Michelle Heaven, recipient of the 2024 Fellowship. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti

The 2024 Joan & Betty Rayner ACTF Fellowship

The Trustees of the Australian Children’s Theatre Foundation (ACTF) and Regional Arts Victoria are delighted to announce the 2024 Joan and Betty Rayner ACTF Fellowship has been awarded to theatre-maker Michelle Heaven. 

Michelle is a regionally based choreographer and movement-based performance artist, director, teacher, and puppeteer. The Fellowship recipient, Michelle will undertake a series of mentorship activities learning through observation and gaining hands on experience and training with renowned puppeteer and director Scott Wright from Erth Visual and Physical Theatre (Sydney), creator of contemporary puppetry, Sam Routledge from Terrapin Puppet Theatre (Hobart), and with directors Zoe Barry and Geoff Cobham from Patch Theatre (Adelaide). Michelle has also been invited to attend a masterclass program with Basil Twist, renowned New York puppet designer and maker. 

Michelle will also attend Edinburgh Children’s Festival to see performances and participate in artist workshops, providing firsthand experience of current international contemporary works for children as well as networking opportunities with artists, producers, presenters. 

“As a result of a rigorous selection process it is with great pleasure to grant the ACTF Fellowship to Michelle Heaven. I am sure her proposed program of professional activities will lead to enhancing children’s theatre, not only in Victoria, but across Australia.”

– Rod Parnall, ACTF Chair 

For further information please contact our Creative Learning Team [email protected]

More information

Building on ACTF’s history as strong supporters of theatre for primary school age children across Victoria, the Joan and Betty Rayner ACTF Fellowship supports the artistic development of an artists’ practice to the amount of $20,000 and is open to emerging or established artists working in children’s theatre and to those wishing to diversify their practice into and across the field of theatre for children. 

This biennial Fellowship continues the legacy of the Rayner sisters, who believed that high quality theatre should be accessible to young people, despite location, cultural or socio-economic differences. 

The Rayner sisters established the Australian Childrens Theatre in 1948 after decades performing throughout Britain, Europe and the United States as strolling players.  Through their Theatre, Joan and Betty trained many emerging local performance artists, provided support for established children’s theatre performers and brought to Australia many highly talented international children’s theatre artists. 

Joan & Betty themselves spent their early years developing their stage craft under the tutelage of renowned overseas performers and by travelling extensively to meet with local storytellers to observe the folk stories and customs of many cultures worldwide.  This in turn inspired them to train others through the Australian Children’s Theatre. 

Applications are now closed, next round will be in 2026.

The Australian Children’s Theatre Foundation is proudly supported by: