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July 20, 2014 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Interview with Young and Hungry Directors

The Young and Hungry Festival of New Theatre turns 20 this year. Having helped spawn the careers of noted alumni such as Bret McKenzie, Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, it allows young theatre-makers to engage in all aspects of theatre creation. I sat down with Programme Director Diana Cable and Director Kerryn Palmer.

There is always quite an eclectic mix of work on in the festival. What is the process behind choosing plays for production?

Diana: One of our other programmes is the Playwrights’ Initiative. At the beginning, we commissioned established writers to create work, but around about 2000, we began commissioning emerging playwrights to create new works. We commission three new playwrights to create three original plays, and over a period of about eight months they are given a script advisor to work with them to develop the play for the festival the following year.

How long have you been involved with Young and Hungry, Kerryn?

Kerryn: 20 years. I acted in the first Young and Hungry when I was young. I’ve always had a passion for youth theatre. Prior to this, I hadn’t worked with Young and Hungry for about ten years, but I decided I needed some fresh young energy. It can get a bit jaded working in this industry, especially in Wellington, so what I love about working with young people is their enthusiasm.

Young and Hungry spread to Auckland in 2003. Do you see Young and Hungry going even further to become a nationwide theatre festival, or are you quite happy with Wellington and Auckland at the moment?

D: We are interested in working collaboratively with other organisations that are happy to embrace the philosophy and mentoring system that we have. At the moment, we are talking to Court Theatre in Christchurch and Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North. They recognise the connection between the established theatre practitioners and the young people, and they recognise that it provides a valued connection up into the professional industry. Court Theatre is interested in the process in the way that it might bring young people closer to the educational programmes they are already doing. For us, the collaborative process is as important as the outcome on stage.

There has been a lot of debate about the future of the arts in Wellington. How do you, as both experienced arts professionals, see the future of the arts in Wellington? Particularly Young and Hungry.

K: I think Young and Hungry is a really important place. Theatre is a particularly important way of getting kids away from digital screens. It’s more important than ever that theatre exists so that kids can experience something real. People say that it is a dying art; it has its place beside film. I’m quietly confident that theatre will keep going. However, things need to change, ways of thinking about funding need to change. But Young and Hungry has a really great method.

D: I do think Young and Hungry plays a major part in the Wellington theatre scene, because it is a proven feeding ground for a lot of areas. All of our programmes are free to the participants. We provide all the technical aspects for theatre-making, not just acting. At the end of every year, we do a survey, and the one answer that comes up time and time again is you can’t do this alone. I have learned to be part of a team and collaborate, and from coming through us, young theatre-makers are learning to set up their own theatre companies, and take on all aspects of theatre, not just the acting.

Do you have any advice for young theatre-makers?

D: Put yourself out there.

K: You have to be quite resilient. As well, consider doing something else while you’re making theatre. Be realistic, but also stay true to yourself. In addition to that, question why you are doing it. How is what I am going to do going to contribute to the world, not just myself?

The Young and Hungry Festival of New Theatre features three new plays from Wellington’s brightest young talent:
Our Parents’ Children by Alex Lodge at 6.30 pm.
Second Afterlife by Ralph McCubbin Howell at 8 pm.
Uncle Minotaur by Dan Bain at 9.30 pm.

The festival runs from the now to 2 August at BATS Theatre.

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