youth theatre

youth theatre
   Groups and organizations whose aim is to engage young people in theatre-related activities outside formal education. The National Youth Theatre was established in 1956 by Michael Croft, whose former pupils wanted him to continue staging Shakespearean productions. Its popularity led to the formation of other youth theatres, with the aim of classical drama professionally produced in conventional theatre spaces.
   In 1959, actor Ewen Hooper founded the Greenwich Young Peoples’ Theatre (GYPT), bringing together community theatre companies, youth theatre, professional repertory theatre and theatre in education. The County Youth Theatre, founded by drama adviser Silas Harvey in 1963, took a more experimental approach, comprising devised work and productions by modern writers.
   The popularity and success of youth arts saw a dramatic growth in the 1970s and 1980s. Initiated or supported by the youth service and youthorientated community arts/theatre groups, their philosophy hinges on an approach to working practices centred on young people. As for the inclusion of amateur groups (i.e. the junior sections of amateur dramatic societies or groups developed from private stage schools), this is still disputed, largely due to definitions of financial status, working practices and approaches, social and personal education, and, indeed, the actual term ‘amateur’.
   Most participants in youth theatre are aged twelve to twenty-four, are predominately white European (about 90 percent), and around twothirds are female. The next largest group, African/ Caribbean, accounts for approximately 5 per cent); the lowest (about 1.5 per cent) is Asian Other, while the number of participants with a disability has increased.
   An estimated 700 youth theatres cater for more than 50,000 participants. Since 1991, funding has been reduced by approximately 20 per cent as a result of cuts in local authority education and youth service budgets. Former members of youth theatre have gone on to jobs as workshop leaders, to take performing arts courses and become involved in film, television and theatre work. The National Association of Youth Theatres, an educational charity formed in 1982, sums it up thus: ‘[Youth Theatre offers] the opportunity for young people to gain invaluable practical, vocational and social skills, to explore themselves and the society in which they live.’
   See also: community theatre; devising
   Further reading
    Ripley, N. and Canning, P. (eds) (1996) Strategies for Success, Birmingham: National Association of Youth Theatres (a comprehensive publication, useful to all those involved, whether as members or organizers, workers in education or funding).
   CAROLE BALDOCK

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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