'Youth theatre influenced my life – I wanted to make that possible for young people in Prague'

British-born actor and drama teacher Adam Stewart launched Prague’s first English-speaking youth theatre 10 years ago.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 31.05.2021 12:21 (updated on 31.05.2021)

Prague Youth Theatre celebrates 10 years on the local cultural scene. In the spring of 2011, after living and working in the Czech Republic for five years, British-born actor and drama teacher Adam Stewart launched Prague’s first English-speaking youth theater.

“I grew up with youth theater being a huge and very influential part of my life, and I wanted to make that possible for young people in Prague too,” Stewart said.

There wasn’t an option for youth theater in English and I could see a demand with the many international families and English-speaking Czech families so I decided to fill the gap with Prague Youth Theatre. That was 10 years ago, and I'm really proud of how far the company has come since then,” he added.

“Despite 2020 being perhaps the most challenging year yet, thanks to a lot of wonderful support from our students and their parents we’re still thriving and looking forward to everything the next 10 years has to offer,” Stewart said.

The company launched with a simple website and fliers and a base at the small Divadlo Kampa, The first term had approximately 15 students in two age groups. A decade later there are 200 students across six age groups.

Children at the Prague Youth Theatre summer program. (Photo: PYT)
Children at the Prague Youth Theatre summer program. (Photo: PYT)

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“Since we launched in 2011 we have performed over 100 productions, ranging from fun fairytales for toddlers, up to hard-hitting socially relevant plays for our teenage students, as well as plenty of Shakespeare along the way! We try to pick plays which have some sort of underlying message which can open up dialogue with the students during the rehearsal process,” Stewart said.

“Some of my favorite productions over the years have been ‘Bassett’ by James Graham which tackled themes of war and identity and ’26 Pebbles,’ a documentary theater piece using real-life testimony of people affected by the Sandy Hook school shooting. Although the subject matter is dark and tough at times, the process the students go through in creating the end performance can be transformative,” he added,

The company focuses on giving children and young people the opportunity to perform in live productions while gaining valuable skills. Performance course students meet on Saturdays and perform twice a year in June and December.

The top priority right now is getting back to working with students face to face.“Currently, due to the pandemic, these sessions are taking place online, ordinarily we meet in a rehearsal studio and perform in one of Prague’s many beautiful theaters,” Stewart said.

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Children on stage. (Photo; PYT)
Children on stage. (Photo; PYT)

The company also offers one-to-one after school exam courses for students working toward London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) certifications. There are also smaller theater group for older students interested in a career in the arts, and school lessons and workshops with a range of different schools around the city.

“During August we're running our popular Play in a Week summer camps which are almost fully booked, and we're really looking forward to enrolling for our autumn term and meeting lots of new faces after the summer break,” he said.

Prague Youth Theatre inclusive and open to all, with no entry auditions. The only requirement nis a basic understanding of English. Students range from age 3 to 18 years and represent over 35 different nationalities, with around 60 percent from Czech-speaking families.

The courses aren’t focused on finding the next big star. “We put equal emphasis on the creative process as well as the performance, and find that there are many equally important skills that youth theater can provide such as self-confidence, public speaking, communication, team work, creative thinking, expression – the list is endless,” Stewart said.

“Often our alumni will return to work as teaching assistants and assistant directors, and students are also involved with behind the scenes tasks such as costumes, sound and lighting,” he added.

Stewart’s vision is for the company is to have a dedicated venue with rehearsal spaces, a theater, and offices at one location. “We’re very happy with our current home at Art Centrum Botič – we have a small rehearsal studio for one-to-one classes and smaller group classes as well as our office space. We also love rehearsing in the wonderful studios at Centrum Tance on Wenceslas Square. However, we would really like to one day operate from a single premises, with offices, studios and performance space all under one roof.” Stewart said.

“We’re actively looking for spaces all the time, as well as potential partner businesses who might want to share a premises with us. If anyone is interested or has any tips for potential venues we’d be really happy to hear from them,” he said.

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