community and then leaving straight away," says cast member Leroy Parsons.

"We are living within the community, we’re getting to know the kids on a personal level in terms of doing workshops with them. Also, it’s about feeling what the community is – every community or town is really different, so it’s about adjusting to that, and working with the kids one-on-one sometimes and it’s something that they’ve never experienced."

Croydon State School teacher Gillian Hinrichsen says the program has helped students to overcome the shame factor. 

"I’ve seen the change in them," she says. 

"They’ve been eager to start and get over there, and also in the way they’ve joined in with the activities – they’re not so shy."

Actor Mark Sheppard says he hopes to give Indigenous youth the confidence to "stand in front of people and be seen". 

"I'm absolutely passionate about particularly empowering our young people to feel confident about themselves… if I can be an influence on that, then that’s why I’m giving my 100 per cent."

The JUTE Theatre Company will continue touring with a new production next year.  

 

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