Meet our Education Coordinator & Youth Theatre Director Tabitha Kahney-Smith in our latest Staff Spotlight.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love how varied my role is and how many different people I engage with on a daily basis. The main focus of my role is to work with the West Berkshire community, facilitating workshops with schools, community groups, the local council as well as many more. I am also the director of the Corn Exchange Youth Theatre and as part of this role I oversee our annual junior youth theatre yearly production. We are currently working towards our 2019 show, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which will see our youth members from our Reception group all the way up to Year 9 come together to create a beautiful staging of C.S. Lewis’s classic story. I also have the pleasure of directing our intermediate and senior youth theatre groups; Our intermediates are just beginning to rehearse our 2019 production. Each year this group takes part in the National Theatre’s Connections programme and we are about to embark on an intense few months as we bring the script to life and put together another exciting and challenging production.
What is your work background? Where did you work before the Corn Exchange?
After completing a BA in Drama and English at Kingston University I worked as an actor and theatre maker whilst also working towards gaining an MA in creative writing. During this time I was interested in combining the two disciplines and began developing my skills as a performance poet, appearing at a number of venues within London and the surrounding areas. Upon completing my MA I continued to work as a freelance practitioner, theatre maker and director working with companies and organisations such as Clean Break, MIND, Hatstand Productions, Secret Cinema and The Rose, Kingston as well as Shambala and Latitude Festivals. I have also worked as a Guest Lecturer at Kingston University, the University of Winchester and Roehampton University whilst working towards complete my PaR PhD.
What does a typical day at work look like?
My days are a mix of planning workshops and delivering sessions both within the community and here at the Corn Exchange. We are so fortunate to have access to our Learning Centre where we run our Youth Theatre, adult learning courses and a variety of family focused events. One of the highlights of my role is the diversity of people and groups I get to engage with day-to-day. On any given day I can spend the morning facilitating a workshop with a group of adults (as an example I am currently leading a project with West Berkshire Adult Social Care workers) and then in the afternoon leading a session in a local secondary school before delivering one of our many programmed evening courses/classes, ranging from Adult Theatre Skills to Thank Friday its Improv.
What inspires you to be creative?
This is a really tough question to answer and there is no one response. I am inspired by the world around me, stories I hear on the news, things I read about in the paper, the personal experiences people share with me day-to-day. I am passionate about telling the stories of marginalised voices or helping to amplify the voices of those who tend to be silenced. I strongly believe that everyone has a story worth sharing, that our society would benefit from hearing and I feel extremely privileged to be in the position to help others learn how to tell their stories.
What advice would you give someone who wants to work in theatre?
My advice would be to get as much hands on experience as you possibly can and start as early as possible. I would really encourage young people who want to act to join a youth theatre company where they will get a really rounded sense of what it is like to work on a professional stage. For older people I would advise them to get work experience if possible, to ask to speak with someone who holds a role similar to what they aspire to and find out how they got to where they are. I would strongly encourage them to experience as much theatre as possible in as diverse settings as possible and to begin to get a sense of what they love, be that working in community settings, on the West End stage or with an avant garde experimental company. Finally I would advise them to say yes to as many opportunities as possible!