A BLOG BY OLIVIA CLARK
Nothing could have prepared me on that Monday in early September of 2018 for the life-changing year that lay ahead of me. A year that involved copious amounts of self-discovery, maturation, life experience, highs, lows, and meeting new people that were about to become my second family. Not to mention the many stares we later received as we strolled through Stratford town centre carrying unusual props or covered in tinsel, fairy lights and home-made masks.
In all honesty, this last year has been such a whirlwind ride and full of so many experiences and projects, it is hard to even begin to break it down. I’m not sure I can do it justice with a single blog post, but I’ll attempt it with my best powers of consolidation.
Firstly, moving into a house with people I had never met before and suddenly spending 24/7 with them was a learning curve in itself. A lesson that is not to be underestimated but has created unrivalled bonds. Living in a town I had never visited prior to my audition was also a fairly daunting prospect. How wrong I was being that Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the least daunting places I have ever come across, bursting with beauty, history and of course the main man himself – Shakey. I came to find out on my first day that he even features on taxis. It very quickly became a home away from home.
Alongside the process of building relationships with a new group of people, (which becomes infinitely easier when there is an established common ground of theatre already in place) we were immediately immersed into a world of productivity and creating. Within the first term we had already undertaken movement classes, singing lessons, writing workshops and theatre trips – all working hand in hand with rehearsals for our first end of term production. This is what makes reflecting across a whole year at YOD so difficult because there is never room to sit back and be passive. You are always working towards a goal in a beautifully non-stop environment.
As the year progressed, there were also plenty of opportunities to lead physical or vocal warm-ups before rehearsals or performances. There were chances to direct, be directed, write, song write, support and be supported. Honing existing talents and discovering new ones. Dance twice a week with the wonderful Kath was another fundamental part of our journey on this course, pushing us to achieve things we never thought possible given that most of us had very little dance experience and allowed us to sometimes channel our inner Billy Elliot. A rite of passage is not being able to hear the song ‘You Can Call Me Al’ without an entire dance warm-up flooding back to you. For every show, we were also given the chance to perform in an incredibly wide and impressive variety of venues. This ranged from a care home to the RSC’s The Other Place theatre – in both their studio theatre and café area. The sheer thrill of performing on stages that we have seen others perform on and having the opportunity to use their facilities such as dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces that have been used by some of the greats was an indescribable feeling.
Amongst the busy schedule were nuggets of silliness and (ideally) friendly competition. This included baking challenges, pumpkin carving, writing jingles about breakfast foods, games of 9 square, rounders and other activities that are completely unique to YOD. Occasionally, although we don’t like to admit, it did involve being the oldest people playing in the local park first thing in the morning.
As we stood backstage after our final performance this year, both sweating and sobbing, all hugging one another, it reminded me of the path we have been on as individuals and as a company. None of it possible without the members of the Year Out Drama community along the way. Debs, Malcolm and Al – our absolute rocks with unconditional support and guidance throughout. The variety of incredibly skilled mentors that we were fortunate enough to work with on projects or workshops. The alumni from all different walks of life that we had the privilege to see the work of or who gave up their time to talk to us about their life beyond the course. All of these outstanding people being a true testament to how remarkable Year Out Drama is.
Every one of us had our own moments where we were able to dig a little deeper and defy our own expectations with the knowledge that a safety net of encouragement was there to catch us if we fell.
Something that Year Out Drama truly encompasses, which I feel is hard to come by, is a genuine investment in who you are. Not just as a performer or creator of work but as a person. I felt this from the moment I auditioned, and I can assure you that it remained unwavering throughout the entire year. Being a young and still evolving group of people, it was hard to constantly acknowledge and appreciate this, but I know that I have never changed and developed so much in one year.