Thank you, Chancellor, thank you Deputy-Vice-Chancellor, for this incredible honour.
This year, my sister, Mary-Elizabeth, earned her Doctorate in Museum Studies, so I have a sense of the blood, sweat, tears and sheer dogged determination needed to attain a PHD. I'm deeply humbled and extremely grateful to be awarded this honorary degree for following what I love for the past 20 years.
I've been blessed to lead a life in the theatre -- a path made possible by the dynamic, enlightened education I received at Flinders Drama Centre in the early 90s.
I must thank the visionary teachers who opened my mind and nurtured my passion -- in particular Professor Michael Morley, Associate Professor Murray Bramwell, Mary Moore, and Professor Jules Holledge. Their teaching and philosophy is the soil from which my work as a director grows.
I'd also like to acknowledge inspirational movement teacher Michael Fuller who, sadly, passed away earlier this year. Michael's profound grace and joyous spirit lives on in the work of the many Drama Centre graduates he taught and inspired.
I thank my parents for always encouraging me to follow what I love. The path I chose was not always straightforward or conventional, yet their support never wavered. Looking out here today, I see that precious support mirrored in other families celebrating the graduation of children and loved ones. Congratulations to you all on this special day.
Finally, I'd like to thank my partner, Magga, who travelled from Iceland to be here. All those years ago, when I was catching the 719 bus up the hill to Flinders, I would never have imagined that one day I'd be living in Reykjavik with you. Knowing you is the most wonderful adventure. I'm thrilled to share this honour with you.
Yesterday, I was up to Flinders for the first time in 15 or so years. Much has changed and been developed, yet so much remains deeply familiar. Being there triggered wonderful memories of an electric time in my life. A time of deep inspiration, joyous discovery, friendship and experimentation.
I remember the bonds of comradeship with my fellow Drama Centre students. We shared the same hunger. We were on the same wild ride. Like Konstantin in Anton Chekhov's play The Seagull, we railed against so-called conventional theatre. We searched for new forms, new ways to make theatre relevant, living and truthful. We believed we could change the world through our theatremaking -- an ideal many of us continue to cherish. The Drama Centre was our incubator: a kind of collective experiment where we could test boundaries, unpack our cultural baggage, hone our craft, and face the sacrifices -- the genuine nakedness of spirit -- required to become truthful artists.
Revisiting the Drama Centre Studio -- my first rehearsal room -- this week was like stepping into a time machine. I realised I've transported that room into all the rehearsal spaces I've worked in since: church halls in Sydney, lofts in Melbourne, the fluoro-lit studios of the Schaubühne in Berlin, grimy halls in South London, warehouses in Brooklyn, opera rehearsals in Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Buenos Aries, a concrete and glass room in Reykjavík looking out over frozen mountains. My life in the theatre has taken me to amazing places and in each of them, I've run rehearsal rooms based on principles I learned at Flinders.
The rehearsal room is the place I feel most at home in the world. A place with its own rituals, its own gravity, where the rules of the outside world don't always apply. I feel very alive there, gathered with my colleagues -- the actors, designers, musicians, stage managers, technicians -- making theatre. The rehearsal room is our playground, our emotional gymnasium. A boxing ring for ideas. A lab for investigating what it means to be human.
Great drama invites us to confront the extremities of human experience, to sift through the living material of what makes us human -- all the tenderness, violence, magic, sorrow, and ecstasy. The theatre is a safe place to experience unsafe thoughts and unstable emotions. For a little while, we stare down our terrors and our deepest secrets. We get to peer through the curtain and glimpse a hidden side of reality.
Night after night, on stage, actors embody our ghosts, our demons, our lovers, our wildest dreams. We ask them to go to extreme places in our psyches, to experience things which in everyday life -- in the so-called real world -- might be too much to bear. Night after night, they play out full on things which might normally drive us crazy or get us sent to prison. In order to go to those extreme places -- to be brave enough to step out in front of an audience and bare their souls -- actors need a safe place where they can risk all. Research shows that the adrenalin levels of an actor stepping onstage are similar to those of a car accident. In the rehearsal room, actors build up the stamina and the courage to take that leap. It's a place of deep curiosity, playfulness, experimentation and camaraderie.
As a director, I'm interested in raw vulnerability onstage and I love the pursuit of that in the rehearsal room. I love being the first audience for the actors' impulses. I love guiding them to new places -- encouraging them to be even more open, more playful, more fully present. Together, we're chasing down moments of naked truth and tender beauty.
A sense of the rehearsal room as a safe place to take risks is something I first felt at Flinders. My journey into the world set out from the Flinders Drama Centre and has led me to amazing places and incredible encounters.
Whatever path you're setting out on as graduates today, I hope you'll continue to feel safe to take risks, to keep experimenting, to never stop searching. I hope you'll be blessed to follow what you love. I hope you'll keep believing that what you love -- what you follow, what you work on -- can change the world. And it will.
BENEDICT ANDREWS, ADELAIDE, 14/12/2016