It’s an August with impact at ATYP 💛🎭

Johanna Mulholland, General Manager

Right now Australia, like many countries around the world, is very interested in our young people. A 20-year-old can swim 200 metres in 1:53:50, a 17-year-old can do it in 1:55:24 (which is still a whole lot faster than the rest of us). One week into our Tokyo Olympic effort and the majority of Australia’s gold has been won by athletes under the age of 26. Young people are impressive.

If you are reading this, you already know young people deserve our attention. ATYP specialises in bringing out the best in performance and writing by young people. Four of them, ages 19-24, had audiences on the edge of their seats last month during the opening week of Follow Me Home by Lewis Treston at the SBW Stables Theatre. For those of us who had the chance to see it before it was cut short by the COVID outbreak, we witnessed something very special from a group of talented artists. Judith Greenaway called them “agile and expert”. Kate Prendergast (Limelight Magazine) said the “biographies of all will doubtless swell in coming years”. Young people are experts.

So far in Tokyo, the majority of the gold medals claimed for Australia have been won by people under the age of 26. Of course, we know our young Olympians didn’t get to Tokyo alone. In the theatre of the Olympics, even without the crowds, we still get to read the faces of the coaches and families of the young athletes on the sidelines. The amount of preparation, the years of training and dedication of those rallied around potential, is largely unspoken but palpable as the swimmers’ toes curl over the edge of the block. There are the parents, the teachers, coaches, physios. The moments on the podium, mouthing the national anthem beneath a face mask, are like an Oscars speech. It takes a village to support young people to try their best. And it takes money.

This time last year, with ATYP’s multi-year Australia Council funding withdrawn, working in temporary accommodation and with COVID upon us, things looked very bleak indeed for the national youth theatre company. Only through a mammoth effort on the part of our team – delivering Workshops and Education online, stepping up our fundraising efforts, dreaming up even more creative ways to engage – did we turn ATYP’s fortunes around. We successfully secured RISE funding through the Australian Government, additional support from Create NSW, and a number of philanthropic grants and donations.

Through all of this, we maintained employment for 197 artists and arts workers. Of course Job Keeper played a part, but it only applied to a small pool of casuals. In The Year of Very Little Theatre (2020), we paid $1.5m in wages for performance, directing, writing, creative development, teaching, video editing and content creation for ATYP On Demand Plus.

In what is shaping up to be The Other Year of Very Little Theatre (2021), as we were forced to close our Sydney season of Follow Me Home, cancel the national tour and our June/July School Holiday Workshops, ATYP remains committed to paying artists at least the first two weeks of their contract, regardless of whether they were able to perform the work. Even now, as our best-laid plans for in-school delivery are being re-laid, our team has worked hard to ensure that our teaching artists don’t miss out.

Whether your learning has moved online or not, thanks to the efforts of our incredible team, there is plenty to keep you occupied in the coming weeks. By popular demand, we’ve got some exciting new Industry Studio offerings for 18–26-year-olds coming soon, while the Weekly Drama Classes continue online. We see you, COVID lockdown.

Times may be tough and ever-changing but we encourage you all to keep creating, keep imagining, keep being curious, or keep resting. It’s a marathon and all good athletes need a break every now and then! ATYP is always here to support and help you find that silver lining. Because young people are gold.