Performing Arts students from Richard Taunton Sixth Form College have been invited to work with acclaimed theatre group Mandala Theatre on a new production to be performed in Southampton.
The group will be performing MAD(E), a play about healing and justice, at the Mayflower MAST Studios in Southampton in February. Students attended a rehearsal read through of the script at the studios in October. Their feedback is being used to hone the script before it goes on tour around the country next year.
The students have now been asked to create a curtain-raiser performance to be written and performed by them before a matinee of MAD(E) in Southampton on Thursday 2 February 2023.
Sixteen first and second year performing arts and acting students are writing and developing the curtain-raiser with performing arts teacher Amber O’Connell.
She said: “The students are very excited about it and are impressed that these kinds of opportunities are available for them at college to get involved in.
“Some of them will have had performing experience with the Mayflower Youth Theatre but for many it will be their first experience of performing in a professional theatre space for a paying public.”
The collaboration came about through a partnership between the college and MAST Mayflower Studios and their Productions Insight project. Alongside a tour of both MAST and the Mayflower, artistic director Victoria Briggs visited Richard Taunton to talk to students about her process of directing a show and career opportunities within the industry.
Miss O’Connell said the project is proving invaluable for the students. “It’s an insight into how productions are funded and created and how they serve a community,” she said. “The students can see how that process unfolds and what it takes to produce work with an audience and community in mind. It gives them a realistic understanding of what happens in the industry and what kind of work theatre companies are funded to make.”
She said the opportunity to hear first-hand from MAST’s director had opened the students’ eyes to career possibilities beyond just performing. “All of the other elements of the project, including the talk from Victoria, were really illuminating and myth-busting for them. Hearing about how you get work and sustain yourself in the industry, not just as an actor, was really helpful for their understanding about ways into a theatre career.”
The script for the students’ performance will be inspired by real experiences of mental health. “The theme of the performance is men’s mental health and the students seem to be very passionately inspired to create something meaningful,” said Miss O’Connell. “It has raised their expectations of themselves and helps them to recognise the responsibility they have as young theatre makers.”
Miss O’Connell, who is also a director and performer, said the partnership reinforces the college’s reputation as a place to learn about the craft of acting and performance. “It highlights that we are dedicated to finding strong links with the industry and the local arts scene and nurturing those relationships is very important to our identity and value as a department but also as real-world enrichment for our students,” she said.
“It shows that we are serious about giving our students a realistic insight into the industry.”