ASK Bill Blaikie, Bathurst's newest Order of Australia recipient, to nominate some moments that stand out from his many years of involvement in theatre and education and he smiles as he recounts them.
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"There was a moment over by the Carillon where one of the students was conducting a band and dancing and she nearly got the whole crowd involved in the dancing.
"And there was another moment just beyond there where we did a fire show that involved two dozen people and the audience were chasing them as they paraded through, flicking their lighters.
"There was a moment with Macbeth Exposed [a show that travelled to schools] where the teachers were actually dancing as they were watching the show - they were really excited, and you know you've got a good show when you get the teachers excited."
BATHURST'S AUSTRALIA DAY OAM RECIPIENTS:
Mr Blaikie has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division (for service to the performing arts) in the latest Queen's Birthday Honours List.
A student at Bathurst Teachers' College in the 1960s, he came to Mitchell College in 1976 as a lecturer in education and transferred to the communication department in 1980.
"I rose to the heady heights of senior lecturer and finished up as acting head of the comms school," he said.
And theatre took him everywhere.
"We [at the college] took out the first children's theatre show to schools at the end of 1980," he said.
"That was through a group that was set up by Frank Ponton and Greg McCart to take education and drama and theatre to schools, largely in the Central West.
"We took shows to the RAAF schools in Penang [Malaysia] and throughout the Central West.
"And through the Country Area Program the education department was running at the time, we took workshops and theatre to Tibooburra, Menindee, Louth, Bourke and Ivanhoe."
After he retired, Mr Blaikie said, he was part of a group that devised a show for Seeds of Life - "a Commonwealth Government initiative to help farmers in East Timor take on better strains of corn".
"We did that show about 10 times and we incorporated local artists from East Timor in it. That was praised by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the locals took it up and it went to every village in East Timor," he said.
IN NEWS AROUND BATHURST:
With local historian Robin McLachlan and writer and journalist Bob Ellis, Mr Blaikie was part of the creation of the play City Of The Plains for Bathurst's bicentenary.
"And again with Bob Ellis and Robin McLachlan, we did a show called A Local Man, which was about Ben Chifley," Mr Blaikie said. "Tony Barry was the actor for that.
"That show was reworked at the [Sydney company] Ensemble Theatre and went right around the country."
He said graduates from Mitchell College and, later, Charles Sturt University have gone on to work all around the world - "in theatre, in media, in education".
One of them is Toby Finlayson, whose Desert Pea Media has "worked all around the country with Aboriginal communities, particularly young people, but the whole community really, making hip-hop work to empower young people", Mr Blaikie said.
He also paid tribute to colleagues and fellow lecturers with whom he'd worked over the years, including Frank Ponton, Greg McCart, John Carroll, Jerry Boland, Sue Fell and Ray Harding.
The new OAM recipient described himself as "absolutely surprised" to receive the honour.
"I'm surprised because theatre is such an ephemeral art and it's collaborative," he said.
"So it's not an award just for me, it's an award for all of the people who were involved in all the productions - the crews and the designers and the cast and the writers."
Theatre is not just ephemeral, he said, it's a form of art where you don't really know what you've got until you put it in front of an audience.
"You're living with ambiguity when you start putting a show together. You don't know whether it's going to work or not - you always hope it does, and you're working for it.
"But I suppose one of the tests of it is that somebody, all these years after I did the shows, thought I was worthy of an award."
Which brings Mr Blaikie back to when it all comes together on the stage.
"It's those moments when theatre really gets an audience in," he said.
"We did a final show in Penang in a RAAF mess and it was crowded to the gunnels and people were actually sitting in the rafters to watch the show. And they were riveted."
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