Canberra Youth Theatre launches 50th Anniversary season

Canberra-Youth-Theatre's-50th-Anniversary-season-photo-by-Adam-McGrath-H-CreationsSolidifying the company’s position as one of the leading youth theatre companies in Australia, Canberra Youth Theatre has announced the company’s 50th anniversary season, Season 2022: 50 Years Young – celebrating five decades of bringing young people together to create powerful, challenging and intelligent theatre.

The company has announced four major productions at the Canberra Theatre Centre including three world premieres, and a new production of an Australian classic that originated at Canberra Youth Theatre. A suite of training programs have been announced, providing pathways and opportunities for young and emerging artists and theatre makers.

“Canberra Youth Theatre continues to nurture and develop young people, giving them a place to belong, to share their voice, and to inspire audiences of all ages,” said Mr Rogers. “50 years is an amazing legacy to celebrate, and we will be doing so in style with one of our biggest seasons ever.”

Opening their 50th anniversary season, Canberra Youth Theatre is going back to the 80s with a very special revival of Dags by Debra Oswald. Commissioned by Canberra Youth Theatre in 1985, Dags has since been produced around Australia, the UK and the US, becoming one of the most popular Australian plays for young people ever written.

Dags is an excruciatingly funny and compassionate journey through the world of adolescent anguish; the ultimate show about the awkward glory of never fitting in, ‘cause who the hell would even want to? Dags performs in The Courtyard Studio at Canberra Theatre Centre in April.

The decades-long popularity of Dags is a testament to the impact created by investing in the commissioning of new works for young people. Continuing in this tradition, Canberra Youth Theatre’s 2022 season presents three world premiere productions.

The Initiation by Cathy Petocz is a new play that has been developed with young artists from Canberra Youth Theatre over the past two years, and premieres at The Courtyard Studio in June. The Initiation is about the horrors of the early teen experience; that uncanny period between childhood and fully becoming an adult, and the scary things you feel you have to do to get through.

Exploring teen horror movie tropes, real teen experiences, and the deeply spiritual site of Black Mountain, The Initiation asks us to find our way to the core of our fears in order to discover where the real threat lies.erra T

This September, How To Vote! by Julian Larnach premieres in The Playhouse at Canbheatre Centre. In 2020, Canberra Youth Theatre commissioned this new work about young people’s engagement with politics, democracy and activism. The play was workshopped and developed throughout 2021, including a staged reading in the House of Representatives Chamber at Old Parliament House.

In what will be one of the company’s biggest productions ever, How To Vote! is a whip-smart political comedy featuring a cast of 30+ university-aged artists in an epic exploration of power and what it takes to wrestle it from your enemies’ cold, dead hands while scraping through your end-of-semester exams.

The company’s final production features their youngest artists in the world premiere of Soul Trading by Kate Walder. Winner of the Australian Theatre for Young People Foundation Commission in 2019, Soul Trading is set in a future where humans are created with gene selection technology, Artificial Intelligence is part of everyday life and children’s best friends are robots.

When the Bots decide that they want souls, it’s up to a group of young minds to solve the greatest existential question of all time, and save the world as they know it. Soul Trading is a funny, fascinating and eye-opening sci-fi adventure that asks vital questions about human connection, and our rapidly-evolving relationship with technology. Soul Trading plays in The Courtyard Studio at Canberra Theatre Centre during the October school holidays.

In addition to unveiling the 2022 production season, Rogers announced a suite of programs to support and expand opportunities for young and early career artists in the Canberra region. The company’s flagship weekly workshop Ensembles for primary and secondary students are offered at two new venues in 2022 – Gungahlin and The Q – Quenbeyan Performing Arts Centre – and continue at Belconnen Arts Centre and Gorman Arts Centre.

The Emerging Artists Program creates pathways for early career artists aged 18–25 to achieve their creative ambitions. Canberra Youth Theatre offer opportunities for emerging theatre makers to participate in artistic training and creative development programs, explore and shape their individual artistic practise, and build professional networks.

Resident Artists are embedded in the company, building leadership skills, collaborating on productions, running creative developments, and developing their own projects. The two Resident Artists for 2022 are Caitlin Baker and Sophie Tallis.

“As an early career creative, finding the space to be trusted and supported to take the next step into your own creative independence is really hard to find. I want to make theatre that has to be theatre, and I believe this residency can give me the space and mentorship to take that on,” said Caitlin Baker.

“I’m so excited by the opportunity to meet and work with other young artists, explore and experiment with forms, styles and new works in a collaborative environment,” added Sophie Tallis.

Two new programs offer opportunities for young people to get involved in theatre off stage. Engage is about increasing access for the next generation of critical voices, providing them with a platform to publicly share their reviews of theatre being presented around town and add their voice to the creative conversation. Young people aged 16–25 meet to read plays, watch theatre performances, participate in post-show discussions, develop their creative thinking skills and discover more about the world of theatre.

Backstage gives young theatre makers hands-on experience to develop their technical and production skills. Offered in collaboration with Canberra Theatre Centre, young people learn how to rig and focus lights, set up and operate sound equipment, gain insights into the technical design process, and apply these skills throughout the year on Canberra Youth Theatre productions. Backstage is a unique opportunity to discover how theatre is created and build the skills necessary to be part of a production team.

Canberra Youth Theatre continue to offer their popular programs for young and emerging artists. Showcasing the work of our most promising emerging theatre makers, the Emerge Company explores collaborative theatre-making processes and equips early-career artists with the skills to develop their own work and produce independent theatre.

Scratch returns to Smith’s Alternative for emerging artists to meet, network, test new material and receive constructive feedback on new works. Offered throughout the year, specialised Masterclasses with leading theatre professionals explore diverse training practices and develop industry skills.

Young writers can join the Young Playwrights Program with Mary Rachel Brown to discover their voice as an artist, unlock creative possibilities, and create new works for performance. The Emerging Playwright Commission offers a professional commission to an emerging playwright to create a new full-length work that brings the voices and stories of youth to the stage.

“Our 50th year promises excitement, challenge and a whole lot of opportunity for young and emerging artists and theatre makers,” says Mr Rogers. “Over 50 years, this wonderful company has connected with thousands of young people.”

“If you’ve been involved with Canberra Youth Theatre in any way over the past 50 years, please reach out because we’d love to hear from you and include you in our anniversary celebrations.”

For more information about Canberra Youth Theatre’s 50th Anniversary season, visit: for details.

Image: The Party begins for Canberra Youth Theatre’s 50th Anniversary season – photo by Adam McGrath | H Creations