The Hills Youth Theatre (HYT), a non-profit, volunteer community organisation has, since its creation over thirty years ago, been a training ground for emerging South Australian artistic talent, including The Audreys’ Taasha Coates and The Germain Sisters.
We speak to Di Mason, a drama teacher of 40 years’ experience, about directing the newest crop of budding stars in their production of 'Pollyanna'.
HYT has existed for over 20 years and must have supported many performers to gain acting experience. Have any performers gone on to pursue acting as a career?
HYT prides itself on being a place where students can come and immerse themselves in the arts. Over the years we have had many students enter the world of the arts and we also believe that many of our students are well-equipped for other jobs which call upon their confidence to 'perform' in front of an audience, e.g. we have many accomplished teachers, lawyers, politicians, filmmakers, musicians and artists. Many of our students enjoy performing in amateur theatre companies around Adelaide and are also well-respected directors of amateur theatre.
Working with a cast of young people must have benefits and pose challenges. What lessons have you learnt, as a director, about how to get the most out of emerging actors and actresses?
Our mantra is “good better best... Never will I rest... Until my good is better and my better is best”. I try to find the best in everyone, to smile a lot and have fun along with the students but at the same time I expect excellence in their attitude, work ethic and attention to detail in their costume and how they present themselves on stage.
This production is dedicated to Joan Leslie. Can you tell us a little about her contribution to HYT?
There would be no HYT without Joan Leslie. She was an original tutor, starting at HYT at its inception in 1986. She had such a colourful background and life experiences and she brought all of her wealth of knowledge and experience as a professional performer to HYT and imparted her skills lovingly with the students. She became the 'life blood' of HYT. She believed that learning theatre gave children an opportunity to develop their poise, precision of movement and speech skills in a fun and safe environment.
Joan wrote the initial script and you have adapted it. What changes have you made to the original script?
Joan’s script was lovely. I just wanted to add a little of my own flavour to it by adding music as part of the scene changes. I have written a song for the ending of the show and perhaps just added some more story that Joan had not included in her version. And as the Director we are using a very different style of set and staging so that adds a different, more modern feel to the story but I am keeping the essence of the story true to its original form.
'Pollyanna' runs from 22 June-1 July at the Stirling Community Theatre.