Empowering young people through mentoring to appreciate, create
and participate in New Zealand Theatre.

The Young and Hungry Arts Trust is a charitable organisation that was founded in 1994 in association with BATS Theatre.  Young and Hungry arose out of a need to provide young people, aged 15-25 years, with opportunities to gain hands-on theatre experience within a professional structure.

Young and Hungry is New Zealand’s leading arts organisation providing mentorship and development opportunities for young people in all facets of professional theatre, including: acting, playwriting, stage management, costumes, set design, lighting, sound design and publicity.

Many young people who started out at Young and Hungry have gone on to become accomplished theatre practitioners, playwrights and film professionals.  Young and Hungry alumni include: Taika Waititi (Boy), Loren Horsley (Eagle vs Shark), Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Concords) and Michelle Ang (Neighbours).

Other Young and Hungry participants such as Jason Whyte, Jo Randerson, David Lawrence, Bevin Linkhorn, Pip Hall, Dave Armstrong and David Geary are now leaders within the New Zealand theatre industry.

The next wave of participants such as Eli Kent, Thomas Sainsbury, Jack Shadbolt, Eleanor Bishop, Steph Walker and Lauren Jackson are continuing to contribute to the industry as writers, producers, actors and directors both within the Young and Hungry structure, and in the wider theatre community.


The annual Festival of New Theatre is comprised of three new New Zealand scripts, written specifically for young people and commissioned through the Playwrights’ Initiative.   The festival is performed and designed by 15-25 year olds in a two-week season at BATS Theatre in Wellington, with each of the three productions being performed every night.

Professional theatre practitioners are contracted by Young and Hungry to mentor the young people in all facets of the Festival’s production, including: acting, lighting, sound, costumes, set, and stage management.

The rehearsal and design process runs over ten weeks to ensure that enough time is given to both the actors’ character development and the technical students’ design realisation.

2011 marked the third season in partnership with the Auckland Theatre Company, with simultaneous seasons taking place in both Wellington and Auckland. In 2012, the Auckland Theatre Company is developing the model into a year-long programme called the Next Big Thing, and Young and Hungry is looking at developing the Festival into other parts of the country.

Read more about the Festival of New Theatre


Each year Young and Hungry, in collaboration with Playmarket, commissions three new New Zealand plays to be written specifically for young people aged 15-25 years.

Young and Hungry calls for submissions from both established and emerging New Zealand playwrights to create a new work based on a selected theme. These are reviewed by our panel of industry professionals who shortlist the top four submissions, which are then commissioned to write a 60-minute first draft script.

From these four first drafts, the Panel then selects three to be commissioned for production in Young and Hungry’s Festival of New Theatre the following year.

Throughout this phase of the commissioning process, playwrights receive one-on-one mentorship with an established script advisor. Skills training, play readings and workshops are used to assist the playwrights’ professional development and ensure the script has reached full potential in time for production in the Festival season.

Read more about the Playwrights’ Initiative


The Young and Hungry Ambassadors’ Programme has been running for over seven years with the generous support of Wellington City Council.  This programme introduces young people to the diverse range of live performing arts on offer in Wellington and provides students with the opportunity to find out what happens behind the scenes.

Ambassadors have the opportunity to attend about 20 live performances throughout the course of the school year – for FREE!  These shows range in style and genre and are presented by groups such as Circa Theatre, Downstage, Capital E, The Royal New Zealand Ballet, BATS Theatre and many more.

At the beginning of each academic year, secondary school teachers are invited to nominate two Drama or English students from years 12 and 13 to apply for the Ambassadors’ Programme.  Applicants are assessed on their passion for theatre, interest in pursuing a career in the arts, academic standing and availability to attend the scheduled performances.  In addition to attending a wide variety of live performing arts events, Ambassadors also have the chance to participate in live artist forums.

As part of the programme, Ambassadors will learn how to appreciate all forms of performing arts by developing theatre reviewing skills.  Ambassadors are required to write a minimum of three formal theatre reviews, which are posted on the Young and Hungry website and, in some cases, are selected for publication to promote the shows.  Ambassadors are also encouraged to share their experiences with their school peers by making in-class presentations.

Read more about the Ambassadors’ Programme