My ‘No 1 rule of setting up a youth theatre; find a group that needs an injection of

Friday 19 May 2017

Number one, youth theatre - well that's self-explanatory. If you’re classed as child in the eyes of the law and still attend school or college, then more than likely you qualify for joining a youth theatre.  

Number two; A performing arts society - now this one is a bit more difficult. A society that varies in age, from young to the failed actress, the singer or musician who didn't quite have the stomach to use their stage school training in the West End or was fed up of saying "would you like fries with that?" or “yes sir the châteaux la frite would be perfect with your steak," or more importantly "yes I have a degree, which I can't use it in society, but one day I'll be on Broadway, you'll see."  (The obligatory eye role is a must). But instead, I joined a local performing arts society who put on musicals such as Evita, or Cats or the not so overdone shows of Barnum, West Side Story or Guys and Dolls, to a high standard that “could have been straight off the West End." In order for those that have joined to give their life some meaning or to satisfy themselves that the degree that they worked so hard for was somehow worth it. 

And finally Number three, AMATEUR DRAMATICS, the two words that make anyone with an Equity Card shudder. It is the broadest spectrum of two words, in the performing arts industry, that there ever was. It leaves you open to everything and anything. Professionals in any sense try to avoid it, like they trying to avoid saying ‘That Scottish play’ in a theatre space. And the type of people? I hear you say, well they range from, somebody who has professionally lowered themselves to fill a gap between 'professional' jobs, a socialite, a village gossip, the odd child or somebody that wanted to be part of a group to meet some friends. The group can be a variety of ages, but sometimes, the average age of the group can determine the people that are in it and the kind of performances they produce. 

My local amateur dramatics group was just this. Let me set the scene of this society. It was set in a small Midlands town, performing plays in the local village hall and having a monthly meeting in the local pub - a chance to drink, chat, to meet up and discuss plays, or bitch about the current director who's pissing everyone off.  A group of people whose average age was 50, putting on pleasant plays for the quaint little village, being celebrities in their own rights and making it a bigger deal, than it actually was -  almost like the neighbourhood watch committee in Hot Fuzz, but not to the extent that they actually kill people. 

Why does this have any relevance you ask? Well, a group like this needs an injection of people or "young blood" in order for them to do plays over a wide genre. And this doesn't happen as much as you think. When groups like this congregate, there's that cliquey nature that lives and dies with a generation. And anyone new? Well you either NEED to be in a performance or know someone in the society. But this doesn't help an ageing society, in need of a youth theatre. 

"That's what we need, young blood injected into this society." Over the three years I was with my local group, this was all I heard, "we need young blood." Kim can't play a 17 year old forever." By this time I was 23. A young 23 but still 23, and typed cast as the young, naive teenager type roles. The variety of roles that I played were a prostitute, daughter of a sperm donor, an eighties girl who was illiterate. (Incidentally, the illiterate role in Groping for Words by Sue Townsend is a must part for any amateur young actress). 

But the point that I realised that enough was enough in this amateur dramatics company? That something needed to be done to inject new blood into it? Well that was when I was doing a play – SeaScape - and had to do a romantic scene or heavy petting on stage, with my male counterpart. In your heads you’re properly thinking of a sexy 30 something married man, who wanted to do something to pass his time? Well no, not even close. It was a 70 year old man in a grey suit. A man who I respected, but didn't feel comfortable doing something like this with. But within this play was a young boy. A boy of 16 that didn’t understand his talent let alone how to progress with it at the time. He had confidence, but needed his skills nurturing. But the director didn’t have time for this. He just wanted to direct him on stage and that was it. Same for the young 17 year old girl that he was standing beside. 

So one one Friday night in November 2013 I made a decision, this company needs a youth theatre group and that I’m the one to do it. 

My No 1 rule of setting up a youth theatre; find a group that needs an injection of "young blood". 

Kim Carter