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The Stage Scholarships 2016: Wac Arts

Scene from Wac Arts’ recent musical theatre diploma show The Wiz. Photo: Gareth Worsnup Scene from Wac Arts’ recent musical theatre diploma show production of The Wiz. Photo: Gareth Worsnup

Wac Arts may be a new recruit to The Stage Scholarships scheme, but the dynamic charity is no novice in arts education, having provided affordable, inclusive arts training to disadvantaged young people in London for the last 35 years.

“Our whole rationale is to give access to the arts to students who would be unlikely to get such an opportunity elsewhere,” says Wac Arts chief executive and co-founder Celia Greenwood, “and that can mean access to a career in the arts too.”

On offer is one full scholarship covering fees for the first year of the school’s three-year professional diploma in musical theatre. It may be a programme that has only been running in its current format since 2008, but its content remains true to Wac Arts’ founding principles.

Greenwood explains that the organisation, based in north-west London, was originally set up to prepare young people from working-class and diverse backgrounds to go into vocational training (55% of students are from black and ethnic communities). She explains: “It was an approach that was very successful, but ultimately the message coming back to us was, ‘Can’t we just train with you?’. Students saw how we wanted to celebrate cultural heritage and diversity and train them in a diverse range of art forms, while at the same time giving them the same quality of technical training as they would get elsewhere.”

In 2008, Wac Arts’ two-year foundation degree was extended into the three-year diploma, which, by giving equal status to non-western art forms, may be the only qualification of its kind in the country. In addition to traditional, classical and contemporary training, students are offered classes in African, Asian, South American, Eastern and European performance techniques.

Not only that, but they have access to state-of-the-art facilities in the converted Old Town Hall in Belsize Park, including dance studios, media spaces and a theatre. Previous Wac Arts alumni include film and TV actor Danny Dyer and actress Sophie Okonedo, while recent diploma graduates have gone on to work in theatre, TV and film, as well as enjoy success as recording artists, composers and directors.

No more than 15 people are accepted on the diploma course in any given year, which means students are given plenty of one-to-one attention. This is vital, as Wac Arts often welcomes youngsters who have great talent but are also overcoming huge personal challenges and need a substantial amount of pastoral support.

Wac Arts already has an impressive reputation for being at the forefront of performing arts training in London, but Greenwood believes that being a partner in The Stage Scholarships scheme will raise awareness of the groundbreaking work being achieved at the establishment. Plus she can’t wait “for one of our students to be able to say: ‘I’ve got The Stage Scholarship’ – what a fantastic thing for a young person to have. It would really encourage them to reach their full potential.”

Course: Three-year professional diploma in musical theatre
Educational level: Post-school
Number of scholarships offered: One full scholarship for the first year of the three-year course
Value of scholarship: £9,000
What costs are covered? Fees
Where is the school? Haverstock Hill, London
Audition date and details: February 21. The audition fee is £25. The audition process follows three stages:
Stage 1 – Candidates will participate in group workshops in all three art forms of drama, dance and singing.
Stage 2 – Candidates will deliver a solo in all three art forms, in line with the following: Drama solo: can be any published speech or monologue that can be delivered ‘off the page’. Singing solo: a full song from any contemporary material (this can be either a cappella or with a backing track). Dance solo: a maximum two-minute piece, with or without music.
Stage 3 – Candidates will then be invited to interview.
How to apply: Applicants can visit the website – wacarts.co.uk/diploma – and download an application form or telephone 0207 692 5838. Applicants are advised to apply early to avoid disappointment.

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