Scriptwriting and Theatre Production for Arts Award

Scriptwriting and Theatre Production for Arts Award

Picture of Amy Lee

BY: Amy Lee
13 Jan 2023

In this blog we’re excited to feature two centres that have been supporting young people to create original theatre for their Arts Awards. Shooting Fish Theatre Company, based in Lincoln and Bristol, are committed to exploring the boundaries of creative practices and engaging in writing new theatre, which they did recently with their Bronze Arts Award students. Similarly, young people attending Swale Youth, based in Kent, worked with a local community theatre in Faversham on improvisation, writing their own scripts and other theatre-related skills for Explore.

Read on for a unique and imaginative take on Arts Award, as we hear from Producer for Shooting Fish Theatre Company, Leanne Taylor, and Swale Youth’s Youth Mentor and Project Designer, Louise Funnell.

Shooting Fish Theatre Company

Our project runs for seven months and results in the creation of a new piece of theatre. Young people work weekly with a professional writer and director to develop a new play beginning with a blank piece of paper. They are involved in all aspects of the production including writing, editing, marketing, design, props, costume, auditioning professional actors and playing an active role in the rehearsal room. We are predominantly funded by Children in Need as this project hits many literacy outcomes and the South West Ward, Gainsborough in which it takes place is in the top 10% of deprived wards in the country. In the past we have had some Arts Award Access Fund funding as well as National Lottery Awards for All England and Arts Council England.

Arts Award is woven into the fabric of our project developing new creative skills and offering experiences which this cohort of young people would not usually be able to access. Another element of the project is employability skills supporting young people to move into the workplace through increased confidence and self-esteem, communication skills, reading, writing, and listening skills, all of which are so important in the world of work. Many young people we work with have never been to the theatre and to see that group create a new script which is then read by professional actors in an audition room is a huge moment, you can see their self-esteem growing!

Approach to Delivery and Evidence Collection

One of the first things we do with the group is to take them to the theatre. We use this shared group outing for our Part B personal reflections, as well as to inform the final play which is produced by the young people. The 2022 cohort created a play called Fleur de Lisa which was about a young person in a town like Gainsborough who wants to be an artist and is inspired by Tracey Emin.

As well as play writing, young people learned painting and collage skills working with a visual artist. They shared this new skill with the rest of the group. This session resulted in contemporary art pieces being created for the set.

Young people created digital folders which were collated on Dropbox. Part D – Arts skill share – passing on arts skills to others was evidenced through annotated photographs as well as filmed interviews of the learning which took place.

What piece of advice would you give to other advisers delivering Arts Award?

Try to be creative with the way you collate evidence. In previous projects the paperwork has put some young people off. Film for us has been a great resource and video is a way to gather evidence from a hard-to-reach group who can't always read and write.

Swale Youth

Our theatre-based Arts Award Explore programme was run in conjunction with a local community theatre in Faversham. Many of the young people had previously been involved with this theatre either through the youth theatre or Christmas shows. The week-long project took place at the theatre itself and it was great to have use of an arts venue – they loved exploring it and seeing the different aspects to how a theatre works. I think this added to their production, as they got to understand the use of lighting, sound and backstage areas. The project was part-funded by parents and part-funded by our company which is a Local Council Youth Commission.

Approach to Delivery and Evidence Collection

Part A – Take part: The young people took part in three workshops, the idea being that they could use some of what they had learnt for their final piece. The first workshop was Theatre Masks and Human Puppets – none of them had used these before and were astounded at how they change the look and feel of a performance. Many of them wanted to learn more and take these into the final performance.

The second workshop was a dance workshop run by a local teenager who has been teaching dance at her regular group. She let them choose the styles they wanted to learn, and they settled on contemporary and hip-hop. The contemporary dance was added to their final show.

Being based in a local theatre meant that they could explore a local arts venue. We created a treasure hunt for them with clues hidden in posters, backstage, news articles, and a props cupboard. We discussed what makes a show work, apart from the actors. They shared what backstage roles they would like to explore and came up with ideas like make-up, choreographer, director, lighting/sound person, poster designer, and much more.

For Part C – Create the young people put together an inspired-retelling of The Tempest. We gave them a rundown of each scene and then in groups they chose a scene they wanted to recreate. We workshopped with them, but much of the work was done by themselves with the theatre educators only putting together the first and end scene and suggesting the dance scene. They then performed this to parents and theatre patrons at the end of the week.

One challenge we found was that many of the young people were expecting to learn a script and perform and found it difficult to improvise. We worked with them and helped some of them write their own scripts, teaching them to think about their character, how they might act and speak.

During the week the young people shared their experiences to camera. This was shown as the audience arrived for the performance. After the show the young people received thanks from the theatre leaders and were offered the opportunity to reflect on the experience.

Young people were also encouraged to share their thoughts on the topic of "what this has inspired me to do next..." which was on display for the parents to read whilst waiting for the performance to start.

If you’d like to find out more about the project, watch the young people’s video diary of the week

How rewarding was delivering this Arts Award project?

For me, one of the most rewarding parts was when some of the older young people came and asked if they could be part of planning the next project and have a go at running some of the workshops. Watching them support the younger more nervous youth was an absolute joy, as was seeing and hearing the audience’s reaction to what they produced.

Quotes from young people involved:

“I loved it and would do it again”

“Me and my sister are writing a play based on our mask workshop”

“I realised that even though I was scared, no one will make fun of you”

“I didn't know putting a costume on makes you feel like a different person”

“I didn't know you had to have such a community to make a film”

What piece of advice would you give to other advisers delivering Arts Award?

Just do it!

Also, I would say, we would have used the camera much more had we thought about it and put set questions in the logbooks. We didn't really give enough time to the reflection sections and of course, the group just wanted to get on and produce their pieces. Something we will look at when we plan the next one!

Have you been inspired by these organisations’ delivery of Arts Award? You can check out more unique ways to deliver Arts Award on our blog this month, where the theme is Unusual art forms.

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