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Canberra Today 3°/5° | Sunday, May 22, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Forever young: Canberra Youth Theatre hits the big five-oh!

A scene from “The Initiation” by Cathy Petocz

IN a short but snazzy virtual launch last night (January 24) Canberra Youth Theatre artistic director and CEO, Luke Rogers, ushered in a year of mostly original plays to mark the company’s 50th anniversary – and they’ll all be staged at the Canberra Theatre Centre.

The season opens at The Courtyard Studio in April with a new production of Debra Oswald’s hit play about peer-group pressure, “Dags”, originally commissioned by Canberra Youth Theatre in 1985 and since staged around Australia, the UK and the US.

That, Rogers said, signalled the likely impact created by commissioning new works for young people, and with that in mind, the 2022 season would include three world-premiere productions.

“The Initiation” by Cathy Petocz is a new play developed with young artists from the company over the past two years, which, in the manner of teen horror movies, sees a group of young people alone at night on Black Mountain – that will premiere at The Courtyard Studio in June.

During September in the larger Playhouse, we’ll see Julian Larnach’s “How To Vote!” commissioned by the company in 2020 to look at young people’s engagement with politics, democracy and activism and initially showcased in a staged reading at Old Parliament House. The production will feature a massive cast of 30+ university-aged actors.

A scene from “Soul Trading” by Kate Walder

Finally, “Soul Trading” by Kate Walder, to be staged in The Courtyard Studio during the October school holidays by the very youngest members of the company, is set in a future where artificial intelligence is part of everyday life and children’s best friends are robots. When the bots decide that they want souls, it’s up to a group of young minds to save the world.

In the launch, which featured sophisticated video footage, Rogers thanked the company’s supporters and went on to announce programs that would expand opportunities for young and early career artists.

Weekly workshop ensembles for primary and secondary students, he said, would now be offered at Gungahlin and The Q, while continuing and continue at Belconnen Arts Centre and Gorman Arts Centre.

The emerging artists program for early career artists aged 18–25, would feature two two resident artists for 2022, Caitlin Baker and Sophie Tallis.

Two new programs for young people to get involved in theatre off-stage would be “Engage,” where young people aged 16–25 could meet to read plays, watch performances, participate in post-show discussions and develop their creative thinking skills and “Backstage,” presented in collaboration with Canberra Theatre Centre, which would allow young people learn how to rig and focus lights, set up and operate sound equipment and gain insights into the technical design process.

Canberra Youth Theatre artistic director and CEO, Luke Rogers

The “Emerge Company” would equip early-career artists with the skills to develop their own work and produce independent theatre, while “Scratch” at Smith’s Alternative would allow emerging artists to meet, network, test new material and receive feedback.

For more senior students, masterclasses with theatre professionals would explore training practices and develop industry skills.

Writers would be to the fore, with the Young Playwrights Program run by Mary Rachel Brown and the Emerging Playwright Commission, which last year went to Joanna Richards.

“Our 50th year promises excitement, challenge and a whole lot of opportunity for young and emerging artists and theatre makers,” Rogers says.

They’re keen to hear from  former company members during this celebratory year.

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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