Producer and Director Mykey J Young has been researching the importance and relevance of regional, and community theatre and its intersection with professional theatre-making practice with Junction 4’s current production of Into The Woods.
Into the Woods is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, based on a book by James Lapine. The musical intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. The main characters are taken from Little Red Riding Hood (spelled “Ridinghood” in the published vocal score), Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella, as well as several others. The musical is tied together by a story involving a childless baker and his wife and their quest to begin a family (the original beginning of the Grimm Brothers’ Rapunzel), their interaction with a witch who has placed a curse on them, and their interaction with other storybook characters during their journey.
Mykey’s approach to directing is through a collaborative rehearsal process, where every actor, creative, and member of the team has a voice in what and how to create. His standpoint is regardless of the setting, be that education, amateur, community, or professional theatre, every single person involved is an artist, with a million different ideas and outlooks that are all just as valid as his own. to create and hold space for great ideas to live and breathe. To allow a space where performers, creatives, and production teams can feel united and safe to play and explore together. Mykey explains that it is in this space where great work and magic can happen.
After such a long time apart in the wake of the pandemic, Junction 4 wanted to return to the rehearsal room (and the stage) with an entirely new approach to making productions, with a focus on raising the aspiration of what could be achieved in a community theatre setting. It’s no secret that they chose to perform one of the most complex and difficult pieces in the musical theatre repertoire as their “come-back show”, but from day one, the entire company of performers, makers, and volunteers faced the challenge, head-on, from the first rehearsal.
Mykey explains that the process started long before they even began to speak their lines or sing their songs, the company navigated their way through new experiences within a rehearsal process that for many, was entirely alien to them. From long and meaningful discussions around the themes and contexts of the production, movement and embodiment workshops focused on building their characters, considering how to create atmosphere and communicate meaning through non-verbal language, and even how we might incorporate moments of sign-assisted English into the movement language of our show (in a bid to take a step toward considering how we might improve accessibility within future productions), no new stone was left uncovered.
In the production department, our volunteers worked hard to create at the highest level possible. Throughout the entire process, they considered the importance of sustainability in relation to the design of the show, which was finally realised in an amazing series of sets, props, puppets, and costumes, created entirely through reclaimed and recycled materials, passion, determination, blood, sweat, and tears!
In my director’s note in the programme for our production I wrote…
“Before watching our production of ‘Into the Woods’, I’d like you to take a moment to think about yourself, your life, your family, your relationships, your friendships, and the events we have all been living through over the course of the last couple of years.”
“When confronted with the time and opportunity to think hard and reflect on our deepest hopes, dreams, desires to consider how we might continue to move forward in our lives.”
Mykey continues, “It is true that over the past few years we have all been ‘into the woods’ in one way or another. But if I have learned anything from my experience with working with this most brilliant set of people, it is that in the truest spirit of community and togetherness that Sondheim’s lyrics ring evermore true… “No one is alone.” Community theatre is incredibly important on so many levels. It is a place where many professional performers can find their feet and develop their artistry before heading out into further training or industry. It is a place where people who might never want to consider professional performance can exercise their inner creativity with like-minded people and have the best of times in the process.
But most importantly, as I have discovered through this process, it is a place where people can come together to make new friends, family, and support networks, escape the difficulties of day-to-day life, have lots of fun, and make great art along the way. Mykey continues, I would love to invite you to come along to see this show which has been created entirely through collaboration by this most beautiful, caring, supportive and dedicated group of performers and creatives who have become a family unit in themselves.”
Junction 4 has worked relentlessly, investing an exceptional amount of time and intelligence into creating characters, building the world of the woods, crafting the language of the show, and taking care and responsibility for fully understanding and delivering this beautiful, complex, and highly relevant story as truthfully as possible.
Junction 4 hopes you will enjoy seeing their incredible work and Mykey and the company send their deepest thanks and greatest gratitude for supporting local, community theatre.
“Into the Woods” plays at Lowther Pavilion in Lytham from Wednesday 8th to Saturday 11th June at 7.30pm each night with a Saturday Matinee at 2.30pm.
Images: Claire Griffiths
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