Theatre: A town shares its stories in Singleton Tales

TIME OUT: Some of the young cast members of Singleton Tales, which looks at community issues and what makes the town special.WHEN a young dog escapes from a residential yard in a country town like Singleton, you never know where it will end up.

That is something Emerson Avery learnt when a new family pet, Nipper, a miniature fox terrier-chihuahua cross, ran into the street a few years ago.

Emerson chased the dog, Nipper, through the town and into a cow paddock, where the bovines were far from impressed.

Emerson reveals what happened next in Singleton Tales, a theatrical work that offers a collection of stories about young people’s lives in the town.

Suffice to say that the story had a happy ending. The dog, Nipper, is now nine, and Emerson, 17, is pleased to still have her in the family home.

Singleton Tales, which will be staged at Singleton Youth Venue on November 14 and 15, features 11 young people aged 11 to 17.

Each will tell a story about something that happened to them in Singleton, plus getting together for group segments where they will look at issues that affect townspeople generally.

Singleton Tales has been developed by Tantrum Youth Arts and young people from Broken Leg Theatre Company, a group based at Singleton Youth Venue, with support from Arts Upper Hunter and ABC Open. Singleton Council and the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund financed the project.

Mark Reedman, Arts Upper Hunter’s development officer, approached Newcastle-based Tantrum Youth Arts last year about helping to stage a show that would enable members of Broken Leg Theatre to develop skills in putting works together, as well as performing them.

Reedman was associate director of 2 Til 5, the original name of Tantrum, from 1993 until 1999, becoming artistic director in that year and continuing with the company until 2003. He wrote acclaimed plays about youth issues, with three of them winning CONDA Awards for the best new play of their years.

TRACK RECORD: Director Tamara Gazzard is a member of The Paper Cut Collective.

The present Tantrum management had no hesitation in becoming involved in the project, with one of its acting teachers and directors, Tamara Gazzard, taking on the role of director. Gazzard had worked with young people at Singleton as a high school drama teacher and, having grown up near Maitland, had her own youthful experiences in a rural community.

She is also a member of The Paper Cut Collective, a group which puts together plays drawn from verbatim comments. Its first major work, The Past is a Foreign Country, which looked at the very different memories of a family fishing trip, won last year’s best new play CONDA.

Broken Leg Theatre’s artistic director, Dan Stranger, is Gazzard’s assistant director on the Singleton Tales project. Huw Jones, who put together an engaging music soundtrack for Spent, a Paper Cut Collective show staged this year, has developed a score to accompany the various tales.

Development of the show began in June, with Gazzard’s discussions with the cast members leading them to go out and interview people in the Singleton community about their views on the town. Mining invariably came up, with differing opinions and feelings voiced on the matter.

ABC Open’s Anthony Scully interviewed the young cast members during that early stage, and the videoed interviews will go online after the show is staged. Gazzard is looking at putting together a montage taken from those interviews that audience members will be able to see before the performance.

She notes that the participants talk in the show about what they like best about Singleton, community issues, special things about the town that outsiders aren’t aware of, and their dreams for the future.

“There is a lot about family and friendship, with the support, for example, that the community gives to soccer,” she said.

Friendship is the keynote of 14-year-old Tom Hull’s story.

He went into a forest near his home and was whittling a piece of wood into a sword when another teenager he’d never met before appeared and asked him what he was doing.

The newcomer’s response was, “I like swords, too.”

So the pair had a sword fight and became friends.

Tom’s story incorporates a choreographed sword fight with another actor.

The tale by Kristen Bintley grew from a problem she experienced because of Singleton’s hot summers.

Bintley, who is now 16, was walking home from school on a hot afternoon at age eight when the heat caused her nose to start bleeding. She stood outside the family house for a long time trying to stop the bleeding.

Memories of that incident come back to her when hot days occur.

The other cast members in Singleton Tales are Olivia Anderson, Ares Caballero, Olivia Cronin, Kanyan Evans, Adam Humphrys, Liam Pile, Anthony Andrews and Zack Kupelian.

Singleton Tales can be seen at Singleton Youth Venue, Pitt St, Singleton, on Friday and Saturday, November 14 and 15, at 7pm. Tickets are $5 and can be bought at the door.

For more information, contact Singleton Youth Venue, 65714687.

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