Almeida Theatre takes Our Town performances and project into London schools

The Almeida Theatre is taking the full production of one of its latest shows, Our Town, into two London secondary schools this November, reaching 500 students.

Our Town 1-715 Laura Elsworthy, David Walmsley and Jessica Lester by Marc Brenner

Laura Elsworthy, David Walmsley and Jessica Lester in Our Town (Credit: Marc Brenner)

The cast of the current run at the Almeida will perform at Dormers Wells High School in Ealing on 10 November and Cleeve Park School in Bexley on 17 November for students. Neither of the London boroughs housing the schools, Ealing and Bexley, has a professional theatre. Students attending performances will take part in pre-show workshops.

The performances will make up part of a wider six-week programme entitled ‘Your Town’, which will involve students telling stories of their own towns of Southall and Sidcup through exploring the idea of community and creating video content.

Almeida’s artistic director Rupert Goold said of the project: ‘The work that Almeida Projects does with schools and young people is enormously inspiring, and I am so glad that we are able to continue to find exciting ways to bring our work to more young people across London.’

For more information on the ‘Your Town’ project, visit

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West Side Story and charity Leap launch partnership

Leap participants at West Side Story workshop  (Credit: Jonathan Hordle)

Leap participants at West Side Story workshop (Credit: Jonathan Hordle)

A new partnership has been formed between a touring production of West Side Story and youth charity Leap. To mark the launch of their partnership, West Side Story and Leap co-hosted a special workshop involving cast members from the show and young people from the London area.

This new production of West Side Story is running at Sadler’s Wells until 22 September, after which it will tour to regional venues across the UK until June 2014. Leap is a charity which provides training for young people and professionals to help them transform the issues of conflict in their lives.

This specific workshop looked at the themes of violence, gangs and race within the musical in relation to conflict. West Side Story’s choreographer and director, Joey McKneely, and two young trainers from Leap, Natasha Aldonza and Kareem Maizi, led the session.

The young people watched the cast perform the musical’s prologue – where the rivalry between the Jets and Sharks is first established. The participants were asked to feedback on the scene, pick out some of themes which had occurred and look at some of the parallels in real life. The cast then performed the scene containing a ‘rumble’ between the two gangs. This time, the Leap facilitators used the format of forum theatre, asking the participants to call out ‘freeze’ when there appeared to be a point where one of the lead characters, Riff, could do something differently to provide a different and more positive outcome from where he was currently heading.

Workshop participant with Leap trainers Kareem Maizi and Natasha Aldonza (Credit: Jonathan Hordle)

Workshop participant with Leap trainers Kareem Maizi and Natasha Aldonza (Credit: Jonathan Hordle)

The workshop brought up discussions of ego, violence, peer pressure, breaking the cycle of violence, consequences of actions and knife crime. The young people taking part were from Leap’s Quarrel Shop programme, a scheme for 16-21 year olds who are dealing with issues of conflict and looking to become youth/social workers.

The success of the launch workshop is expected to lead to further workshops throughout West Side Story’s tour around the UK. 

To find out more about the work that Leap does, visit Visit to find out details of the UK West Side Story tour.

TheatreCraft 2011: Beyond the stage

TheatreCraft: Beyond the stage is an event that offers workshops, one-to-one career advice and an exhibition, informing visitors about the many opportunities in off-stage theatre careers.

This year’s event was held at the London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera. The day was launched in the auditorium with an impressive backdrop design in place. Visitors were welcomed by designer William Dudley, a 14-time Olivier award nominee, winning seven for his work on plays such as Hitchcock Blonde.

Dudley described his first encounter with theatre design as ‘love at first sight’. He was impressed with the number of students in attendance and encouraged visitors to consider a career in backstage arts, explaining: ‘It’s never boring – it’s a very strange and exciting thing that can take you round the world.’

There was a good selection of workshops on offer, covering a variation of careers, such as stage management, fundraising, development, costume design and even becoming a critic. Teaching Drama attended ‘working with young people’ – an hour long workshop led by Talawa Theatre Company’s participation and education officer, Gail Babb.

It was largely a discussion–based workshop which allowed each participant to introduce themselves and mention any relevant experience they had working with young people. Babb offered us advice on how to find work experience placements, getting the right kind of CRB check and what to consider when approaching an institution with a workshop.

The workshop wasn’t made up of recommended exercises to use with young people – instead it offered a very realistic and knowledgeable insight into working with young people and the hard work and persistence it takes to start working in theatre.

TheatreCraft also houses just under 30 different organisations in its exhibition. Big names like the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and The Stage had stalls, offering visitors the opportunity to liaise with some of the most important companies in the theatre industry.

TheatreCraft is ideal for students looking to go into higher education. There was a strong presence of educational institutions at the marketplace, including representatives from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, East 15 and Regents College London: School of Film, Media and Performance. This gave students the chance to look at some of the more specialised courses available in backstage theatre.

The event also has some relevance for younger students. The RSC, Mousetrap and Ambassador Theatre Group were offering discounted tickets and workshops. The RSC were promoting their scheme The Key, which provides greater access to 16-25 year olds by offering £5 tickets and discounted student coach trips.

Most of the material on offer is relevant to students, rather than teachers – with low price theatre tickets for the under 25’s. However, theatre companies such as Mousetrap run the Teachers Preview Club, a membership offering teachers individual or group tickets at a discounted price.

With impressive names in attendance, speaking so enthusiastically about their careers, TheatreCraft is a great place to become inspired – for your students, or for yourself. Recommended for slightly older students but is still a great chance for younger students to start thinking about the future and gain a realistic idea of what it is like to really work in theatre from some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry.

To find out more about the companies that attended the exhibition visit

Fill you in Friday

Too busy to keep track of all the latest events and workshops coming up? Teaching Drama has done the work for you – we’re giving you the updates so you won’t miss out on the latest goings on in drama activities from teachers and students.

The Beyond the Stage Careers Fair

TheatreCraft is home to a day full of workshops on everything from musical direction, stage management to funding yourself through training. If you would like to attend any of the workshops on offer, head to the website asap as spaces are filling up fast!

TheatreCraft also has The Marketplace, an exhibition giving students and teachers the opportunity to liaise with people in the heart of the theatre industry. If you have booked to attend the workshop, entrance to The Marketplace is free.

The event will be held at London Coliseum, Monday 28th November.

To book a workshop or register click here.

London Bubble
Forum Theatre Training

The one day training event is designed for teachers, youth workers and practitioners. The workshop looks at young people’s issues and how theatrical devices can be used to address them – exploring active exercises and discussion based activities.

The course will run in London on 7th December 2011 from 10 am – 4pm

The cost of the workshop is: £100+ VAT / £60+ VAT (concessions) (Including lunch)

For more information call Marie on 020 7237 4434 or to book online click here.

Fourth Plinth
Schools Award 2012

The award is open to primary and secondary schools in London. Students design an artwork inspired by contemporary art commissions, past and present, for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Students or teachers can submit ideas online to the Fourth Plinth gallery. Get creative; entries can be in a variety of forms, even as a digital film.

The deadline for entries is the Friday 16th December.

To register or view other entries click here.