Poppy Conway

Current Occupation and Country of Residence: Education and Events Administration for Stagecoach Performing Arts, living in London, UK.

Tell us your Faust Story!
I was first made aware of Faust when I watched Peter Pan in 2005 – I was only 4 at the time, so it definitely had an impact on me. I then remember watching The BFG with my school when I was in Year 5, and also having a drama workshop by the director. By then I was completely obsessed with everything drama and theatre, and begged my parents to let me join Faust. I started off by doing an Easter Holiday workshop (which was given to me as a birthday present), and then started regular classes, on a Saturday afternoon, in group C2 at Island School, in 2013. I remember my first Faust Festival show – playing an eccentric artist in a play written by Keon. I really wanted to take part in one of the big scale productions, so the next year I auditioned for The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe and was lucky enough to play the part of the Pheonix. I had these amazing golden wings, made by the costume designer, Oscar – I still have them today in my flat in London. The next year I played Mrs Mole in Fantastic Mr Fox, then Jim Hawkin’s Grandma in Treasure Island and then Bagheera in The Jungle Book. That same year, I joined Stage Group – run by the amazing Keon Lee. Apparently one of his first memories of me is when I was 12, telling off a classmate for misbehaving – pretty on brand for me, and indicates the journey I was going to take at Faust! I was then in King Lear (with Stage Group), playing the fool, and then in A Midsummers Night’s Dream (really loved Shakespeare that year) as Nick Bottom. I don’t think I have ever had more fun onstage than when I did that show. As well as performing, I was also fascinated with the idea of teaching. As soon as I turned 16, I also started working as a student leader, working on a Friday and Saturday. At this point I was spending more time at the Faust office than I was at home! I really fell in love with teaching and was lucky enough to progress all the way up to Group Leader while working at Faust. I was then in The Servant of Two Master’s playing a cleaner, then both Captain Hook and Mrs Darling in Peter Pan & Wendy and finally, myself in Brainstorm. After leaving secondary school and going to university, I came back a couple of times to continue teaching and helping with productions. By the end of my Faust journey, I had performed in 3 Faust Festivals, 6 main productions and 3 Stage Group shows. It’s safe to say that Faust was my whole entire life from the ages of 12-18. I owe so much to Faust – I was able to explore my love for performing, and discover my love for teaching and education. I developed so many strong friendships with peers – many of whom I still see regularly even though we’ve left Hong Kong (I’m writing some of this from the flat of two ex-Faust members). As a teenager it allowed me to escape school (which wasn’t always a great place for me) and join a community of like-minded people, developing my confidence as a person and developing a stronger sense of self.

What is your earliest Faust memory?
As a participant, it has to be the Easter Holiday Workshop I did. I remember that we were allowed to come up with our own poems and dance moves to perform, which had me absolutely gripped. Who knew that the plays and dance shows me and my sister used to put on in our living room for our poor family members would finally come in use! I remember doing the bows to Just Dance by Lady Gaga, which was my favourite song at the time, so I was very happy!

What is your favourite Faust memory?
There are so many – it’s really hard to pick a favourite one! One of them has to be when I helped to sort out the costume cupboard with all the members of staff and a couple of friends – going through all the costumes and seeing ones I had worn in shows made me a bit emotional as there were so many memories attached to them. Another was when I was a Group Leader for the first time during a Summer Holiday Programme and seeing the students’ final performance. I was so proud of all of them, and they all did such an amazing job. I was also really proud of myself as I didn’t think I’d have the ability to Group Lead. And finally, I remember one workshop at Stage Group, when it was Keon’s birthday, someone found a ‘Happy Birthday Keon’ song on Spotify, and we decided to play it for him. It became a bit of a tradition to sing it every time it was his birthday – it included the really lovely line ‘Happy Birthday Keon, you’re getting old’. We would also sing it backstage at Stage Group shows, after performances and just as a way to annoy Keon. He really put up with a lot!

What was your biggest challenge in participating and leading in drama workshops and productions?
I was lucky enough to already be obsessed with performing on stage. I still got really nervous before performing, but once I was on stage, I was having the time of my life. I used to find auditions really stressful and scary – even though the directors made them as open and welcoming as possible. I used to put a lot of pressure on myself to get into the production the next year, as it was my whole entire world at the time. Teaching and leading definitely had more challenges – I used to find time management in a session really difficult. It really is a skill being able to know how long a particular exercise or game will take, and always having a back-up plan. I also found teaching with masks difficult when I came back to work in 2020 – I’ve got hearing loss so rely a lot on lip-reading. But I was able to turn this into teaching moments and used it as a way to get students to project, which is a very useful skill in drama. Because I was lucky enough to be a student before I started teaching, I was able to transfer my skills and experience, using games, activities and ideas that I explored and remembered enjoying.

What did you gain from your experience at Faust as a student and / or as a Leader?
As someone who now works in the world of drama education, I truly believe in the transformative power of youth theatre and drama classes for young people – there are so many beneficial transferable skills. While being a student, I was able to develop my self-confidence. I was quite shy when I was younger and was hesitant to speak up, and drama and performing really changed that. I was put into situations where I had to be out of my comfort zone, which developed my confidence and willingness to try new things. Drama is also very collaborative and team oriented, which has really benefited me in the world of work. Experience performing also means that I feel able to talk in meetings, go to interviews and share my ideas with a wide group of people. In my last years of being at Faust, I was given a lot of ownership over my work, and more responsibilities which really prepared me for university and my life beyond. Teaching also has so many transferable skills – it gives you the ability to effectively time-manage, think on your feet, improvise and take initiative. It also enables you to gain more empathy for those around you, which of course is really important! I personally think that once you’ve been a teacher, you can really do anything!

How did studying Drama and Theatre impact your life?
It has impacted my life so much! While I was at Faust, I realized that my passion was for education and working with young people. I went to University at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in London to study Drama, Applied Theatre and Education and now work for a youth theatre doing everything from fitting mics at West-End theatres, laminating, chaperoning, writing education packs and accounting (didn’t see that one coming, not going to lie). I also worked as a youth theatre teacher throughout my degree, working for some incredible companies in London - I really wouldn’t be where I am today without Faust. Whenever I get asked to do the most random task like finding last minute t-shirt printers or batteries, I think back to running around Wan Chai trying to find gaffer tape during a Faust Festival tech-run. I also want to write the biggest thank you to Paulette and Tess for dealing with everyone. Studying drama and theatre has really changed the trajectory of my life and has impacted what I want to do with my career.

How would you describe Faust to someone new to drama and theatre?
Faust is a great place for young people to have fun, discover and learn about the world of theatre, make friends, and gives them opportunities to perform and teach as they grow up. Even if drama and theatre isn’t something you’re particularly passionate about, it’s a great place for young people to develop confidence, improve their communication skills and be more aware and empathetic. These are all life skills which you can take anywhere.