SHANE BRANSDON joined the CONDA judging team in 2014. He is a passionate educator and theatrical practitioner with a diverse background in performing arts. Shane has been involved in professional and non-professional productions by many Newcastle theatre companies as actor, director, lighting designer, production manager, stage manager, tour manager, technical director and puppeteer, as well as a youth group drama tutor and an assistant director of the Hunter schools spectacular, Star Struck. It was also his initiative in 2012 to establish the Newcastle Performing Arts Taskforce, which aims to generate a new appreciation of the role of performing arts in Newcastle and surrounding regions by aligning the community cultural value of the performing arts with their economic benefits.
Shane was a lecturer at the University of Newcastle Drama Department in 2012 and is currently the chairperson of the Newcastle Performing Arts taskforce. The combination of Shane’s experience as an educator and a theatrical practitioner have allowed him to develop a deep understand and appreciation of the elements, forms and genres of drama.
MICHELLE GOSPER joined the CONDA judging panel in 2009. She has been involved in theatre for more than three decades, since she worked in theatre restaurant alongside fellow drama student Stephen (The Sandman) Abbott to help pay her way through the University of Newcastle. She majored in drama for her Bachelor of Arts degree and has a Master’s degree in Theatre Arts, with her focus in that area of study being on directing.
Michelle was a drama teacher at Lambton High School. Her theatre-related posts during her teaching career have included 13 years as Star Struck drama co-ordinator, five years as co-ordinator of the Hunter Youth Drama Ensemble (HYDRA), and the post of drama director for the All Schools Annual Anzac Day ceremony at the Civic Theatre. She has been the drama representative on the Hunter-Central Coast Schools Creative Arts Committee and co-ordinator of the Hunter-Central Coast High Schools Drama Festivals. She has also been an examiner of the practical component of the Higher School Certificate drama course for 20 years.
Michelle was a member of the board of 2 Til 5 Youth Theatre (now Tantrum Theatre) and served respectively as secretary and chairperson in a six-year period. Her original script for a play about the AIDS epidemic was used as the basis of a Freewheels Theatre-in-Education Company group-devised text, Not Me, Mate!, that won the 1990 CONDA Award for best new play.
Michelle continued to perform until the late 2000s, including roles in productions by Newcastle’s Hands Free Theatre and in Wagga Wagga and at Sydney’s Bondi Pavilion.
CARL GREGORY Biography to come
KEN LONGWORTH has been a CONDA judge since the awards began and serves as chairman of the judging team.
A performer since his infants school years, he made his first major appearance at age seven in a play that was part of a schools concert staged at Newcastle City Hall to raise funds for the then planned Newcastle Cultural Centre. As a student at Newcastle University College, he was involved in its first four revues as actor, writer and director, and, in a year at Newcastle Teachers College, co-directed Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town. He was also assistant director of the university college newspaper, Opus, writing film reviews.
While serving as a teacher in the Riverina, he became a journalist at the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser, and for most of his 2-1/2 years there was its theatre reviewer. Returning to Newcastle in 1966 to work at The Newcastle Herald, he wrote occasional reviews for the newspaper until becoming its sole theatre reviewer in 1976, at a time when Hunter Valley Theatre Company began operations as the city’s first professional theatre company and the new Newcastle University Drama Department was offering challenging works. He was one of four Newcastle theatre critics invited to be CONDA judges when Newcastle City Council established the City of Newcastle Drama Awards in 1979.
In 2001, he took a busman’s holiday while on long service leave to direct the play Love Letters at DAPA Theatre. He continues in his role as theatre reviewer and writer for The Newcastle Herald.
GUILHERME NORONHA Biography to come