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Youth theatre

What is youth theatre?

Youth theatre, predictably, describes theatre for and by young people.  There is some diversity, however, within its definition.

Some youth theatres focus on introducing young people to theatre arts and to developing skills; the theatre acting as a training ground for the profession.  Others focus on their personal development.  Youth theatre has the potential to include all young people whilst ensuring that all activities are high quality. Visible Fictions' Monster; Photo: Kirk O'Rourke

For many youth theatres, the activities are various, and can include: looking at the processes of devising, creating and staging work, as well as the skills involved in creating a production, and introducing and developing the skills of theatre arts.  Many groups define youth theatre activity broadly and include music and dance within their activity.

Most youth theatre groups stage public performances.  Much of the production work is specifically for young people, either devised with the group or using scripts written for young performers.  As well as undertaking performances, many youth theatres create devised and improvised work and participate in workshops.

What are the benefits?

SYT's Our Town; Photo: Anthony Brennan

Young people can enjoy benefits from youth theatre, including:

  • developing confidence, self discipline and self esteem
  • improving communication skills and developing teamwork skills
  • broadening young people’s horizons through new experiences
  • having fun and being creative

Youth theatre has been considered a safe space in which young people could explore issues, take risks and test their emotional and physical boundaries.  Youth theatre also provides a way to engage young people, to learn and explore issues.  ‘It's value lies in being part of young people’s culture, being relevant to them and speaking in a language which is accessible’. (Review of Youth Theatre, Bonnar Keenlyside)

Youth theatre in Scotland

SYT's Haroun and the Sea of Stories; Photo: Anthony Brannan The Scottish Arts Council commissioned a review of youth theatre in 2002.  It was found that, at that time, there were over 7,700 identified participants in over 300 umbrella youth theatre groups across Scotland.

The sector is very varied including:

  • community youth theatres
  • youth theatres based in professional theatres, enabling participants to engage in the experience, skills and facilities of the professional sector
  • youth theatre groups provided by local authorities or schools
  • commercial youth drama activity providers

Youth theatre in Scotland has been considered to be developing healthily.  The demand expressed by young people has been demonstrated in waiting lists, for example. 

Since the review of youth theatre was undertaken, the Scottish Arts Council has responded by initiating and funding the set up of Promote YT.  The network organisation of youth performing arts practitioners aims primarily to support and promote the development of high quality Youth Theatre in Scotland, as well as providing the opportunities and promoting the core values in youth theatre.

This is just one of the ways in which the Scottish Arts Council has demonstrated support for youth theatre.  As well as supporting projects and initiatives, the Drama department provides revenue funding for Scottish Youth Theatre and Visible Fictions, amongst others that work with and for children and young people.

Find out more about Promote YT's first National Festival of Youth Theatre.

If you are aged 16 to 24 and want to find out more about getting into the arts, visit the 1624 explore section.

Youth theatre
* Focus on - Scottish Youth Theatre
* Project on Promote YT's Festival
Related links
* Scottish Youth Theatre
* Visible Fictions
* Visiting Arts' Arts and Youth Directory
* YouthLink Scotland
* Young Scot
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