StageScreen to perform new play about World War One hero Lily Thomas

Lily Thomas play The Godmother

StageScreen pupils are to premiere a new play, The Godmother. It’s the story of Lily Thomas, a forgotten World War One hero from our home town of Burton-on-Trent.

Lily was a widow living in Stapenhill with her young daughter Marguerite when war broke out in 1914.

By the time the war had ended, helped by local volunteers, she had sent out 25,750 parcels to Burton men held prisoner in Germany. Soldiers reported that the parcels of food and medicines saved many lives.

The play has been researched and written by Elaine Pritchard. She first heard about Lily Thomas from local historian Malcolm Goode.

Fighting red tape and opposition

Elaine said: “I was captivated by the story of Lily Thomas. Malcolm has written about her in the Burton Mail, but that’s all I’ve ever seen about her in the town.

“At a time when women were still years away from winning the vote, she set about making a difference and fought miles of red tape and opposition.

“She was determined and clever and set up an amazing communication network with soldiers. This meant that she became the ‘go-to’ person for families wanting news about their sons, husbands and brothers.”

Students from StageScreen had the chance to read through scenes from the play at their Saturday morning class on May 1. To comply with covid capacity regulations, some students were at Trentside Studios and joined the readings by Zoom.

Reding The Godmother play about Lily Thomas

The play is called The Godmother because that was the nickname the Burton prisoners gave to Lily Thomas. She called them her godsons.

Elaine was able to track down a rare copy of a memoir that Lily self-published in 1920. She also researched articles that Lily Thomas wrote in local newspapers.  This means that the play covers many real-life events in Burton during the years of the First World War.

Outspoken and blunt

Elaine said: “It’s strange to think that 100 years ago, everyone in Burton would have known who Lily was. Today, she’s largely forgotten.”

“When the war ended, and honours were handed out to people who had contributed to the war effort, nothing came Lily’s way. It’s clear that she didn’t suffer fools gladly and maybe the men who ran things felt she was too outspoken and blunt. She was focused on helping her ‘godsons’ and I don’t think she cared much if she upset anyone who stood in her way.”

The play also includes popular songs from the period and an original music hall-style song written by Elaine.

We can’t wait to bring the story of Lily, and the people she worked with, to the stage in December this year. You can find out more about Lily on the Facebook Page  LilyThomas.TheGodmother.

A busy 18 months ahead

Performing The Godmother is just one of a host of exciting events our students will be working towards each term over the coming 18 months.

StageScreen forthcoming events

Firstly, in July 2021 we will be filming our production of Sister Act Junior before streaming it online. Thanks to everyone who has made this possible by contributing to our Crowdfunder.

Next, after the summer holidays, we’ll be rehearsing The Godmother ahead of its premiere in December 2021.

Thirdly, in March 2022, we’ll be performing a variety and sketch show. In July 2022, the end-of-term event will be a film festival showcasing work by students in front and behind the camera.

Finally, in December 2022, we’ll be performing a hit musical! That’s staying under wraps for a while longer, but we can say we are THRILLED to have secured the licence for this great show.

If you know any 4-18 year olds who would like to be involved in these projects, please do get in touch.

 

StageScreen is back to class

We’re BACK!
It’s great for our teachers and students to see each other again in person.
For the time being, we are using two venues in Burton upon Trent so that we can fully comply with Covid capacity restrictions.
Some students are being taught at our usual venue – Burton Albion Community Trust Hub in Grange Street – while others are being taught at Trentside Studios in Burton town centre.
StageScreen students being taught in venues agains
We are also now accepting new students to our STARLETS class, for ages four to six. This class runs from  9-9.45am on Saturdays in term time.
Starlets class for four to six year olds

A year of Zoom and classes in person return after Easter

StageScreen classes restart on April 17, 2021

Today we are marking the 12 month anniversary of running classes on Zoom.

We are so proud of all our students for the resilience they have shown and their kindness to each other.

We will be returning to the classroom with blended learning (a mixture of online classes and classes in person) from April 17th. We’ll be following all the guidelines to keep students and their families safe.

Free trials of performing arts classes

If you are six to 18 and would like to come along and have a FREE Saturday morning with us, complete the form here.

StageScreen is based at the Burton Albion Community Hub, Grange Street, Burton on Trent, DE14 2ER. Students are enrolled in one of the following groups depending on their age:

  • Debut (for 6-9-year-olds)
  • Spotlight (for 10-13-year-olds)
  • Encore (for 14-18-year-olds)

Saturday morning sessions last for three hours in total. Each age group rotates between rooms at The Hub, spending an hour each on comedy and drama acting; film and musical theatre.

For children aged four to six we offer a 45-minute, weekly Starlets class from 9am to 9.45am.  More about Starlets, and the form to apply for a free class to try it out, is available at stagescreen.co.uk/starlets

Principal Heather Gallagher is an experienced performer and successful singing teacher who has put together a team of industry professionals who lead classes every Saturday morning in term time.

Looking forward to performing together again

Heather said: “A year ago, I knew that the world was about to change but never did I think that 12 months later we still wouldn’t have stood close together again to sing and perform.

“I’ve treasured every single week we have met since on Zoom and briefly in person last year when it was allowed with social distancing guidelines.

“I want to thank all my students for their commitment, their passion, their dedication,  their love for performing and their determination to keep calm and carry on.”

She added: “I can’t wait to see all our students again after Easter and I’m also looking forward to meeting and working with the new students who have joined us in the past year on Zoom.”

StageScreen has been promoting kindness through performing arts in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, since 2016.

Harry Potter workshop delights students

Harry Potter workshop

Our students had a fantastic Harry Potter workshop today with Jack North from the West End cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. 

The workshop took place during our usual Saturday morning three-hour StageScreen session – held on Zoom at the moment due to lockdown restrictions.

Parents were quick to post on our social media channel how much their youngsters had enjoyed it: “Absolutely loved it! Thank you”; “Great time!”; “Brilliant time”.

Had the absolute BEST time doing a Harry Potter workshop with

StageScreen this morning.
Utterly brilliant to have so many wonderful workshops for the kids

On February 27, we also welcomed West End star Sam Lathwood to deliver a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory workshop for students and siblings. On the same day, Melanie Clark of Mini Mel’s World ran a Peppa Pig workshop for our youngest Starlet performers.

Global reach for online competition

When StageScreen Principal Heather Gallagher launched the Centre Stage Door Performing Arts Competition during the pandemic, she didn’t imagine that it would spread across the globe. But that’s just what has happened.

Heather explained: “With festivals and theatre productions cancelled, I thought an online competition was a way of allowing people to enjoy the fun of performing and also develop their skills through receiving feedback from professional performers.

Entries from across the world

“I wanted it to be open to anyone who wanted to compete – as well as StageScreen students. Professional adjudicators have come on board to give constructive and helpful feedback to all the performers. I hoped there would be a good response in the Midlands, where we are based, but when entries began to flood in from across the world, I’ll admit I was surprised.”

Over the two heats of the competition, entries have been received from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland but also from Australia, Italy, Singapore, America, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Canada, Hong Kong, Dubai and Cyprus!

Map of the world showing competition entries

The second heat closes on Sunday, February 21, 2021, at noon GMT.

Every entrant will get an individual report from the professional adjudicators along with a certificate. A medal will go to everyone who places first, second or third in their class. All competitors who score 85+ points will qualify for the aptly-named World Championship Finals at Easter 2021.

Tom O'Brien The heat 2 adjudicator for speech and drama is Tom O’Brien. Tom is a director, dramaturg and writer. He trained at Arts Ed, Living Pictures and at National Theatre Studio and is patron of StageScreen.

Katherine Jarowicki

Dance adjudicator is Katherine Jarowicki, who trained at Addict Dance Academy and has danced on television, cruise ships and for fashion brands. She is also a teacher.

Christina ModestouVocal adjudicator is Christina Modestou, who originated the role of Anne Boleyn in Six in the West End and made the original cast recording. She has also appeared in The Boy in the Dress (RSC); The Winter’s Tale (National Theatre) and Little Shop of Horrors (Regents Park Theatre).

 

 

 

Messages from the stars cheer StageScreen students

Last week we had to tell our students that, unsurprisingly, we have to move our production and film stream of Sister Act Jr from March to July 2021 because of current COVID-19 guidelines.

But we were able to cheer them up with a host of messages of support from wonderful stars of the West End & Broadway! We’ve been sharing them throughout this week with followers of our Facebook page.

With theatres closed, many of the stars were able to tell the youngsters that they knew EXACTLY how disappointed they felt – but they must keep positive and look forward to the excitement of performing together in the future.

Stars who sent their support were Rachel Tucker, who has played Elphaba in Wicked (West End) and Beverley Bass in Come From Away (West End & Broadway); Carrie Hope-Fletcher (Les Miserables, Heathers and The Addams Family); Charlie Stemp (Mary Poppins and Half A Sixpence); Luke Baker (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) and Sam Tutty (Evan in Dear Evan Hansen).

Each of them recorded a personal video message to cheer up our disappointed students and it certainly worked!

“Everything is going to be fine”

Rachel told the students how proud principal Heather Gallagher and all the StageScreen teachers were of them and urged them to be kind to themselves and keep working towards their dream before singing them a bit of Defying Gravity from the show Wicked.

Carrie said: “I am so sorry. I bet you are all absolutely gutted …but it’s going to be OK.”

She added: “I’m sure it won’t be long before you’re all performing together… I completely understand how you feel.”

Luke said: “I don’t want you to worry about it. Everything is going to be fine. I am in the same boat. I want everything to be back to normal as soon as possible.”

He finished by urging the youngsters to stay inspired.

You can watch all five videos on the StageScreen Facebook page – and we’ve linked three of them below for you to watch from this page too.



West End performers deliver more workshops for StageScreen

StageScreen students are enjoying a busy programme of virtual workshops led by professional actors and musical theatre stars.

Now, there’s an opportunity coming up for youngsters aged six to 18 to join us for a special Harry Potter workshop in March 2021! Places are limited. Read on to find out how you can apply.

StageScreen’s own students pay no additional costs to take part in these workshops. Already this year, they have worked with musical theatre star Christina Modestou on a workshop around the new musical The Boy In The Dress.

StageScreen patron and West End theatre director Tom O’Brien has also delivered an acting workshop this month. Principal Heather Gallagher said: “The students worked on character development and acting for both stage and screen. Everyone did so well! Tom was very impressed with them all.

“We are so very grateful for Tom’s continued support. Not just a patron in name only, Tom gives so much energy and valuable training to our students and school.”

Billionaire Boy workshopIn February, there will be a Peppa Pig workshop for our starlets, StageScreen’s youngest students aged four to six.  Debut class students, aged six to 10, will join our Starlets for a workshop based on David Walliams’ Billionaire Boy. StageScreen students (and their siblings) can also attend a workshop on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory..

Limited spaces for special Harry Potter opportunity

On March 6, 2021, West End star of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Jack North, will be zooming in to deliver a magical workshop for an hour during a three-hour StageScreen Saturday morning training session. The exciting news is that for this special event, youngsters aged six to 18 who are NOT StageScreen students can apply to join in too. For just £5 they can enjoy a full morning of online StageScreen classes INCLUDING the Harry Potter workshop.

Heather added: “While we are doing online training we are offering two free weeks. So children who join the Harry Potter morning for £5 can still book a second free trial week with us.”

Tickets will go on sale at https://harrypotterbundle.eventbrite.co.uk on Saturday, January 30, at 9am. We expect demand to be high and places ARE limited. Youngsters who have attended previous external workshops and free trials have been given a chance to apply before sales go live to the public.

Harry Potter StageScreen workshop promo

Jack North played the roles of Karl Jenkins, Viktor Krum and Dudley Dursley in the original West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Billionaire Boy and Peppa Pig workshops

Our Starlets and Debut students (aged four to 10) have the exclusive opportunity to do a Billionaire Boy workshop in February with professional actress Emma Matthews.

Emma’s recent credits include Gangsta Granny (West End and tour) and Billionaire Boy (National Tour). Her TV credits include Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Shameless, Casualty, Doctors, No Offence and Prisoners Wives.

Melanie Clark Peppa Pig workshop

Starlets only (four to six-year-olds) will do the Peppa Pig (Muddy Puddles workshop) with Melanie Clark (pictured right)  who is currently the choreographer for the UK and West End production of Peppa Pig Live.

Melanie’s theatre credits include: George Pig in Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever (Duke of York’s Theatre West End) Ben Elf in Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Live (UK and Ireland tour), Mowgli in The Jungle Book (UK tour), George Pig in Peppa Pig’s Surprise (West End, UK & Australia tour), George Pig in Peppa Pig: My First Concert (Royal Festival Hall & UK tour), Fairy Liquid in Jack and The Beanstalk (Dorking Halls) and Red in Little Red Riding Hood (South East UK tour).

Between theatre tours, Melanie teaches at a variety of performing arts establishments: Head of Musical Theatre at Directions Performing Arts, Virtual Dance Teacher for StageCoach International, Acting Tutor at MEPA College.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the West End’s Sam Lathwood

StageScreen students (and their siblings) will enjoy a Charlie and the Chocolate factory Zoom workshop with Sam Lathwood.

Sam Lathwood StageScreen workshop

Sam trained at The Arts Educational Schools, London.

His theatre credits include: Ferdy/ Dance Captain/ 1st Young Ebenezer/ 1st Fred/ First George in A Christmas Carol (The Old Vic, West End); Messenger Boy/ 1st Robertson Ay/ 1st Valentine in Mary Poppins (Prince Edward Theatre, West End); Assistant Dance Captain/ Gym Captain/ Swing/ 1st Michael Wormwood/ 2nd Doctor in Matilda the Musical (UK and Ireland Tour); Sam in Elf the Musical (Plymouth/Manchester); Swing/ Understudy Robertson Ay in Mary Poppins (International Tour Zurich/Dubai); Crossover Swing in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal Drury Lane, West End); Disaster! (Charing Cross Theatre); Jim in Elf the Musical (European Premiere, Plymouth/Dublin); Mark/Lynch in Damn Yankees (Landor Theatre); Assistant Dance Captain/Swing in Hairspray (UK and Ireland Tour); Ensemble/ 1st Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance (Hackney Empire/Australian Tour).

Other credits include: Elf the Musical (Channel 5); The Jane McDonald Show; singer in Mary Poppins Returns (Disney Movie/ Soundtrack); backing vocalist for Adele at Wembley Stadium; singer for ‘Eurosport Winter Olympics 2018’ commercial; Royal Variety Performance (London Palladium, 2019); Mary Poppins cast recording (West End, 2020), Matilda the Movie workshops (2020); Britain’s Got Talent (ITV, 2020).

Zoom workshop with Christina Modestou

StageScreen students past and present are being invited to a workshop with Christina Modestou.

Christina ModestouChristina originated the role of Anne Boelyn in Six. This month, she will be leading a workshop for us based on The Boy In The Dress.

Principal Heather Gallagher said: “You may not be too familiar with this brand new musical. I was lucky enough to go and see it in Stratford when Christina was in it. It is pure joy!”

The Zoom workshop will take place on Sunday, January 24. The cost will be as a pay-what-you-can-afford donation (maximum £5 per person).

If you are a StageScreen student, past or present, who would like to attend, please email Heather at info@stagescreen.co.uk. She will give you more information and reserve your place on the workshop. You can pay your donation via Paypal.

Christina ran a high-energy, fun Zoom workshop as part of StageScreen’s virtual summer school in 2020. It was a real hit with students. As a result, she accepted an invitation to become patron of StageScreen’s sister school StageScreen Musical Theatre Associates.

Students thrive during third lockdown

The third lockdown holds no fears for us.  Our students are continuing to benefit from virtual lessons that are full of fun and creativity.

StageScreen students on zoom

Founder and principal, Heather Gallagher, said: “Last March, when the first lockdown came, we switched immediately to using Zoom to bring our students together for lessons. We’ve not missed a beat since.

“In a world that can feel very scary and unpredictable, I think it’s important that we give our youngsters some certainty.”

An antidote to stress and anxiety

Heather continued: “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.

“We have viewed each lockdown as a chance to shine a spotlight on what we CAN do. This has led to a host of exciting new opportunities.”

West End stars came in to teach

StageScreen’s patron, Burton-born West End theatre director Tom O’Brien, has helped Heather bring in West End stars to deliver live Zoom workshops to students.

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. Also sharing their knowledge were: Chris Tendai (Hamilton); Luke Bayer (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie); Danny Mahoney (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Florence Foster Jenkins) and Barnaby Thompson (The Lion King).

Other highlights of 2020 include the youngsters filming their own, original drama serial, Castleford Close and uploading it to the StageScreen YouTube channel. They also did one of the first UK performances of The Show Must Go Online – a musical specially written for lockdown.

Free, two-week trial on offer

StageScreen is currently offering a free, two-week trial for any new students to experience classes on Zoom classes. Youngsters aged four to 18 get age-appropriate lessons in acting, singing and film work from teachers with professional industry experience. Classes run every Saturday morning in term time.

Heather has also devised and organised a series of online performing arts competitions. These are open to all youngsters, not just StageScreen students. The first one received more than 400 video entries, including some from overseas.

Recently, StageScreen hit its target on a Crowdfunder campaign to raise money so that its child-friendly version of the hit musical Sister Act could be filmed without an audience and streamed online. The licence for the show was bought when Heather assumed it could be performed in front of a real audience at Burton’s Brewhouse Arts Centre. When the COVID-19 crisis made this impossible, StageScreen needed to raise more money for extra costs to film it and stream it online. The show can now go on as a filmed musical.

Heather said: “We are so grateful for the support we have received on Crowdfunder. We will continue to follow Government rules and guidance. So, if it’s not possible for us to come together in March to film Sister Act Jr, we will put the date back until it is safe to do so. But, meanwhile, we’ll keep creating new opportunities and providing a creative outlet for our students.”

Entries open for Heat 2 of Centre Stage Door Performing Arts Competition

Heat 2 of the Centre Stage Door Performing Arts Competition is open for entries.

Heat 2 of centres stage performing arts competition is openThis online event is organised by StageScreen founder and principal, Heather Gallagher. She said: “Our first heat in 2020 went so well and we were overwhelmed with the talent we saw coming through!”

It’s only £3 per entry. You can enter as many classes as you want in dance, drama and vocal. There are also six different age categories. Everyone who gets 85 marks or more from our professional adjudicators will qualify for our live, online, World Championship Finals at Easter 2021. If you entered heat one and didn’t qualify, you can try again in heat two. Categories for Centre Stage performing Arts Competition

Email centrestagedoor@hotmail.com to request an information and entry pack. The deadline to enter is February 27, 2021, and there are some 30 different classes to choose from. Every entrant will receive a certificate and an adjudicator’s report. There will be medals for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places in all classes.

There are three industry professional adjudicators – one for dance, one for drama and one for vocal.

Christina judges vocal categories

Christina ModestouChristina Modestou is our judge for vocal categories. She originated the role of Anne Boleyn in Six in the West End. Christina is originally from Port Talbot, South Wales.

Her theatre credits include: The Boy in the Dress (RSC); BBC 10 Pieces (Tour); The Winter’s Tale (National Theatre); Little Shop of Horrors (Regents Park Theatre); Six (Arts Theatre, Cast Recording); 35MM (The Other Palace Studio); Rent (St James Theatre, UK tour); The Last Mermaid (WMC); Shrek (UK tour); Urinetown (Apollo Theatre); In The Heights (Southwark Playhouse); The London Revue (Park Theatre); Edges (Tabard Theatre); Aladdin (Everyman Theatre); We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre)

Television appearances include: Holy Popcorn (web series); Belonging (BBC Wales); Strictly Come Dancing (BBC).

Christina trained at the Arts Educational Schools, London. In 2020 she became patron of our sister school StageScreen Musical Theatre Associates.

Katherine  hopes to inspire future dancers

Katherine JarowickiKatherine Jarowick is judging Heat 2 dance classes.

She trained at Addict Dance Academy after enjoying dance her entire life from a young age.
She has performed around the world on cruise ships, in fashion and on television for brands including Princess Cruises, The X Factor, Adidas & Reebok.

Katherine loves performing in all genres and has just as strong a passion for teaching which has lead to her current position teaching on the east coast of Australia where she is loving helping to inspire the next generation of dancers.

Tom judges drama classes

Tom O'BrienWest End theatre director and StageScreen patron Tom O’Brien will adjudicate the drama classes.

Tom is also a dramaturg and writer. He trained at ArtsEd, Living Pictures and at the National Theatre Studio.

His theatre credits include (as director): Afterglow (Southwark Playhouse); Top Hat (Cunard); Fabric (Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury/UK Tour); Underbelly (Scotsman Fringe First Winner 2016); Foiled (Edinburgh Festival); Our Friends, The Enemy (UK Tour/Edinburgh Festival/Theatre Row, New York City); The Dogs of War (Old Red Lion); Remote (Drum – Theatre Royal Plymouth/St Ives Theatre); The Wedding Singer (The Lowry); The Fastest Clock In The Universe (Old Red Lion – Recorded for The V&A National Video Archive of Performance); How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (The Lowry); Coming Up (Soho Theatre); Judy The Righteous (King’s Head); Christmas Is Miles Away (Hen and Chickens Theatre).

As resident/associate/assistant: Miss Saigon (International Tour); Little Shop Of Horrors (Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park); Half A Sixpence (Noel Coward); Dangerous Lady (Theatre Royal Stratford East); Thoroughly Modern Millie (Watermill); Merrily We Roll Along (Clwyd Theatr); Ruben Guthrie (New Wimbledon Theatre); Little Women (LOST Theatre); A Clockwork Orange and Titus Andronicus (Edinburgh Festival).