Riverland Youth Theatre inspiring communities through the arts

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By Melissa Keogh

For more than three decades, theatrical productions, workshops and visual arts performances have been played out in Riverland theatres and institutes.

The Riverland Youth Theatre (RYT) is the organisation behind many of the region’s creative and artistic activities, helping to boost confidence in young people and create a more culturally inclusive community.

Based out of the Renmark Institute, the professional youth arts organisation is one of only two in regional South Australia.

RYT general manager Danyon De Buell says the organisation runs an annual program of workshops and major projects and also plays a part in a number of community events.

The Tackerz group are part of Cirkidz, a circus arts class run at RYT.

“Each year more than 4000 people participate in arts projects and activities that RYT is engaged with,” she says.

“RYT participants are aged between 5–26 and come from as far as Blanchetown. We also have a number of young people who come over from the Mallee.

“We offer a number of creative opportunities including styling, makeup, technical support, so it’s not just about acting. We’re constantly amazed at the confidence building that happens.”

RYT was born in 1985 as a participatory organisation for young people, putting on drama productions and hosting workshops and performances by visiting artists in Renmark’s Chaffey Theatre.

In 1995, it became independently incorporated and since then has consistently built its reputation for promoting inclusivity and presenting opportunities for Indigenous and multicultural groups to celebrate culture through the arts.

RYT is involved in Riverland Harmony Day, an annual event celebrating cultural diversity.

RYT relies heavily on philanthropic support and receives donations from local businesses as well as funds raised through the annual RYT gala dinner.

Last year’s gala dinner was attended by well-known ABC radio personality Peter Goers as well as jazz act and former RYT performers, The Casey Brothers.

Danyon says RYT offers a non-competitive and non-threatening environment for young people to build on or develop their skills in creative arts.

“All our work with young people isn’t competitive, although team work is implicit in what we do,” she says. “At no time is any child or young person given negative feedback either. We see friendships form and it breaks down barriers between towns.”

Danyon has been in her current role at RYT since 2014 but was involved with the organisation for some years prior.

RYT’s artistic director is Christopher Bond, a Flinders University and National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) graduate who has directed and workshoped theatre performances at a number of arts education institutions.

A group of Nunga Rhythms young performers and tutors.

Highlights of the 2019 program include TECHDesign, a nighttime light and sound show enabling youth to learn about lighting design and projection.

Professional Indigenous dancer and choreographer Michael Harris will work with young people on Nunga Rhythms, a performance of traditional Indigenous dance and movement.

Six RYT participants will be selected to travel to the Melbourne Fringe and take part in Standby Cue 1: GO!, which involves a behind-the-scenes experience at the major arts festival.

Back at home, RYT will bring colour and culture to the community through its performances and creative presences at annual local events including Riverland Harmony Day, Riverland Field Days, National Youth Week, NAIDOC Week, Renmark Rose Festival and local Christmas pageants.

“RYT gives young people confidence and we make sure all programs and projects are inclusive for all young people including young people with disabilities,” Danyon says.

“RYT isn’t just for Renmark, it’s for the whole of the region.”

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