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Darling of the Musicals, Sweetheart of the Screen, hardworking mum and all round Good Witch, Lucy Durack, shows the value in seeking the support of family, friends and the odd stranger on social media.

When Lucy Durack got her childhood dog, her outnumbered dad, on learning it was a girl had one demand a tough name. Born and raised in an unashamedly girly girl house in Perth with her two sisters and a bitch named Bandit, this Fairy Princess was, as every good tale goes, destined for the stage.

With a wicked talent and spellbinding mix of resilience and charm, Lucy chats to Offspring from her home in Melbourne about family and her magically crafted career on both stage and screen.

“Polly wants to be The Fairy Queen of the Theater when she grows up,” Lucy laughs of her daughter. Clearly keen to follow in Mum’s footsteps, Polly must have been taking note of Lucy’s Glinda during last year’s GFO’s production of The Wizard of Oz, her four year old being no stranger to The Good Witch.

Polly, imbued in show business from the womb, (she was in utero during her mother’s reprisal of a fleshed out Glinda, in the smash hit musical, Wicked) will likely be understudying in the wings in January when Lucy treads the boards as Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical.

Although Lucy held similar childhood dreams, hankering for the lead in school musicals, she’s mindful not to narrow down her daughter’s choices and says,

“Polly is very keen on singing and dancing, and she’s got a smart little brain, so I want her to see what other things are out there.”

Lucy, a Helpmann Award winning actress, (she won the coveted theater prize playing Elle Woods in the Australian season of Legally Blonde) has broadened her own horizons.

Not confining her talents to the stage, she has a growing number of screen credits, including cop, Tugger, on popular Nine Network series Doctor Doctor, and wayward, Roxy, in Network Ten drama Sisters.

She’ll soon return to Sydney to resume filming, as a judge on Seven’s revival of family hit, Australia’s Got Talent (AGT). Mercifully, without hyperemesis gravidarum, the debilitating morning sickness that plagued her in early production.

She’s expecting her second child, a baby boy in October and describes her recovery as a “Miracle,” after suffering from the condition throughout her entire pregnancy with Polly which she says, “Was really hard,” a believable sentiment when considering the first five months were spent on stage.

Relieved the symptoms subsided much earlier this pregnancy and grateful for the solace she sought in a Facebook group of fellow sufferers she says, “It was a really useful group to just connect with complete strangers that were also going through this really terrible time.”

“Just having people who are going through exactly the same thing is really useful. I found having a Mothers’ Group really helped. I remember once we finished our four weeks, or whatever you do with the nurse, she was like, “Right it’s now up to you girls to meet on your own”, so I started up a WhatsApp Group, but I started it in the middle of the night when I was up feeding Polly.”

“Polly was born in June, so it was winter, and it was dark and cold, that isolating time when you feel like, you’re the only one in the world awake feeding your baby,” Lucy laughs. “And so, I thought I’ll just add the mums and when they wake up in the morning, they can join, but at around 2am I kept getting this ‘ding ding’.

All the mums were up feeding their babies, it was so heartening and it still gives me warm fuzzy feelings to think about, because it was just this moment where I thought,

‘Oh my God, I’m not alone, and we’re all just trying to figure this out in the middle of the night.’”

When Polly was six weeks old, Lucy auditioned for the role of Sophie in Alison Bell and Sarah Scheller creation, The Let Down, screened on ABC & Netflix. Now in its second series and steadily gaining cult status, the wry triumph peels back child rearing to its bare bones.

Lucy, in a fluster before the audition when the babysitter called in sick, had no choice but to take her newborn with her. Luckily, the role of Sophie called for a shiny new mum, who almost has it together when encountering an eclectic mix of characters at Mothers’ Group.

Polly, not only welcome at the audition, scored her first screen credit starring as Sophie’s baby in the pilot episode. Lucy’s agent called saying, “Well, if ever there was an audition where it’s appropriate to bring your baby, this was it.”

Childcare, a tricky balance to strike for most working parents is no different for Lucy and her theater director/choreographer husband, Chris Horsey, who face their own specific challenges piecing together the irregular shapes of their showbiz schedules.

Sitting down, at least monthly, with their calendars they nut out the gaps, Lucy says, “As long as we’ve kind of organised the next month or two, and I know in my heart that Polly’s looked after in the best possible way, then I can keep going.”

Lucy says it couldn’t work without Chris and his hands-on approach to fatherhood, “Chris is absolutely brilliant, such an excellent husband and dad. We don’t live the traditional roles of how we grew up, where our mothers were the main carer. Chris and I split it pretty evenly.” At times, that means either one stepping up to care for Polly while the other works.

When schedules collide, they arrange day care, a nanny or call on family. Once, when Chris was choreographing in Paris while Lucy filmed Sisters, they got a live-in au pair. Lucy’s mum is booked in for August. “Mum’s super helpful. She flies in and saves the day multiple times a year. She’s brilliant.” Lucy says.

With the long-term future often difficult to predict, Lucy relies on her and Chris talking things through, “Chris and I try to keep really open about communicating how we’re feeling because we’ve both had stints as the main carer.”

“It’s great because we both know how isolating that can be and so we can be a little more open about that. It’s constant negotiation, a jigsaw puzzle that we’re trying to sort out.”

Connecting industry parents who share tips and contacts for juggling parenthood and career through Facebook Group Actor/Singer/Dancer/Mother also helps Lucy piece the puzzle together.

“It has been an invaluable source, very, very useful. It’s a really great support network and for those really specific questions that come with being a mum, that are coupled with the uncertainty of performing life.

“That Facebook Group, on a weekly basis, gives me such help and support, and just makes me feel happy that we’re all there looking after each other.

“Oh, The worst thing that is going to happen is, I’m not going to do a very good job, but I’m not going to die”

Being open to support and asking for help has perhaps enhanced the bold and brave life of Lucy Durack. Suffering stage fright while studying Musical Theatre at WAAPA (Western Australian Academy for Performing Arts), she sought guidance from teachers and read books on the fight or flight response.

On realising her worst fears would not result in being eaten by a wildebeest, she overcame the anxiety. Laughing, she remembers, “Once I discovered ‘Oh, the worst thing that is going to happen is, I’m not going to do a very good job, but I’m not going to die.’ That really helped me.”

Accepting the possibility that, not doing a very good job, needn’t equal disaster has undoubtedly allowed Lucy’s talents to flourish and fostered her connections with others through the admirable mix of humility and optimism. 

Discussing the bravery of vulnerability, Lucy says, “Even to just reach out and say, ‘I feel like I’m failing,’ and everyone says, ‘Yep, we all do. Don’t worry,’ can help to know you’re not the only one.

I don’t think anyone escapes that feeling, at some point. I love Brene Brown, and I read a quote from her the other day where she says, ‘If we all operate from the perspective that we’re all trying our hardest, then everyone’s life’s better.’

“You know, it’s true. Everyone is trying their hardest, it’s just sometimes things are hard.

“Even to just reach out and say, ‘I feel like I’m failing,’ and everyone says,‘Yep, we all do. Don’t worry,’ can help to know you’re not the only one.”

Moments of vulnerability abound in the current season of AGT. Judging for the first time, Lucy has found the experience more emotionally fulfilling than expected and explains, “You’re watching people bare their souls and try things they, maybe, don’t do in their normal lives. It’s their big chance in the spotlight. It can be emotionally draining because you want to give them all your attention, but it’s also emotionally fulfilling and beautiful to watch.”

“Every single filming day, probably because I’m pregnant as well, I cried at least once at something beautiful that happened on stage. Some of the acts are heart wrenching, some hilarious and others are just ridiculous. So you have this roller coaster of emotions throughout your filming day. I’m really enjoying it and I’ve learnt a lot.”

Lucy’s next big act will be welcoming her son and brother for Polly in October.

She says, “Polly is super girly. Everything has to be pink and purple, rainbow and sparkles. I think having a boy will be really good for our household, to balance us all out. It will be interesting to see what personality this little guy will have and who he’ll take after.”

The little guy will be around four weeks old when Lucy starts rehearsals for Shrek the Musical, opening at Sydney Lyric Theatre in January 2020.

She says, “Knowing that Shrek is coming up, and we as a family will be in Sydney for a few months with a newborn baby, we’ve got some beautiful nanny contacts from when we lived there, so I’ve put them in place. I’m pretty excited because I love Shrek.”

“Now my life is so much about my family, a whole new part of my career that is really family-friendly, that I can bring my family to, has all of sudden become such a high priority. Knowing that can happen with Shrek, I’m looking forward to it. It’s a really funny, well-written show.”

Another well-written show, however, comes first. Lucy needs to prepare for Bonnie Lythgoe’s panto spectacular, Jack and the Beanstalk, and this Fairy Princess doesn’t fit into any of her clothes.

She’s off to buy maternity leggings from Westfield, she’ll probably drive. But perhaps, with a click of the heel or a wave of a wand, she might just fly in a pair of glittering wings, making every day fairy tales (like only Lucy Durack can) come true.

The Performing Arts is a transformative experience essential to a child’s wellbeing and development. Whether it’s drama, music or dance, we’ve got you covered with the best professional programs and stay-at-home fun!

Extracurricular activities fill up the calendars of most school aged children these days. However, sport is usually the dominant feature over more creative pursuits. But did you know engaging in the Performing Arts, whether it be dance, drama or music has phenomenal benefits for kids’ wellbeing and development?

 

If your child is shy and lacks confidence, introducing them to Performing Arts could be a life changing decision. The combination of a safe environment and engaging activities could be the trigger to bring them out of their shell.

Performing Arts have the ability to provide kids with a wide variety of skills to set them up for life. It’s not about becoming a star or getting the leading role, it’s about stimulating the body and mind and the vast emotional, social and educational paybacks.

Being a part of a performance process, exposes your child to new ways of thinking, moving, engaging and doing. Research shows that children who sing, dance, act or play instruments are more likely to be recognised for academic achievement compared with their non-performing counterparts.

It’s not about becoming a star or getting the leading role, it’s about stimulating the body and mind and the vast emotional, social and educational paybacks.

But the benefits don’t end there. Here are some of the key rewards children receive from participating in Performing Arts:

1. Self-esteem and Confidence

The safe environment of a class, as well as the opportunity to perform in front of an audience, will help bolster your child’s confidence and self-esteem. Children will make mistakes, we all do, but they will have the chance to practice and learn, and eventually succeed at a given task, generating immense feelings of pride, which can have a flow on effect to reducing anxiety and depression.

2. Social Skills

Most creative activities require teamwork or some collaboration. This expands children’s skills in communication, conflict resolution, negotiation and empathy. By learning collaboration kids begin to see that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role. Through team work kids can learn to see things from different perspectives and understand the motivations, feelings and opinions of others.

3. Perseverance and Resilience

Learning an instrument or dance requires practice, patience and persistence. On the journey to success children learn the old anecdote ‘the show must go on’ when things don’t come together perfectly, and they may be required to accept constructive feedback, which will prove a vital skill in later life. Once the performance is complete the sense of accomplishment will drive perseverance in their next endeavour.

4. Concentration and Control

The ability to listen, retain and contribute in a creative class demands a great deal of focus. Equally the core strength, coordination, flexibility and balance required across all performing art forms such as sitting with an instrument for extended periods or executing ballet are all skills that will help enormously when transferred to a school setting.

But Performing Arts aren’t limited to music lessons and dance studios. Perth’s Fringe World Festival Director, Amber Hasler, says we just have to look at the expanding programs and performances drawing huge crowds to the 750 events that made up this year’s Fringe World, with genres from comedy to circus and cabaret acts to realise the endless options and opportunities available in today’s performing art scene.

“Events like Fringe get people out of their houses and interested in the arts in general,” she says. The annual program is a month-long celebration of talented artists including film makers, circus acts, puppetry, mermaids, magic, illusion, comedy, dance, musicals. It really is a joy to bring culture and an array of art forms to the public and open up their perception and appreciation.”

With so many possibilities and endless benefits it can be a daunting task finding the right activity for your child. Offspring has put together a guide to help you navigate the options.

A dance class will introduce children to the notion of a troupe. It is a great way to increase connectivity with others.

Dance

 

Dance is an expressive art form. It is active and a great way to improve fitness, body awareness, motor skills, strength, posture and flexibility. Dancing has recognised social and psychological advantages to a child’s development from problem solving and critical thinking to developing resilience and team work. For many dancers, the activity provides an outlet for emotions, stresses and an escape from daily life.

A dance class will introduce children to the notion of a troupe. It’s not just you on stage but a larger group that is counting on you to do your part. The sense of responsibility and relying on peers gives an incredible sense of belonging. Most often dancers bond tightly together to develop a strong friendship set within their dance school. It is a great way to increase connectivity with others.

Many dance schools offer classes from toddlers to adults. Dance classes focused on enjoyment and movement are perfect for little ones looking to burn off some energy. Lots of dance schools, recreation centres, day care centres, churches and community groups offer specific toddler classes where technique, routines and costumes are not so important.

For older children looking for more structure and the opportunity to become involved in competitions, exams or concerts, there are many styles from which to choose including Ballet, Jazz, Tap, Contemporary, Acrobatics, Cheerleading and Hip Hop. Talk to your child about their interests, ask around for recommendations, visit a few studios and ask about trial classes.

Drama

Drama puts children in exciting, funny, thought-provoking and interesting circumstances to expand their view of the world and the people within it. It is not just limited to stage shows but encompasses circus acts, illusions, puppetry and theatre sports.

“Not every child that takes drama will become a famous actor, but they will walk away with the tools to speak in public and speak up for themselves. They don’t have to be the best, they just have to be involved,” Bronwyn Edinger, Director of Northern Sydney’s Glen Street Theatre told Offspring.

Drama classes cover many skills including voice training, improvisation, role playing and creative movement. Drama, like dance, is suitable to a range of ages and abilities from three years through to adults. Many primary and high schools offer a drama program and some local youth centres provide opportunities to be involved in regular theatrical productions. Otherwise, ask around for recommendations of a good drama club.

Bring the benefits of drama into your home:

1. Set up a box of dress-ups and props to help children create imaginative scenarios, include a large sheet to use as the stage curtain.

2. Create your very own sock puppets. Puppets are a great way for shy kids to engage.

3. Instead of simply reading a story with your child, why not role play and act it out?

Music

Music is a powerful form of expression. It has the ability to change moods and evoke emotional responses simply through sound. Your child doesn’t have to be a prodigy musician to get involved either, signing up for a choir or a band is a great place to start as it removes the pressure associated with solo instruction and performances.Most schools will have a choir your child can freely join.

One of Australia’s most admired conductors, receiving an Order of Australia for his passionate advocacy of music education Richard Gill, believes physical education and arts education should book-end the Australian curriculum, with music being at the forefront, as early as possible in the life of a child.

“The impact this type of education would have on children,with respect to creative thinking, imaginative problem solving, resulting in classrooms full of engaged and interested minds with the capacity to think, perceive, analyse and act upon ideas, would turn the educational decline on its head,” he said during a recent speech to the Collegiate of Specialist Music Educators.

You don’t need to be a wonderful singer or musician to share music with a child, nor spend a lot of money on musical activities, with many local libraries or community groups offering free ‘rhyme time’ sessions to introduce babies and toddlers to rhymes, songs and instruments.

For older children, learning an instrument can teach perseverance, build self-esteem and assist with other school-based education such as reading and maths from learning to read music and count beats.

Your child’s school might teach certain instruments or offer a music program. Otherwise word-of-mouth is always a great way to start looking for a teacher. If you are seeking private tuition check the qualifications of the teachers and find out costs, expectations and ensure they match your child’s desires, some will be more casual and others will expect participation in examinations and recitals. Ask about hiring instruments before committing, as some instruments are expensive and need a lot of practice and persistence.

So How Do You Choose the Right Instrument?

Choosing an instrument to learn can be exciting and full of possibilities. Talk to your child about their interests and visit a reputable music store to see the instruments in their grandeur. Most formal music lessons start between five to nine years old, group classes are recommended for even younger children. The Forte School of Music gives these ages and instruments as a guide:

Piano is highly recommended as a child’s first instrument, it can be played as soon as a child can reach the keys and has enough strength to press them down.
Recommended age: 5+

 Recorder is a common choice in a school setting. It is cheap, children can play it easily and it provides a good introduction to making music.
Recommended age: 5+

Stringed instruments often come in smaller sizes specifically for kids. Some children can handle a violin from the age of four.
Recommended age: 5+ (violin); 9+ (viola and cello)

Wind and brass instruments should not be attempted before your child’s permanent teeth come in because of the pressure on the teeth when they are played, the actual size of the instrument, the lip strength required and the “puff” needed to make a noise.
Recommended age: 8+ (flute, clarinet); 9+ (saxophone, trumpet, trombone, French horn)

✪ Drum and guitars tend to be a big favourite among kids.
Recommended age: 7+

Singing is something that can be enjoyed at all ages, but it is best not to start learning formally until 9+ years.

Bring your own music to life:

1. Have the radio or music stream playing during the day instead of the TV. It will encourage you and your child to sing and dance along.

2. Construct your own musical instruments such as shakers, drums and cymbals from pots and pans, household and craft item.

Not Keen on the Spotlight?

If your child is shy and lacks confidence introducing them to Performing Arts could be a life changing decision. The combination of a safe environment and engaging activities could be the trigger to bring them out of their shell. But don’t push too hard, there are other ways to expose your child to the wonders of the art form without participating:

✪ A trip to the circus – there is nothing quite as awe inspiring as aerial acrobatics.

✪ A dance performance – seeing classical ballet at the theatre or a local dance school’s concert is a lively and colourful experience.

✪ A balloon twisting, puppet or magic show – the illusions will captivate your child’s imagination and open them to the possibilities within Performing Arts. Activities like these are easy to create at home.

Tips to help your child overcome anxiety before a big performance:

Normalise feelings of anxiety and remind your child, everyone, even adults feel nervous before going on stage.

Talk your child through their worries and remind them of other moments when they felt anxious and things ended up being successful.

✪ Help your child calm their nerves by taking four or five long, deep breaths or counting backward from ten.

✪ A concert – there are many touring music acts for kids, teens or adults to provide a great shared experience.

✪ Local community events – whether it is the local choir or dance troupe, carolling, a drama production or an idol contest, there are often opportunities to see an array of performances in your own community.