TYU Winter 2021 – Sam Dolan

Sam Dolan

Since 2017 I’ve been involved in TYU’s drama camps as a participant, and in recent years have begun to take on greater leadership roles. Our most recent Winter Camp in Gippsland was a huge success and alongside Jessie Duivenvoorden and Liam Wilson, we had our first opportunity to work as core leaders. It was such a great time for learning, let alone just the wonderful feeling it is to be working on theatre in a room together again.

We had a variety of guest presenters throughout the week 28th June – 3rd July, and participants learnt a great deal from each.

Michael Olsen kicked off our first morning getting participants to work together creating scenes and directing each other in those scenes. Later that day, Kellie Tweeddale got the participants to flex their writing muscles and create their own monologue which were shared to end the day. This start was brilliant for the core group to latch on to and harp about all week – make your own work.

The second day we were treated to Sharryn Marshall running some great warm-ups on a chilly morning which would then lead into creative world building. Together, the group transformed the Trafalgar Uniting Church into their very own Melbourne Show, complete with a petting zoo, rollercoaster, house of horrors and other classic amusements. This wasn’t just to look at either, no no no, we brought Joanne, other leaders, and even The Statera Circus group to participate in each activity! But it didn’t stop there. All those who attended this Melbourne Show, then swapped into the roles and our participants got to experience their own work. If you want to see just how exciting the buzz was, watch the story highlights on our Instagram page @theatrecraftyouthunlimited because the participants really brought their world to life.

I’ve always enjoyed working with Sharryn, and I’m always blown away by the simplicity in her command of a group and how she manages to coax wonderful, joyful work out of them. I took many notes that session on how I can improve my own leadership practice.

Following that session, Statera Circus took over, splitting the group into sessions of Theatresports/Circus skills, and a crash course in the DASArts Feedback Method, and the creation of short performances.

Developing skills in playing status, and accepting physical and verbal offers formed the base of the Theatresports, and learning how to do some basic acro-rolls followed. The participants took to this really well and we found them practicing these skills more during the rest of the week.

The DASArts feedback helped us find specificity in the performances that they created, and we finished our day down the mountain with a showing of all the performances. Yet again – the joy in collaborating and creating your own work was noted as particularly rewarding and essential to make your path in this industry.

The next day we were treated to a performance by Statera Circus at the West Gippsland Arts Centre. Their creative use of perspex frames as their apparatus was wonderfully simple, yet daring and exciting – yet again this is a group that came together to create their own work.

Following this we travelled up the mountain to the beautiful Allambee Camp and had a wonderful afternoon of Mask workshops facilitated by Joanne Watt – surely a welcome change from her usual flat-out organisation of the entire camp – where the participants were to choose a mask based on how they felt at the time. The purchase of these masks was made possible with the materials fee from VicHealth/Baw Baw Shire project. This collaboration, coordinated by Bec Vandyk of Arts Health Gippsland, included filming the physicality and interactions of and between these masks. Bec joined us throughout the week, offering great support for the whole group, and interviewing participants on ‘masks’ we wear in our daily life and how it affects us. Some of this project is already available for viewing at @artshealthgipps on Instagram. We’re very grateful for her work during the week.

The other workshop that afternoon was run by Jessie Duivenvoorden, leading with a meditation and transition in to partner and ensemble exercises focusing on establishing and maintaining active listening and connection, and developing creative play from a pair to a wider group. Following that we were all treated to a wonderful sunset up the hill at camp. It’s always a great sight and the participants got some great social time in.

Our last day of work kicked off with Liam giving a dance workshop. The participants took to this really strongly. They were taught a sequence of choreography to “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” which was so full of fun energy, and opportunity for them to develop character within their dance.

Following this we had a tech/design duo, welcoming Natalie Keynton and teaming up with one of our favourite regulars at camp, Claire Lyons. Together the participants generated different ideas for staging the scripts we had looked at in the beginning of the week. Groups created different stage designs for scenes, building it in to a diorama and presenting to everyone.

Alongside this was a lighting workshop, where participants had hands-on learning to plot lights and understand the work that goes into creating an effective and meaningful lighting plot. This is great work to also assist with a Summer 2022 camp as it provides some initial work on proposed scripts for this project.

We were very thankful that this was our first time we had some local corporate sponsorship. We received an instant and enthusiastic Yes! from Strezlecki Realty who provided 2 scholarships to participants. We also received contributions from Richard Keown and from the Nicky McFarlane bequest. Other sources of assistance came from the Baw Baw Arts Alliance and Gippsland Arts and Health. We’re always extremely thankful for all the assistance that we receive, as it means we can support great experiences for more young people in the arts.

Throughout the week I really enjoyed the opportunity to run other workshops, focusing particularly on improvisation. The last workshop I ran for the week ended in some very fun word-at-a-time stories, and a good few learnt the work that goes into really listening to each other to reach a common goal. It’s rewarding work. Across this jam-packed week I learnt some great skills in leadership, especially in being an effective and helpful mentor in the arts. I’m very grateful for this opportunity and it’s a great spur in my sides and creative invigoration to continue furthering myself in arts practices.

TYU Winter Workshop Program was proudly supported by Baw Baw Shire Council.