Theatre Training FAQs (Playbox Workshops 2/3/4/5)

At the heart of Playbox Theatre’s work lie the THEATRE TRAINING WORKSHOPS… these are our core sessions, and explore a range of techniques across the arts spectrum. Through the workshops, members will experience rigorous training, let by some of the UK’s leading theatre practitioners, and will not only gain a breadth of theatre skills and contemporary knowledge, but also an increased confidence, articulacy, self-awareness…and an active engagement with the world in which we live. The Theatre Training Workshops are the gateway to the wider ‘Playbox’ experience!

Do I have to audition to be in Playbox? No! There are no auditions to become a member of Playbox Theatre – we are open to everyone. We ask for members to bring a positive attitude to their workshop, and we do expect members to commit fully and enthusiastically to the work they are participating in…but we welcome young people of all ages, from all backgrounds, to our company. If you would like to take part in one of our productions, you would have to attend an audition, and these are very competitive. For more information on the audition and casting process, please look at the relevant FAQs.

Do I need experience? You do not need any previous experience of theatre work to succeed at Playbox. Every young person who works with us is an individual and will develop at their own rate. Within the company, we have young people of all ages who are brand new to this type of work, working alongside members who have expansive experience – both with Playbox and in the arts industry. The workshop space is absolutely level and every person is valued for their individuality and no discernment is made for those with, or without, previous experience.

What skills will I use in a workshop? This depends on the content of the workshop and will vary from week to week. Our directors will ensure that, over the course of a season, you will explore a range of material, from a wide spectrum of starting points. The skills that you will be using each week will vary, and will be the ones that are most appropriate for the material. In a typical season, you can expect to experience the following skills: voice, mime, movement, stage combat, physical theatre, improvisation, devising, text.

What’s the difference between the different age groups? The programme of material for Theatre Training workshops is prepared very carefully, so that every young person can really engage with each exercise. The difference between the age groups will mainly focus upon the context for the exercises, and the type of response we expect to see from members. Sometimes, the stimulus material will be the same for Playbox 2, Playbox 3, Playbox 4 etc…but the way the exercises are set, and the way we expect members to respond, will be very different, and age appropriate. Other times, the material will be entirely different for each group, and will always be selected to make sure that it is totally appropriate for the age of the young people participating.

What should I wear to a workshop? Your workshops are fast-paced and usually incredibly physical. You should always come dressed for practical work, so that you can participate fully. Loose trousers, leggings, tracksuits are all great, as well as soft shoes. You don’t need to wear any specialist clothing, but we can’t emphasise enough how important practical clothes are. If you are coming straight from school, please bring a change of clothes with you. If you don’t come suitably dressed, you may not be allowed to participate in certain aspects of the workshop. We don’t have a uniform, although many members love to wear Playbox Theatre t-shirts, hoodies or merchandise. All of this can be ordered via the office info@playboxtheatre.com

Who will be running my workshop? Your Workshop Director will become one of the most important people that you know! The team of directors and practitioners at Playbox is kept small and tight, so that everyone is really well-connected and we can make sure that the experience of each of our members is the best it can possibly be. All of our directors are trained artists, with a wealth of experience working in the arts industry, as well as with huge experience of facilitating theatre workshops with young people. Your director will also have specialist skills that they will bring to your workshop – this might be writing, music, directing, physical theatre, literature. Your Workshop Director will be absolutely committed to you, and to ensuring that your time at Playbox is as enjoyable and beneficial as possible. If you want to find out more about the directors, please have a look at our Team page on this website.

Do we do LAMDA in the workshops? Within your Training workshop, you will not work towards any kind of examination. These sessions are designed for the individual to work at their own rate, and to be celebrated for their uniqueness, and their personal contribution to the sessions. There is no assessment. However, our ‘Voice & The Young Actor’ workshops focus specifically on the spoken word, literature and LAMDA examinations – and we have a superb track record of 100% pass rate and most members achieving extremely high scores. The LAMDA workshops are for very limited numbers, so that the members receive a lot of individual attention. Please contact us info@playboxtheatre.com to find out more about ‘Voice’ – many members find that the ‘Voice’ workshop compliments their Theatre Training extremely well.

Will I have to do homework? No! You will be expected to work really hard, really intensively, for the one-hour you are in the workshop, but it is very rare that any ‘homework’ will be set. Frequently members will be inspired to take the subject of a workshop further, and might read particular books that we’ve been exploring, or develop a piece of creative writing, or art, in response to a stimulus…and when this happen it is GREAT! However, you’ll never be expected to complete any assignment specifically for your workshop.

Do I have to come every week? As your Theatre Training workshop is not specifically working towards an end result, if you need to miss the occasional session, it’s not the end of the world. Of course, the more fully you commit to your weekly workshop, the more you will gain from it, the faster you will develop and the greater your experience of Playbox will be. We understand that there are times when you won’t be able to make it…but we really do need all members and families to understand that this is not a ‘drop-in’ session – it is a carefully designed programme of work, where one week will be influenced by the previous week’s achievements. Please try to come as regularly as you possibly can!

What’s the difference between the different Playbox venues? Will I still get the same opportunities if I go to an outlying centre? There is absolutely no difference in the experience you will receive, regardless of which venue you attend! Our directors are all based at The Dream Factory, but we run workshops across the region, to make sure that Playbox Theatre is as accessible as possible to all young people who want to be a part of the adventure! All Playbox members have the same opportunities to audition for productions and special events and your centre director will make sure that you are always completely aware of these. Some of the venues will have facilities for parents to wait in, during a workshop, others won’t. Some will have a place to get coffee, others will not! The heart of Playbox Theatre is what goes on within the walls of the workshop space…be that theatre, church hall, warehouse or garden…the rest is all superficial!

What are the workshops about? The Training Workshops are about a huge range of things! Our directors meet regularly to discuss workshop content and to plan the very best material for our groups. We aim to ensure that the workshops reflect the lives and interests of young people today, as well as making sure that all members are given a thorough experience of theatre practitioners, both past and present. The workshops are designed to stimulate discussion, debate, imagination, creativity and action. The start-point for a workshop might come from a piece of art, a poem, a current world event, a story or play, an event in history, an open question or a theatre practitioner. The workshop plan will be devised to ensure that all members engage their minds, as well as their bodies, in the material. Discussion is a big part of the process, as is focussing on the importance of collaboration, valuing one another, and finding the ability to voice your own opinion clearly and articulately. The skills and experiences young people gain from Playbox workshops will support them for a lifetime, regardless of the career path they choose.

Will I have to read? Sight-reading can be one of the most daunting and challenging tasks that an actor will have to face…whether they are a young person, or a seasoned professional! Our Theatre Training workshops are not text based and no-one will ever be made to feel uncomfortable reading within a session. We will sometimes take a text (poem, prose, extract from a play) as a stimulus for a piece of theatre…but the workshops will not revolve around text work. In order to ensure that members are receiving a full and thorough training, occasionally text will be an important part of a workshop…if this is the case, the workshop director will talk carefully to the group about the play that we’re exploring, the characters, the situation, and we will then explore delivery of lines. You will certainly not have to be a good reader to enjoy these workshops – many of the best actors are not!

Do we perform in our workshops? Not necessarily. Playbox’s Theatre Training workshops are not focussed on presentation or performance. People come to Playbox for a range of diverse reasons, and not everyone who joins the company wants to perform. The workshops are self-contained and intensive…but they are experimental spaces that enable members to be very open in the techniques and approaches they use. We work without the pressure of creating a polished ‘end product’, and without the need to select members for achievement, or drive rehearsals on a weekly basis. Occasionally we will throw the doors open and invite an audience to experience what we’ve been working on, but it’s very important to understand that these workshops are not about working towards an end performance. There are regular opportunities to perform, if you would like to, and we make sure that all members are aware of how to get involved in these.

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Will we be working with scripts? Occasionally we will use text from a play as stimulus, but this will be one of many different approaches to creating artistic responses within your workshop. Script work can be incredibly valuable and will certainly feature as a part of your training programme, but it is not something we do on a weekly basis – the workshops are about a great deal more than text!

Will there be any singing and dancing? Within the Theatre Training workshop, we do not focus specifically on singing or dancing. There will be lots of use of physical theatre, tons of music, and plenty of devised choreography. For those of you that would like to focus on a more ‘musical’ approach, we would suggest you look at the Musical Theatre programme that we run – either instead of, or in addition to, your Theatre Training workshop.

Will we have the chance to play Theatre Games? Theatre Games can be a really useful part of a workshop or rehearsal process. They can energise a group, they can be great for team bonding, for voice and for focussing the mind. We will often start a workshop with a quick physical game, followed by a more focussed warm up, to make sure the group are ready to take on board the challenges of the session. The ‘games’ will only feature at the beginning of your workshop, so that there is plenty of time to grapple with the main content. If it’s the final workshop of the season, you might find that your Workshop Director treats you to a few more than usual!

Can parents watch workshops? Although we occasionally run ‘open workshops’ for parents to come and watch, or participate in, one of the most important things about our work at Playbox Theatre is that the sessions are not observed by outside eyes. Members must feel completely uninhibited and free to explore, experiment and must never feel self-conscious about anything they do. Theatre Training workshops offer members the chance to be absolutely engaged with the content of the workshop, and to work closely with their fellow group members – when a member walks into the workshop space, they must shake off any baggage from the day, or the week, and commit fully to the material being tackled. We all know that, when we’re being observed, total commitment and total freedom to explore is very difficult. We are keen to have great relationships with the parents of our members, and Directors are always happy to speak to parents on the phone, or meet up at The Dream Factory, to chat about the workshops and their content, so that the dialogue is always open and honest.

I’m really shy…what happens if I don’t want to do one of the exercises? One of the main benefits our members discover through training is a rapid gaining in confidence. The effect is usually visible after the first week. Our directors are highly experienced in supporting their members, and those that are under-confident will be really well looked after. No-one is ever made to do anything they feel uncomfortable with, and you will find that your director is totally supportive of you, and someone who you will be able to speak honestly to. We will always aim to increase your courage as each moment with Playbox passes and you will soon find yourself leaping head first into every challenge…the more abstract and complicated, the better!

Ustinov Theatre SchoolI don’t know anyone…how will I make friends in the workshop? Starting any new journey can be daunting…even if it’s something that you’re really excited about. Our team have lots of experience at ensuring that everyone is settled and happy. If it’s your first week, you will be welcomed to the group, introduced to everyone, and another person in your session will be responsible for making sure that you are well looked after and happy throughout the workshop. Playbox groups are very welcoming and you will quickly make wonderful new friends.

Can I audition for Playbox shows? Absolutely – as a member of the ‘Theatre Training Programme’ you are eligible to audition for all Playbox Theatre productions – as long as you are within the specified age for the project. Your Workshop Director will always make you aware of upcoming auditions, and you will be given a regular Casting Spotlight Newsletter which will tell you all about when auditions are taking place, and what the commitment the production would involve.

I have lots of previous experience, when can I move up to the next group? Our groups are age banded, so that you are working alongside young people who are appropriate to you in terms of age. We do not arrange people according to ability or experience, so you wouldn’t ever move up to an older group early, for this reason. The material we explore in workshops is carefully devised so that members can squeeze as much as they can from it, and tailor-the response to their own ability and experience. Frequently we will set a similar ‘task’ to an 8 yr old, as we will to an 18 yr old. The exercise might be the same, but the response the performer can create will vary. Each member is expected to commit fully and to always work to the highest standard they can.

Why are all of the productions staged at The Dream Factory? We are so lucky to have our own theatre! In 1997, we discovered that our major funding application had been successful and we received the funds to build UK’s first ever purpose built and designed theatre for young people…this was The Dream Factory, which opened in May 1999. The Dream Factory is our home – it is an arts complex that every member has total ownership over. It is not a space that we rent, it is not a venue that we have to vacate when the caretaker arrives, it is not a space where we are confined to sub-standard spaces because we are working with young people…it is a wonderful theatre where young people can be creating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (and many of them do!). Regularly we will take work on tour – both nationally and internationally – but we do not tend to perform work at regional venues. It is important to the ethos of Playbox that members from all centres come together to collaborate and to create staged work – and The Dream Factory is the best place for this to happen.

How much does it cost? To be a member of the Theatre Training Programme it costs £105 per season. Our seasons run alongside the school terms, so there are three ‘seasons’ per year. If you take part in more than one workshop with Playbox, or if your brothers and sisters also attend, there are discounts available to you. If you’d like to know more about our fees, please email elaine@playboxtheatre.com

How do I apply? We hope that you feel ready to apply for membership…it will be one of the best decisions you ever make! If you’d like to get involved, please email info@playboxtheatre.com – give us your name, date of birth, phone number and the centre/day/time that would work best for you. We’ll then contact you by phone or email to tell you when you can start!

There isn’t a space for me at the moment – how long will I be on the waiting list? This depends…some of the waiting lists can be very long, other times we’re able to offer you a space much more quickly. It’s always difficult to say exactly how long you will have to wait, as it all depends upon when a space becomes available. If we can’t offer you a space immediately in your preferred group, we will always try to offer you an alternative, until your first choice becomes available. We also keep in touch with our Waiting List members regularly, as you are entitled to lots of special offers, just like our members are!

We hope you will decide to join Playbox Theatre’s Training Programme…it is the beginning of an incredible adventure!