THIS YEAR marks both the 20th anniversary of the foundation of Galway Youth Theatre and the 10th anniversary of Andrew Flynn becoming the company’s artistic director.
With GYT in the midst of recruiting a fresh batch of young talent for its theatre performance course it seems like a perfect time to sit down with Flynn and talk about the company’s development and where it now finds itself.
“I guess the big difference since I took over is I’ve steered it more into doing productions,” Flynn begins. “Before our funding got cut in recent years, the most productions we did in one year was eight. We now do about four productions a year.
“My own highlights since I came would be productions like Animal Farm which was my first big production with GYT, I kind of took a back seat and acted as producer on it, getting Rod Goodall in to direct. It was a big turning point in terms of scale and we engaged professional designers to do lighting and set and costume and it gave us a strong profile.
“After that our numbers really increased. When I started there were about 18 people in GYT and after Animal Farm that went up to 60; we currently have about 40/45 fulltime members. As for shows I’ve directed, the one that stands out the most would be The Crucible and another one would be Simon Stephens’ Country Music which I really loved as well, and Yellow Moon was another I really liked.”
The funding cuts Flynn referred to means that GYT are currently back at the same level of subsidy they were receiving when he first arrived. He outlines how they have coped with the situation.
“We’ve kept our education programme intact,” he says. “I’m doing more of the Outreach work myself and maybe more teaching as well. Before, we used to hire more tutors. We also scaled back the productions and in last three years we’ve done a lot more site-specific work. We’ll do at least one of those per year and they save on budgets.”
Flynn goes on to explain what sets GYT apart from other theatre-training outlets.
“Today there are more training courses on offer to people around Galway,” he says. “What makes GYT stand out from that is that besides the training they actually get the chance to do it, to actually perform.
“We do four productions per year; not everyone gets into those productions but we try to do shows that have large casts. As well as that we will also do things like 24-hour theatre or a devising showcase or the one-act festival where members who might not be ready for a full production or missed out at audition stage get their chance to go onstage.”
Another distinctive aspect of GYT is the broad age-range of its membership.
“We have an unusual age range of 16-27 and we would differ from most youth theatres in that regard,” Flynn states. “That has enabled us to do productions we might not have been able to do otherwise. The other thing we’ve done occasionally is a co-production with the Galway Arts Centre where professional actors were also involved and that has been a great learning curve for our members to work alongside professionals.
“And we’ve set up a touring show every year where we’ve gone to schools in the county. You get people joining GYT who are really serious and know they would like to go on further, then there are others who just want to meet people and make friends. So it’s very varied in terms of the group.”
GYT is now inviting applications from new members and Flynn concludes with some of the course’s attractions.
“We’ve cut back our fees, we’ve taken €100 off to try and make it more affordable,” he says. “Also, people tend to think of youth theatre as something for teenagers but GYT is different and has a broad range of people so maybe there are people out there who are in college or in a job who would be interested but are thinking ‘I couldn’t do that, I’m too old’, but they’re not at all!”
Galway Youth Theatre is accepting applications for membership until Friday September 24t Application forms and further information can be obtained from Galway Arts Centre, 47 Dominick Street, on 091 - 565886.