Written by Dan Armstrong
Supported by Polly Ferguson-Carruthers
Welcome to Dan Armstrong journey during his time with Doorstep Arts. Dan has been a long-lasting member of the Doorstep family, from participating in various roles, assisting with community events to now being one of our assistant facilitator in a local Primary school. Dan is kindly sharing his experiences and development over the last 5 years, sharing the highs and the….HIGHS!
When did you first hear about Doorstep Arts?
I came to know Doorstep Arts through going to South Devon College in Paignton and being on the Performing Arts course. One day Erin Walcon, Jade Campbell and Megan Searle did a workshop for one of our drama lessons and after that had recommended us to come and check out their drama group which was Doorstep Arts (Originally called Juicy Theatre.) I decided to attend and went to a group on a Wednesday evening from 7pm-9pm. I thought to myself that this seemed like such an opportunity to take hold of. I used to go to a youth club when I was in Primary school and loved it so I leapt at the idea of being a part of a theatre group again! My college friends at the time, who are now 2 close friends of mine, also thought it was a good idea to check out Juicy Theatre (Doorstep Arts) and so we did and honestly the connection I felt from the first session was so strong and positive, the rest is history!
‘Grit’ performance in 2015
This picture is the cast, musicians and audience of ‘Grit’. ‘Grit was one of the first shows I was a part of with Doorstep. An interesting fact was that many audience members who came to watch the show ended up joining Doorstep somewhere down the line. ‘Grit’ was something of a masterpiece which I enjoyed every moment of being involved in.
Grit was an original piece created by the Doorstep company, everyone put so much hard work and time into it. I was a show we were all proud of.
I will always remember in one scene there was a few of us on stage and we were playing the role of shadowy figures and we were supposed to be a little weird and crazy. So, I decided to add a laugh into this character, but I ended up going into this uncontrollable laughter which worked and had also engaged some of the audience’s members including a Doorstep Director, who started giggling because of it. That will always be a delightful memory to look back at.
What was it like being a part of Doorstep as a participant?
It felt like being a student because this group always helped every single person improve their performance skills and there was also something to learn from each session. I learnt how to become a better singer, dancer and actor. How to really use body and facial expression to show the characters’ emotions. How to work on my pitch, develop my acting and improve my confidence.
I will always be grateful to Doorstep because I have met countless people I will never forget and have so much respect for.
As Doorstep has grown, it has helped me grow with it. It has made me think about how I can improve and develop my skills.
Everyone who joins Doorstep are genuine and kind-hearted people. They care about the work they are making and look out for you the best they can. The company helped me get through a lot over the years.
Doorstep will always be a comfort zone to me, a place I know I can be myself and always make other people happy or laugh.
Production of ‘Into the Woods’ in 2017
This is a picture of Doorsteps Production of ‘Into the Woods’, Act 1. The characters you see here are two Stewards, a Prince and the Bakers Wife. I was on the same course as the actors on stage. I played two characters in this show, Steward 2 and Chives. Steward 2 was in Act 1 and Chives existed at the beginning of Act 2.
My brief of ‘Into the Woods’.
It is a story where the narrator controls the first act, where you are introduced to different fairy-tale characters. Each of their stories become intertwined with one another. The Second act the fairy-tale characters become self-aware of their existence and realise their life isn’t as great as they thought it was.
I had a lot of fun playing both these characters. The Stewards were friends and assistant to the Prince.
Then you had Chives who was a very vibrant character who felt very caring, kind and confident.
After one of the performances, some children that were a part of the show told me that either their parents or siblings found my character funny or was their favourite. I had an adult approach me and compliment me on my performance too, it was very heartwarming. I was and am still now good friends with all the cast.
Paignton Festival – Summer 2017
Here I am playing ‘Simon Says’ as a warm-up with the youngest DAS group, alongside another assistant who also went to weekly Doorstep session. We were warming up to perform at Paignton Festival as part of a weekly celebration of all the local groups in the community. Doorstep were there to sing and perform sections of ‘Into the Woods’ to the public.
From experience, I understand that warm-ups are always important, whatever the weather. They are a good way to begin any session. It’s not a great idea to perform without one because it could damage your vocal cords or can cause an accident due to not stretching the muscles. It is also good to get your mind focused and ready for the current situation.
During this time I was a Facilitator for Doorstep and still a fairly new one. I was still learning a lot and still am, till this day.
There were three of us who were leading this project. One of the lead Doorstep Teachers, myself and someone who had helped with doorstep projects prior. Having once been a student to then being the person who was teaching, it was a crazy transition but one I was glad to be given. It is meaningful and just wonderful when you work on something to get the people involved to create and develop idea into a working piece. It makes you proud of them, proud of yourself and helps you to work harder to improve the piece of theatre.
Paignton Carnival – 2017
What you see here is me teaching a dance routine and singing for the song called ‘Happy Talk’ from the film ‘South Pacific’.
This was another song we performed at Paignton Festival. I had the task to create a dance routine for the Juniors to perform. I’d like to say it was one of the most fun things I have created on my own. There was a lot of fun and laughing making this and when performed we received a few giggles here and there too.
This piece consisted of a lot of high energy moves, facial and body expression. It had a lot of variety and was a great routine to watch as a young person or for parents.
Whilst creating the dance routine I ended up really loving the song and still loving it afterwards. I always go back and listen to it now and again, even whilst I’m writing this now.
How have you found transitioning from being a Doorstep Participant to an Assistant Facilitator?
I was absolutely over the moon when I was given the opportunity to assist drama sessions for DAS and schools. I enjoy getting to see what it was like from both perspectives as a performer and an assistant. Whilst both perspectives are different it’s amazing the opportunity to understand more about directing and facilitating. I am grateful that I am able to experience both.
I will forever be grateful to Doorstep Arts and always look back fond memories.
Ever since a young age I always wanted to be able to be someone who could teach kids. During Primary school, there was a teaching assistant training in my class and I was mesmerized by such a thing that made me want to do it too. Thanks to Doorstep a dream has become a reality, I am learning how to be an assistant and how to support children through the form of performance.
I feel I owe so much to this team and I want to keep improving and getting better, so then in return, I can be an important member of the team and for the children.
Seeing people grow and develop as you teach them overtime is one of the greatest feelings in this world and inspires me to work harder.
I wasn’t always the biggest fan of Theatre Performances. From a young age, I always wanted to perform in TV/Film as an actor but throughout my time in South Devon College and Doorstep Arts, I began to grow a strong love and passion for performing in theatre. I am thankful to the people I have studied with, the teachers who have taught me and all the people that I have worked alongside. Being a part of Doorstep, I have met many wonderful people and certainly ones that will be friends for life. I look forward to what my future brings.
One day I plan to become a full-time Primary School Teacher. This is the goal I am now working towards.