Ten Ten updates: touching the lives and faith of young people through school drama and workshops

Filed in Arts by on May 4, 2015 0 Comments

source unknown, photo by swang CCommons

We often reflect that one of the great blessings of Ten Ten’s work is that everyone involved in the projects is impacted and blessed by the plays, workshops and projects. This includes students, parents, parishioners and also our teams themselves.

You may remember that back in January, we featured our secondary schools team and their hopes and aspirations for the tour ahead. The time has flown by and they have now reached the end of their tour and shared the following thoughts about how the tour has impacted both them and the young people they have worked with.

Martin Teall (Actor)

I’ve valued so much about this tour – from visiting so many beautiful parts of the country from Northumberland to North Wales. To winning the hearts and minds of thousands of young people with the messages we brought. To turning each day spent performing in plays into an act of worship. And not least of all the comically inspired comments young people have made in sessions that have made me laugh so much I could barely hide it!
My highlight of the tour would be at one particular school in London which remains unparalleled in terms of what Ten Ten is all about. We went into this school expecting discipline issues and what we got was something quite special. Each year group responded in the most dynamic way. Their vocal responses to the action in the plays might have been frowned upon in a West End theatre but here it meant something different. It meant that these young people were actually listening and engaging with the material in a way that made the plays truly come to life. Their responses in discussion were so profoundly passionate that they started applauding each other.
Doing this tour has made me think a lot about my own schooldays. I know that if I’d experienced Ten Ten as a teenager myself it would have done me much good. In a world of instant messaging and social detachment, the Ten Ten experience brings the lost art of story-telling back to life. I know from hearing feedback from students and teachers alike that our stories reflect exactly what is going on in young people’s lives today. I firmly believe that most of the young people who see Ten Ten in their schools actively change the way they treat one another.
In terms of the plays, it’s hard to choose a favourite – I love the playful energy in The Birthday Party and the journey of the characters in Chased. But if pressed, I’d have to say my favourite play is Babies. It’s the play that challenged me most as an actor as each scene is so emotionally charged. I enjoyed the post show sessions where the young characters got to interact directly with the audience. This part of the session allowed each student to take ownership of the performance they had seen which makes it even more powerful and relevant.

My comment to future teams would be that “A team that prays together, stays together.”

Hannah Prentice (Actress)

I have enjoyed so many things about the tour! I feel that it has been a real time of growth for me in my faith. God has showed me that He has a plan to use my gifts and talents, even if I can’t always see that plan. It has been such a privilege. I can’t really explain how much I love my job. If someone had asked me to make up my perfect job this would be it. God is so good! 
The highlight of the tour has been that I am often getting told by staff and students that I really do look like a 16 year old so I suppose that is always nice! Haha :) Seriously though, a real highlight was when the lay-chaplain of a school wrote us a thank you letter. She included some feedback from some 6th form girls who had watched Babies that morning. The girls said that they felt completely changed and affected by the message of grace that came at the end of the play during the reflection. They also said that they wished they had watched the play earlier on in their lives as they felt it would have informed their decisions better but that they now knew it was never too late to turn back to God. Incredible! 
Every day the work affects the students. You can see it. That’s why I love it. It causes them to stop and really think about these important issues for themselves, on a personal level and to ask the questions they want answers to. 
I love all three plays but I think if I was pressed I would have to say Chased. I feel that it is a way in to get young people to talk about saving sex for marriage that could not be achieved outside this setting. I feel very passionately that this is an issue that is not addressed directly enough, even in church settings. Young Christians can be left confused as to why and even if God really wants them to save sex for marriage. ‘Chased’ speaks very clearly about God’s design for sex but does so in a real and loving way, showing the heart of our Father God on this matter. 
My top piece of advice to any future teams would be to give the work and your day to God every day. He will do the rest. Without Him at the centre, the work can never be at its best. 

Jade Nanton (Facilitator)

Personally I most enjoyed two things about the tour. Firstly, job satisfaction. Being paid to tell young people about God’s unconditional love for them and what Jesus did for them on the Cross, has been a mind blowing blessing. Being a Christian in the entertainment industry is no easy thing. This season when my faith and talents have been in harmony has been so wonderful.
Secondly, I’ve loved having my own space every night. As a wife and mother, time to myself has been in short supply. I’m an introvert and really need personal space to recharge, so this six months have been a sort of working holiday. And I’ve loved it!
For me the highlight of the tour was getting a letter telling us that because of the session we had just delivered, two young women had realised what Jesus had done for them and that they could put their past mistakes behind them. Also, a school that particularly sticks in my heart is one from early in the tour. Our time there was such a blessing. The young people changed before our eyes. We know the work changed lives that day.
I think the work has caused students to take a step back and think about the way certain decisions might affect their lives. I also think that many of them have embraced the truth that what they have done up until now does not define their future. That with God it’s never game over. Forgiveness, hope and help are always available to them when they take responsibility.
My favourite play is Babies because it’s a beautiful drama that stands alone as a piece of high quality theatre. But I think all the plays do a very important job in their own right. They are all pitched so well to the age group they are aimed at.
My advice to future teams would be to invest fully in nurturing love and unity within the team. Look for the treasure in each other and celebrate your differences. Starting every day with prayer is the most important thing, bar none. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t lead the way the material isn’t as alive or fruitful as it can be. God’s presence is what changes lives and heals wounds. Give everything over to God. It also builds unity and grows love between the team.

With our best wishes and prayers,
Martin, Clare, Anna and Lizzie

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Martin O'Brien

About the Author ()

Martin O'Brien is the founder and Artistic Director of Ten Ten Theatre. Starting his working life as a professional actor, Martin performed in the West End (Blood Brothers) and at the National Theatre (twice) as well as appearing in many TV dramas throughout the 1990’s. He then developed a second career as a writer, winning the BBC Northern Exposure Award for his play “On Eagles Wings” and writing for the BBC One drama “Doctors” and numerous radio plays. He founded Ten Ten Theatre – a professional theatre company with an underlying Christian ethos rooted in the Catholic tradition - with his sister Clare in 2007. Since that time, Ten Ten has developed a wide-ranging programme in drama-based Relationship Education in primary schools, secondary schools and parishes, currently working with over 80,000 children and young people every year. The company has also won awards for its work with young offender institutions and has more recently moved into mainstream theatre productions, starting with the sell-out production of “Kolbe’s Gift” at the off-West End venue, The Leicester Square Theatre, in October 2013. When not working, Martin tries (and sometimes, just sometimes, succeeds) to beat his 12-year-old nephew on Fifa… www.tententheatre.co.uk

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