Alumni and Supporters Success in 2017
It’s a new year and many of our alumni, supporters, staff and students are kicking 2018 off with some amazing achievements in the performing arts and creative industries.
Below we have shared with you our alum and Patrons news. In February, we will be sharing interviews and news of those alumni who left Wac Arts to work outside of the arts.
Many of our staff and tutors are doing wonderful things outside of the Old Town Hall and we will share these good news stories as they come in.
To start with, Leonie Elliot-Graves and Chas Mollet, two members of our Disability and Inclusions Programmes team, have written a fantastic piece together, celebrating the ways that we use inclusive technology at Wac Arts to support young people with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities). The article was written for and published in PMLD Link, a leading research journal in this field of work. Congratulations to Leonie and Chas, and we cannot wait to see what you write next.
Keep on reading to find out what you may see our alum and Patrons up to in the year to come…
Wac Arts Alumni
Sheila is a Senior Wac Arts alum who has been taking the West End by storm. Her performance in Girl from the North Country was sensational, and we were excited when it was announced she would be joining the West End transfer. Following their press night at the beginning of January, Sheila’s performance has continued to receive high praise.
“… Sheila Atim as their adopted daughter Marianne makes a blazing impression, not least vocally, with the extraordinary stillness and power of her Tracy Chapman-like spellbinding authority.”
Mark Shenton, London Theatre
When she’s not been performing on stage, Sheila has been keeping busy, appearing in January’s edition of Vogue, composing music for fellow Senior Wac Arts alum Ché Walker’s production of Doubt, and appearing in the radio adaption of Neil Gaiman’s Anasi Boys. We can’t wait to see what she gets up to in 2018.
Chris Cooper is an alum of our Wac Wonder Web and Win Win projects. During this time, he grew his confidence and has been able to live more independently. He is both Alternative Abilities Ambassador for Islington for youth communications charity Exposure, and Youth Patron for Ambitious about Autism, and writes articles for both organisations. He also creates his own artwork, which is sold through Art Box London, a non-profit arts organisation, and works for Red Brick Road, an advertising agency based in Clerkenwell. Finally, Chris is a public speaker, who most notably gave a talk at the Royal Academy about the relationship between art and disability. Keep up the good work Chris!
One of the many people we heard from at our fundraiser was O-T Fagbenle, a Senior Wac Arts alum who unfortunately couldn’t join us at the event as he was busy over in the United States, writing and directing his own TV show. OT sent messages of luck and love to the cast and these messages were uplifting during the tired moments in rehearsals. When he’s not busy directing he has been starring in The Handmaid’s Tale, which has been picking up awards left, right and centre. We can’t wait to see Season Two later this year.
Daniel Kaluuya has been flying high throughout 2017 – it’s no surprise that he has been nominated for the Bafta Rising Star award. He has received high praise (and many nominations) for his breakthrough role in Get Out including a nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards! Many cannot wait for him to appear on the big screen once again in Marvel’s Black Panther, out next month, and we will be crossing our fingers when watching the Oscars on 4th March.
There has hardly been a time in 2017 when Sophia, one of our Diploma graduates, has been offstage. She kicked off the year in The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, for which she received the news this week that she is a finalist for Best Female Performance in a Musical at the Off-West End Awards. She then went on tour with Dirty Dancing as Elizabeth. She is now back in London, appearing in The Grinning Man, a musical retelling of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs. Opening in December of last year, the production has now had its run extended until April 14th.
Head of Acting and Senior Wac Arts coordinator, Steve Medlin, has been splitting his time between London and Manchester. He has been working with Eclipse Theatre on their most recent production, Black Men Walking as Movement Director, alongside Director and Wac Arts friend Dawn Walton. The show kicked off at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, before touring the country. It received many positive reviews, including five stars from The Stage!
Long time supporter and Senior Wac Arts alum Ché Walker has made a name for himself as a director and playwright. He is now in America, preparing for the opening of The Ballad of Klook and Vinette, co-written with fellow Brits Anoushka Lucas and Omar Lyefook. Originally staged at the Park Theatre here in London (as Klook’s Last Stand), the production is bound to take audiences at The Horizon Theatre, Atlanta, by storm. In addition, the movie based on his musical collaboration with Arthur Darvill, Been So Long, is expected to be released on Netflix later this year. Described as a ‘modern-day romance set on the streets of Camden’, we’re sure it’s going to be a hit.
A few years ago, one of our Senior Wac Arts students left our Sunday programmes and with help on his audition piece from Ché and Steve he got a place to train at RADA. We knew he would be going on to big things, so we weren’t surprised to hear that Jamael Westman would be stepping straight out of drama school onto the West End stage in Hamilton, a historic hip hop extravaganza. Reviews have been astounding, but you’d have to get pretty lucky to get a ticket – they’re currently sold out for the rest of the show’s run.
Our second new Patron this year, Jonathan Butterell has been enjoying high praise for the new musical, Everybody’s Talking about Jamie, which he conceived the idea for and directed. Shortly before the end of 2017, the musical transferred to the West End from the Sheffield Crucible, and it has just been announced that its run has been extended until October of this year – so you have no excuses for missing it! Our Diploma students were fortunate enough to be there for the opening night and had a blast! We cannot wait for Jonathan to come and deliver a Jamie workshop to our young people in Spring.
Most people associated Charles Dickens with two things – Christmas, and Simon Callow – and this year proved not to be the exception. Our busy Patron started the season by appearing in The Man Who Invented Christmas as the illustrator of Charles Dicken’s books. He also released his own album, a reading of The Christmas Carol with traditional carols performed by The Brighouse and Rastrick Band. When he wasn’t on our TV screens in The Rebel, he was on stage in Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis to much critical acclaim. Don’t worry if you missed him in his limited four day run at the Vaudeville – Mr Callow joined the cast of Death in Paradise, available on BBC iPlayer now.
Earlier this year, we welcomed Martina as a new Patron for the organisation, and we were delighted to have her perform at our annual fundraiser in December. She is now taking to the Globe’s stage in All’s Well That Ends Well – her seventh Shakespeare role in a row. You’ll also be able to spot her in the Donmar Warehouse’s Shakespeare Trilogy when it is airs on the BBC later this year. She recently talked about this experience and her hopes for a diverse theatre future in an interview with The Stage.
Alumni and Patron Danny Sapani doesn’t seem to have been off the screen throughout the winter. The beginning of December saw him in hit Netflix series The Crown, as President Nkrumah. You may have also spotted him in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, as the Medical Frigate Captain. He took on his Patron duties with passion and delight as he supported us at our annual fundraiser, hosting the evening with Diploma student Shelby. We now eagerly await the return of Harlots, where we’ll get to see him on our TV screens once again.