Welcome to our first society blog for HerCampus! In this section, Hannah and I will be visiting and commenting on various societies that Leeds University has to offer. It’s a great chance to access the weird and wonderful world of extracurricular ‘stuff’ on campus and we’ll be bringing it to you lovely readers to gain an insight into societies that you may be considering joining or just to read about something new.
This week we had the opportunity to go backstage at rehearsals of ‘Pains of Youth’, a production performed by Theatre Group (TG). I interviewed the crew who were all bubbling with enthusiasm about the project. Firstly, I asked them to provide a bit of context. Set in 1920s Vienna, the play is about a group of students who are dealing with various issues such as; drugs, depression, and a great deal of drama. The directors were keen to emphasise that the play seems quite relatable to a University audience. We all suffer the ‘pains of youth’ which this play embodies on a highly intense and possibly hyperbolic scale. It was interesting to see the co-directorial team (consisting of two people) separate their roles into ‘character analysis’ and ‘concept based’ work. Their roles seemed to complement each other as they each had their own set role but were able to work efficiently as a team. The additional member involved in the crew was the producer, who acts as a fresh pair of eyes to oversee the dramatic action. They also take care of backstage organisation, promotion and major feedback provider.
One of the key aspects of this production is that the whole process only lasts three and a half weeks. When I say the whole process, I mean the whole process – from the auditions to the final performances. Now this could be either just plain ridiculous, or extremely impressive! Having looked in on their rehearsals, I would never have guessed that they had only been rehearsing for two weeks. The actors were (mostly) off script, and there was so much tension on stage I found myself being completely sucked into the action. I asked the crew if they ever felt the pressure getting on top of them with the short time frame. It seemed like they had been living and breathing the play over the past couple of weeks and their aim was to manage the balance between the amateur nature of the play, but also to create a seamless production to the very best of their abilities.
The crew’s enthusiasm stemmed indubitably from the opportunities that TG, as a society provide. When else do you get the chance to select one of your favourite plays and to perform it as a production with a handpicked team of fantastic actors? But for those of you reading this simply dismissing this society as ‘another one of those drama clubs’, think again. From Medieval Studies to Medicine, the cast and crew are a talented bunch, which makes this play seem an even more impressive feat. I can’t wait to see how their hard-earned work has turned out!
I couldn’t agree more Rebekah! I always love to explore new avenues within theatre (being the typical drama student that I am) so this project was right up my metaphorical ‘street’. I got to grips with the cast of the play, discussing the rehearsal process as a whole and how the actors responded to the directors’ decision to split the focus on two different areas.
As I understand, the play’s progress has been extremely intense, although not surprising, as the whole whopping production is put together in three and a half weeks. A primary school production-this is not. The cast explained how they explored different techniques to create intense emotion through subtlety. This is because the play’s dialogue hints at a lot of background information that is never directly shown. Therefore the actors have to embody this information through their performance. Exercises such as demonstrating emotions through the use of physical theatre only is one example. This goes to prove that being involved in a play is so much more than just picking up a script and memorising the words.
It was also clear how much passion these students had for the play. They valued its grittiness and particularly exaggerated the intense nature of its themes. Naturally, who wouldn’t love a play about drugs, sex and violence? It’s what makes drama! Female roles were also outlined as being dominant in this production, which Rebekah and I definitely witnessed in our short little preview. The actress demonstrated the classic crazed lover, freaking out every spectator in the room. It was also lovely to witness cast members commenting on each-other’s characters, showing how everyone has paid extreme attention to each other and can contribute to the development process just as much as the production team.
Last but not certainly least, I would like to make it clear how accessible TG is for students. One cast member, a third year History of Art student, auditioned for the first time ever this year and felt she was given a complete fair chance. Even if you’re terrified of auditions, the committee run a scheme called ‘nervy tea’ beforehand. This consists of chilling over tea and cake, whilst an experienced TG member alleviates any worries you may have. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to deal with nerves! My point at the end of the day is to reiterate that TG really is open to all. We both thoroughly enjoyed our little sneak-preview into Pains of Youth, as we’re so enthusiastic about the theatre. However, we’re both ready to tackle many more outlandish societies and make fools of ourselves in the future getting to grips with their activities (which should give you lot a few giggles I’ll wager). We look forward to you guys coming along for the ride with us. Until next time!
Picture 1 source – Chris, Producer of Pains of Youth
Picture 2 source – National Theatre pack of Pains of Youth http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/document/pains-of-youth-background-pack