Getting the Young ones into Theatre …

I’ve loved going to the theatre for as long as I can remember – the buzz of excitement, the captivating music, the overwhelming joy at watching a story unfold before your eyes – all creating the truly mesmerising experience that has me hooked still now, let alone as an extremely excitable child. There is nothing else like it and gives something really special for people of any age, race or background, creating lasting memories and teaching valuable and important lessons about life and love to be cherished forever. As a young person myself I feel that this topic is such an important one – my love of theatre has massively shaped who I am as a person; it has influenced many of the decisions I have made throughout my life, it has moulded my beliefs and has taught me many lessons about history and the way the world works. I’m so lucky to have had these amazing experiences and feel that it is very important that other young people are able to have similar opportunities.

From childhood to young adulthood this wonderful world of theatre can inspire the best in us and provide us with the faith and belief that we can do anything. Encouraging young people to become involved in the theatre is such an important thing to do. It’s not just about inspiring children to perform in the arts, maybe become writers, directors, producers or choreographers but also to support the arts by watching the amazing shows not only on the west end, but off west end and touring companies too. There are many shows that are aimed at introducing young children to musical theatre such as Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mary Poppins and Annie. These are all fantastic performances that will inspire the youngest generations to become involved in the magic and it’s amazing to see the reactions that these shows can evoke in children. Some productions now offer discounted tickets for children in order to make these shows more accessible for families who wish to introduce their children to musical theatre from young ages. This is important not only because it will encourage them to support and become involved in the arts, but also because they can learn to respect the theatre from this young age – respect that will continue into adulthood.

In this day and age money can be a problem for young adults, which unfortunately sees trips to the theatre becoming a luxury that not everyone can afford. This can mean that fewer young adults are able to visit the theatre as often as they would like to. Some shows are making great progress in combating this by offering discounts to anyone under the age of 25. This is something that became very important for me recently, when I fell in love with ‘In The Heights’ at Kings Cross theatre. I was fortunate enough to see this show 15 times in the space of a few months before it closed, because the theatre offered discounted tickets to under 25s for just £15. This show rekindled my love of live theatre and I am so grateful to these discounts that I was able to have this life-changing experience. More and more shows are beginning to offer similar discounts with some even offering limited free tickets to anyone under the age of 25 to encourage them back into the theatre.

This year’s WhatsOnStage Awards saw Sir Cameron Mackintosh win the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award (so far)’ and he gave an extremely humbling and inspiring speech that I feel has so much resonance in today’s society. He spoke about the importance of diversity in the theatre – a topic which is very much at the forefront recently with shows such as Miss Saigon and the long awaited Hamilton, and the importance of young people’s involvements in the theatre. Mackintosh highlighted that the future of the industry relies on these young people, and made reference to many fantastic young actors such as 23 year old Charlie Stemp who is currently playing Arthur Kipps in Half a Sixpence and a few moments prior had won an award for his role. He also mentioned Rachelle Ann Go and Eva Noblezada – two fantastic young asian actresses who have recently opened Miss Saigon on Broadway; Eva Noblezada recently turned 21 and has already made amazing progress in the world of musical theatre – a truly talented young woman. Sir Cameron Mackintosh is producing the London production of Hamilton, and at this year’s awards there was a definite Hamilton-buzz in the air. When speaking about this Mackintosh urged that this show will be a breakthrough for young actors, stating that “we have found the most amazing cast that’s opening in London at the end of this year and many of them are still at drama school.” Sir Cameron’s speech had me in tears and inspired me to want to write about the importance of this topic- a topic I hadn’t really put much thought to until then.

So many shows teach valuable life lessons and can really change a person’s perspective on the biggest issues in the world, so to me it is very important that young people are able to experience these wonderful shows which can help change their perspective and shape their future; influencing the way they treat other people and the way they view the world. Young people are the adults and decision makers of the future and in order for the future to remain bright for anyone involved in the arts, these young people must be inspired to keep the flame of live theatre bright.

By – Lauren Marie Philpott for MTAS

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