The Hastings Youth Theatre Inc. are proud to present their new show for 2011, the sequel to the Wizard of Oz, The Scatterbrained Scarecrow of Oz, which will be at the Glasshouse on 10 July.
How long has the Hastings Youth Theatre been performing?
We have been performing every year since 2008. This is our 4th year and we’re very excited because we’ve just become incorporated, which means that we’ve now got enough money to go under our own steam.
We were auspiced before by ‘Break a Leg’, and that gave us the chance to be able to perform due to the cost of insurance, because when you have 30 – 40 children in the group performing every year, you have to be insured. Now we have a little bit of money in the bank, so we’re very thrilled to be under our own flag this year.
What have been some of the most memorable productions?
Our first production was Wind in the Willows and then the second production was Utter Garbage, and we did that at the Panthers Theatre. It was really wonderful – about this little rat Dumbster who didn’t want to live in a garbage tip, he wanted to live in a garden – so that’s extremely memorable. Panthers were wonderful to us, particularly Janette Hyde, so that was really fantastic.
Then last year we did Mister Toad’s Mad Adventures at the Glasshouse. I suppose when you ask about something that is memorable, I cannot speak highly enough of the Glasshouse. They were just wonderful to us, so we are returning again this year. The people were great and they complimented us on the standard of the children and how well behaved they were. I sat up in the box with the lighting and sound and wow … that was really magic. So thank you to Mark and the team behind the scenes. The Glasshouse performance really was a memorable experience, and I am very proud to have the Glasshouse in Port Macquarie.
Tell us about the upcoming performance schedule for the Hastings Youth Theatre.
We have got a backstage crew and a cast of 21 children who are working away. The production will be on 10 July at 2pm at the Glasshouse in Port Macquarie. We also have a separate performance for children from schools in South West Rocks, Kempsey and Taree.
It is a fairy story based on Dorothy, finding herself in another cyclone, whisked off once again with her little dog Toto to the Land of Oz. The Wizard has left the Scarecrow in charge. Unfortunately, the Wicked Witch of the West has stolen his brains in order to rule the land. Dorothy, finding her old friends, the Lion and the Tinman, head off with the Scarecrow to retrieve his common sense, therefore enabling him ultimately to be not so scatterbrained.
It is really wonderful and just magic stuff. The Glasshouse and all their wonderful effects with lighting make the show just marvellous. I have also done it as a pantomime. To do that I have got Alice in Wonderland and the characters, Mad Hatter etc. all running through trying to find out whether they are in the right show.
My usual style, because I was doing pantos for Players Theatre for 8 years – so to everybody who knows my work, it is very similar. So I am hoping everyone will come along, bring the children, and even the adults will enjoy the show too.
Where are rehearsals held?
We are very lucky. When we first started off our rehearsals, we were at Sea Acres in their production room downstairs. It was very timely with all of the children rehearsing down there; we needed a permanent rehearsal space. Then just last year, because of the Heritage Christian School always coming to our performances, (we used to perform at the St Paul’s auditorium, where we had 750 children come to see our show), they offered their wool shed, which has a little bit of history behind it.
Years ago before the school was built, the wool shed was used as a country dance hall, and it’s a wonderful spot. So that is where we rehearse of a Sunday afternoon. As we only do one show per year, we rehearse there for about 14 Sundays, then put on the show. Jeff Brisby from Heritage Christian School has been so supportive and wonderful, and we are very happy that we now have a home. But the only on-stage full dress rehearsal we have is not until the morning of the performance, so the kids work very hard in the circumstances.
How can local youth between the ages of 9 and 18 become involved?
Anyone can get involved, and there is no experience needed. All you have to do is give me a ring. We have a very good name; this year we had 40 children who were trying out for 19 parts, so I had to naturally put more parts in. Then of course, we have got the kids backstage. A lot of the kids might start off backstage, and the next year they have gained more confidence and are wanting a part.
What other benefits do you think the children involved gain from the Hastings Youth Theatre?
Each year the kids come back and they have formed new friendships, and it’s just wonderful for me. It’s a lot of fun and they gain confidence. We have young people with Aspergers, kids who have been bullied … theatre brings out a lot of things and gives them confidence. Whether they pursue an acting career, they become more confident with people. It’s not easy to walk out on stage with 600 people in the audience.
I had one young man last year after the performance come up to me and say, “Eileen, I can’t begin to thank you for what I’ve gained and the fun I have had. It has been a wonderful experience.”
Tell us why you don’t have a curtain.
Yes, well … I think our shows are quite unique in that way, because it’s inspiring for the kids who are working backstage to know that they are actually going to be seen during the production. There is nothing like it in Port Macquarie, because we are a Youth Theatre and the whole production is done by the youth. I’m the only old duck, being the director! Normally when you see a stage production, you only see the actors in front and not what goes on behind the scenes.
What goes on behind the scenes is very important. It has to be choreographed; if you can imagine, it’s like a dance routine. They really have to work as a team, because they have to know what goes on, get the timing right, and particularly when you are doing a panto, it has to move very quickly. The backstage team dresses completely in black with balaclavas, which they love; they are like a team of little ninjas. At the end of the show they come out with a curtain call and take their bows, same as the on-stage actors and remove their balaclavas.
Who are some of the sponsors for the Youth Theatre, and why are they so important?
We started off with no money at all. The sponsors we have who are very supportive each year are Buzz Coffee, Lions Club, Rotary West & Inner Wheel, Advantage Accountants, Hydro Photographics, Ken & Dahlas Thompson, T & J Middlebrook and Essential Energy.
They have just been absolutely wonderful. Thank you to our media partner FOCUS for all of their support over the last four years.