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Broadening horizons at The Old Rep's Easter Workshops

Let me start by saying that, to me, there is no such thing as a ‘shy’ child. There are definitely children who are cautious of performing, however, this Easter, The Old Rep aimed to tackle this, as they gave children the chance to get involved in a series of workshops in Singing, Acting and Dance.

I volunteered, along with fellow BOA Alumni, Jacob Brown, both passionate members of the performing arts world, to work in these Easter Workshops, alongside a team of industry professionals.

 On my journey into Birmingham, I was greeted with the familiar sights of the city, the busy train stations and the grey sky, framing the modern urban home of BOA. It reminded me how nervous I felt on my first day at the college and how I would all to soon embark on a journey into my profession that is still moving forward today. I all too readily remembered how this group of ambitious young people may be feeling on their way to BOA, taking their first steps into the performing arts industry.

Unlike them, with the gift of time, I knew how much of a great opportunity these workshops would be, as this would be a way to make new friends, face new and exciting challenges and have a sense of independence. For me, it was really refreshing to see a rainbow of children express themselves through various activities.

The Easter workshops consisted of 3 days, focusing on 3 elements of performance on each day.

The focus of the first day was singing, where the children worked with Daniel Summers, musical director, teacher and actor, in a musical masterclass. Exploring the importance of relaxation and vocal warm ups in preparation to perform a piece of music.

The children learnt ‘Seize the Day’ from the musical Newsies. They performed a rousing rendition with all participating, and indeed, seizing the day! My personal highlight from day one, was watching the children grow, forming new friendships with likeminded people in this new social setting. 

On the second day (my personal favourite), we were joined by Emily Summers, actor, theatre maker and creative practitioner, who led a masterclass in Acting. This was the day in which I saw the young people and their emerging personality’s blossom. This session helped the children develop their understanding of themselves, build their self-esteem, their communication skills and means of self-expression. Emily took them on a journey from character building into the importance of diction and articulation through tongue twisters and a variety of games. They went onto devise a performance around extracts from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Set into 3 groups, they were tasked with everyone’s favourite, the Umpa-Lumpa Raps, where they created a visual treat of expression and interpretation of the text. We saw their imagination and inner talents shine as the 3 very different, yet brilliant groups showcased their take on the classic scenes.

Day 3, the finale. Clare Palethorpe, director, producer and choreographer, led a masterclass that saw the young dancers glide from contemporary dance and jazz techniques through to pair work where they created a short routine that they triumphantly performed back to the group.

Throughout the 3 days, the common theme of growth and empowerment was evident in the children and their new found confidence. The workshops clearly strengthened their passion for performance and the arts and I certainly feel I have seen stars of the future and amongst the boys especially, some comic genius.

To anyone who missed out, or is still considering these types of extra-curricular or enrichment activities, such as the upcoming summer workshops at The Old Rep Theatre in August 2018, let me finish with this; good communication skills are an essential life skill. Simple yet important lessons, like looking someone in the eye while you talk to them, or communicating clearly and confidently as you are speaking, are the corner stones of any performance and I cannot think of a job or a career choice that does not require these essential skills.

A future without limits starts with these, and the gateway to performing arts through The Old Rep, allows a creative escape on their doorstep, encouraging Birmingham and the surrounding areas youth to broaden their horizons, which can only be a good thing.

A blog by Emaleigh ConnBOA Alumni.

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