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Outback Theatre for Young People

For more than 25 years, Outback Theatre for Young People (OTYP) has given voice to young people’s ideas and stories.

Photo of Outback Theatre

An Outback Theatre for Young People participant

'If you give a young person the space, guidance, trust and creative freedom to create something, 99% of the time they will deliver magic. This has always been our experience,' said Claire Harris, OTYP Creative Producer.

The organisation engages with young people from regional and remote communities across the Riverina district of NSW and into northern Victoria, creating high-quality, innovative contemporary theatre through collaborative processes.

‘When planning our seasons, we consult with young people to identify the ideas that need discussing, the stories that need telling, the people who need their voices amplified and the trends, passions and fascinations capturing their imaginations,’ Ms Harris said.

‘Every day we watch young people's confidence grow, their ideas flourish and their relationship with their community strengthen.

‘Proud parents that didn't think that their child had the confidence to get up on stage – or older generations that can easily dismiss young people and their ideas – are given the opportunity to see what our young people have to offer.’

OTYP is run on an Artistic Directorate model, where a small group of artistic directors work across the region, supported by a creative producer. Each project is designed for and shaped by the participants in two stages over two years in order to develop sustainable arts practice within their communities.

The organisation creates further community links by forming partnerships with other organisations to deliver projects, and by working collaboratively with professional theatre artists.

‘Kangaroos on the road, extreme weather, travelling long distances and working a long way from home: it can all be challenging, but we find that people jump at the chance to come and work with us, it's like an adventure to them,’ said Ms Harris.

In recent years, OTYP has delivered projects such as Outback Story Generator (2014), an online story-sharing project which also saw playwright Jessica Bellamy facilitate playwriting workshops and creative writing opportunities in Griffith, Hay and Deniliquin; Gifts of Translation (2013–14), a festival celebrating the African cultures of Swan Hill; and Sideshow Circus (2013–14), a circus project developing and showcasing the talents of students from Balranald Central School.

Like many not-for-profit organisations, funding presents a major challenge for OTYP.

'We rely heavily on state and federal arts funders to provide us with the means to roll out our programs so that we can deliver them at little or no cost to participants,' said Ms Harris.

Photo of Outback Theatre

Outback Theatre for Young People participants

In addition, the organisation spends much time and energy looking for new and interesting ways to fund its projects.

The hard work has paid off; in 2014 OTYP secured funding at a level higher than any other year in its long history. And they can't wait to get young people involved in their 2015 season.

'We have recently commissioned a young regional playwright, Julian Larnach, to develop a work through a rigorous mentoring program. That work, entitled Beneath an oxbow lake, will premiere at Griffith Regional Theatre in June, then go on to perform in Deniliquin and Sydney,' said Ms Harris.

'We are also working with the small town of Hay in south-west NSW to develop a promenade theatre work involving the whole community, we are continuing our circus program in Balranald, and we are also embarking on a guerrilla art and theatre project in Deniliquin towards the end of the year.

'Each project is completely different but all very exciting.'

Twitter: @outbacktheatre