Our Young People’s Practitioners have been doing incredibly engaging and insightful work with youth across the south-west. In our team meetings we are fortunate enough to hear about their moments of joy whilst working with young people, alongside learning about the thoughts at the forefront of the younger generations' minds. Our young people's work is one of the many highlights of Beyond Face and we wanted to share some with you!
Below, two of our Young People’s Practitioners, Sonia Thakurdesai and Shaday Barrowes-Bayewunmi share practices and themes found when working with young people. Sonia works with a group of 11-13 year olds, the majority of which are people of the global majority. Whereas Shaday works with year 9’s who are majority white, read on to learn more about their groups progression.
How do you introduce young people to the theatre world, both as attendees and as performers? Especially those not used to engaging.
Sonia : ‘By expanding their view of what theatre is outside of the typically expected promenaded Shakespeare or musical theatre.. Theatre can be about anything and can be anywhere, for anyone and everyone, but a lot of people don’t realise this. So we have to take it outside of what is expected and go-to non-traditional settings, engage in communal dialogue, find out their interests and show them how theatre can engage with them and their voice, through workshops and outreach.’
Shaday: ‘I think the first thing to do is to do it the Beyond Face way which is to ask them ‘If you were going to make a piece of theatre today what would you make?; Then ask them to try and find out what it is they want to say, or what is a burning question that they have about the world, this could take from a month to about 4-6 months depending on the group. Last year we worked with year 10s and they had a lot to say about the LGBTQI+ community and identity, they chose GCSE Drama so it was a lot easier, whereas this year it’s taken a little bit of time because we’ve really had to set those foundation, like blocks exploring and questioning what theatre is.’
If a young person says 'I don't have anything to bring' what is your answer?
Sonia: You bring yourself and that is enough. Each and every person is unique and brings a different point of view informed by their interests, values, and lived experience. It’s easy to deflect and think ‘I’m not interesting’ and I’ve been there too and sometimes I still go to that place, but I know now in my heart that isn’t true. Reflecting on what has been useful for me in those moments of doubt, the answer is actually doing something- having a way in, some sort of game or creative exercise/stimulus. I think sometimes it’s more a case of not knowing how to unlock our creative potential rather than not having anything to bring.
Shaday: ‘My answer is I’m sure you do have a lot to bring, everyone has amazing ideas that they want to bring. Usually it’s just that maybe they’re not ready to say their ideas or maybe they’re not confident enough. Normally I try to tease out an idea from them, so they might give me one sentence about an idea for a scene and then i’d ask ‘What do you think about how that person has performed there, do you think we should do it silently, do you think they should scream it?’ ‘Why do you think that, do you think what they’re saying is something that needs to hit the audience really hard? Do they say it in a different emotion, what emotion would it be?’ Giving them a little bit but not too much so they can form an answer themselves. Challenge them and put them outside of their comfort zone but not to the point where they feel overwhelmed so it’s really about gauging that. As you get to know the group and individuals, you get to know if someone is having a bad day or doesn't want to respond.
How are you exploring language and terminology?
Shaday: It’s really about just throwing words in there. First of all, asking young people ‘what is an artform?’ Some of them might say they don't know, some of them might say that they do. Then just going over it gives people the chance to ask further questions, I’ll split them up into groups and speak to them individually to double check their understanding.
What is the importance of identity and language for young people?
Sonia: ‘Though we are always learning more about ourselves and our identity I think young people are at a particular turning point as they are gaining more agency over their life and are having to navigate how they perceive themselves and who they want to be versus how they are perceived and have been perceived. It’s really easy for us to put labels on one another for example ‘goody two-shoes’, ‘talented and gifted’, 'class clown' or ‘the naughty kid’. Without meaning them to be, these labels can actually be really detrimental to how we see ourselves. We start to believe that those labels are all we are, and so there is power in being able to assert ourselves and choose how we self-identify.’
How are you exploring this new terminology?
Sonia: ‘Having an open dialogue and encouraging reflection whilst also being honest that I don’t know all the answers and that’s fine too. It is impossible to know all the answers because our language is constantly evolving and we’re navigating it together.’
And here are a few words from the young people they’ve worked with:
'This is amazing!'
'Mirror mirror on the wall I love this session and I wish it was everyday but it is the best club ever <3'
'I enjoyed writing the poem. I also loved showing my dress.'
'I loved doing the poem because I come up with ideas'
'I have two statements. The first is that you two are amazing. And the second is that I love these sessions!'