10 Nov 2021

DYT Projects – Part 2

Earlier in the year, Erin wrote a blog about Doorstep Youth Theatre’s independent self-led creative projects as part of our Producing Praxis work which has been funded by Esmee Fairbairn.

There were 6 projects overall that the group had been working on since early 2021. These 6 are listed below:

Letters from Lockdown – Tilly Croose and invited collaborators

Sustain a Life – Mia Moxhay, Toby Brooks, James Copland

Walks by the River – Verity Soley, Khaya Crocker

Radio Play – Wesley Lang

The Last Supper – Pierce Budnyj

White Moon – Scarlett Howard

The self-led projects were revelatory when it came to the working styles of individuals. Some were entirely comfortable holding their own project and driving it themselves, particularly away from DYT sessions. Tilly was a good example of this. Often, she would use DYT sessions to invite or facilitate ‘letters from lockdown’ contributions from her peers, with the majority of the logistical work being done in her own time. Likewise, there were members of the group who struggled for momentum initially – working solo was difficult for them – but then, upon being joined by collaborators, their projects began to fly. The work of the adult facilitators was to recognise when a project lead did not have everything they needed to work to their potential. Much harder to identify over zoom than in a room so it was a godsend when we were able to get back in person.

Suggesting the introduction of a collaborator to a project lead became a key tool at our disposal to give a process a boost. Since there were several members of the group not leading a project, it was important to be alert to who was working on what; to ensure that DYT continued to be a group where everyone felt they could contribute and were valued. As a result, the DYT sessions on Mondays were a great asset – it meant project leads had a pool of DYT members who could step in to a new role, or provide an outside eye, or a new injection of energy at a moment’s notice; a luxury not often available in a standard creative process. The trick was facilitating the formation of these collaborations in a way that meant both nobody was over-stretched and being asked to contribute to too many projects, and that nobody had too little to do, and felt like a spare part.  Whilst the project leads were set, we found that the teams working with an around them were in flux, but as we progressed towards the scratch event, these groups became more settled and fixed ahead of performance. A couple of the more independent project leads like Tilly and Wes even stepped in as performers for White Moon and the Last Supper, having completed everything for their own projects.

The first phase of this work culminated with a scratch platform event on the 3rd July at the YMCA in Paignton. Doorstep Youth Theatre projects were performed alongside a number of scratch showings from professional local artists. For some of the projects, this scratch represented the end point of their journey, whereas for others, it has served as a launch pad for the next phase of development.

‘Sustain a Life’ have continued rehearsing as a band and shared something new at Doorstep Arts’ most recent scratch event ‘Our World’; a rap written by James. They have used a small amount of their project money to organise their own rehearsals in the Campus Band spaces at Exeter University.

Verity’s ‘Walks by the River’ has reached a natural end, but she continued her development as a movement artist with a 1:1 mentoring session from Frantic Assembly’s Sophie Shaw – we observed that the success of Verity’s session lay in the fact that Sophie was using her practice to engage in Verity’s creative project, rather than the other way around. Having made an effort to pair all of our project leads with industry professionals for a Q+A earlier in the year (with limited success), it occurred to us these might have been more fruitful if we had asked professionals to step in to the young people’s work, rather than inviting our project leads to hear about the work of industry professionals.

Since excerpts of White Moon were read at the Scratch Platform event, Doorstep Youth Theatre have made the decision to build on the play as a whole company, pledging to stage it as their next full production in February 2021. Several of the group who were leading their own creative projects decided to come together and contribute to the next phase of White Moon. The interesting thing about this is that we thought the prospect of getting their own money for their own project would be a big motivator for them – but the money actually had little bearing on their decisions. The work came first; artistic integrity. Members of the group that felt their project had run its course, such as Verity, made it clear that they were concerned about continuing their project because of a financial opportunity rather than because the work demanded an extended life.

It’s also interesting to note that the self-led projects, aside from White Moon, often involved far less people. Whilst Tilly invited submissions, her project was very much solely driven by her, as was Wes’ radio play. Verity worked in a pair with Khaya, and the band were a group of three. Pierce’s reading involved a few actors but again, a large amount of his work was writing independently. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as White Moon emerged as a project that had the potential to involve the entire DYT group in a number of capacities, that several of the self-led projects switched their attention to that. Working with a group of twenty others on White Moon offers a greater variation in opportunities to collaborate, but also the chance to work towards something with greater resources and a larger scope and reach. There is an ambition in all joining forces on one project.

True to the rest of our Producing Praxis work so far, the White Moon process will be young-person led, with Doorstep Arts Lead Artists in the space to support and facilitate. You can expect more from us on the specifics of the White Moon process soon!