Head of Dance & Drama
M Teach (Secondary), BPA
Once upon a time, in the halls of Mentone Grammar, there was a beloved Performing Arts Teacher named Jamie McCarney who had embarked on a fascinating and diverse career path. His journey from acting to teaching was a testament to his passion for drama and his unwavering dedication to sharing the transformative power of the performing arts.
Jamie’s story began in childhood, where he was raised in a close-knit family. Despite his parents’ divorce at a young age, their connection remained strong, and his family expanded to include foster siblings. “When my parents first arrived in Australia, they worked as ‘cottage parents,’ providing foster care for young children. Among the boys who lived with us, there was one who developed a deep affection for my parents. Over the years, we have remained in contact, and he has become an integral part of our family, he’s like a brother to me,” Jamie shared.
It was during his high school years that Jamie’s love for drama took root, thanks to the guidance and mentorship of his drama teacher. “She saw a skill in me that no one else saw. She encouraged me to step into the light, and was such an inspiration. This is something I’ve tried to replicate in my own teaching practice. I want to provide a positive space and encourage students to step into the light.”
In high school, Jamie eagerly participated in various musicals and plays. From his memorable role in ‘Oliver’ during Year 9, to his involvement in the country wedding play ‘Dimboola’ in Year 10, and his participation in the iconic play “Cosi,” Jamie’s devotion to the stage continued to intensify. “I remember our performance of ‘Hamlet’ during Year 11. The audience was so bored, likely due to our less-than-stellar rendition of Shakespeare,” Jamie chuckled. These experiences profoundly influenced his understanding of the art form and cemented his ambition to pursue a career in the performing arts.
During the midpoint of Year 12, Jamie encountered a challenging period that led him to contemplate giving up. “I found myself in a stagnant state, on the verge of throwing in the towel,” Jamie disclosed. “However, my Dad provided me with invaluable guidance that transformed my perspective. He urged me to approach my studies with the same unwavering dedication I show during theatrical productions. He emphasised the significance of seeing a project through until the final curtain call, likening my academic classes to rehearsals and graduation to the moment when I step onto the stage to showcase all my hard work,” Jamie recalled. This pivotal conversation enlightened Jamie about the value of seeking support from others and recognising that he was never alone in his struggles. “My family holds immense significance in my life; my sister is a constant source of positivity and guidance, while my mother remains my biggest supporter.”
After completing his high school education, Jamie pursued a Bachelor of Performing Arts degree. From there, he embarked on a series of diverse jobs, ranging from working as a barman to being a factory hand, dishwasher, and even dressing up in character costumes like the Mad Hatter. He worked as a director and an actor in theaters, theme parks, TV shows, and movies. Jamie’s talent led him to be involved in comedy production and appearing in random TV ads.
“In my twenties, I had the pleasure of crossing paths with my comedy partner, with whom I have collaborated for a remarkable 17 years. Together, we have embarked on an extraordinary journey, including touring the United Kingdom and participating in the Edinburgh Comedy Festival for five consecutive years. My acting career has been an immense source of accomplishment, and I take great pride in what I have attained,” Jamie reflected.
At the age of 35, Jaime had originally planned to relocate to Scotland to pursue his comedy career. However, everything changed when he met his wife. According to Jamie, “she completely altered the course of my life, and it was undoubtedly a change for the better.” Jamie was now eager to begin a new chapter and started reflecting on all the individuals who had influenced his professional journey. He noted, “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have remarkable mentors, directors and teachers who taught me the value of empathy and seeing the world from various perspectives. Now, I felt like it was my turn to share those insights, particularly with students. With my 17 years of experience in the performing arts industry, I believed I was well-equipped to impart some of that knowledge and wisdom. Drama had transformed my life, and I wanted to provide others with the same chance.”
During his teaching rounds while pursuing his Master’s Degree in Teaching, Jamie had the good fortune of reconnecting with his former high school drama teacher. Reflecting on this experience, he shared, “When she first taught me, she was quite young. Now, as an adult, I had the privilege of learning from her once again, twenty years later! I’m forever grateful for her mentorship, she played a pivotal role in shaping my career.”
When considering which school to join, Jaime eagerly seized the opportunity to work at Mentone Grammar, primarily because of Louise Daly, whom he fondly referred to as his mentor and “jedi master”. “Throughout the years, I have gained invaluable knowledge from Louise. In 2021, I assumed the position of Head of Dance & Drama, and I consider it a great privilege to follow in her footsteps and carry on her remarkable legacy. I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to further develop a program that she nurtured,” Jaime expressed with deep gratitude.
Jaime praised the remarkable performing arts program at Mentone Grammar, expressing constant admiration for the multitude of offerings. He emphasized the dedication and hard work of the staff, who consistently put on impressive performances ranging from operas and rock bands to concerts and productions.
When reflecting on his directing experiences at Mentone Grammar, Jamie revealed a fondness for comedy shows. “Every production was a dream, but directing Spamalot holds a special place in my heart. I feel truly at home when I can make people laugh and have fun with my students,” he shared.
Above all, Jamie’s favorite aspect of Mentone Grammar is the students. “The students bring me immense joy, I love teaching and learning from them. It’s a remarkable privilege. Without the people, Mentone Grammar would merely be an empty building, an incredible building, with great facilities, but it is the heart and soul showcased by the people within that truly make it thrive every day.”
When asked about his advice for students aspiring to pursue a career on stage, Jamie said: “Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, and when you’re sick of rehearsing, rehearse one more time! For students who want to pursue a career onstage or on screen, it comes down to perseverance, don’t give up! Steve Carrell famously had his big break at 43 years old, so there is always time to succeed!” And they all lived happily ever after.
Written by Steph Kinnear