Stage school helping children to step out and realise their dreams

Heather Gallagher, principal at StageScreen, receiving a Woman Who award for her work.

StageScreen was started in Burton by performer and arts specialist Heather Gallagher in April 2017. A drama school with a difference, it helps children of all ages to gain confidence, grow and socialise through music, drama and the arts.

With an emphasis on not only creating the future stars of theatre but also providing a fun and social atmosphere to enjoy drama as a hobby, StageScreen is passionate about bringing young people new opportunities and experiences.

From workshops with top West End performers to performing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, the group inspires young minds and builds confidence to help youngsters explore and enjoy the Arts. As StageScreen celebrates its fourth year, Burton Small Business talks to principal Heather Gallagher about what the future holds for the dynamic stage school.

What is StageScreen?

StageScreen is a part-time performing arts school in Burton-on-Trent for under-18s delivering professional-standard training in acting, musical theatre and film.

Our aim is to help youngsters become well-rounded, happy and confident with social skills that will enrich their lives whether or not they choose a career in the performing arts.

Every Saturday morning in term time there are classes for four age groups. There is a 45-minute class called Starlets for four to six-year-olds.

Then the main classes are Encore (14-18-year-olds); Spotlight (10-13-year-olds) and Debut (6-9-year-olds). They have three hours of training each Saturday: one hour of acting, one hour of film and one hour of musical theatre.

Last March, when the first lockdown came, we switched immediately to using Zoom to bring our students together for lessons and we’ve not missed a beat as we now continue with our usual face to face meet ups.

Online stage school continues to inspire youngsters despite the pandemic

In a world that can feel very scary and unpredictable, I think it’s important that we give our youngsters some certainty. Whatever else is going on, they know they will see their friends and their teachers on screen every week. Creativity is a real antidote to stress and anxiety. It’s a great way to forget about everything else for a few hours. Our students can relax and focus on something they love.

I’ve been able to secure some top West End performers to host live virtual workshops for our students over the past 12 months. The stars who have taught Burton youngsters new skills and boosted their confidence in this way have included:

 

  • Christina Modestou, who originated the role of Anne Boleyn in the musical Six.
  • Charlie Stemp (Mary Poppins, Half A Sixpence, Hello Dolly! and Mamma Mia!)
  • Chris Tendai (Hamilton)
  • Luke Bayer (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie)
  • Danny Mahoney (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Florence Foster Jenkins)
  • Barnaby Thompson (The Lion King)
  • Jack North (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child)

Until the pandemic hit, each term has ended with a production or a showcase that family and friends and the public can attend. These have included film festivals of short films and music videos devised by our students; full-length productions (including The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe and Annie Jr.) and comedy and musical theatre showcases.

Now, we’re back in our venues and looking forward to some exciting upcoming productions including a new play about Burton in World War One later this year, a sketch show, a film festival and Elf The Musical in December 2022!

Firstly, next month, we’ll be filming our production of Sister Act Junior at The Brewhouse arts centre and then streaming it online.

What makes StageScreen different?

Like me, all the teachers who work at StageScreen have professional industry experience. This means that we are qualified to help youngsters who want to take their passion for performing further. For those who just enjoy it as a rewarding hobby and a great way to build confidence and friends we provide a range of interesting, thought-provoking and fun projects and performances.  Last year, our students made their own soap-opera style drama, Castleford Close, which can be found on our StageScreen You Tube channel.

In December 2018, I took 35 students from StageScreen and StageScreen MTA to London to perform at Her Majesty’s Theatre, home of Phantom of the Opera.  They performed four numbers:  One Night, One Moment; Sparkle and Shine; What’s Inside; ’13’ and The Schuyler Sisters.

I secured a grant and commission from Central England Co-op to allow students to devise and create a series of short films inspired by the values and principles of the Co-operative movement. This gave the pupils a unique opportunity to experience issues around working professionally and reinforced the values we hold dear at StageScreen.

Our projects have included working with Burton YMCA to explore issues around homelessness and express these through specially-created short films and performances.

In 2018, I founded StageScreen Musical Theatre Associates for gifted young performers under 21. Admission is by audition only, to offer high profile performance, audition and competition opportunities. This elite performance arm of the business meets at Oakland Village, Swadlincote on Wednesday evenings during term time.

What are your plans for the future?

To continue to support youngsters who have a passion for singing, acting and learning about performing in front of film cameras and devising and directing behind the camera. I am looking forward to the day when we can perform live in front of an audience again. Until then we will all stay positive together. I recently arranged for a number of West End and Broadway stars to record video messages for our students to cheer them up and keep them focused and positive.  These can still be seen on our Facebook pages.

So, what is the one thing you love about being a small business owner?

I love the chance to experience moments like this: Backstage at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, in 2018, I watched a nine-year-old entirely focussed and ready to step out on stage. At the last moment, she turned around with wonder in her eyes and said ‘This is my dream!’ before turning back and taking her first steps onto that huge stage.

Our students make me so proud with their kindness to each other and their capacity for hard work and enjoyment.

What is your favourite place to visit in Burton?

The Brewhouse Arts Centre. They have always been a supportive venue and an asset to our town. We can’t wait to be back there – to perform but also to watch other shows.

How can we find out more?

More details on StageScreen are available at www.stagescreen.co.uk or by contacting Heather at info@stagescreen.co.uk or calling 07539 440592. Anyone aged 4-18 can have a FREE trial of a StageScreen morning to see if they will enjoy it. Go to stagescreen.co.uk/free-trial to apply.

More information on the StageScreen Musical Theatre Associates program for gifted performers is available at www.stagescreenmta.co.uk or by emailing info@stagesscreenmta.co.uk.

You can enjoy clips of past performances on the StageScreen YouTube channel.

You can also follow the two groups on Facebook at StageScreenUK and StageScreenMTA.

If you would like to have your business featured in the Business Spotlight then you can find out more details here including an application form and detailed questions to make it easier for you to apply.

Business Spotlight is the chance for local independent businesses to get some free publicity and share their story with the town.

From cake makers to accountants, we are looking at the people behind the business and what makes them so different and special.

Each month we will feature a different business on our website and socials giving you great exposure for your firm.

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