Gemma Woffinden is excited to be on the NAYT Board as this was one of the organisations that she looked towards to learn more about the landscape of Youth Theatre’s across England when she first became Youth Theatre Director at Leeds Playhouse in 2012. Previously a Head of Drama and Team Leader for Creative Arts in a Leeds secondary school, NAYT signposted Gemma to a range of events that allowed her to meet other directors, artists and facilitators to support her in her new role.
As Youth Theatre Director at Leeds Playhouse, Gemma is part of the award winning Creative Engagement Department, which deliver a full programme of Education and Community initiatives. The department uses theatre to open up possibilities for people regardless of their age, circumstances or background. The Creative Engagement team work with approximately 10,000 people each year. As well as working with young people, the department comprises of three other strands of activity: Older People, Creative Education and Communities. Alongside these strands is also pioneering work with refugees and asylum seekers as the UK’s first Theatre of Sanctuary.
Gemma believes in a collaborative process of making theatre that responds to the lives of young people and recognises their talent and creative potential. In her work as a Youth Theatre Director she is committed to raising aspirations while developing skills, knowledge and understanding of young people’s experiences of making theatre. Gemma creates high-quality performance work which offers young people a platform for self-expression that draws on the artistic excellence and professional standards of Leeds Playhouse. Gemma believes theatre can offer people creative and cultural experiences that can enrich their lives and the lives of their families.
Whilst at Leeds Playhouse, Gemma has directed a range of new plays for young people, including Girls Like That and Pronoun by Evan Placey, Immune by Oladipo Agboluaje, Zoetrope by Rebecca Manley and Blank by Alice Birch. In addition to her work with the Youth Theatre, Gemma has worked alongside directors to support the direction of young people within professional shows, credits include Crucible, Into the Wood and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang directed by James Brining and Romeo and Juliet directed by Amy Leach.