Teaching artist Kaylee Hazell with the 2021 Young Wharfies. Photo: Nisha Agiasotis
Young Wharfies, STC’s year-long program for Year 11 students, began its life in 2015. Initially designed as an extension and enrichment program for top performing Drama students in Sydney, the program has evolved over the last seven years alongside the Company’s emphasis on inclusion and diversity.
As STC’s Director of Education & Community Partnerships Zoe Hogan explains: “Our priority for Young Wharfies is to find students who are really passionate about drama… in recent years, we’ve focused on connecting with these students while they’re still at high school to begin their journey in the industry – introducing them to artists, creatives and other STC departments so they can start to see theatre as a viable career.”
Attending seven productions across the year, the group of around 20 students meets before each play for a pre-show workshop, discussing the themes of the show and undertaking a short activity, often focused on sharing ideas or performing for one another. They then grab dinner together before heading in to watch the production. Young Wharfies also participate in five masterclass workshops with STC creatives that focus on various aspects of behind-the-scenes theatre production.
“A lot of the students...have never seen an STC show before. The more workshops and conversations we have, and the more shows they see, they start understanding all of the different jobs that contribute to it”
Kaylee Hazell, STC’s Education Officer who facilitates the program, says “We want to show students how many different opportunities they may have within a theatre company that they might not otherwise know about. A lot of the students who do Young Wharfies have never seen an STC show before. The more workshops and conversations we have, and the more shows they see, they start understanding all of the different jobs that contribute to it, like a lighting designer, a composer, a scenic artist.”
“It’s so important to be engaged with young people as the next generation of theatre-goers and this program gives them the opportunity to find empowerment within themselves as young theatre-makers and young theatre-lovers in the industry as well”
The value of the program to the participants extends beyond the practical; the social side of the program is one of the most rewarding for the teenage participants.
As Sophia, a Young Wharfie in 2020 puts it: “STC has created a really safe space for students to learn and experiment in the creative arts. Yes, you get to see amazing shows but really, Young Wharfies is a community where everybody is accepted and truly celebrated! I truly wish every student who is considering a career in the creative arts industry had access to the safe space STC has created with kindness and compassion.”
Kaylee says the secret to this program’s success is the way it puts young people on a level playing field with their mentors. “It’s not a one-way teaching situation. It’s a collaboration and conversation with young people about what they’re really interested in seeing on our stages, and what stories they connect with. It’s so important to be engaged with young people as the next generation of theatre-goers and this program gives them the opportunity to find empowerment within themselves as young theatre-makers and young theatre-lovers in the industry as well.”
Applications for 2023 Young Wharfies will open in October 2022. More info can be found at sydneytheatre.com.au/youngwharfies