A stint at the biggest opera company in the world is a career highlight for Candice MacAllister.
And she’s only just getting started.
Candice, in her own words, is “living the dream”.
At just 23 years old, Candice has designed costumes for big opera productions such as Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, The Snow Queen and she has interned at the Royal Opera house in London.
“There’s something really satisfying when the house lights go down, everyone’s sitting there, they’ve bought a ticket, you hear the orchestra tuning... and you see everything you have worked for happen. It’s wonderful.”
Candice’s interest in art began as a student attending Marriottsville high school in Adelaide.
She loves music and plays multiple instruments. However, when a drama teacher suggested she design the costumes for a year 12 high school play, Candice jumped at the opportunity.
That, Candice said, changed everything
Candice studied diligently at school and received an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank of 99, well above the national average. This meant Candice could gain entry into almost any university she wanted.
“All my friends asked if I was going to study law or medicine and I said, no, I’m going to study costume and set design’,” she said.
“Technically in my career, I didn’t need a degree. But I knew by obtaining one I would gain experience and learn valuable skills. A degree would prepare me for work and for life.”
Candice moved to Melbourne and studied at Victorian College of the Arts, which is an extension of the University of Melbourne.
“I didn’t know any other members who were doing this kind of job,” Candice said.
“I was worried if I had to work on Sunday or work on a show where the performers were nude… I wondered how I was going to deal with it.”
Two months after graduating in 2015, Candice started work at Victorian Opera as an administration assistant. A job Candice nicknamed the “glorified coffee runner”.
“After I graduated I looked at every company in Australia,” she said.
“I was happy to do anything. Cleaning toilets- anything at all.
“My role was very basic admin and paper work, but I thought, great my foot is in the door. I might not design anything for a few years but at least I can be around designers, directors and meet people. And if it’s boring, at least I have a job.”
Within two months of working, Candice landed her first big break.
“One of the designers dropped out so my boss turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t have anyone lined up.’ I told her, ‘I’ll give you some ideas and see if you like them.”
Candice spent that weekend studying the production and coming up with ideas.
Her boss, Candice said, loved her ideas.
“So, my five-year goal to design a small scale professional show for a professional company I had achieved in three months,” Candice said.
A month later, another designer dropped out and Candie again put up her hand.
“Last year I did three shows and became a developing artist designer for two shows which is an honour.”
Candice is based in Glen Huntly, Melbourne and is now working on Pelléas et Mélisande, an opera by Claude Debussy.
“There are so many things I thought I could never do, but when I put my trust and faith in my Saviour… I know it is going to be okay.”
“My favourite scripture is Proverbs 3:5. Trusting in the Lord and always acknowledging Him, it Is something I’ve always tried to do.”
Keeping the Sabbath day holy has helped Candice stay close to the Saviour throughout her journey.
“When we go on tour, I always try and go to Church. Everyone in the company will go out for breakfast and I will tell them, ‘I’m going to Church’.
“It’s important when I’m away that the 40-other people in the company are aware of my values.
“I found that not hiding my light and acknowledging the Lord, has opened so many doors and blessings that I never could have imagined. When I put Heavenly Father first, keeping the Sabbath is never an issue. It’s been a massive blessing.”
Every Tuesday night, Candice serves the young women in her ward as the first counselor on the Young Womens presidency.
“Even though I’m tired after work, I know just that little bit of sacrifice and giving up a bit of time brings many blessings.”
And she emphasises the value of hard work and education.
“Good things don’t some easily,” she said.
“If there is something you want to do, and it seems hard, it’s probably worth it.
“Work hard in whatever education you choose, whether that’s a degree, an apprentice, a course. If you’re going to spend the time doing it, make it worth it.
The future is bright for Candice who hopes to work in London and New York for West End productions and Broadway.
“For me, costume and set design isn’t about making clothes and pretty things,” she said.
“It’s visual storytelling. You get a script and you analyse the people and think, why would they wear what they wear? What does the audience need to feel? It brings me so much joy.
“I don’t quite know exactly how I got here but I just trust Heavenly Father. The doors keep opening and every time they do, I say Heavenly Father I’m going to go through this door and if it’s not meant to be, just tell me.”