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Jackass Youth Theatre goes to Amsterdam!

  • Date: 8 January 2009
  • Area: International, North

Two young practitioners from Jackass Youth Theatre are to travel to Amsterdam to deliver a workshop as part of the international Meeting of the Storytellers: a creative festival celebrating ethnic diversity in the Netherlands.

The artists (Laura Emerson and colleague Joseph Robson) were invited by festival director Tirza Boerenveen-Snoijl to attend Storytellers after Laura participated in a similar workshop they delivered recently as part of the Performing the World conference in New York City.

The workshop is an introduction to, and recreation of the research process undertaken by the Jackass Youth Theatre team to produce their most recent show, Sharp Practice. The show documents and dramatises the involvement of the UK, and more specifically the people of County Durham, in the slave trade and its subsequent abolition. A massive amount of research was undertaken by the group to transform and flesh out figures from history, to ensure historical accuracy, and to bring to life events that changed the world.

The workshop they plan to deliver involves the participants working with the historical documents that inspired key scenes of Sharp Practice and using them to create and share a short piece of drama. The team will discuss the dramas before Joseph and Laura Emerson share how the research material was used by Jackass and what challenges they faced. The similarities and differences of the interpretations will lead to further discussion and often a very relevant and moving piece of theatre.

By delivering the workshop and sharing their experience internationally, they hope to raise the profile of their Youth Theatre. The networking opportunities will increase the likelihood of future exchanges for the group and could lead to options for international touring. Attending the festival also represents the realisation of international links made previously, and indeed what is the use of networking if exchange (be it physical or the exchange of ideas) is not realised?

The trip is particularly relevant at present. The Sharp Practice team are in the process of re-rehearsing the show to perform in County Durham in the week following the festival, to mark the launch of the Regional Anne Frank Centre on National Holocaust Memorial Day, Tuesday January 27th (at Spennymoor Town Hall). This project, originating in Amsterdam, will focus not only on educating people about the Holocaust, but about racism and prejudice in all of its forms.

On a more personal level, as emerging artists, delivering the workshop will have a positive impact on Joseph and Laura Emerson. Sharp Practice has been their biggest project to date and it marks a point in time when they both stood up as professionals in their right within their chosen specialities as opposed to working as trainees or assistants. Laura’s role on the project was as co-writer/director alongside project manager Julie Ward (Creative Director of Jack Drum Arts) and Joseph took the role of set design and construction. Together Joseph and Laura comprised the technical team and managed all lighting, sound and live music as well as working closely with the young people of the company.

Delivering the workshop for Storytellers will give Joseph and Laura the opportunity to demonstrate and share their growing knowledge and experience away from the supportive infrastructure of the company. They are confident they can deliver excellent work and relish the challenge it poses.