People have asked me before how I see theatre standing up to the next generation filled with such a high focus on technology, social media sans face-to-face connections, and a lack of interest in the arts. There are challenges, to be sure. There always have been, and there always will be. Theatre is not an easy medium. It is often expensive to watch. It is not typically a lucrative field for those of us in it. It is not exposed to the mass public in the same way that many other forms of entertainment are which don't require live performances.
If you love theatre, well...you love theatre. And you know it's going to stand strong because there are always going to be people who love it, who protect it, and who nurture the next generation to develop and hone their skills--so they can do the same thing when it's their turn.
This is why I love mentoring so much--programs for children and teens to get their feet wet in the world of writing, directing, stage management, building, designing, acting. We need to expose youth to theatre so they know that it's out there and can fall in love with it. Then we need to give them the tools and support so that they can have a shot at becoming successful in this highly rewarding (but difficult) field. Theatre is very communal in one sense, but it can also be a bit isolating in another. Yet if you can build a bridge for young people to get them over the rapids and to the (at least slightly) calmer waters--well, then they have more of a chance that they'll make it. And so does Theatre.
And here is one of the theatres who strives to carry on Theatre to the rising generation: The Blank Theatre in Hollywood just celebrated its 25th Year in the industry, and it makes a serious impact on The Biz-Driven Community it's laid stake in. The Blank Theatre not only produces mainstage shows, develops new works of emerging writers, offers their building to other theatre companies at cost (at a time when theatres are being pushed out of Hollywood)--but they also have an apprenticeship program for teens, as well as a Young Playwrights Festival.
The Blank Theatre's Young Playwrights Festival is an amazing opportunity for teen writers. They accept 12 writers each year, and while 19 is the max age for a participant, they are not treated like merely students. They're treated like the writers that they are. They're given mentorship, yes--this is key and part of the whole point. But they're given a fully produced play and treated like professionals from start to finish, giving them the chance to experience what the world of theatre and production is all about.
So if you're a young writer and you'd like to jump into the wonderful world of theatre, with a bit of a safety net below you, then consider applying. This is a great theatre, great connections, great mentors, and all around great opportunity. The deadline is March 15, 2016 and you can find the specific rules here.
Share your thoughts: Have you been part of a mentorship program before? How did it that experience affect your confidence in your craft? Have you been a mentor yourself? What tips can you offer other mentors or mentees to get the most out of the experience?