As we celebrate one of our young stars preparing to join The MGA Academy of Performing Arts in Edinburgh, we spoke to Orla Prentice about making that exact same leap two years ago.
Orla was part of Phoenix Youth Theatre for almost 10 years – from being our tiniest orphan in ‘Annie’ to a leading dancer in ‘Oklahoma!’.
What is your earliest memory of Phoenix Youth Theatre?
It would have to be getting to do so many different improvisations and funny scenes in groups with my classmates. It was a good way to be creative and also to develop my improvisation skills, which has been really useful.
What were some of your highlights from your time with Phoenix?
‘Oklahoma!’ was absolutely my favourite show to be a part of. I made the closest friends and, as Dream Laurey, got to be an amazing part in such a brilliant show. Looking back, being Molly in ‘Annie’ was also such a fantastic opportunity for me to experience the stage as more than an ensemble role. I may have been very young, but it gave me such confidence to pursue theatre as a career.
What has your experience of life at The MGA Academy been like?
Studying musical theatre full time has definitely got its ups and downs. It’s hard work and can sometimes not be very rewarding. However, when you do see progress and achieve something, it makes it all worthwhile. I know that it’s a long road, but hard work really does pay off. The classes are all so varied and full-on, but definitely beneficial and I get to build on what I learned when I was young.
Which of the skills and lessons you learned at Phoenix have been most useful in your professional training?
The two biggest things from my decade at Phoenix would be improving my concentration and confidence. Another lesson I always take with me is “your body doesn’t know that you’re acting”, which is so important to make sure you don’t leave yourself in a negative mindset after a rehearsal or performance of character work. Overall, I learned a lot of the three core disciplines of musical theatre while at Phoenix, which gave me a great standard of knowledge to start my training and meant I wasn’t starting right from the beginning.
With another young Phoenix star following in your footsteps this September, what would your advice be?
Honestly, give it everything and don’t hold back. Remember that the MGA staff want you to be good and are looking to see your qualities and potential. I would also say to listen to everything they say. Nearly every tutor at MGA has been a professional in their discipline and has a lot of knowledge and experience to share with you. Soak it up!