No Limit Youth Art

When it comes to arts, Prague has something to offer to everyone. However, this wasn’t quite the case for English-speaking youth. This is why Adam Stewart, who at the time was the Head of Drama at a local school, saw an opportunity in founding Prague Youth Theatre and becoming its Artistic Director in 2011.

Growing up performing with youth theatres himself, he knew first hand the benefits of performing and training as a young person. According to Adam, whether or not one is interested in an arts-related career, being involved in a youth theatre develops confidence, a sense of community, empathetic expression, and creative thinking. PYT is aimed at both native and non-native English speakers. 

From the initial group of 15 students, Prague Youth Theatre now has 140 students aged 4 to 17 years. The British Ambassador of Prague has gifted the theatre with official support and PYT’s staff has increased significantly. According to Adam, PYT is becoming “too big to fit on the stage.”

“We now have a full-time Assistant Artistic Director, Brandi Burgess, an actor and teaching artist who came over from the United States.  Our Juniors leader, Nadima El-Khalafawi, a Canadian drama educator with 15 years of experience, takes leadership over our largest group, the Juniors (aged 7-11). We have also begun increasing our educational outreach, partnering with local schools for workshops and classroom residencies.  We continue to grow every term, and next year we will have to add more staff and create more performance groups,” he said.

There are four performance groups that meet once a week to rehearse upcoming productions. The group of youngest children aged 4 to 6 years is called “The Tots” and their productions are adapted from children’s storybooks and they also have a crafts activity each week that is related to their current production. 

Other students are either “The Juniors” (aged 7 to 11), “The Seniors” (aged 12 to 13) or “The Advanced” (aged 14 to 17). These groups rehearse each week for two hours, in addition to drama games, ensemble training and technique work.

“Throughout the term, we will bring in professional artists from different areas of the arts to work with the students. Favourite workshops past have been Commedia dell Arte training, Broadway Dance, and Clowning. These workshops give the students a chance to interact with working professionals, and build up their special skills. Local film companies and students also watch our sessions and cast PYT students in their projects.  At the end of each PYT term, students perform their productions, which are open to the public,” said Adam. 

PYT also cooperates with The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and strives to establish friendships with youth theaters around the world. “We often set up exchanges where we will host a company, take them around Prague, engage in workshops with them, and establish a platform for future collaboration. Soon, we will be hosting Belgrade English Language Theatre from Serbia,” said Adam.

Each year in February, the oldest group participates in “Class in Action”, an international theater competition hosted by Bear Theatre company in Prague. For one weekend, students from theater companies across Europe come together and perform their pieces to a judging panel. This year, PYT took home four awards, including “Best Script” and “Best Play from a Non-Native Group.” 

PYT performances are open for the public to see in Divadlo Na Prádle or Divadlo Kampa in Prague 1, usually in December and June. The upcoming performance “Monkey Business” by the youngest children, “The Tots”, will take place March 25th in Divadlo Kampa.

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