I joined YAT at 16; I was in the middle of my GCSEs at a school I hated, my parents had just told me they getting a divorce, my brother had left for university and I was trying to hold everything together a bit whilst simultaneously trying to figure out what I wanted to do in terms of University and all sorts of other terrifying big life-decisions. I joined YAT knowing only one person in the company and, at the time, the idea of entering a room full of strangers terrified me - I'm still not sure where I found the guts that day. Right from the very start, I was aware of the feeling community in the room and within a few weeks an older member of YAT took me to one side and expressed concern for my wellbeing, suggested I should sort myself out, asked if I needed any help. Things started to get a bit better from there.
I have now been part of YAT for six years, in that time I've been involved in acting, directing and writing as well as learning technical skills like lighting, sound and set building. YAT also encouraged me to go and pursue Technical Drama at University - though in honesty I learnt more from YAT's hands-on approach than I did in my entire time at university. On a basic level, YAT has given me incredible friends, a lot of confidence, a chance to write new plays and be involved in every aspect of theatre (thanks to set building I'm now also pretty damn good at DIY) and on a less basic level, they provided me with somewhere productive to go when I didn't want to be at home and I didn't want to be school; I had somewhere I could go if I wanted to talk about it but at the same time, it was also the perfect escape if I didn't want to talk about it; if I wanted to channel all my energy into something productive and take my mind off everything. At a time when I was suddenly expected to be a grown up and had no idea how to go about that, it was the only place I could go and act my age (no pun intended).
There's a lot of pride and satisfaction to be taken in a finished production and YAT works so much on the idea of 'you get out what you put in' - there's no time or place for diva attitudes, everybody chips in and helps out; as a result we're a strong unit and incredibly loyal. This motto seems to go further than productions, people help you out when you're going through a rough patch and you return the favour. In a lot of ways, 16-25 is a really strange age range, so much happens during that time in terms of education and jobs and family and it's probably the span in which you change the most in your life; none of us are the same people at 25 that we were at 16 and there's a lot that can influence how you turn out - for better or worse, I feel like YAT is a giant push in the right direction. I can state without shadow of a doubt that I wouldn't be who I am now were it not for YAT.