The History of Young & Hungry

The Early Days 

In 1993, Guy Boyce, (head of BATS Theatre at that time), saw a need to provide young people, aged 15 – 25 years, with opportunities to gain hands-on theatre experience within a professional structure. He commissioned four plays and Young & Hungry was born. 

In 1994 the inaugural Young & Hungry Festival of New Works was produced by Conrad Newport. The Festival was billed as “a professional production for 16 – 24 year old actors with professional directors, writers and designers”. The rehearsal period was three weeks, in addition to a production week and the performance season. 

Three years later, Young & Hungry was established as a Charitable Trust with founding Trustees Katherine Joyce, Tony Kellaway and Martin Rodgers. 

Initially there were two core annual programmes: the Festival of New Works (which was later renames the Festival of New Theatre) and the Playwrights’ Initiative. During the summers of 1997 and 1998 Young & Hungry facilitated workshops, which acted as a stepping-stone for young people wanting to participate in the Festival of New Theatre. Through these workshops Young & Hungry’s innovative mentorship programme began to take form. 

The New Decade 

Young & Hungry kicked off 2000 by collaborating with the Fringe Arts Trust on the “Appetite for Production” initiative. The initiative provided Young & Hungry graduates with the opportunity to present in a Fringe season. The two productions selected were Awesome Foursome by Bevin Linkhorn and Between  by Helen Varley-Jamieson. Both scripts were performed and crewed by Young & Hungry participants under the mentorship of professional directors and theatre practitioners. 

In 2001, Young & Hungry formalised its mentorship programme by fully integrating it into the rehearsal and production processes of the Festival season. The rehearsal period was extended from three weeks, which created time for young performers to work on character development and technical crew to realise their designs. The production team was also expanded to include mentors in all areas such as: set design and construction, lighting, sound, costume design, stage management and publicity.

In 2003 Auckland Theatre Company’s Ambassadors’ Programme was adopted by Young and Hungry and added to its suite of programmes.  It quickly became a huge success; providing a valuable link with regional secondary schools, and enabling Young and Hungry to facilitate audience development and increase youth participation in the performing arts.

2009 marked the 15th anniversary and a historical development in the production of the Festival of New Theatre.  In collaboration with the Auckland Theatre Company, the Festival of New Theatre was presented for the first time at The Basement.  With simultaneous Festival seasons taking place in Wellington and Auckland, Young and Hungry moved one step closer to realising it goals to become a national organisation.

In 2010 Playmarket, with the support of Young and Hungry, published a collection of three Young & Hungry plays as one of its Play Series publications.  The three plays featured were originally commissioned through the Young & Hungry Playwrights’ Initiative and were first produced at BATS Theatre as part of the Festival of New Theatre.  Featured in this series are playwrights Pip Hall (Queen Bee – 1997), Lauren Jackson (Exchange – 2005) and Miria George (Urban Hymns – 2009).

Also in 2010, funding support from Creative NZ enabled Young & Hungry to employ a full time staff member for the first time. The following year Young & Hungry was successful in becoming an investment client with Creative NZ. A database of past participants, staff, mentors, playwrights and ambassadors was created, numbering more than 1,500. Many have gone onto professional careers in the creative industries. 

In 2016, Young & Hungry took over the management of EnsembleImpact, a tour of NZ Theatre to NZ secondary schools. Now called Y&H Tours, this gave Young & Hungry a truly national presence. 

The Future

With valuable support from Creative New Zealand and Wellington City Council, Young & Hungry has worked on developing its long-term strategic plan as well as redefining its mission statement and its future goals. As a result, Young & Hungry is starting two new initiatives in 2018 – Y&H Meets and Y&H Workshops. We are exploring new ways to deliver our vision and mission.  

Have you been a contributor or past participant with Young & Hungry?  Do you have any old or new stories about Young & Hungry that you’d like to share?  If so, we want to hear from you!  Email us at [email protected]