Absolutely fabulous chance in drama
To be a drama educator with The Absolutely Fabulous Theatre Connection (AFTEC) covers a lot more than teaching diction, movement and the expression of feelings.
A co-operative venture among three partners, the not-for-profit organisation goes beyond simply putting plays on stage, and instead has a very ambitious and wide-ranging programme for youngsters that spans developing creativity and helping nurture a better understanding of arts, to developing future leaders and working with the handicapped.
“In an ideal world, we would need strong bilingual candidates with a drama or theatre-education degree, and three to four years of relevant work experience,” says Lynn Yau, the chief executive of AFTEC, which is hiring full- and part-time drama educators. “Since we also stage professional theatre productions, they should have experience and an understanding of the professional stage as well.”
AFTEC boasts an adult theatre segment which performs in Cantonese, and two youth theatres playing in Chinese and in English, respectively, with performances held at Sai Wan Ho Civic Centre. An understanding of the professional stage – with its lighting, stage design, sounds, costumes and make-up – is therefore necessary.
Some programmes are run in individual participating schools that prefer curriculum-based dramas. Much of the teaching is dictated by schools’ needs and taught through language learning and liberal studies.
Applicants should be flexible and able to travel to diverse education establishments across Hong Kong, even to the outlying islands.
Running shows in English and Cantonese, AFTEC welcomes applications from native speakers of either language – although some schools prefer native English speakers. Yau wants applicants with strong language skills. Bilingual applicants have an advantage, although in her experience, some people feel they are not able to work in two tongues, even if they speak both well.
“To attract quality audiences, the right candidates should not only be passionate, but also face the challenge of raising the bar, as we nurture others,” Yau says, adding that applicants should appreciate classical texts and 20th-century playwrights.
For schools, students write their own scripts. For the professional theatre season this year, they are producing two 17th-century English plays, one of them translated into Chinese and made more contemporary.
There are always a number of vacancies every year because the amount of work depends on the level of funding AFTEC receives, as well as on the demand from schools.
For example, in the ongoing “From Page to Stage™” programme sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, AFTEC provides both pre- and post-show workshops to schools, develops teaching materials and subsidises tickets. It teaches youngsters how to watch, read and act a play. In the past two years, more than 12,000 students and teachers benefited from the programme, Yau says.
In the coming academic year, AFTEC will be working with medical students as well, and will introduce drama, poetry and music to them within the framework of the Medical Humanities programme.
The Sm-ART Youth Leadership Programme gives a chance to students to recognise their abilities and will also help disabled young people.
Asked about her experience in being a leader for a day, programme participant Yuen Kam-ling says: “My day was extraordinary. The most valuable lesson I learned was that [one has to] take chances, treasure opportunities and try new things. If I never stepped out of my comfort zone and fill that application form for the Sm-ART Youth Leadership Programme, I would have never known that I could be a leader. This was definitely a life-changing experience.”
AFTEC also runs the first-ever Certificate in Arts Criticism, with co-operation from HKUSPACE, for 26 keen students from all walks of life.
The company, a registered charity, also welcomes involvement from interested and committed volunteers. “We are happy to work with adult volunteers who may have retired but have the skills,” Yau says. “We can make good use of skills in set design, set building, marketing and fundraising. People can also learn to become teaching assistants,” says Yau.