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Photographing "A Passion for Sondheim" for the Donmar Warehouse

The Donmar Warehouse (one of the very best theatres in the world) has a rich education programme, filled with creative and inspiring ways to bring theatre to young people.

In October and November 2010, Stephen Page (fatkoala images) worked with the Donmar to document a project called "Passion for Sondheim", which engaged 75 young people from across London in a multi-week project to write a musical inspired by the Donmar's performance of Sondheim's "Passion".

"Passion for Sondheim" - a Donmar Education project

What a fabulous event! The energy and creativity of the participants was amazing - encouraged by the artistic talents of the drama director Abbey Wright and music director Tristan Parkes. We hope these images will help you enjoy this very special project.

The project started in a church hall in Soho, not far from the Donmar. 75 apprehensive young people arrived to learn what was expected for the coming weeks. Three schools participated in this diverse and lively group: William Ellis School, a state secondary school in Kentish Town; West Thames College, a further education college in Isleworth; and BSix College, a sixth-form college in Hackney.

"Passion for Sondheim" - a Donmar Education project

The artistic director throughout the project was Abbey Wright, a former Resident Assistant Director at the Donmar and now a professional freelance director in her own right. Abbey brought tremendous energy and encouragement to the aspiring actors.

"Passion for Sondheim" - a Donmar Education project

The music was directed (and accompanied) by Tristan Parkes, who has also worked extensively with the Donmar. He is course leader for Performing Arts at West Thames College, and an Associate Artist for the National Youth Theatre. Tristan engaged the participants with his passion for lively music-making.

"Passion for Sondheim" - a Donmar Education project

The three schools worked on their musicals, and brought the results back for a combined workshop. During further sessions with Abbey and Tristan, the participants showed off the amazing progress they had made so far. Then there was a masterclass where Jamie Lloyd (who directed "Passion" at the Donmar among many other West End productions) coached the participants on acting technique. Finally, after further work back at the three schools, everyone came together at the Donmar Warehouse for more workshops and a dress rehearsal.

"Passion for Sondheim" - a Donmar Education project

Undaunted by the famous theatre - and inspired by the set for "Passion" - the participants set to work immediately to refine their musicals. The three schools had chosen quite different themes - romantic tension in Paris in the heyday of the Moulin Rouge; love letters from soldiers; and the conflict between characters in a run-down estate.

A Passion for Sondheim - Dress Rehearsal - a Donmar Education project

All three schools had developed the musical and dramatic side of their performances considerably, with catchy tunes and some great acting which came to life on the Donmar's stage.

A Passion for Sondheim - production stills - a Donmar Education project

At last it was time for all the hard work to reach its peak, with a performance in the Donmar Warehouse. The performance was introduced by the Donmar's Executive Producer, James Bierman, who told an audience of friends and guests how impressed the Donmar was with what the participants had achieved.

The performances were even better than the rehearsal, with the added "edge" from working with a live audience.

Below is a slideshow of Stephen's 50 favourite images from this wonderful event:


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