Vena Cava: History

Provided by Kurt Duval, the first President of Vena Cava

Vena Cava was conceived amongst much controversy in 1995, and came into existence in 1996. The birth and growth of Vena Cava has been the end result of the combined determination and dedication of many amazing people.

In 1995, QUT went through a process of restructuring their undergraduate degrees that affected many faculties including the Arts Faculty. The restructuring procedure was QUT’s reaction to government policy. The implementation of this policy in the Drama Department was met with fierce opposition from the student body. The drama students were told that the practical components of the drama degree were to be removed from the three year course and pushed into a fourth “honours” year. We, as the first year students, were furious, as we had decided to study at QUT because of the practical nature of the course and had not been informed of this prior to our acceptance to the drama degree.  The second year students were also angered by the changes to the degree and were supportive of the next course of action to be taken by the student body.

The controversial actions saw petitions that were signed by a vast majority of drama students, sent to lecturers, Heads of the Drama departments, and the Dean of the university.  The result of this controversial action was a meeting with Brad Haseman, Head of the Drama Department at the time, who diplomatically suggested that we could not change the restructuring process but that we consider a student theatre company that would be morally supported by the drama department.

The endless meetings began. We rallied the support of the student body to find who wished to be on the executive, and to find sustainable structure for the soon to be formed student theatre company. I also met with the Student Guild to find out the formalities and requirements of the clubs and societies i.e. rules and regulations. We also needed to acquire funds to bring this theoretical concept to fruition. Thus, began the political strategy.

To gain financial support from the Student Guild, we needed a pro arts Student Guild executive for the Kelvin Grove Campus. A political party called Impact were pro arts, and agreed to support us if they got into power. Drama students were renowned for not voting and through the meetings held to form the student theatre company we were able to motivate drama students to vote. Thus, Impact got into power and the Student Theatre company became financially viable and was brought into existence.

The end result of much “blood, sweat and tears” was that Vena Cava Student Theatre Company was founded in 1996 and was an affiliate of the QUT Student Guild Clubs & Societies. It received in kind support from the QUT Drama Faculty that included theatre, lighting, rehearsal space hire and a portion of the noticeboard dedicated to Vena Cava.

The newly formed Vena Cava executives were fundamental in using foresight to create the foundations for a sustainable student theatre company. The structure and constitution took many weeks to formulate and then implemented. Many ideas were brainstormed, researched, thrown out or immediately implemented. Within a month of the executive being voted in, moves were undertaken to commission the first production, Steven Sewell’s Anger’s Love.

The many dedicated people involved in the massive task of establishing Vena Cava included:

Suzanne Little
Jenny Gleeson
Madeleine Smith
Kurt Duval
Barry Jones
Rob Rimmer
Jason Klarwein
Jeb Morris

The 1996 Vena Cava Executive included:

Kurt Duval (President)
Natalie Faulkner (Secretary)
Anne Ryan (Treasurer)
Suzanne Little (Office Bearer)
Sue Mawer (Officer Bearer)
Emma Tonkin (Office Bearer)

The achievements of Vena Cava, during the first year, can be attributed to the executive, the members and the motivators who never lost faith and maintained the belief that there was a purpose behind the company's existence. The support of QUT Drama Department and the Student Guild were also instrumental in the long term strategies that have allowed Vena Cava to exist today.

It is a treasure that I hope is appreciated and respected, and that the student body will always support and fight for its right to exist. The opportunities and skills that Vena Cava offers are invaluable in the arts community and the industry.