In 2008 I joined YAT (Youth Action Theatre) - a local youth theatre group based in Teddington/Hampton Hill, Surrey. The main reason was because one of my ambitions (an item on my Bucket List, if you like) was to perform in a play, so I Googled 'theatre groups in Teddington' and here I am! I often tell people it's one of the best things I ever did, and here's why:
1 - I wasn't sure I could do it...The first play I did with YAT was The Royal Hunt of the Sun and I bagged a great part - Miguel Estete the Royal Veedor - quite a few lines to learn, and I had to move like a man! Going on stage in front of an audience for the first time and remembering all my lines and not screwing up was an amazing feeling!
2 - I made some amazing friends:
I've kept in touch with more people from YAT than I have with people from Uni! Sometimes there's a break of 3 months or so in between plays, but when we see each other again it's always good fun!
3 - I've tested my skills to the limit (and beyond...):
When I was asked if I could paint a 16x20 foot painting of Carnaby Street at the back of the stage, I couldn't exactly say no... So I just did it, and now I've done loads of set painting!
4 - There's so much more to theatre than (just) acting:
Acting is fabulous fun - but maybe that's not for you? Depending on which group you join, you can get involved in all sorts, from sourcing props and scenery, painting sets, lighting and costume - and the great thing about amateur theatre is no-one expects you to have 2+ years experience with a known designer - you can just muck in and help, and build up your portfolio in the process!
5 - It's only as amateur/awesome [delete as applicable] as you allow it to be:
I think the words "Amateur Theatre" should be changed to "Low Budget Theatre" or "Hobby Theatre" as the word "Amateur" does put a few people off. No matter what the budget, you can still put on a great production, you just have to know your limits. If you have an amazing script and the cast and crew work really hard, there's no reason why you shouldn't move and inspire your audience.
6 - Release your inhibitions!
I've done things on stage I would never dream of doing in normal life - dancing, singing, prancing around like an idiot - being able to switch off the fear of looking stupid is such a useful skill, and can help you in real life situations, such as a job interview or a first date! Plus, acting is such a confidence booster, because in learning how to be other people, you feel more at home with being yourself.
7 - You never know what it might lead to...
I got some storyboarding work through a friend from my YAT, and got some work experience through another! Although this shouldn't be a reason for joining, it's definitely an added bonus!
8 - You could get to go somewhere amazing!
If you're lucky your group might go on Tour! Two years ago YAT went to the Edinburgh Fringe with The Duchess of Malfi! They're going again this year (although without me this time) and will undoubtedly have an amazing time again!
9 - You might win a shiny award!
Ok - obviously I can't promise anything, but most areas have arts council awards, and if you're very lucky and work very hard, you may get your own very lovely award! YAT won the Swan Award last year for Best Design, and the Wild Swan.
10 - Watch out for those cast parties!
Now obviously I'm not condoning drinking vast amounts of alcohol, especially if you are under 18 (!), but when a group of people have worked very hard and had no social life or sleep for the past 3 months can finally let loose - well that's a very special time...
Ok - I didn't say it was our most beautiful time now did I?