Amelia Dixon - one of the design interns for the show 'Henka No Yoro'.
This past month has been extremely hectic, but actually extremely enjoyable and I am really happy with the way the show went.
So first, we had to apply for the job. The opportunity was only open for Young Leaders and to apply we had to write a letter saying why we wanted the job, what it would do for us and things like that. Then Kiz and Helen had to decide who to appoint. During Young Leaders, Helen took us through our applications and why they liked them and ways we could improve which was really beneficial as none of us had properly applied for a job before. Then, once I got the job with Eddie Plaskitt, we were given a planning document (featuring fun memes from Helen) and we started planning what we were going to do.
Anyway, after visiting the groups I had to come up with a theme for the night and I wanted it to link all three of the pieces. I came up with change. In each piece there were physical, emotional or mental changes so it worked well. The theme also reflected TVYT this year as it has changed massively since it started. From there we decided on the name 'Henka No Yoro' meaning night of change and this gave the theme more depth as we could focus on symbolism that the Japanese culture brings.
Once the theme was sorted I started collaborating with Emma, TVYT's graphic designer. She made some great posters and had great ideas about symbolism. Each animal or plant had a meaning and a link to a piece and that really embraced the Japanese culture which was really nice. Then I had to gather all of the info for the program. I think that this was the hardest job as there was a tight deadline and this was quite a complicated program as we had to fit in so much. But, in the end I had everything in time and it all came together nicely.
In the week leading up to the show, I sorted staging with SJMS, visited all three groups and had a few meetings with Eddie. This was just to find out if there were any last minute changes and make sure everyone was happy. I think in that last week I was out of the house doing Tvyt stuff every night, but I didn't mind because I was really enjoying it. So, then we had the get in. There was a lot to do, but everyone got stuck in and it worked really well. I've also got to say well done to Seb. He was up a ladder for a long time putting up the lanterns and they looked great.
The Young Leaders have had a full on start to this term have been working hard on a top secret project that we'll be implementing in the new year. They finished off this half term by pitching their ideas to the big cheese, Kiz.
We also finished this half term off with CAKE (we do like our sweet treats at YL meetings) because it was Abi Richards' birthday. Happy Birthday Abi!
This is what the birthday girl has to say about Young Leaders.
and how life is going to be when we get jobs. Personally, I feel this is very beneficial as it has helped me to manage my time better and be more confident when presenting ideas. Also, I like how we get the chance to do loads of different things, because they mean we have to use and develop lots of different skills to ensure that the work gets done. I especially love organising events because we all work together as a team to make sure that the job gets done within the time limits we have and we are all assigned different parts to do and everyone did their fair share of work to ensure that we get a fantastic product at the end that is so fun and afterwards it feels so rewarding because you know that you had a part in organising something so fun that so many people enjoyed! Anyway, I feel that Young Leaders has been a great opportunity for me and I love knowing that my ideas have been listened to in order to help make TVYT, the place which is so important to me and close to my heart, an even better place than it already is, so it can make even more people to grow in confidence, make new friends and learn new skills, as much as it has helped me!
At the weekend, our creative producer and NT Connections director, Helen, went to London to explore this year’s NT Connections play and get some ideas going ready for auditions and rehearsals, which kick off in November…
It was Friday afternoon and I’d had a VERY busy week, my job managing Juice Festival really kicks off this time of year so I was ready to put my director’s hat on and dig into this year’s NT Connections play ‘It Snows’ with a trip to National Theatre (please note, I don’t actually have a director’s hat, but I did don my director’s neon pink top to raise my spirits and blind everyone in the room)
After a food filled train journey with the marvellous Kiz Crosbie (our temporary stand in for our other NT Connections project up in SE Northumberland!), and a Friday night kip, we headed to National Theatre to get started.
It was a big group of people, and everyone else picked the play “because it’s physical” – but my thoughts were ‘aren’t all plays physical in some way?!’ – I picked it because I could relate to the characters, and I remembered the story after I had read it, and I thought it would be a good challenge for me and performers from TVYT.
We did some useful activities – I particularly liked ‘if this scene was a food/drink/animal what would it be?’ It helped me think creatively about the piece and get away from my literal thinking! One of the scenes was a glass of fizzy prosecco and a meerkat. I found if you really trusted these kinds of exercises they worked – they helped us get into the world of the play, imagine we were there and get ideas going – but some of the group struggled – it showed me that you need to trust stuff and give it a go – this is something I’m going to be looking for in the auditions for the piece – actors who will try new ways of doing things and having trust and enthusiasm for that.
‘It Snows’ is about two characters, a boy and a girl, and the other people in their lives, their challenges and desires, and takes place at Winter time when everything gets covered in snow and the mood uplifts and things change. It is written by Bryony Lavery in collaboration with one of my all-time favourite theatre companies Frantic Assembly – Frantic tell stories through text and scripts combined with physical theatre – their shows are incredible – I was literally gobsmacked watching their Shakespeare’s Othello set in a Yorkshire snooker bar and sobbed my eyes out during their play ‘Love Song’ (and continued to sob for about half an hour afterwards!) so I’m excited to be working on one of their pieces. Our director for the day was Damian Cruden – Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal. He started the day telling us that at the heart of his theatre was work with the community and young people – music to my ears – this is what I care about.
Damian shared my views on characterisation, and alleviated my fear of the play stereotyping character groups too much by insisting that every single performer in the play should have an individual character, with an individual story, and individual thoughts, feelings, needs (those who were in Hospital Food will know this is VERY important to me). So another thought for auditions, the piece isn’t traditional in structure but everyone in it needs to put their all in, create an individual character (even if they don’t ever speak), take responsibility and be immersed in the play all the way through. I need performers who are willing to really embed their character in the piece – and be willing to put in 100% to create their own story within it and get that across to our audiences.
It was a full on morning, it was difficult, and we had to do some stuff which was a bit scary and a bit embarrassing – this put me in the shoes of my cast and made me remember that I should always be willing to do what I ask my cast to do!
Who knows who else might have gone past if I’d stayed there a little longer… The afternoon session took place in a MASSIVE DANCE STUDIO – WHICH I LOVED.
We worked with a practitioner from Frantic Assembly, which was a treat, and I got a load of games and exercises from her that I’ll be trying out with my group (I might have to insist on sweat absorption clothing for the cast, and I need to get fit over Christmas, which will be really easy with all of the cheeseboards and chocolates on offer).
I had to act as an ‘awkward and silent’ Dad, we played out groups of ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ and ‘Mums’, that are found in the play – but I constantly reminded myself of the individual characters, an ensemble is a group of INDIVIDUALS – there will be no ‘ten people playing one person’ in my play!
I won’t lie, there were some cringey moments of ‘adults being young people doing physical theatre’ (I am willing to act some of these out on request), but I got some good ideas to take away. This is going to be my big challenge – a play that isn’t ‘conventional’ or ‘traditional’ in style – I want to combine my own techniques and ideas working with characters, relationships, stories, with a less traditional structure – using physical theatre, poetic writing, visual storytelling. My main aim is to use new ideas and ways of doing things to tell the story better. This is my last thought for auditions and casting – I need performers who are willing to try new ways of telling stories, and keep trying and creating til we find something that works (and definitely ISN’T cringey!), especially creating something with physical theatre techniques, games and exercises. I also have some interesting ideas to give to our technical designer about projection, but that’s for another day.
End of day – I was knackered, we arrived at Kings Cross – I purchased and then ate two meals (I was HUNGRY) and upgraded to first class as a treat for me and Kiz. And now I have a lot of work to do to get this play ready, plan auditions, plan rehearsals, and make sure everyone involved has a MINT time making this play amazing.
Auditions for Tyne Valley Youth Theatre’s NT Connections production of ‘It Snows’ directed by Helen Ferguson are on Saturday 21st November, in Riding Mill 12-6pm.
Paines Plough’s Every Brilliant Thing visited Riding Mill last week and for many, many reasons it has certainly made it onto my list of brilliant things.
Reason No.1: It was extremely exciting to have a touring company come and visit us in Riding Mill.
We, at TVYT, are certainly not strangers to turning little village halls into exciting theatre venue. It is not unheard of for the Millennium Hall to become a hoarders house, a hypnotherapy centre or a spooky toyshop where children are turned into toys… Or perhaps the Parish Hall would be an arena where candidates fight to prove their worth, a speak easy or even a boat adrift at sea.
However, watching a critically acclaimed one man show come and take over the Parish Hall for one night was new, even for us.
Reason No.2: It was a ‘One Man’ show that focused on narrative and character beautifully.
The plot follows a 7 year old boy as he deals with his mother’s depression and suicide attempts. It is a very honest and touching representation of a child’s understanding of depression despite the fact that you’re watching a full grown man, with a beard. Johnny Donahoe’s performance was utterly compelling: he embodied the 7 year old boy with honesty and vulnerability; gave us some insight into the complicated world of a teenager; invited us to follow as he fell in love at university; and asked us to hold his hand with his complicated marriage in adulthood.
I laughed, I cried and I felt completely connected to the character and his story. I could, without a doubt, have watched another 30 minutes of this performance without checking my watch, and I feel confident enough to speculate that this was probably case for the majority of our audience.
Reason No.3: Every Brilliant Thing dealt with heavy subject matter in an entirely engaging and accessible way.
Ok, so you hear that a play is about a boy whose mother is depressed and suicidal… you think ‘right, I better bring the tissues and get ready for a difficult evening’.
BUT Every Brilliant Thing and Johnny Donahoe’s delivery of the text was so light and warming WITHOUT glossing over the difficulties of depression and mental health. With each giggle that sat alongside a tender moment, I knew that my laughter was bittersweet. I didn’t, for one second, forget the severity of this boy’s story, but I was able to breathe and reflect throughout the performance because the balance was struck so delicately.
Reason No.4: I felt like his friend and I felt like I had his back, and he had mine, no matter what.
Audience interaction is difficult. As an actor it probably isn’t all that difficult to speak directly to an audience member, however, to do it well enough that you get them to willingly take on the other characters in the play, is really, really hard to do.
When most people hear that audience interaction will be involved they shrink down into the chair and hope to God that they won’t be noticed (I’m not ashamed to admit that I am one of those people)! But that is made significantly harder when the performance space is set up in the round and the performer is already walking through the audience talking to every single person before the performance has actually began.
Johnny Donahoe has something about him that makes an audience instantly warm to him, but what is this magical thing that had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand? I mean, it has to be magic to make one lady take off her shoe and use her sock as a sock puppet, right?
Well, if by magic we mean being warm and personable, then yes! Johnny (and I feel very comfortable calling him Johnny, because we’re friends) spoke to us not at us. He waited for the nods of understanding, he exchanged smiles, he sat next to us and invited us into his world and that is pretty special.
Reason No.5: The List
I felt warm and comforted listening to the list of every brilliant thing the character could think of. It was a simple and beautiful reminder to be in the moment, to find one thing amongst all of the bad that makes you smile.
I was inspired to write a list. Were you?
This P.I.A.W is been based on 'The Twits', the gruesome book written by Roald Dahl. There are so many great characters and events to be inspired by in The Twits so I thought the week was going to be easy enough - just a funny play, right? Well boy was I wrong! This week has been the most difficult out of all 14 other performance projects I've taken part in with TVYT. (and yes, this is going to be my 15th performance. Yay!)
We welcomed a new practitioner this week named John, who specialises in clowning! Now TVYT, as you may know, isn't too experienced in this field of performance, but it was going to work in this play.
By clowning I don't mean dressing up in a multi-coloured Afro wig and bright red nose, but just behaving like a clown. John taught us that when you're clowning, you don't really know what's normal and you are basically a bit stupid!
To be honest most of the group (including me at first) were unsure about it because it was all new. I think we were just a bit worried that the whole play would be us being clowns… but I think some of the best bits of the play are clowning: like Maisie's scene with Thomas, and definitely the hilarious double act of Phoebe and Katie! It's definitely taught me to never dismiss new things and just go for it!
This blog will have been put on the website after the show so for those who are reading this and have watched it then good for you! Those who are reading it and didn't watch it then this is for you!
Them Next Door is set in a village hall that people have been squatting in and it's for sale. Each room has different, crazy characters such as: Adidas, Elise and Barbara. My character is a very deadpan and seemingly dim estate agent, he is pushed around by his boss, George, who loves money! Don't worry though - I stand up to George in the end! It is really difficult for me to do this character because it is way out of my comfort zone, I usually do extremely energetic characters. I was really encouraged to try something new which I think is going to pay off as my character is, in my opinion, really funny!
This week most people have been completing their Arts Award Explore, but I have been an Arts Award advisor because I completed my Arts Award Explore in the last play in a week - The Birds Stop to Listen. Being an Arts Award advisor means that it was my job to help people if they were stuck basically! I also had experience with Bronze Arts Award which I completed this year which helped.
Right, I'm gonna go to sleep now but keep reading for what I write tomorrow, talking about how the show went!
We performed three shows back to back and they all went better than I thought they would! The audience weren't shy when we had to interact with them, which is great!
I'd like to say thanks to Helen and John for directing and that I had a great time!
See ya, Will :)
Sadly the next show we saw wasn't exactly amazeballs. I think it was meant to be the best comedians from the festival all in one show, but a lot of them were, to say the least, pretty awful. We were in a mood after we saw that, especially Kiz 😁. To lighten our mood we all bought candyfloss, £1!!!! Rannon said something like I've got £25 and they're a pound each.....
We had an awesome trip overall and because me and Joey are Team Ginge, I felt like we really fitted in, in Scotland. And also, because there are lots of weird and wonderful people at the festival, I think we all fitted in well :):):)! It was a lush atmosphere! And we are hoping to take a show up there next year so fingers crossed and maybe… it will be called Risk...
Have you ever acted in a play?
Yes. Lots. From 'Cinderella', and 'Richard III' to 'Little Shop of Horrors'! My favourite was probably 'Cabaret'. Although that's a musical, rather than a play.
Who is your favourite actor?
That's a really hard question as there are lots of actors I admire... I thought Matt Smith was amazing as Doctor Who. He captured the age of the Doctor, even though he's so young, which is incredibly skilled. I've worked with Ian McKellen, and think he's remarkable. For me, some of the best actors are the ones where you just can't seem to look away when they're on stage/screen. I also think some of the young actors I've worked with in the last 5 years are amongst the best I've ever seen. They have an honesty on stage, and just seem so truthful, that you can't help being moved by them - either to laugh, cry, bite your nails... whatever. It's such a privilege to work with them.
or anger on stage can help you work through your own feelings too. It gives me a place to get it out! I've always enjoyed the thrill of being on stage too - the feeling of hundreds of eyes watching you, feeling proud when what I do moves people to laugh or cry, and the fear of it all going horribly wrong!
What are your acting ambitions?
These days, I'd think of it more as performing than acting. Performing will always be part of who I am, so I feel as though something is missing if I don't do it for a while. Recently I've had a chance to perform a couple of times, which has been wonderful. I do hope to get more chances to perform in the near future. I've never been interested in being famous or any of that nonsense, but I would like people to watch me and think, 'she's pretty good!' That's enough for me.
What do you hope to achieve through TVYT?
I want TVYT to be a place where young people feel they belong, and that they can come together and create amazing theatre. I'm really proud of where TVYT has gone in the last few years, and now it's our flagship for developing youth theatre across Northumberland. I really hope in the next few years we can take TVYT to new places, to showcase the excellent work we do. I'm excited to support those members of TVYT who are interested to work in the arts (not just as performers) to do so. I'd like to offer work experience and training programmes in all areas of theatre production and running a company. I also want TVYT to be somewhere that professionals working in the arts want to come and work, because they know they are going to get great projects to work on. Maybe in a few years down the track, former TVYT members will come back to work with us as professionals..? That would be magnificent.
What is your favourite TVYT play?
That's a really tough one... I've liked elements of so many of them. I don't think I can choose just one... I liked the death scene in 'Two Households', the grannies and chorus in 'Remedies', the blindfolded scenes in 'Sleepy', the staging in 'Light and Fire', 'Witch' and 'The Boy who never...' and 'Heritage' is really close to my heart as we had an intense time working on it. There're just too much I'm proud of to choose one!
Where/who was your inspiration?
I've always tried to look for inspiration all the time. You never know when it's going to hit you - picture, a TV show, being on top of a mountain, something you overhear someone say, something you read. I carry a notebook most places I go, to make sure I don't forget too many inspiring moments. The last TVYT show was inspired by a trip I took to Spain last year where I went to Micro Teatro in Valencia. I didn't understand the plays I saw (I don't speak Spanish) but it was such a great concept, that I thought we could try it out in TVYT.
Also, the best piece of advice I was ever given was - 'To thine own self be true', which is a quote from Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. It's one of my favourite plays, but being true to yourself, what you believe in and what makes you happy, is such great advice and something I try and live by every single day.
Where is the most famous/biggest venue you have acted in?
I worked in Duke of York's Theatre in the West End of London once - that was incredible - especially as the Prime Minister was there too! The Theatre Royal in Newcastle was pretty special too!
Thanks for your blog Hannah!
Not only is it really interesting to get into the mind of Kiz Crosbie, but it is also really useful for our Arts Award.
We are very, very lucky this week because we are getting not one, but TWO blogs about TVYT's experience of the Edinburgh Fringe!
The first one is from our very own Eilidh, who is taking her one woman show, A Haggis Queen Abroad, up to Edinburgh from 17th August - 22nd August. The venue is TheSpace Venue 39 soooooooo... if you're up at the Fringe...
CHECK IT OUT
The second will be from our Young Leaders who are having an exciting adventure up at the Fringe this weekend with Kiz and Helen (the crazy fools).
So here is what Eilidh has to say about her build up to Edingburgh Fringe 2015!!!
These are just some of the delightful questions that have been buzzing around in my head for the last 6 months as I have developed my first-ever solo show, for my first-ever performance at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Producing your own work is even harder! All the fun stuff of making a show has to be balanced out by forms and applications and emails and To-Do Lists and publicity and insurance and fire-proofing props and, oh yeah, learning 50 minutes of material (yikes!)…
And then, when you have created your own show, and you have somehow managed to convince an audience to come and see your own show, you realize that performing your own show is possibly the scariest thing you’ve ever done!
And then you perform it.
And the audience gives you the greatest thing you could ever ask for – a connection.
You get up there and you basically lay yourself open, expecting the worst, and then your audience says “Yes, I’m with you. I feel some of what you feel, I know where you’re coming from.”
And this is why we do this to ourselves.
This is why we get up there: because we have to.
We all have stories and experiences that have made us who we are and that have brought us to this point, and some of us just have to share that on stage.
I think that’s what the TVYT audiences get to see every time they come to one of our shows: they see a piece of theatre that is made real and alive because it brings together the experiences of a group of talented, interesting, creative young people and makes something the audience can’t help but connect to.
This journey has taught me an awful lot up until this point. It has been scary, exciting, and overwhelmingly worthwhile – and that’s before we’ve even got to Edinburgh! I’m so delighted that the TVYT Young Leaders crew are going to be making up the audience for my first show. It makes such a difference having friendly faces out there. Safe travels, you guys, and I’ll look forward to seeing you after the show!
As for the rest of you, I can’t wait to see what stories you share in your next performances!
Keep creating – you have to!
Here at TVYT we aim to create inspiring and original pieces of theatre that the young people can be proud of. Pieces that they can look at and say, “I helped to create that”. There are so many elements that go into making a good piece of theatre and one of the most important elements is…
Yes, I mean it, playing games. We play a lot of games. Two games even made it into the most recent show, “The Birds Stop to Listen”. So, why are games so important to the TVYT process?
I’m not saying that games stop this from happening; there is very little that we can do before a young person enters the rehearsal space, so when they do enter we make it as FUN as possible. The game Name Torpedo makes sure that nobody is ever in that desperately awkward situation where they have to talk to someone that they don’t know the name of.
How many times have you been in a stressful situation and been introduced to people and then promptly forgotten their names?
I have many times! Then you spend the whole time freaking out about how to get their attention, to address them and talk about them without letting everyone know that you have no idea what their name is.
We hear A LOT about being able to be part of a team. If you are not a team player, being in a performance is super hard, and not just for you. It is hard for everyone involved if there are people who don’t desire the whole thing to be great. If you are too concerned about making sure that you stand out; that you get the applause; that everyone says how amazing you are, then you’re not helping to make a great piece of theatre.
THAT IS NOT TO SAY THAT YOU CANNOT BE GREAT WITHIN A TEAM.
If the team shines and creates an awesome piece of theatre, then you have been a part of that, you will have been supported by the rest of the cast to be the best that you can be and you will have been in the position to help them be the best that they can be.
We dwell on our mistakes and we worry about what people think of us for much longer than we need to.
In theatre there are so many games that are dedicated to this, improvisation is made up of this very idea of freeing your thinking, that nothing is wrong.
Often we hold back because we’re worried that we’ll look stupid. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t worry about voicing ideas in everyday life?
I know that this is just spelling out the obvious for you, but GAMES ARE FUN. If you’re laughing with other people before having to devise, rehearse and perform a show with them, you already have something in common. It means that you don’t have to be creative with strangers. You already have in-jokes and something to bond over.
OK so those are only 4 reasons, I promise you there are more but look at how much space they’ve taken up. I say, and TVYT says, that we all need a little bit of play in our lives. No, scrap that, I reckon we need a lot of play in our lives.
Welcome to TVYT's blog. Written by TVYT facilitators, members,technicians and audiences, this blog is here to tell you what we're up to. You'll get to see the inner workings of the TVYT world from many different perspectives and you'll meet many of the people that make TVYT possible.
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Tyne Valley Youth Theatre is an initiative of Mortal Fools. As a non-profit organisation, we use all income we receive to directly support our projects for children and young people, both through our youth theatre and other projects in deprived areas of Northumberland.