over 70 years of theatre making
Theatre for young people by young people
Young People’s Theatre, Newcastle, Inc. (YPT) is the premier theatrical training institution for youth in the Hunter and has nurtured the careers of many young people with aspirations to continue in the industry. It has provided training and performance opportunities for young people between the ages of 8 and 18 for over 70 years.
400 students attend weekly classes at YPT. As well as staging 6 productions a year, YPT provides technical training and mentors youth directors.
Our history is marked with stories of high achievement and potential disaster, ie. from the establishment of a permanent base in Lindsay Street Hamilton in the early 1970s to the loss of our theatre buildings in a devastating fire in September 1995.
The Hunter’s theatrical icon, Young People’s Theatre, is the living fulfilment of a dream born in 1948 and grown during the 1950s in the minds of the Novocastrian theatrical team, William and Betty Ford. YPT continues to foster their aim of “theatre for young people by young people” in both class and performance environments.
YPT’s objectives demonstrate our focus on the development of young people in a performance context and, in so doing, realising the hopes and dreams of our founders, William and Betty Ford.
THE OBJECTIVES OF YOUNG PEOPLE’S THEATRE NEWCASTLE INCORPORATED ARE TO:
- Promote high quality children’s theatre, whether this be theatre by children, theatre for children, or both
- Operate a Theatre School to provide theatre skills training for young people
- Provide an annual season of dramatic and/or musical works as a practical outlet for YPT Theatre School students
- Provide associated theatre skills activities to further develop student skills and extend performance opportunities
- Provide opportunities for disengaged young people to achieve and to develop self confidence
- Operate an adult theatre group, under the YPT umbrella, to provide post school opportunities in performance and production
The company began as the Newcastle Children’s Theatre under the auspices of The Newcastle Dramatic Art Club. The initial target group was children from age seven to young adults. Early classes were held in local halls with the fees then being eleven shillings and six pence per annum (approximately $1.15), plus a joining fee of 5 shillings (50c).
The first production of Newcastle Children’s Theatre, The Wizard of Oz, was performed at Mae Robertson Hall, an upper floor in a building at the corner of Stewart Avenue and Parry Street Hamilton. Later productions were staged during the school holidays at the Roxy Theatre Hamilton, but with the sale of the Roxy in 1968, plays were presented in various local school halls and churches such as St Lawrence O’Toole Hall, Broadmeadow. Bill and Betty Ford’s company also hired the Newcastle Repertory premises in Lambton for Bill’s adaptation of Frank Dalby Davidson’s Australian classic, The Sacred Stone.
With the increasing difficulty in finding suitable material for young performers, Bill Ford decided to write his own. Over a period of years, he wrote not only the scripts, but also the words and music for over twelve pantomimes and plays. Multi-talented, Bill also designed, constructed and painted the scenery, designed the costumes, directed the musicians and lighting, directed and co-directed the productions and often played in them!
Renamed The Young People’s Theatre in 1967, the group took possession of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on the corner of Lindsay and Lawson Sts, Hamilton on 15 May 1973. This is the site of our current theatre complex. Funds for the establishment of this new building were raised through donations, debentures and the sale of $25 Share Certificates. In the 1970s, the group was known as Young People’s Theatre and Arts Centre. This company not only conducted classes in theatre training and staged productions in its newly renovated premises, but also classes and vacation schools in Jazz Ballet, Art, Pottery, Magic and Puppetry. Further building conversions followed, with the complex consisting of a 140 seat auditorium, foyer, dressing room and costume storage attic with a weatherboard cottage attached for scenery storage.
On 23 September 1995, the auditorium and costume storage areas were completely destroyed by fire. Finding itself homeless for the second time since it’s life, the company now staged the majority of its productions in the Civic Playhouse. However, the phoenix rose from the ashes! On the 22 September 1996, as a result of enormous Local and State Government and community support and the optimism and sheer tenacity of the Young People’s Theatre Members, the first sod was turned to begin the building of the new theatre on the existing site.
This 148 seat theatre was officially opened on 23 January 1999 and today houses six productions with a total of about 100 performance opportunities each year. 400 students attend weekly classes in drama, musical theatre, dance and voice in a variety of local venues.
The YPT newsletter is published 4–5 times a year. It includes the all important ‘fridge file’ for a quick reference to important dates, box office news, and updates from our president, theatre school principal, artistic directors and more! Read more.
Arthur Boswell Award
YPT believes that it is important to recognise young people who make an outstanding contribution to the organisation through their positive participation in classes, in productions, in assisting backstage as crew and in the directing teams. In recognition of such commitment, students in their post school years may be nominated for the Arthur Boswell Award.
The award is named in honour of Arthur Boswell who was a devoted YPT volunteer from 1962 till his death in 1995 – including holding the position of president for 28 years. Arthur’s commitment to YPT is one of the reasons that the organisation is built on solid foundations.