My YMT UK experiences

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Youth Music Theatre UK prides itself on being the ‘leading music theatre company for young people’, and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in two of their productions during the last two summers, as both a band member and as an assistant musical director. These shows have been invaluable to me as someone trying to get more experience in the theatre world, and with YMT’s auditions tour happening right now, I thought I’d write about the two projects I’ve done.

In 2016 I decided to apply to play keyboards in the band for one of the organisation’s eight projects that year. Although I already had an interest in MDing and had some experience of it at uni, my plan was to be in the band that summer, and then AMD the following summer (which I did!). Anyway, I auditioned in Southampton in January, and then found out in April that I had been placed on a show called The Dark Tower. So after much anticipation I travelled to a boarding school in the south of England to begin the residential rehearsals. The cast of the show had already been there for a week, so myself and the other band members had to slot into both rehearsals and the social life! It was awesome staying in a boarding school, and the fact the rehearsal period was residential was so beneficial, because it meant we were never missing anyone, unlike rehearsals for other shows I’ve done. I became good friends with the rest of the band (and the MDs!), and after a week we travelled to London.

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The Dark Tower was performed at The Bussey Building in Peckham, and it was an immersive experience for the audience, with the production being set over all three floors of the performance space. Obviously this raised logistical problems, such as having to have a keyboard on each floor! We also happened to perform the show during some of the hottest days that year, and sometimes the temperature was unbearable, especially with so many people crammed into the space. I absolutely loved my first experience of YMT, which totally inspired me to apply to be an AMD for a show the following year.

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So, in 2017 I applied for the Creative Trainee scheme, and went to an interview in London, and a few weeks later I was told that I’d been placed on a project called Jabberwocky. Being on the creative team I rehearsed the project for the full two weeks, rather than only one like the previous year. We started rehearsing the show at another boarding school, with our cast of 36 girls aged 11-17. I much preferred being on the creative team and getting to be treated more like an adult, as on The Dark Tower the band were still considered to be ‘young people’. As AMD my responsibilities were to accompany some rehearsals, work on solo sections with small groups of the cast, and to teach some songs to everyone. It was amazing getting to work alongside a professional creative team, who also became our friends!

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After a week we travelled to Kent, as the show was to be performed at Theatre Royal Margate – one of the oldest and most haunted theatres in the country! The theatre is beautiful and it was such a privilege to get to perform there, and it was so nice to be able to have picnics by the sea during breaks from technical rehearsals! The shows went so well and I had such an overwhelming sense of pride for all of the girls in the cast once it was all over.

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YMT projects are such a good way for young people interested in performing to spend their summers. I’ve really appreciated everything both the projects I’ve taken part in have taught me, and I’ve met so many good friends and industry contacts. To anyone interested in doing musical theatre in the future – get involved!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, I’m just passionate about the company!

Shows I worked on in 2017

As well as seeing a fair amount of theatre during 2017, I also managed to make some too! Well, musically direct some anyway. Over the last 3 years the majority of shows I’ve done have been through the musical theatre society at my (old!) uni, but this year I’ve managed to branch out a little bit more too. So here’s my year of shows!

Curtains – March 2017

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Credit: Charlie House Media

Curtains was my last ‘big’ uni show, and definitely my most challenging MDing experience yet! This was partly because I wasn’t just the MD – I had a named part, 3 lines, and a (very short) solo song. Throw into the mix that said part had an indeterminate European  a Russian accent, and this was quite a lot to take on! I also had my first experience of stick conducting a band, and while I relished the challenge, I definitely much prefer keys conducting. Or just keys playing. Anyway, the show turned out brilliantly despite significant levels of stress and I was very proud of everyone involved. #sop

Made in Dagenham – March-April 2017

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This was a show put on by a local amateur dramatics group, and I was ‘only’ in the band! It was great fun though – I played keys 2, and it was really refreshing to be involved in a show outside of uni (although most of the people in the band were uni people!). This was also my first paid pit band gig, so that was exciting… hopefully the first of many??!!

Little Puddle – May 2017

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My first original show! (Not written by me, I hasten to add). I was pleased to be able to help out on this crazy production as AMD, and I also played keys 2 (and a kazoo) in the band. It was so interesting to work on an original show and to be there throughout the process of lyric rewrites and spontaneous key changes!

The 24 Hour Show – June 2017

Every year, the musical theatre society at my old uni rehearses and puts on a show in just 24 hours for charity. I was on the prod team as a co MD, and we auditioned everyone and chose a cast… but didn’t tell the cast what the show was until 24 hours before the first performance. It was a totally mad and surreal experience, during which I got an hour of sleep (which was more than most!) and felt like I went a little bit insane. Nonetheless, we pulled it off, and it was a great show to finish my uni experience with!

Jabberwocky – August 2017

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Having played in the band for a Youth Music Theatre (YMT) production last year, I was so excited to do another one – but this time as the assistant musical director. Getting to work alongside industry professionals was so valuable, and it was such a rewarding (and exhausting!) 2 weeks of constant theatre making! The show involved 39 girls aged 11-17. This was also an original piece, so there were constantly changes being made to the score and script, and often these changes were a result of what the cast spontaneously did which was awesome. Performing the show at the Theatre Royal Margate (the oldest theatre in the country) was amazing too.

 

Now that I have a full time (non theatre based) job, my opportunities to do shows have somewhat diminished, but I hopefully have at least 3 lined up for 2018 already!

1. So I’ve graduated… what next?

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Having graduated with a BA in Music a couple of weeks ago, I’m constantly being faced with the question: ‘what next?’. Thankfully I now have a concrete answer to that question because as of September, I have a proper full time adult job! But before that begins I’ve got a very exciting, theatre filled August – hence my (potentially silly idea) to try and write a blog post every day this month.

I’ve come to realise that this summer is likely to be my final long summer holiday, so I figured I’d better make the most of it. Having filled June and July with volunteering and working in schools to help with musical theatre projects, London trips, job interviews and flat hunting, August sees even more travelling and theatre, as well as a big birthday! First of all I’m taking part in a Youth Music Theatre UK (YMT UK) project as an assistant musical director for their show Jabberwocky, which is to be performed at the Theatre Royal Margate from 18th-20th August (plug plug plug). Having done a project with the company last summer in a lesser role I’m so excited to be involved again and have even more creative input on a fantastic piece of original writing.

I’m also going to visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time at the end of the month too. I’ve never been before, mostly due to the fact that I live in Devon, and Scotland is a very long way away from here! However, this year I’m going to deal with the lengthy travel times to go and see lots of theatre for a few days, including some shows which my friends from my (old) uni are taking up (writing ‘old’ uni felt weird. I haven’t had to do that before… *graduate crisis ensues*).

The end of August will see me coming back down to reality from the idyllic world of theatre and moving into my new house and preparing to start my proper job. It’s been and will continue to be a summer full of massive changes… I just find it a bit weird that your whole future is mapped out for you until this point: school, sixth form, uni… but then what? I’ve always been adamant that I didn’t want to move back home after uni, and although I have done that for the summer, it’s only temporary. However, when viewing places to live and being faced with adult talk about taxes and deposits and bills and pension schemes, a very small part of me wished I could escape it all and remain a well looked after child at home! But no, I love the freedom I’ve had at uni and I think continuing that immediately is the best thing for me to do – especially as my new job is close to the city I’ve lived in for the last 3 years.

So yes, expect many a blog this month. I’m excited to chronicle all my new experiences this summer and hope that no one gets too fed up with my incessant posting!