RSC ERICA WHYMAN CAPTIVATES CROWD
Erica Whyman, Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), captivated a room full of theatre fans, practitioners and academics at last night’s Grand Theatre Artists’ Network.
Erica told her truly inspiring story of how a comprehensive school girl from Barnsley made it to one of the top jobs in British Theatre. Equally inspiring, was hearing from Blackpool and Fylde College sixth-form student, Nico Luca Citrulo, who was interviewing Erica alongside The Grand Theatre’s Chairman, Anthony Stone.
Nico told us how he got involved with the RSC through the Associate Schools Programme that The Grand runs in Blackpool schools; then auditioned and got into The Grand Young Company; and is now one of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s New Generations National Company. And all while he’s training to be a chef at college!
The Associate Schools Programme at the RSC builds on the success of the Learning and Performance Network (LPN) which celebrated its ten year anniversary in July 2016. Over the past 10 years the LPN has worked in long term partnership with 507 schools, 11 regional theatres, 1,320 teachers and reached an estimated 690,000 students. They aim to to bring about a significant change in the way young people experience, engage with, and take ownership of the work of Shakespeare.
It was a real testament to how theatre can, literally, change people’s lives – contrary to the popular story about how the arts are only for ‘posh’ people, this room was full of local people who, quite simply, had fallen in love with theatre and believed in its importance for everybody’s pleasure, health and mental agility.
A lively debate was had about how important the arts are and the frustration of seeing them systematically taken out of the school curriculum. You can view the video of the debate here.
Erica also shared how she is approaching her next production – Romeo & Juliet – which will be coming to the Grand Theatre in 2019. She sees it as having real resonances with current problems around knife crime and young people. About adults not always being right. And how bad attitudes can be passed through generations but, ultimately, the young remain the hope for the future.
A special thank you to both Erica and Nico. And thank you to all those passionate people who lit up the room last night!
Blog by: CEO Ruth Eastwood
Last year, 10,000 school children benefited from discounted tickets to see performances at the theatre. A further 3,000 young people performed on the stage as part of Au Revoir Review and Schools Alive. And 30 local schools are part of our literacy project in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The Grand aims to give every local child access to its work. To do this the theatre must raise funds to help grow its participation programme of events that allow children to grow and develop. These programmes are not for the privileged few but for all. We aim to cover costs and, where possible, the theatre offers as many free places as it can.
The Grand’s #PlayYourPart campaign encourages people to think about supporting the theatre by making a donation or by leaving a legacy to the theatre. Any gifts we receive will help introduce, encourage and develop children in the arts and allow them to express, explore and develop their natural talents.
You can donate to #PlayYourPart here.