Voluntary Arts Week 2017 – Spotlight on Dumfries

Did you know that 50% of people that work in youth theatre are volunteers? From the Fri 5 – Sun 14 May 2017, it’s Voluntary Arts Week across Scotland – a time to celebrate and share the work of voluntary arts groups. We’ll be shining a spotlight on some of the youth theatre leaders who volunteer their time to create brilliant theatre experiences for young people.

Theatre Royal Dumfries
Theatre Royal Dumfries

We’re kicking off our volunteer series in Dumfries and Galloway with Alan Ritson who leads the drama programme with young people at the Theatre Royal in Dumfries.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Well, since March this year I have “come of age” that is pension age, and it is true to say that age is just a number as I feel I am still in my early 30s. I was a social worker all of my working life, the latter part as a manager in Staff Development. Unfortunately, I had to retire early due to Parkinson’s Disease some eight years ago. I loved my work and had a special interest in Mental Health and in Mental Health Officer Training. I came to acting late in life – well, I was in my 30s when I joined the Actors Workshop at the Theatre Royal – and I never looked back. I found my work background particularly helpful in my sizing up of characters and interpreting sub-plots and being aware of the influence of social class, culture, ethnicity, sexuality and life experience. These along with being a gay man fitted well into the drama workshop environment. In the mid 80’s I became involved in the Junior Guild of Players and other than a couple of years break from them from time to time it has been a major part of my work with the Guild.

How would you describe your group in 5 words?

Noisy, enthusiastic, innovative, committed, confident.

How did you get involved in running your Youth Theatre?

One of the first things I did in the Theatre was to stage crew for the Junior Guild Production of “The Wizard of Oz”. It was great and I offered my help when the director at the time retired. I found that I easily formed a rapport with them and the rest is history.

What role to volunteers play in your organisation?

The Theatre Royal in Dumfries is owned by the Guild of Players which is a voluntary organisation with Charitable status. Although it now employs two full time workers and some paid part-time staff, the theatre is run by volunteers.

What do you enjoy most about Youth Theatre?

I get a great thrill in helping them to express their views, feelings etc. and use these to inform characterisation and innovation in both improvised drama workshop settings and in performance.

What are you working on right now?

There are a number of projects on the go at the moment. The older ones (14 – 16 years) are putting together their own show: writing, acting/directing, designing set and costume as a fundraiser for them to afford the fees to go to Summer School. Together we are looking at scripts for our annual production as part of the Guild Season (favourite at the moment is “Oliver!”). The younger members of the Senior group have been involved with the Youth Forum from JM Barrie House and spent a successful two days when together they took tours round the theatre and acted out scenarios highlighting Barrie’s involvement and love of the theatre. We’re looking to develop this project further in the future.

Find out more about the Theatre Royal Dumfries by visiting their website at www.theatreroyaldumfries.co.uk

Voluntary Arts Festival runs from Fri 5 – Sun 14 May 2017 and is a project of Voluntary Arts who work to promote and increase active participation in creative cultural activities across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

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