Douglas Elliot delves into the world of youth theatre and discovers the enthusiasm and hard work that goes into cultivating young talent at klpac
Uncovering the Theatre for Young People (T4YP) programme at klpac
FRESH FROM THEIR PERFORMANCE AT SINGAPORE’S ASIAN YOUTH THEATRE FESTIVAL IN OCTOBER,
klpac’s Theatre For Young People (T4YP) is set to take another global stage in December – this time in Russia. Formed in 2008, the T4YP programme provides young people aged 18 to 25 a platform to learn and experience the wonderful (and sometimes chaotic) world of the performing arts. The group is now in its tenth year, and it has already produced award-winning talent that have committed to pursue their theatrical passion full time.
We caught up with Mark Beau De Silva, Resident Director and Writer at klpac, and head of The Actors Studio Academy, to talk about their youth-centric programme.
Tell us more about the Theatre for Young People (T4YP) programme.
Basically T4YP is for older teens from 18 to 25 – it used to be 16 – so that younger kids who have gone through our drama programmes have something to look forward to. Once they’ve reach the age of 16 or 17, they have to audition and the good ones (usually all of them) will get in. We usually aim for ten students but we always get around 20 every semester. It’s a sponsored programme, that’s why they have to go through auditions.
What does the current syllabus comprise?
T4YP follows a different syllabus where students have to train for almost 300 hours. This adds up to four hours daily five times a week over four months. Many of our students end up attending good performing arts schools and some, like Iedil Putra, have made acting their career. We’re proud of this programme and we want everyone to know that when you join us as a kid, you can go a long way. There’s even a Theatre for Seniors class!
Tell us about the pre-school drama programme.
For younger kids, it’s all about nurturing. At that age we treat everyone like a star, and as they get older, the philosophy of child drama changes to a systematic actor training approach. The basis of child drama class is to highlight their personal skills. We don’t push them to become actors but encourage them to discover themselves as our local school syllabus doesn’t allow a lot of self- expression.
When they reach their early teens, we get a bit serious and try to get them to be more open; and those in their late teens and young adulthood, we tell them to take it seriously as they’re now going to be actors. This is when master classes by Faridah Merican and Joe Hasham are also held.
What are the criteria for getting into the programme?
The main thing is that the kids are able to work as a group, as we’re creating an ensemble so they need to stand out
individually and also blend together. Last year we had so many girls and so the group was geared towards being a feminist sort of team, which people really liked! This year we have a nice mix of boys and girls.
Do you think the kids want to join on their own or do parents make them?
Younger ones tend to be pushed by their parents. Many of them either come with low confidence levels or they’re not very good at public speaking. We also have special needs children as they’ve been recommended by their doctors to attend. The important thing is to tell the other students to make them feel welcome, and I think it’s good learning for them to be aware. We also have homeschooled kids, and of course those who want to be stars, but we tell them that’s not really the idea!
What’s a common misconception for parents?
That it’s actually quite tough sometimes, because when it comes to putting up a show, it’s up to the teacher’s discretion and discussions with the group on who does what – parents don’t see this. They only see the end product but drama is about the process. Drama education isn’t about making stars or whether you’re shining on stage.
Do you think parents are more supportive of their children’s involvement in performing arts than before?
Definitely. International schools have drama in their syllabus and it’s slowly becoming a trend. There’s still some resistance for parents to accept their kids doing this professionally, but they’re getting more educated.
What can the public do to support these performances?
The economy is terrible right now (and so are our ticket sales), so the best way to help is to come and see the shows.
Where do you see T4YP heading?
We try to do something different every year and challenge ourselves. Last year we did ‘Still Taming’ which focused on feminine issues, and this year it was about family matters. Kids have to face so much and they keep it all inside. They told us what they were going through and we created something to share with the audience. Every year we see what society is telling us and focus on these issues.
Any big plans for your tenth anniversary?
We wanted to have a big celebration but didn’t, so we tried to cheat and said that going to Singapore and Russia was a big plan already! I never imagined taking a production to Russia so this in itself is an amazing achievement.
klpac, Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, KL (klpac.org). No registration fee, but to participate in the T4YP programme, potential students will have to audition.
As they get older, the philosophy of child drama changes to a systematic actor training approach
November 2017 - January 2018