Theatre Arts director Ann Citron sat down with YET director Amy Poux to talk about the Youth Ensemble Theater and their exciting summer program with the Rosendale Theatre.
What prompted you to start the Youth Ensemble Theatre (YET)?
I started Youth Ensemble Theater as a passion project. I was interested in creating devised contemporary theater as an option for those teens who were interested in acting but not interested in musical theatre. At that time, there wasn't youth theater happening up here that used a devised approach, so I sent out an eblast to see if there was interest. Within three days, there was a waiting list.
What is your philosophy as a facilitator/teacher with young people?
The approach of YET is based on the principles of Theatre of the Oppressed, which Augusto Boal founded and fostered with his theatre troupe in Brazil in the 1960s. Boal’s primary inspiration was Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre work, which originated in the 1930s in response to Nazi Germany. The goal has always been to create high quality theater that is non-hierarchical. In YET, every actor has the same sized role. This is different than traditional theatrical plays, which usually have two or three lead roles (stars) and many smaller parts. We use improvisational acting exercises and techniques, collaborative story making, so that the work originates from the members of the group. Actors also learn stage acting techniques, character development, and ensemble theater practices.
The aesthetic of our plays is similar to the Group Theatre or Workers Theatre movement, which typically used minimal/representative sets and costumes. The goal of these theaters was to use theater as a forum for diverse viewpoints. The goal of YET is to use theater as a forum to illustrate the perspectives, experiences, and viewpoints of youth.
Please explain a few highlights of each program offered this summer at Rosendale Theatre.
One program being offered this summer is for high school/young adults where serious actors can create their own work and also take on different roles during production. They can direct, write, as well as act. There will also be a filmmaking option for those participants who might be interested in creating media or using media in their plays. This program can also be used as an opportunity for those actor/playwright/filmmaker teens who need materials for their college portfolio applications.
The second program is our outlandish long-form improvisation program for tweens. In this program young people will use our YET improvisational approach to create, rehearse, and then perform a zany theater piece. This program is incredibly fun (a lot of laughter) and engaging, and kids really become an ensemble.
Working with the Rosendale Theatre has been a dream of mine for some time. Now with the new stage area and a robust series of plays that the theater is rolling out, it's an honor to be part of the theater's new chapter.
As we reemerge from the pandemic, how do you think theater arts can help our young people?
As a teacher during the pandemic, I've seen young people recede. This work is meant to have us connect, not only with other people but also with ourselves. We need more local places for youth to hang out, be social and create. Wouldn't it be fantastic if they felt like the Rosendale Theatre was that kind of space for them?
For more information, visit youthensembletheater.com.
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