It seems testament to the imprint that Limerick Youth Theatre has had on young arts practitioners that a plethora of their alumni are returning for a special production to help LYT celebrate twenty years. The four-part production, entitled ‘Call Back’, premieres at the Belltable tomorrow (Thursday, 17 August) and runs until Saturday (19 August).
Deirdre Wilson has been the company’s administrator since 2008, and alongside artistic director Angie Smalis (who has been in the role since 2009) hatched a plan to bring back as many of their past members as possible.
“We appealed to all our former members to pitch us ideas for celebrating twenty years. They did the same thing in 2007 with a production called ‘Tentacle’ to mark the first decade. Our past members were very enthusiastic,” Ms. Wilson told Limerick Life.
Buoyed by substantial Arts Council funding that enabled them “to do the work and engage with people professionally”, the LYT team started preparing this production earlier this year. “We wanted to use all the skills and expertise of those past members. All the cast are current members and all of the crew are former members,” she added.
There is also a sense of that self-reflexivity in the pieces that will be performed at The Belltable, for a varied and engaging programme. LYT graduate Ella Daly has written a piece based on interviews carried out with members, past and present, of the company, which will be directed by Naomi O’Kelly. Naomi is now based in Glasgow, and works throughout the UK.
This will be followed by a new piece that Maeve Stone has written especially for the production, which will be directed by renowned Limerick theatre practitioner and musician Ann Blake.
Showcasing the diverse directions that LYT graduates have taken, Marc Atkinson will then stage a contemporary take on Sophocles’ Greek tragedy ‘Antigone’. “It is such a difficult piece to do in such a short time,” Deirdre noted.
Atkinson is now based in New York, where he graduated with a MFA from the prestigious Columbia University last year, under the mentorship of the award-winning director Anne Bogart.
The performance will end with a devised piece by Shane Whisker and Aidan Crowe. “It’s based on memory,” explained Deirdre. “They are using lines from old pieces that we’ve done, and they are going to be using projectors, and using old posters and old footage that we have.”
The LYT alumni have been working with a cast of 17 during rehearsals in the lead up to the opening performance. For Deirdre, it has been heart-warming to see the return of so many familiar faces to the LYT community.
“It’s like putting on a comfy pair of slippers; it’s warm and cosy! It’s great that so many professionals are willing to come back and work with us. Obviously, their time at Limerick Youth Theatre helped influence their decision to go into this as a career. It feels like a big ‘thank you’ from them to us.”
Limerick Youth Theatre continues to provide training and weekly workshops for young people in the region with an interest in participating in theatre. Each year, five full productions (spread between theatre, film and radio) are made by the company and its members. It gives the young members an opportunity to engage with and learn from theatre professionals. The proof of the success can be seen in the fact that so many of those former members go on to have careers in the field.
“Most members like performing, unsurprisingly, and at least a third of them go on to do some kind of performing arts training,” Deirdre added.
Those that don’t still retain a strong interest in the theatre, and a bond with Limerick Youth Theatre, according to Deirdre who regularly sees past members in the audiences at their productions. “Hopefully we’ll see a lot of our former members out this week; it will be great to catch up with them all.”
With two decades of productions under their belts, Deirdre is optimistic for the company’s future: “Limerick Youth Theatre has managed to survive twenty years through funding cutbacks and austerity. It has survived and grown as an organisation.”
‘Call Back’ runs twice daily (6pm and 8pm) at the Belltable from 17 – 19 August. Tickets priced €10 are available from limetreetheatre.ie