John Clark AM b.1932

John Clark

John Clark

John Richard James Clark was born in Hobart on 30 October 1932.

He was educated at the University of Tasmania. ‘It was a small community,’ he remembers, ‘and everyone knew everyone else. The staff and students worked closely together.’ This, it turns out was the model he adopted for NIDA.

 

From the ground up

‘I was at a difficult time in my life, late teens,’ said NIDA graduate Mel Gibson. ‘I really didn’t know what to do, and I needed some direction. I actually went to school, and I went to a place that gave me the tools to explore my own creativity. It’s Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art, where I was imprisoned for three years. You know, I was just some surf dude that was hanging around who knew a couple of speeches and I was going to, you know, spew out my stuff, as raw as it was, and see if I could get a place there. And they knew we were raw. But that’s what they were looking for: raw. They didn’t necessarily want to see anything too polished.

‘John Clark said, “It’s gonna be tough, it’s gonna be this, it’s gonna be that.” I remember he said, “This whole business of acting is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.” And I remember, I thought, “Wow! You just need a spark, and the rest of it’s just hard work.” And so he, in no uncertain terms, let us know we were in for it, and that we were going to put in some long hours and we’d be hungry and that there was going to be a lot asked of us and that we were going to go through, like, crises of the personality, you know. Ego crises and all sorts of things... And, of course, all that happened. They gave me tremendous freedom, and they gave me the keys and the tools to explore what little talent I have. You know, to get it out there, and utilise it. The first year for me was about change. I wasn’t inclined to be too forward in expressing opinions. I didn’t jump to the front of the class, put it that way. I just kind of hung back and watched a little. You’re encouraged to try and fail. I did, many times – almost every time. You had to have a hide like a rhinoceros. They’d roar into you sometimes. And they’d tell you the truth. I look at all the young Australians who’ve been through NIDA and are doing so well, and it gives me a lot of heart. It certainly left its mark on the industry and, to a degree, the world.’

If NIDA has left its mark on the industry, it’s largely because of John Clark, who steered it steadily for so many years.

John Richard James Clark was born in Hobart on 30 October 1932. He was educated at the University of Tasmania. ‘It was a small community,’ he remembers, ‘and everyone knew everyone else. The staff and students worked closely together.’ This, it turns out was the model he adopted for NIDA.

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Biographical references

Ron Blair: ‘John Clark AM’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995
John Clark: NIDA, Focus Publishing, 2003
Peter Lavery: ‘National Institute of Dramatic Art’, in Companion to Theatre in Australia, Currency Press, 1995