“The Show Must Go Online”
Youth theatres are a large part of many young people’s lives – a weekly opportunity to play in a way that might be forgotten since young childhood, yet focused by the passionate people who run them. They build confidence, encourage good team-work, communication and problem-solving in a way that any workplace management would be envious of. And they manage that in a way that is fun-filled and friendship-fuelled. But how does all that continue in lockdown? One might think it was tricky with such an interactive, physical and tactile hobby.
But here is how one group, Gobo Theatre, is managing it: They run weekly Zoom sessions in just the same way as their live ones – 4 tutors work simultaneously with 4 different age groups, rotating the students around acting, singing and dancing. Rehearsals for their current show “Dorothy in Wonderland” have continued apace, despite the production date itself having to be delayed, though Director Amy Standish admits the staging is tricky, “we’ve pretty much worked out how to do most things remotely, and both the kids and their parents are grateful for having something that is so interactive, but some things will just have to wait until we’re back together”. In the meantime they’re filling that gap with even more possibilities, “I’ve actually had to add more sessions as we don’t have enough time to do all the things we want to do now we’re online” says Amy, “and we’ll probably do an online summer course too, it’s all really exciting”. One thing they’ve been working on under the supervision of Amy and Musical Director, Ben Bar-Lev, is a song called “The Show Must Go Online” – the title number from a show of the same name produced by New York company Beat by Beat Press.
After 6 hours of recording the 7-17 year olds and 3 weeks of editing that into a 2 minute video, it’s finally ready, “it’s been an awful lot of work” confesses Director Amy “but we’re really proud of the result and the students for how brave they had to be each singing solo to us in their computer, it was very strange for them but after a bit of coaching they did amazingly”. As the song says “The show must go on. Online”. Amy also feels the whole process of going online has helped them get to know many of the students better, and that they also understand their own performing abilities better, “there’s no hiding behind a group when you’re on your own in your bedroom!”. The whole Gobo team is planning more and more things with the students, as well as a whole online production – could this be the start of something new, a new way to help coax some young people into an area they’ve never tried before, even once lockdown is over?
Gobo Theatre Foundation is a charity created to help support, mentor and inspire young people in the theatrical arts with a focus on ensuring that opportunities are not only available to those who can afford it. Its youth theatre runs on a tiered pricing structure based on a family’s income so that these exciting skill-building experiences are open to all. GoboYOOF is based in Harwell, South Oxfordshire and runs sessions for ages 5-20. www.gobotheatre.co.uk