In this, our final blog, in the series examining how young people in arts groups have made the transition from being a member to becoming a leader, Youth Theatre Professional David Kelly, charts his journey from a school production in Ballymun to the Artistic Directorship of Dublin Youth Theatre.
My name is Dave Kelly. I grew up in Ballymun, on the north side of Dublin, and attended school there. I joined Dublin Youth Theatre (DYT) in 1990 and to say the experience changed my life would still be an understatement. Since then, I have been lucky enough develop a career working with youth theatres and professional theatre companies in Ireland, Europe and beyond. Now, over twenty-four years later, I have just returned as the Artistic Director of DYT to work with the next generation of youth theatre members.
In my secondary school, to avoid attending some classes, I signed up to participate in a production of Juno and the Paycock. It was a bit terrifying and different but it was also a really enjoyable experience. The teacher directing the play, told us about Dublin Youth Theatre. I, like so many other young people, found my way to DYT’s home at 23 Upper Gardiner Street and was lucky enough to be selected to join the youth theatre. I participated in the weekly workshops every Saturday and felt I was a valued member of the group. I made friends with many people from all parts of Dublin and further beyond, some of whom are still my friends today.
I was always fascinated by how the facilitators managed to expertly guide us through the organized chaos of these fun and exciting workshops. We learned new ways of expressing ourselves; how to negotiate, use our imaginations, communicate and work together. The facilitators made us believe we could achieve anything and encouraged us not to be afraid of challenging ourselves.
Each week when I went home from DYT, I started to record the workshop games. In the way that some people collected stamps, I collected drama games. I began to realise that there was much more to the drama workshop and the role of the facilitator than I had previously thought. It was not just about running around and playing games. It was a lot more complex and exciting than that.
In DYT, there were many people who influenced me. Eilis Mullen, a former DYT facilitator and NAYD (National Asssociation for Youth Drama) Director, was one of these guiding lights. She supported my development as a young person in DYT and then later my work as a facilitator in NAYD. This role enabled me to explore the role of the facilitator and to further develop my facilitation skills.
As the co-ordinator of ArtsTrain, NAYD’s full time Drama Facilitation training programme, I learned how to pass these experiences to the ArtsTrain participants. In November 2013, I was encouraged by NAYD to write a book called Laying the Foundations: a guide to youth drama facilitation which they published. Writing the book was a huge challenge for me and I hope it will be a valuable resource for facilitators and will inspire them in their work with young people.
For my next big challenge, I have returned to my spiritual home. In January 2014, I was appointed the Artistic Director of DYT. I am honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to return to DYT in this role and I now hope to provide the current members with the opportunities and experiences that I myself was lucky enough to have experienced.