One of the ways our students can increase their employability is to do some voluntary work. We recently met up with Emily, Grace and Richard who are three of our performance students, and heard about their experiences helping out with Sheffield based youth theatre company, Easy Street. Founded by one of our Alumni, Sallianne Foster-Major, who graduated from Hallam in 1994, the youth theatre has performed Les Miserables, Barnum, and Cats in recent years, and was so popular that Sallianne set up a Junior Academy – which is where our students come in.
Sallianne told us, “Easy Street is committed to the training of young people who are studying performing arts at degree level, to equip them with the extra skills and experience that will help boost their employability.”
Richard, a final year degree student, has trained and performed with Easy Street seniors since he was a teenager, and became involved in running the new Junior section when it started in February this year. As the class grew, and more help was needed Easy Street contacted the University’s Senior Lecturer in Performance, James McNicholas, to ask if he had any students who wanted to get involved. James put the call out and Emily and Grace jumped at the chance. Emily is in her second year, Grace in her first – and both were eager to gain some experience in youth theatre as they’re both interested in exploring careers teaching drama or working in community theatre.
So every Wednesday night for a couple of hours, you’ll find Grace, Emily and Richard working with 25-30 junior school children, putting them through their paces with warm ups, improvisation, and – more recently – putting on two performances of Bugsy Malone! For many of the children, it was their first ever show, and the crew not only had to help with rehearsals, nerves and tears, but a last minute change of venue due to a hole in a roof.
Emily said “It was hard work but worth it, and the evening performance showed we’d ironed out any snags during the matinee.” Grace agreed “I’m really glad I’m getting this experience, I’m learning all the time”. Richard’s an old hand at this but he had to admit ‘It’s a great feeling when the hard work of both the children and adults produces a brilliant show that is enjoyed by all’.Now the show is over, they’re busy taking on more responsibility and strengthening their skills in running a theatre company, in addition to devising new activities and starting work on a summer showcase for the children.
Sheffield Hallam tutor James commented: “It is always great to see our students involved in work experience beyond the University. Our students working with Easy Street Theatre Company’s juniors (aged 6 – 11) are gaining some very worthwhile skills towards employability including teaching skills, understanding and experiencing various production roles and responsibilities, and the general demands of producing live performances for public audiences. If the students continue to work with the company over the course of their degree, they may also be able to write about their experiences as part of their coursework. Most of all however, these experiences will enable them to begin building that edge of experience, increasing their chances of successful progression into postgraduate study or a more direct into employment in the industry.”