Offering free tuition worth hundreds of thousands of pounds every year, The Stage Scholarships scheme has been running for more than 20 years and has helped hundreds of aspiring performers pursue their dreams. Lisa Martland catches up with some of the past winners.
Barbara Speake Stage School
Bonnie Burgess, 10, from Middlesex – part scholarship in 2015
Currently Small Boy/ballet girl in the UK and Ireland tour of Billy Elliot. Bonnie is now recorded as the first girl ever to play Small Boy.
“When I got a scholarship, I was so happy, I couldn’t believe it. My first audition was for Billy Elliot the Musical in London. I got down to the last 40. It was an amazing and nerve-racking experience, but a lot of fun.
“After that, my next audition was for The Dog Ate My Homework on the CBBC kids channel. I couldn’t believe I got the job, it was a great experience going to Glasgow.
“My final audition was for Billy Elliot UK and Ireland tour and I couldn’t believe when I got chosen to play two parts. I actually performed on the opening night of the show in Plymouth in February 2016 as I play Small Boy as well as Alison Summers (the smallest ballet girl).
“I am really enjoying this journey so far. My thanks go to all my help and support from an amazing school that has got me this far and my amazing family for supporting me in everything I do.”
Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts
Chloe Bowes, 15, from Hertfordshire – full scholarship in 2014
Tessie and understudy Annie in the national tour of Annie (July 2015-June 2016), still attending Italia Conti.
“I am so grateful to The Stage for giving me the opportunity to train and develop my acting skills, which I would not otherwise have been able to do. I have gained so much knowledge at Italia Conti in all areas of musical theatre and different styles of dance. I am looking forward to next year.”
Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts
Guy Trundle, 14, from Hertfordshire – scholarship in 2015
Friedrich in ITV’s The Sound Of Music Live; Joseph (Hertford Theatre, Harlow Playhouse); Bugsy Malone (Harlow Playhouse), commercials include featured role in Sony advert for FIFA World Cup promotion.
“PQA and the Quirky Kidz agency have given me some amazing experiences over the past three years and winning The Stage Scholarship was the icing on the cake. I’m so happy and proud that I’ve been recognised for both my talent and potential.
“The highlight of my scholarship year has been performing in The Sound of Music Live. My long-term ambition is to continue training in the performing arts and forge a career on the stage and in TV.”
Razzamataz Theatre School
Megan Wharton, 17, from Cumbria – scholarship in 2014
Performing arts student.
“Ever since I could remember, being a professional dancer had always been my dream job. At the age of 10, I broke my tailbone and ended up walking with crutches for almost a year. I was told by several doctors and nurses I was unlikely ever to dance again. Since recovering, I feel I have achieved many things. In 2014, I won The Stage Scholarship in association with Raz and attended The Stage Scholarships winners’ photoshoot, which was a great experience for someone wanting to go into the industry.
“In 2014, I auditioned and successfully secured a place on the three-year professional dance course at the MGA Academy of Performing Arts in Edinburgh. I learnt so much at MGA about the competition in the industry and how much determination is required. I have most recently been offered a fully funded Dance and Drama Award at SLP College in Leeds. I will be attending the college’s professional dance course, studying the three-year Trinity diploma, Level 6.”
Kai Savage, 12, from Cumbria – scholarship in 2015
Drinkaware campaign – voice-over; The Tale of Mr Tumble (Manchester Opera House); CBeebies TV shows.
“Winning the scholarship has helped me a lot. I have had numerous opportunities and experiences that have allowed me to develop new skills and ideas that I am able to put into practice in auditions and performances.
“I have been able to perform in front of busy crowds and entertain them. It is always exciting on these days, as the atmosphere is electric and it has boosted my confidence. I was presented with an award for my dancing, which has enabled me to explore more in my style of dance.
“When I appeared in The Stage after winning the scholarship, it was amazing seeing myself there with the other winners. I felt like I was up there with the best.
“I would like to thank everyone at Raz for all their help, not just this year, but every year. I couldn’t have done anything without their guidance and advice. They are amazing.”
Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama
Adam Corrigan, 24, from Hull – first MADD scholarship winner in 2011
Currently on-board the Regent Seven Seas Mariner as principal male vocalist in the Jean Ann Ryan production company. Other work includes: The Apple Tree, European premiere (Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre, London); Aladdin (Eden Court Theatre, Inverness); Member of The Kingdom Tenors, Britain’s Got Talent live semi-finals (ITV); Tommy DeVito in Walk Like a Man, a Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons tribute.
“Since graduating, I have been lucky enough to travel the world on a cruise, sing in front of 12 million people on TV and generally have an incredible time on stage meeting the most incredible people. None of that would have been possible without having The Stage Scholarship.
“Not only did it give me financial help, it also gave me the belief and determination to be the best I can be and not let the people down who believed in me. I hope I have done that. I would like to thank Miss Clayton and all at MADD and The Stage for the amazing opportunity, and my family for all of their support.”
Chris Moakes, 22, from Manchester – scholarship winner in 2012
Currently working on-board the cruise ship AIDAmar as a lead soloist.
“Without winning the scholarship, I would have not been able to train at MADD for the hardest but best three years of my life. The great training has given me the abilities and disciplines needed, without which I don’t think I would be working for AIDA Cruises now.
“This contract is my second for AIDA, my first started last September as an all-rounder on the AIDAcara, and this contract began in June. However, I have now returned as lead soloist.”
Rhys Whiteside, 26, from West Sussex – scholarship winner in 2012
Currently on tour in Germany (Phoenix Theatre); Hello, Dolly! (ADC Theatre, Cambridge with KD Theatre Productions); Dick Whittington (Wilton’s Music Hall); UK tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein revue (Partytime Productions).
“Since graduating I’ve been really lucky, I went straight into a production of Hello Dolly! as Horace Vandergelder. Then I was lucky enough to be in the production of Dick Whittington and a UK tour, followed by a Rodgers and Hammerstein revue with Partytime Productions. I am now on tour in Germany with the Phoenix Theatre, doing four different shows in schools and English-speaking theatres.
“The scholarship helped me immensely. Without it I wouldn’t have been able to train to get to where I am now. It has allowed me to go out and pursue the job that I’ve always wanted to do.”
D&B School of Performing Arts
Rachel Rawlinson, 21, from south-east London – scholarship winner in 2012
Credits include: WAG! The Musical (Charing Cross Theatre); Jack and the Beanstalk (The Maltings, Ely); Sleeping Beauty (Churchill Theatre, Bromley); Anything Goes (ADC Theatre and Edinburgh Fringe); Grease (Silja Line); Hello, Dolly! (ADC Theatre).
“The scholarship not only helped financially, but it also motivated and inspired me to work hard and make the absolute most of my training. I feel blessed to have had The Stage support me through the early stages of my career.”
Joshua Harwood, 22, from Devon – scholarship winner in 2013
Currently appearing in Stage School, the new ‘Glee style’ reality TV show for E4 about the students at D&B; working with Qdos Entertainment this Christmas.
“D&B has given me the best possible training I could have asked for to become a true triple threat in the industry – it’s all very exciting. Thank you to The Stage and D&B for the continued love and support.”
Daniel Bell, 24, from Cambridgeshire – scholarship winner in 2013
Developed own company, KD Theatre Productions, producing shows in London and Cambridge.
“The Stage Scholarship allowed me to train at my top choice college and not only receive fantastic training, but also make great contacts and get lots of experience working in the industry. Upon graduation, I have successfully gained an agent and continue to develop my theatre company, KD Theatre Productions, producing professional shows all around the UK.
“This year, as well as producing KD Theatre Productions’ Christmas season, I will be producing Queen Lear at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London and Fame the Musical in Cambridge. I will be forever thankful for the support from The Stage and the amazing staff at D&B, who have been vital in helping me kickstart my career.”
Hope Evans, 18, from Cheshire – scholarship winner in 2013
“I recently graduated from D&B, where I spent three years training in what I love. After I received the scholarship, I was ready to start my professional training straight away. Now I can’t believe it has come to an end. I want to thank The Stage and D&B for all that they have done for me, they’ve got me fully prepared to go out into the big wide world and pursue my dreams.
“Without the scholarship, there was no chance I could have gone through with the three years of training, so for this opportunity I am forever grateful. I’ve got a few auditions lined up and all my fingers crossed they go well.”
Sylvia Young Theatre School
Sam Edwards, 19, from Birmingham – scholarship winner in 2008
Currently playing Jackie Wilson in Motown the Musical); won 95% scholarship to the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts after graduating from SYTS; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London Palladium), Oliver! (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane); TV comedies Threesome and Which Is Witch; numerous commercials and voice-overs.
“Coming from a normal school and family in Birmingham, my family and I knew very little about the performing arts industry. I don’t believe I would be involved in the industry at all if it wasn’t for winning my scholarship to the Sylvia Young Theatre School. I will never forget how proud my mother was, or how excited I was to be given such an important step towards achieving my goal.
“My scholarship kickstarted my career and allowed me to learn a lot about the industry while developing my performance skills and confidence.
“What makes SYTS such a great place to go to is the fact that you get hands-on experience as well as good training. Students are allowed and encouraged to audition and work as much as possible (as long as their academic work stays on track). I am able to look to the future with confidence, knowing that I have the training and experiences from the Sylvia Young Theatre School under my belt.
Idriss Kargbo, 20, from east London – scholarship winner in 2009
About to be the first black British actor to play Boq in the London production of Wicked. Other theatre credits include: Donkey in the tour of Shrek the Musical; Eugene Williams in The Scottsboro Boys (Young Vic); Juicy and Delicious (National Theatre Studio); Young Simba in The Lion King (2007 and 2010, Lyceum Theatre); Young Michael Jackson in Thriller Live! (Lyric Theatre); Oliver! (Royal Drury Lane). Also trained at Urdang Academy.
“Winning The Stage Scholarship to attend the Sylvia Young Theatre School was the biggest dream come true. At such a young age, I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up and the person I wanted to become. So you can only imagine the joy I had when finding out a school in London catered to this passionate 12-year-old’s wants and needs.
“My life changed forever when the worry and doubt of my family keeping up with fees for the next four years all went away. I was offered a half scholarship to attend my dream school. During my four years at the school, the opportunities were overwhelming. Sylvia Young really did provide academic and vocational training that lasts a lifetime and gives kids like me the headstart to an incredible but cut-throat industry.
“I am still living my dream as I continue to work professionally. I’m about to make history in the West End by being the first black British actor to play the role of Boq in the 10th anniversary cast of Wicked. All of which wouldn’t be possible without the scholarship from The Stage.”
Ilan Galkoff, 13, from Hertfordshire – scholarship in 2014
Rehearsing for The Nose at the Royal Opera House. Past creditcs include: Matilda the Musical (West End); Oresteia (Almeida/West End); Elf the Musical (West End); Welcome Home Captain Fox (Donmar Warehouse); Bumblescratch (Adelphi Theatre).
“I was so honoured to be offered a scholarship at Sylvia Young Theatre School and it was my absolute dream. I wouldn’t have been able to go to the school without the scholarship. I was fortunate to already have performed in the UK tour of Oliver!, Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre and television roles, though at that point I had received no formal training.
“Attending the school has given me the opportunity to work in the industry, be trained and get a great education. I enjoy the academic learning as much as I enjoy the vocational studies at SYTS. I look forward to every day at school and being with likeminded children. I work hard in all my studies and very much appreciate what The Stage Scholarship has given me.
“Without my training at SYTS, I don’t think I would have been able to perform in such diverse roles with my acting, singing and dance.”
Adam Scotland, 15, from Liverpool – scholarship in 2013
Matilda the Musical (original cast, Stratford-upon-Avon); The Sparticle Mystery (CBBC); Millie Inbetween (CBBC); Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat/Scrooge (Bill Kenwright productions).
“When I was first awarded The Stage Scholarship I knew it was a huge thing, but I never realised how big.
“Sylvia Young Theatre School is somewhere I could never have dreamed of attending without the support of scholarship. My mum and two brothers moved to London so I could take up the scholarship and I’ve been living the dream since.
“Within the first few weeks I was able to represent the school at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee at Buckingham Palace. Being in London allowed me to be an original Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
“My most amazing experience was at last year’s West End Live when I was in the cast of Jersey Boys. Looking out at a crowd that are loving what you are performing is a special feeling.
“I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I know that I am so very grateful for my scholarship, for the experiences and the friends. At the end of last term, I was made deputy head boy – that news is still sinking in.”
Brandon Plummer, 21, from Reading – scholarship winner in 2013
About to begin third year at Rose Bruford College on the actor musicianship course. Regular improviser with Mad Monkey Improv.
“The scholarship was the reason I could train at Read College and it was the course there that ultimately prepared me for drama school auditions. This led me into further training at Rose Bruford on the actor musicianship course. All along the way, I have learnt to hone my skills as an actor, musician, and professional, all of which Read College and Rose Bruford have made possible.
“I’d like to thank The Stage for giving me the headstart and kickstarting my career in the way it did. Now, I am very much looking forward to diving into my third year, where we will start rehearsals for our first show.”
Georgina Rose Hanson, 22, from Leeds – scholarship winner in 2013
Currently at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts; The Comedy of Errors (Sprite Productions).
“The scholarship meant literally everything to me. It had always been my dream to go to drama school, but it wasn’t always a possibility financially.
“The award covered my tuition fees for the intensive year-long foundation course at Read – without it I simply wouldn’t have been able to accept my place. After a year of hard work, I was offered a place on the BA musical theatre course at my dream drama school, the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. I was also lucky enough to be awarded a Dance and Drama Award to study there.
“I am ecstatic to be going into my third and final year of training. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity this scholarship has given me.”