Viewpoints with Catherine Sheridan and NAYD

This summer we got the opportunity to go to Kilkenny for NAYD’s National Festival of Youth Theatres. Four of our members took part in Viewpoints master workshops facilitated by the lovely Catherine Sheridan. Viewpoints is a technique of improvisation that gives performers an experimental space to work together as an ensemble through movement to develop a piece.
Here is what some of our members thought!
“I picked the viewpoints workshop because it was the only option that focused on movement.  I thought not only would it be a useful technique for acting, but also for stage managing or directing. During the week we looked at the various aspects of viewpoints varying from simply walking around the room, to the 12’6’4 routine (which I am still recovering from).  Although the workshop taught me about viewpoints it also showed me how in such a short space of time a group of people who had never met before could be so in tune with each other.  By the end of the week we managed to complete tasks with a sense of ease that I have only experienced before with people that I have known for the majority of my life.” – Leanne

“In Droichead we do a lot of movement pieces so going into viewpoints I was pretty happy that I knew a lot about movement as an ensemble. However, viewpoints took a different turn than what I was used to. We worked barefooted and weren’t allowed to wear jeans which was a surprise and hard at first coming from a person who loves their jeans. We did many different exercises to work spontaneously and together as a group. We had to learn to get the group impulse to do something. One exercise which really helped the group to work together is 12,6,4. This is where the group would run in a circle and together would have to complete 12 turns, 6 jumps and 4 stops. At first it was hard to fight the temptation to lead but after doing it for a week you learn to use your soft focus and peripheral vision to be able to work and move together as a group. The thing that really impacted me on with viewpoints is how free you can move as a group. Sometimes we were given instructions to include in a piece but the best pieces were those where we had the freedom to work as we wished. With viewpoints you are able to push boundaries, for example personal space! There were times where I would add or create a piece and people would add on but personal space is completely forgotten about! I found viewpoints as a new and different aspect of theatre that you can use to express feelings and tell stories with or without words that you’d still happily pay €10 to see and leave thinking “wow, that was amazing!” Overall my week in Kilkenny was amazing and I couldn’t have spent it with better people. I’ve learnt so much that I can use in Droichead and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to go. I made so many new friends and became closer to my group as well. Thanks NAYD!”    – Alix

“On first arrival in the McAdoo Hall I was confused by the enthusiasm of the wonderful and extremely talented, Katherine Bell, she was singing the bright, bare rooms praises. The open, light wooden floored space was a simple delight to the experienced viewpoint-er. Over the week I learned why and also began revelling in the marvel of it’s architectural structure and simplicity.

First impressions are make or break, as we all know, and let’s just say our first impression was odd, but not break! “Take off your shoes and socks”, wait, what?? The amount of us who had kept on our socks only to be told again that we had to take them off. We could not come to terms with it at all! Yet again, as the week passed, no shoes and no socks became normal to us. Walking into our ‘roving workshops’ and keeping our feet trapped within the confines of our shoes became the oddity.

The most impressive thing about Viewpoints, for me, was the way in which it set a comfortable atmosphere between a group of twenty or so teens who had never met before. By the end of the second day we were devising and creating as though we had all come from the same youth theatre. We all worked so well together, it was quite surprising. We played off of each other’s ideas. We fed off of each other’s energy. We formed a bond and a trust. Not to mention making some life-long friends along the way!

Viewpoints uses the grid and every now and then I find myself falling into the motion of lines, curves or diagonals. Working with speed and duration, bettering my kinaesthetic response, looking and finding inspiration in the shapes of the world around me – all of these skills I have acquired that I don’t just work into my theatre, I work them into my everyday life. Quite fitting to that saying ‘Life’s a stage’, I suppose. Wait, is that a saying? Or did I just make that up? Well I guess it’s a saying now, and what an adequate saying it is.

Everyone should try their hand at Viewpoints. It is necessary for life. Do it. Now. Just do it!
This has been a PSA.”   – Anna

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Storming The Castle: DYT meets Dochas Pocus

Today our guest writers are Kerri Walsh and Louis Flanagan, giving us an account of our recent foray into the Development sector, the European year for Development, and  trips to Dublin Castle x 2! Enjoy!

Two conferences. One castle. And a whole lotta teenagers….

Don’t worry, I can safely assure you this isn’t the tagline to a new big-budget sappy teen blockbuster. Nor is it an elaborate plot to blow up a castle either. It’s much more entertaining, much more intriguing than any of those things…it is – what we at Droichead Youth Theatre to call – a Grand Droichead Adventure!

You’re probably asking yourself what in the hell I’m on about – and I don’t blame you. Well, about three months ago – December, if you insist on being precise – we were contacted by the lovely Claire Lynch, who had a most intriguing task for us. Not only is she a Drogheda native – well, a Duleek native to be politically correct – but a Droichead Youth Theatre alumnus and junior facilitator too. Claire had been hired by Irish organisation Dóchas to plan a conference in Dublin Castle celebrating the European Union’s Themed Year. In previous years, the European Union’s annual themes have included Peace and Equality; however 2015 marked the Year of Development, a year to combat poverty in Third World Countries, a year of fair trade and fair solutions and a year to close that ever-widening, ever-frightening gap between nations of the North and South.

We could not change the world entirely; but luckily, we could help! And that’s exactly what Claire wanted us to do. She gave us the task of creating a short theatrical piece relating to the theme of development, allowing us to marry our love of theatre with our love of economics! Our only trouble was…well, where to start! It wasn’t long before we got cracking on the research and over the Christmas period, we discussed all of our findings, everything from sanitation in Developing Countries to ongoing debates on the ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ charity single to radiators in Norway!

Discussing these topics and stories certainly was an eye-opener and it wasn’t long before we had kinds of ideas about what we wanted to do for the conference and what message we wanted to convey. After some long brainstorming, we created a three-minute piece, which we jokingly named Dochas Pocus – a name that stuck around! The piece which shows the ineffectiveness of aid to Third World Countries and the corruption of many of the First World governments. As well as this, the piece also allowed us to use many theatre techniques, including ensemble, tableaux, movement and music. With the conference day looming, we had some time to polish and perfect it before show time arrived!

The big day – Thursday January 22nd – soon arrived and we descended on The Big Shmoke (via the divine Irish Rail), props ready, clothes neat, hair and make up perfected and butterflies fluttering about in  our stomachs! Arriving in the city of Dublin, we frolicked our way to Dublin Castle – it really is a castle – and made our way to the ever-so-not-green- green-room where we met many of the speakers and conference participants. One particularly interesting group was Clowns For Haiti, a Dublin-based charity who travel to poverty-stricken areas of Haiti – especially those areas harshly affected by the 2010 Earthquake – and perform and entertain children using magic and circus tricks.  Meeting this particular group was one of the highlights of the event for me. Another highlight, you could say, was the opportunity to meet our very own President Michael. D. Higgins, who was one of the special guest speakers at the event. We even got a few snaps with the man himself (who is, like us, an avid fan of theatre!)

Performance time was fast approaching and we waited anxiously in the corridors, hearts palpitating and pulses racing, for our cue. No matter how times you’ve performed onstage – let it be twice or two hundred times – you still have to battle those pre-show nerves, that keep rattling inside you. Suddenly, our names were announced and we paced across the thronged room towards the stage, cool as crisp, and took our starting position. There was an amazing atmosphere in the room and our performance went flawlessly. Rapturous applause swooped through the room and it was definitely one of the most exhilarating and memorable moments I’ve had during my time at Droichead Youth Theatre. We celebrated afterwards, in true Droichead style, with a well-deserved trip to McDonald’s on O’Connell Street – FACT: the widest street in Europe – before we ventured home to our abodes in Drogheda.

However, things are never quite as they seem and what was supposed to be a once-off performance at Dublin Castle turned into something of a theatre sensation! Less than twenty-four hours following our Dochas Pocus performance, we received an invitation from the National Youth Council of Ireland (NCYI) – best youth council around may I add! – to perform the same devised piece at their conference celebrating the EU Year of Development! And naturally, we couldn’t refuse another offer to play in the castle!

The date was set for Tuesday 10th February, which unfortunately clashed with the mock exams, meaning a cast reshuffle! Despite this, the strong performance remained the same and soon we were setting off towards Dublin Castle, energetically eager to perform in our favourite castle once again! The wonderful NCYI welcomed us upon our arrival and the whole conference hall was bustling with representatives from every aspect of youth life – from scouts to sportspeople to slam poetry artists! Our performance took place shortly after lunchtime and once again, we received a great response and much praise from many spectators.

With some time to spare in the afternoon period, we whisked ourselves off to the fabulous Murphy’s Ice Cream parlour, for some good ‘oul County Kerry ice-cream – the sea salt and cookies are a personal favourite of mine – a place so magical and heavenly, there are so limited words to describe it. We also managed to stop by in Trinity College – home of our very talented facilitators Christina, Cathal and Lorna -taking time out to see Front Square, the Trinity Drama Department and an exciting exhibition piece in aid of the Jack and Jill Foundation by Drogheda artist Ciaran Dunleavy! We even broke out into a few Midsummer Night’s Dream poses – how could we resist? – before heading home to our beloved Drogheda!

This experience is nothing like we’ve done before. This whole experience got us out of our own comfort zones. It got us discussing, got us talking about issues well worth taking about. We’ve met some influential people along the way and most importantly we’ve learned that we can’t save the world completely – but we can certainly try.

– Louis Flanagan and Kerri Walsh xo

A week of Good Times and Memories: a blog, by Gavin Byrne

This week our guest blogger is Gavin Byrne, giving us an account of his transition year work experience with our Artistic Director Christina Matthews. Enjoy!

Aloha reading people. So, I’ve asked to do one of these blog things. This shall be an adventure as they say, so I’ll be doing it based on the pleasant experience of my work experience with Christina. Well, one thing for sure, it’s a lot more exciting than doing boring Stuff in a shop. Even if this time I didn’t get any candy…. But despite the lack of expired candy, it was a super fun experience! For sure. On the Tuesday of the week, me and other Droichead Youth Theatre members went down to the best, and possibly only Conference venue, Dublin Castle! We performed our very special Dochas Piece for all the viewing persons present. It was a very moving piece to do with development, and Aid, and such concerning stuff. Some may say we had the Acting Force of an Almighty Mountain! Cause we were tremendous in Acting Prowess. After our amazing spectacular performance, we went and got Ice-Cream from Murphy’s on Wicklow Street. It was fantastic with a side if brilliant. They had oh so many flavors to choose from, from scrumptious ‘Sea Salt’, to totally bonkers ‘Brown Bread’! We embarked upon great fun, dashing through Trinity College on a Photograph Frenzy! From Stromtrotters to impersonating structures, all the way to Building Pointing, oh we had it all!

But the very next day, I was to do classes with Christina, and after slight misadventures, I arrived upon the place of my destination! To start off with, there was a Hardy Hip-Hop class. We had the fun dancing to much! Including, but not limited to, The Spice Girls, All about that bass, and more of different kinds! It was exhausting to be sure, but it ended like most things do, and then Drama Classes began, and fun and merriment were had! From neutralness, to quick thinkingness, many useful skills were explored.

Then for reasons, I had to attend a fabulous play, called “Patrick Kavanagh, A life”. It was a one man play, about the life of Patrick Kavanagh. It seemed to be a fun life, full of growing up up on a Farm in the odd place that is Monaghan, to even more stuff. But I’m going to digress here, did you know, that Monaghan is the smallest county in Ulster, and is actually part of the Republic of Ireland. But back to the play, there was such a moment of explosive excitement, as Kavanagh made a Pyramid of Tin Cans go Boom! All across the stage! Tension was high, as one can in particular tried to crawl off the stage, no, it was stopped, by its own lack of momentum. Truly a tear jerking moment. He talked of his sad life, of struggles, hunger, ducks, children, the bishop and about poverty. Fun subjects all round.

And then for the ‘Ante-penultimate’ day of the week, (that’s the one that comes before the Penultimate one) travels brought us to the area known as Swords again. Drama was done, and Superheroes were the topic of the room. Batman is not Superhero as we all should know. And Martian Manhunter’s status as a ‘Superhero’ was questioned…. I maintain that he’s not… The option of eternal life was brought up, along with other fun, cool stuff….. Yeah, that was neat. Wow, this blogging thing has been interesting I guess. Who knows, I may do another! We’ll see. This has been the Fabulous, Marvelous Brilliance that is Gavin. Y’all are welcome.

How to adult: a blog which explores how you can apply lessons you learn in drama class, to real adult life.

This week we have guest writer Sophie Flanagan, reflecting on the practical applications of drama class to the quest of becoming a grown up. Enjoy!

As yesterday was the anniversary of my 19th year of being on this earth, I took time to reflect on the past 365 days of being 18; a fully-fledged adult. In hindsight, I did in fact spend most of the year acting exactly the same as my 17 year old self. However, since the completion of my leaving cert I feel I have morphed into somewhat of a “young adult”.  “How do you know when you’re an adult?” I hear you ask.. well, first you must diagnose yourself.

WARNING: If you’ve more than three of the following symptoms, you could be at risk of becoming a grown-up.

-You catch yourself watching the news.. and actually finding it interesting.

-When people ask you to hang out and you can’t be like “my mam said no”, so  you just have to change your name and move to Peru.

-When you see a child under 10, and instantly become concerned for their safety.

-Contemplating that maybe Mr. Snuggles doesn’t have feelings and it’s okay to put him in the washing machine.

– Not being disappointed when you get clothes as a present.

– Your occupation on Facebook is no longer “Being a Full Time Mad Bastard”.

I, unfortunately, have developed all of these symptoms in the past three months, but for the most part still feel some Peter Pan syndrome inside. BUT DO NOT FRET! Though, you cannot be cured, you can cope. And here are a few tricks you’ve probably already learned in drama class to do so.

“Walk The Space”- You know that strange warm up, at the start of almost every class?  Well, it’s surprisingly handy. As an adult, you want as little unnecessary communication as possible. As in, avoiding small talk, people you don’t want to talk to and people who will get in the way of your busy *schedule. In this case, you literally “walk the space”. Look for the area least people are populating and use that as your route to walk from place to place. Trust me, it works. And you might even save some time than by taking the short cut, by not bumping into people and talking about how aul Rita was “never right after **”that fall”.

*schedule- adult-y word for a to do list.

**that fall- all old people suffer from that fall, and are somehow “never right” after it.

Simon Says/Simple Simon- Knocks out the one that don’t comply with what the big man says. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being different and taking risks, but for the most part, in the workplace of the adult world, you got to just do with what the boss says. I know, I know, it’ll be hard sometimes, but in times of struggle, dealing with their every demand, just think to yourself, this is just like a really professional game of Simon Says, except this time I’m getting paid for it.

Character Building –  Name, age, location. Now build a character. This is probably one of the most useful tricks you’ll read about today. As an adult, you’ll find yourself in many scary situations. You’ll feel nervous, shy, and completely clueless. But, as always, there is a solution. If you feel in anyway uncomfortable in a situation, in your mind, give yourself a new character. On your exterior, act completely casual, but internally, imagine you’re someone else who is completely comfortable and confident in whatever situation you find yourself in. I recently found myself using this trick when I discovered it was about time I opened a *bank account. I was incredibly nervous as the people in suits we’re quite intimidating, but in my brain I just took on a new character that completely knew what she was doing and wasn’t afraid to ask questions. Trust me, it helps, and makes you seem more adult-y than you might feel.

*bank account- a really big piggy bank.

Bollocks- On one hand, you learn some really good curse words, and on the other, the projection lesson really helps you when you’re trying to talk to your friends over really loud music on a night out. Which, trust me, is essential if you don’t want to have a hoarse voice the next morning.

Adulthood is scary, and inevitable. But with a bit of acting and pretending, we can all learn to adapt and live as normal civilized adults, even if on the inside we’re all still 14.

NAYD’S Young Critics programme

This week we are fighting fit and back in action, with an account of NAYD’s Young Critics weekend by Andy McLoughlin!

 

The Young Critics Workshop took place last weekend over the course of three days and there’s a lot to talk about so I suppose the best place to start is at the start.

About two months ago, after drama, a senior DYT member came in to talk to us about this Young Critics programme in Dublin she had been to. You go see two plays over the course of 3 days in April and again in October. Accommodation and food would be provided and you would get classes on how to analyse theatrical productions. It seemed strange at first to be learning about theatre outside the context of actually being involved, but the idea appealed to me. I knew almost nothing about theatre compared to my almost embarrassing obsession with the rest of pop culture, and this would be a great opportunity to learn a thing or two.

   I filled out the form, which included a very short critical review of a play I had seen recently. This was easier said than considering, as I’ve mentioned, I really didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. But I did my best and came up with a smooth 150 words and sent off the form off to NAYD with my fingers crossed. A few weeks later, I got a call from Alan King, the Youth Theatre Officer in charge of the programme, letting me know I had gotten in. I stifled my girlish squeals of excitement and began preparing for the course.

  After no time at all I found myself at the GPO meeting up with the rest of the participants in the course to be bussed over to the Marino institute for the first day of activities. That day we all got to know each other through drama games, awkward small talk and Shakespearean battle sequences. When the two workshops were done we were shown to our bedrooms and hung out in the common room, sharing in-jokes and generally getting on the banter train.

  The next morning was when the fun really began. We got up at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. and went down to the first workshop. It was here that we discussed things like the role of the critic, who a critic writes for, why they are important etc. After that we discussed the plays we were going to see that afternoon. I had already seen  “Quietly” by Owen McCafferty and reviewed it to get into the course, but “An Ideal Husband” by Oscar Wilde was something I knew almost nothing about aside from the brief bits and pieces of research I had done before the course.

  We went into Dublin at around 12 and after a quick bite to eat, we went straight to the first play. I wasn’t expecting much from “An Ideal Husband” as I’ve never considered myself to be a fan of period dramas and a play about aristocrats and extramarital affairs really wasn’t my scene. I was shocked to find that the play compared more to “The Thick of It” than “Downton Abbey” with its non-stop one liners and bumbling politicians.

  After the show we were treated to a conversation with Marty Rea, who played Lord Goring in the play. After gushing about his fantastic physical performance for an appropriate amount of time, we got down to asking questions. He was full of great advice and insights, from editing out the vaguely sexist parts of the play, to what it’s really like getting into acting young (not to mention the fine art of the tongue twister).

  From there we took a short break before going to the next play, Quietly by Owen McCafferty. I had seen it before and it isn’t exactly a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of play, but it’s always nice to get a closer look at something in a different setting. After the dynamic and relentless adventure of “An Ideal Husband” and the boiling tension of “Quietly” we were too exhausted to do anything else and went back to the college to catch some shut-eye.

  The next morning was a bittersweet experience. It being our third and last day, the initial awkwardness between us had subsided but was replaced by the underlying knowledge that it would be our last few hours together. We went down to the workshop room one last time for a lengthy discussion about the plays we had seen. We split up into four groups to discuss the plays and each group then elected 2 spokespeople to speak on a panel about the plays we had seen. It was then that we realised what we had really learned over that weekend. I was thinking about things like the role of a director in a play and the importance of personal opinion in analysis that had never even crossed my mind before.

Overall this will certainly be a weekend to remember. And not just because of the free accommodation and food either. It’s refreshing to spend so much time around so many people who are smarter than you, but share a common fascination with the art we’re so privileged to consume in the first world. All of that’s left me looking forward tremendously to the second weekend of the course this autumn.