Today I had the opportunity to speak with a group of high school students studying theatre. My goal was to motivate them to get involved! To audition for a show, to spent their required volunteer/service hours at the theatre, to participate in ARTiculate, a youth performing company that I am in the process of forming that focuses on building ensemble and developing their voices as artists and creators of theatre.
After leading them in a rousing game of Bippity Bippity Bop, I began my little speech……during which I veered off somewhere to talk about the merits of TYA and its importance, validity, and great artistry.
THAT is what this blog is about. I’ve identified for quite some time now as a strong advocate for Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA), but never fully understood how profoundly deep my passion for TYA is. The reason for this? Because my passion for THEATRE as an artform is so strong. Advocating good, high quality theatre for EVERYONE of every age, place, profession, race, culture…ALL people of this world. That is precisely what makes me such a strong advocate for TYA. Theatre is not innately “better” or “worse” because of the audience it targets or the professional or amateur status of those creating it.
It is the ATTITUDE with which the art is approached by a Director, Actor, Producer, Designer, Technician, ARTIST, audience that can make something higher quality or lower quality.
Where do these attitudes come from – that a piece of theatre isn’t deemed “good” unless it graces the Great White Way or the West End? Where do these presuppositions come from that theatre created for younger audiences is inferior? Perhaps some opinions are formed based on experience of lower quality performances by/for young people – they’re out there….but lets be honest, there are examples, pro and con, of lower quality theatre in every single genre/subset of theatre…devised, theatre for social change, musicals, TYA, TVY, Theatre for Mature Audiences, and so on and so on…I’ve seen a lot of bad performances of Shakespeare (intended for a wide range of audiences) that were poorly done – I don’t blame Shakespeare.
Okay – enough of that tirade.
Here is what I propose – ARTISTS! Theatre Artists! Take pride in your work – push yourself to create high quality performances that continue to experiment and honor your art form with any type of theatre you CHOOSE to be a part of. Give it your all, create work of a high caliber that you are proud to put your name on no matter who the audience is. If you are lucky enough to make a living in your passion – BE PASSIONATE! Don’t “accept” a job you feel is beneath you and then cheat yourself, your ensemble, your audience by only giving 30% or 60% – put yourself 100% into your work! …and if you participate in the art of theatre as a hobby because you are passionate about it….why would you waste your time by not producing the best you are capable of?
Theatre has the power to create dialogue, inspire empathy, spark debate, delight, amaze, and connect us all. ALL types of theatre. So…be an advocate for your art please – lets stop with the attitude that some genres are innately “better” – sure, you can have a preference, thats human 🙂 …but lets stop with the talking down and patronizing…lets do what we all started out to do when we first began walking this path – lets create good art. lets share the stories of the world we live in.