Theatre preview

24th September 1999 at 01:00
This autumn thousands of young people will see pieces of professional theatre, in theatres, school or village halls or drama studios. They will make up a significant slice of the season's audiences. Most will be in groups organised by teachers: from mass trips cheering along a Christmas show, to a small group trying out the latest piece of experimental theatre. One thing they share is that they will all be taking a chance, either of being excited beyond expectation or else bored out of their minds. People who produce work for young audiences have an awesome responsibility.

Last year an extensive tour of "Romeo and Juliet" found no theatre would book the show during school holidays. This spring a Midlands theatre director ruefully remarked that his attempt to bring in a touring show for teenagers during half-term had only proved there is no youth audience outside school parties.

Luckily, some theatres recognise they can interact constructively with schools. Teachers within reach of Leeds, for example, could check out the West Yorkshire Playhouse's education programme to engage young people in creative arts (though you'll need to act fast - it begins tomorrow), plus sessions on developing black history in the rimary curriculum and creative writing for over-11s. Details: 0113 213 7290.

Across the Pennines Manchester's Contact Theatre finally reopens as a super-cool, eco-friendly young people's centre on October 22, claiming to be "the only dedicated building-based organisation outside London committed to creating work for youth audiences". Specifically, it is aimed at 13+; young people's and professional work will develop side by side. Details: 0161 274 0600.

A different focus is seen in the Royal Exchange's new 7 Doors education programme, with in-school theatre writing sessions and workshops. More information from Amanda Dalton: 0161 932 6720.

Timothy Ramsden

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