Given the uncertainty provoked by the events of the past year or so, the theme of the seventh ACT UP! performance showcase seems apt.
The 2021 theme for the curated festival is New Normal - project yourself into the future, challenging high school and college students to devise and perform 10-minute performance pieces exploring what's happening to them now and imagining what will happen to them and the world.
Education programs school liaison at Canberra Theatre Centre Peter Van Rijswijk was a drama teacher at St Francis Xavier College who helped students devise works for the festival from its beginning until his retirement in 2016.
He then began working part-time at the Canberra Theatre Centre.
The event started life as Fast and Fresh but that name was later changed. It started as competitive but that element has been dropped, as has a static art component.
Mr Van Rijswijk said initially the event was in the smaller confines of the Courtyard Studio so audiences were very limited.
"We changed it so students could see each other's work and learn from each other," he said.
While COVID-19 forced ACT UP! to go online last year and made dance performances impractical, the event is back at the Playhouse in 2021 with dance, as well as drama, included.
Fifteen schools and colleges took part in 2021 and 10 were selected for the public performance at the Playhouse.
In the latter category are students from Alfred Deakin High School, Batemans Bay High School, Campbell High School, Canberra College, UCSSC Lake Ginninderra College, St Edmunds College, St Francis Xavier College, Telopea Park School, St John Paul II College and Marist College.
Experienced theatre mentors including Goldele Raymant and Jena Price were engaged to guide and mentor the students and provide teachers with professional development experience.
Dale Thain, in her fourth year as a drama and dance teacher and theatre producer at UCSSC Lake Ginninderra College, said: "We have two groups - the dance group is doing a piece called A Portal to a New Normal."
The students go back in time and, decade by decade, experience a range of music and dance forms from The Beatles to Britney Spears.
While it wasn't selected for the evening performance, the college's drama group was.
"The drama students are doing Mama Pick Me Up, I'm Scared, exploring the theme of moving out of home, leaving the nest," Ms Thain said.
In it, a character named Miriam faces the challenges of flatmates, assignments and homesickness after leaving home.
Ms Thain said ACT UP! gave students "an authentic experience" very different from their smaller-scale school activities.
She said: "They do tech rehearsals on a full stage with lighting and sound, see other ideas, other plays ... and perform in a real theatre."
- ACT UP! 2021 is on at the Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre on Wednesday, June 2 at 8pm. Tickets $20/$15. canberratheatrecentre.com.au or (02) 6275 2700.