My Doorstep journey
Hi my name is Lucia and I’m here to tell you about my experience with Doorstep Arts! I have been involved in Doorstep since January 2018, when I auditioned to join Doorstep Youth Theatre (DYT). Since then I have enjoyed every moment with the company and felt welcomed by the lovely community which Doorstep has created. In the youth theatre group, we devise theatre and music and perform to local communities, with lots of different opportunities to get involved around Torbay.
At my first audition I remember being nervous before I went in but as soon as I walked through the door, I found that everyone was really friendly – especially the facilitators, Jade and Erin. I was put at ease immediately. The auditions consist of lots of devising and creative activities such as forming a short scene around an open brief, creating a dance routine with our names or free writing (and playing drama games of course). As I worked with people, I started to realise what a safe space it was with lots of different but like-minded creative people. (If anyone reading this is thinking of auditioning you definitely should go for it!)
In my first term in the group, we worked towards a piece of theatre which incorporated jive dancing. We had dance workshops run by Lisa from The lucky 7 club which was so much fun even for people with a lack of dance experience. The way we create our final performance is through a collective creative process. We started by sharing ideas of story and costume while exploring how we could incorporate our new dance skills into our performance. We often break off into groups choosing what we want to work on that week and then share our work with the group, bringing it all together. For example, a group of us broke off to work on integrating music into the piece. We shared some scat singing and harmonies with the whole group which we then developed by adding two saxophones. This then fed into our storyline of an underground swing dance club with a west side story-esque rivalry. Our peer-led work and the way in which we exchange ideas allows us all to learn from each other. Being surrounded by friendly, talented peers with a shared passion raises everyone’s level of creativity, enthusiasm and focus. Our end result was a fun dance theatre piece which we performed at a big, feel good community dance festival.
Each term we normally explore a different theme or project. An example of this is the Theatre in Education(TIE) piece that we created about the entire history of earth in 7 minutes with a focus on climate change. We attended a TIE workshop from a drama school graduate and played around with the subject, eventually forming a physical ensemble piece which I enjoyed performing to a group of young people from Little Doorstep. We later re-imagined the piece for the Marldon Apple Pie fair.
I feel I have developed multiple skills in DYT some of which I never would have explored otherwise. As well as developing my acting, I have tried dancing and choreography. Similarly, the free writing we do has allowed me to discover the world of creative writing in a more freeing and enjoyable way than in the classic school system. This attitude has particularly helped me when trying to write song lyrics which I always used to struggle with but now find much easier.
I feel my music skills have really improved by being surrounded by fellow musicians. We share advice and work together to develop our own original music. We have created songs through both peer-led learning and workshops with music professionals (Music Mondays), which has helped my creative technique. This has given me the confidence to progress from teaching myself a few chords on the guitar to performing and MC-ing at our open mic nights on the local radio, providing paid musical support at the young writers project and writing my own songs.
Since January 2019, I have gained a lot from my role as “foot in the door” assistant to Jade, facilitating the Saturday morning Little Doorstep group. It has given me a really valuable insight into both working professionally in the arts and working with children (which has been particularly joyful). I have enjoyed leading games, planning the sessions with Jade and aiding with the creative exploration of different themes. My confidence, communication skills and resilience, amongst other things, have all been improved from this experience.
Doorstep also host lots of innovative, affordable theatre with links to the Battersea Arts centre. I have really engaged with every performance I have seen and benefited from being able to chat to touring artists. These shows have included ‘Ross & Rachel’ (which I wrote about in my A-level drama exam), ‘Rendezvous in Brataslavia’, ‘Dad Dancing’, ‘You, Me and My Voice’, ‘A Little Death’, The paper cinema’s ‘Macbeth’, ‘Standard : Elite’.
I have also made lots of contacts through getting involved and met friendly artists who have been very open to any questions I had – some of them have even given me their details if I ever had any further questions. These have included local artists, professional technicians, musicians, visiting facilitators/artists on exchanges from abroad and drama school and university students (some of whom have hosted some really interesting workshops).
Some of my highlights amongst the many opportunities Doorstep have enabled us to get involved with include helping out and performing at Grinagog Festival, partaking in the Christmas lantern procession in Paignton, hosting an interactive Halloween event as a group, carol singing professionally at Riverford Farm, attending “mothers who make”- an open discussion between various ages about motherhood, performing and exchanging at a young people’s arts platform at Exeter University, Torquay takeover weekend which hosted both professional and scratch performances and activities. Helping out with these events has given me a great experience of not just working with an arts company but also working with a professional business. I have gained many useful life skills such as leadership, innovation and team working skills.
In my gap year, I have been exploring various career routes and Doorstep’s support has been very helpful to me. Erin is a lecturer at Exeter University in the Drama department and she gave me the opportunity to attend one of her sessions there which was an invaluable experience to me. They have encouraged me to find work experience and explore monologues for auditions and I have really valued their encouragement and advice. Doorstep feels to me like an open space in which I can talk about anything.
We recently went on a road trip to the Battersea Arts Centre for a youth activism symposium which was great fun! The day was centred on the themes of protest and rebellion and there were some very interesting free workshops. The first I attended focused on ensemble through movement. Another workshop was focused on communicating and involving audience members in protest theatre. It was also interesting to chat to other theatre makers and witness the creative environment. In the evening we experienced an impactful performance by the group who lead the ensemble workshop. The Brazilian touring group’s performance was an audience -involved live show about the protests they were a part of when their schools were shut. The atmosphere and content of the piece was incredible. We hope to use this piece as inspiration for our upcoming devised musical in DYT.
Another exciting opportunity was an access platform for the National Youth Theatre. I attended a taster workshop at the Palace Avenue Theatre, trying different drama games and tasks to get a feel for what the audition would be like. I went to the Theatre Royal studios in Plymouth to have a try out session with the audition facilitator and got to know the people I was going to be auditioning with which took the pressure off a lot. Sam, the organiser, helped us work on our monologues before the audition. He was really helpful generally throughout the whole process and with any questions we had. I also found my experience from DYT fed directly into the audition process. As a result I actually really enjoyed the audition and felt a whole lot less stressed. Amazingly I found out that I got accepted! I have just completed my week long summer course and am now a member of the National Youth Theatre. This was a brilliant opportunity which Doorstep really supported me with.
I also got the chance to attend DAS which is a creative group focused on musical theatre. I was able to attend a fascinating physical theatre workshop held by an ex-student of East 15 drama school which was exciting. The group explored themes relevant to us so we could create a choreographed dance for our end of term performance. This was a really cool opportunity to explore dance and creative methods with Polly as a facilitator with her dance experience- something I hadn’t done much of recently. I even got the chance to help direct and lead at one time which I enjoyed.
DYT is currently working (despite the circumstances) towards our devised musical surrounding protest and rebellion. Before lockdown we were exploring the theme of protest and rebellion creating lots of scratch content, discovering and sharing our own responses to protest and rebellion. When we explore themes like this it gives way to very interesting open dialogue. Personally, I have found in everyday busy life there are not many opportunities to have discussions like these in large groups so I find these experiences valuable. As we start to create more concise content, the prospect of a full scale production like this, involving the help of professionals including a musical director, set designer and heritage researcher, is a really exciting creative opportunity to be a part of. Due to social distancing restrictions, this is a unique and interesting chance to develop our work in a different way, to be proactive and test our resilience.
From all these experiences with Doorstep I have definitely grown as a person and gained colourful life experience. I’ve had a great time developing my performance and musical abilities whilst strengthening my confidence and people skills. Thank you Doorstep for everything you’ve done!