Seventeen drama students heading into their final years have been awarded a combined total of £56,000 as part of the 2011 Laurence Olivier Bursaries.
The scheme, which has previously helped performers including Ewan McGregor, Michael Sheen, Daniel Rigby and Bryony Hannah complete their courses, aims to help talented students who need financial assistance to finish their formal training.
In 2011, the group of potential stars of the future who have received a Laurence Olivier Bursary includes Emma Hook, Chris Leask, Michaela Coel, Jason Callender, Alasdair Hankinson, Prisca Shallcross, Matthew Benjamin, Melissa Johns, Adam Nagaitis and Dan Parr.
In addition to awarding Laurence Olivier Bursaries of up to £7,500, the Society of London Theatre also helps award a number of other bursaries. In 2011, Edwin Thomas is awarded the Mary Selway Bursary, Jennifer Greenwood receives the Carmen Silvera Bursary and Maria Louis, Lorna Nickson-Brown, Stephanie Hyam, Molly Gromadzki and Jennifer English receive Behrens Foundation Bursaries.
Speaking about what the award means to her, Hook said: “The whole of my second year was a stress about whether I could carry on into the third year. You put it to the back of your mind and concentrate on the now, try and get a job and hope for the best, but the moment I found out [about the bursary] I was in tears at the thought that I can now actually finish drama school without any stresses. It’s just so lovely that people want to help you out in that situation.”
The Laurence Olivier Bursary was created in 1987 to mark the 80th birthday of Sir Laurence Olivier, who was keen to help young actors with the potential to make a major contribution to British theatre.
Each summer, the principals of selected drama schools have the opportunity to nominate two of their students, who must be approaching their final year and in financial need, to put forward for the bursary. Around 40 students then audition and are interviewed before the recipients are decided.
Mark Rubinstein, President of the Society of London Theatre, commented: “What’s fantastic is that the students who were awarded bursaries today were all put forward by the principals of their colleges; people who have watched them evolve and really know that they have extraordinary talent, but are facing severe financial hardship. It is wonderful that we can provide some extra financial support to ensure they can complete their training and become vital players in the West End and the UK’s great acting fraternity.”