Years of dedication have paid off for Cinna Webster, with the Great Lakes College student's HSC drama performance of Shane Koyczan's spoken word poem 'Pork chop' being nominated for OnStage.
The nomination means Cinna has received a band six result for their practical exam, ranking them among the top one per cent of drama students in the State and putting them in contention to be one of 10 students chosen to perform at the OnStage finals at Sydney's Seymour Centre in February.
Cinna said they were drawn to Koyczan's poem upon hearing it for the first time in year eight.
Despite having only just begun drama as an elective, Cinna knew they wanted to perform it for their HSC.
"That was the one thing I knew, the one thing that's stayed constant throughout the entire five years," Cinna said.
It's something that's important to me to be able to express myself.Cinna Webster
A heartfelt exploration of Koyczan's experiences with bullying in high school, Cinna said they connected with the poem instantly, particularly with its assertion that the unwanted nicknames people are given can have lasting impacts.
"I was thinking about how I felt all those times I was given nicknames and I always laughed it off, but it never really went away because it does have a lasting consequence," Cinna said.
"And reflecting on myself and seeing how that had affected me really scared me, seeing how universal that experience is."
Cinna spent the years leading up to the HSC both developing their skill as an actor and refining their performance of the poem, with the process helping them to build confidence both on and off the stage.
"I was a lot more anxious back then," Cinna said.
"It's just been something I've had to stick at."
Originally planning to perform the poem with a host of props and an elaborate costume, Cinna said they ultimately decided to strip the performance back so that it was just them, a chair and the words they spoke.
"There was nothing dramatic because all the drama was in the words and the expression," Cinna said.
"It showed me how powerful it was, that you don't need all that movement, that expression, to share a message."
Cinna's year 12 drama teacher Marion Johnson said it was a huge achievement for Cinna to receive the nomination.
"Being nominated is massive," she said.
"I think what worked in Cinna's favour was that it was a really authentic piece in terms of Cinna's performance of it."
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Cinna is the 29th student from Great Lakes College to be nominated for OnStage in the 20 years it has been running, but they'll have to wait until December to find out if they get to perform at the Seymour Centre.
Not that Cinna is putting too much pressure on achieving that result.
"I'm honestly just honoured to get this far," Cinna said.
"I never thought it would be something that I could accomplish."
Beyond high school, Cinna isn't sure of their exact path forward, but they know one thing for sure.
"I want to pursue acting," Cinna said.
"It's something that's important to me to be able to express myself."