Sam Brooks explains (and reflects on) the closure of Young and Hungry:
The trustees of the Young and Hungry board have today announced the closure of the Wellington theatre organisation after 29 years. The organisation provided opportunities to rangitahi to get involved and invested in theatre both on and offstage, and was a core pathway for people to get into the industry.
The board cited the difficulties of seeking funding project-to-project, the limited ability to provide long-term assured employment, and as a result, a limited capacity to invest in long-term planning.
As with any organisation, they were hit especially hard by Covid, and unable to reach audiences or provide live performances. “We have searched under every stone, climbed many unscalable mountains and survived endless planning meetings,” said a statement from the board. “However, we have not been able to find a way forward that does not compromise the Y&H values.”
They thanked key creative partners over the years – BATS theatre and Playmarket – and are currently working with the National Library of New Zealand to preserve their ephemera.
A little bit of background: Between 1995 and 2017, the Young and Hungry Festival of New Works would put on two to three new plays at BATS Theatre, casted and crewed entirely by people aged between 15-25. Between 2012 and 2015, the festival also took up residence at Basement Theatre, producing three plays a year there.
The festival has introduced countless people to the arts, including playwrights Eli Kent, Whiti Hereaka, Nathan Joe, Adam Goodall, Alex Lodge and Ralph McCubbin-Howell, not to mention more actors, designers, stage managers than I can name.
Since 2015, the organisation has partnered with EnsembleImpact to tour excerpts of New Zealand work across the country, to both high schools and independent venues.
On a personal note: I wouldn’t be making theatre without Young and Hungry. My first gig in the theatre was an assistant stage manager for Tom Sainsbury’s Disorder, and I made many friends and colleagues I have to this day. My first (and second) commissions as a playwright were from the festival, providing guidance and support that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Although it’s been some time since the organisation was in its prime, a real pillar of the theatre community has been lost today.