N-Act is a Southend-based Theatre in Schools not-for-profit company that creates interactive theatre projects for schools.
N-Act launched in September 2017 with a team of 5 actors and a management team of 3 more including Founder and Artistic Director, Sharon Williams. As Sharon explains:
We are looking to co-opt members of the wider community and possibly local schools to widen the ‘voice’ of the company for our forthcoming projects. I hope to build the ‘company’ of actors over the next year to enable several productions to run simultaneously.
The Power of Drama
I set up N-Act last year, after taking early retirement from my post as Deputy Head in a local secondary school. I have worked in education for 33 years, as Drama teacher and in senior management – taking time out briefly to work professionally in the theatre in the mid-1990s. Starting up this company was quite a natural move for me, as I feel strongly about the power of drama and theatre to inspire, raise awareness and give people an opportunity to consider things that may not be in their existing sphere of knowledge.
Impacting students’ learning
Additionally, the opportunity to interact with a piece of theatre has a great impact on students’ learning. My PhD (which I did over 7 years while teaching – no easy feat!) was based around the deeper thinking that is brought about when students interact with their learning. So, in the classroom this means talking, discussing, and contributing practically to an event as opposed to just reading books or listening to the teacher. This is easy to translate to students interacting with the actors in a theatrical production – and is definitely the part they remember the most. We have certainly found that our previous show had a great impact on the young audiences with so many of the feedback forms telling us that we had made a big difference to the way they think.
Where and what we perform
We have expanded our reach beyond Southend across Essex and to Havering, Ilford and London. Our most recent production, ‘Linked’, was about internet safety and toured to 29 schools since November 2017 with 31 performances. By the end of the 4-month tour the show was seen by almost 5,000 students. In 2018, we will be touring with a play about gang culture in Essex
Statistics gathered during our recent tour demonstrate the sustainability and impact of our work:
Out of all the students who thought they were extremely confident in their knowledge of Internet safety 98% stated they learnt something new from watching ‘Linked’
94% of the students want us to come back with another show in the future
100% of the staff want us to come back!
“I wanted to say that I am really sure of what I want to do now. I want to act to raise awareness of topics like e-safety and bullying. Please come back! It inspires me to act more and to stay safe on line. I think that you should do more of these performances.” (student after the last production, 2018)
The 3-year plan
The plan for N-Act over the next 3 years is to increase our audiences to more schools in Southend and Essex; to generate funding to allow us to regularly perform in libraries and other community venues – thus introducing more people to the theatre; and to expand geographically to more areas in the UK as part of our tour. We also want to offer additional workshops on an ongoing basis and provide interactive video resources to accompany our productions.
We are very grateful to the following organisation for funding our first series of productions.