Constellation Creatives Bursary for British East Asian Actors

Yellow Earth Theatre has been making award winning work with British actors of East Asian origin since 1995. It aims to support and champion British East Asian Actors, writers and directors to make groundbreaking work that will reach out and touch the cultural lives of all those living in the UK and beyond.

As part of its efforts to raise the profile of British East Asian actors, the Constellation Creatives Bursary awards a student of East Asian origin in their final year of drama school a bursary of £1000. The bursary is designed to encourage and promote greater participation and representation of East Asian actors on stage and screen. In this way, the Yellow Earth team are committed to encouraging young performers of this origin, offering those with the talent, skills and commitment to succeed as a professional performer the opportunity to be in quality productions that celebrate their unique cultural heritage.

Jeremy Ang Jones, a previous winner of the bursary, had this to say about the good work Yellow Earth do and the effect of the bursary on his career to date:

How did you find out about the bursary? Why did you think it was worth applying for?

I was coming towards my third year. Yellow Earth works closely with ALRA, advertising to students of East Asian heritage. I didn’t know anything about Yellow Earth until I moved to London.

I thought [the bursary] was a great opportunity to see what other East Asians were doing in my cohort - finding a bit of a network. I was in my second year and struggling with money, I was working 20 to 27 hours on top of my drama school hours, in the pub. The way student loans work, it wasn’t enough - I wanted to find some way to relieve that, because I wanted to focus on my studies. It just sounded like a great opportunity to relieve that a little bit.

What was the process like, applying and being selected?

We prepared a classical and a contemporary monologue at the Regent’s University. Kumiko Mendl (founder member and Artistic Director at Yellow Earth), Dr Valerie Kaneko-Lucas (Programme Director of Theatre and Performance at Regent's University) and Orion Lee (actor and award patron) were there, and I performed to them. I then had an interview about my ambitions as an actor and how I was doing at drama school; general questions to just talk through what I’m about and how that money would help me.

And how has it helped you?

The network aspect gave me a source of inspiration - I think during my year there were only about six East Asian students who applied. That inspired me because that kinda sucks! I want to help in any way I can. I’ve been to Yellow Earth academies to talk about the value of drama school. The bursary was given to me in my third year, which was great because we were given so much work to do, so it helped a lot to pay off expenses. It helped prepare for third year and I could look for an agent, instead of always working in the pub. I was able to focus on my showcase, which is where I got representation.

Since then, what have you been up to? What long term benefits have there been?

Apart from money, the main thing for me was knowing there was support as an East Asian actor. You hear lots of stories about whether you will get work or not. But to know there’s a community there to support me... I’m still in contact with Kumiko, and she’s put me in touch with people for work. That’s how I got my first professional theatre job with Richard III at The Faction Theatre. Now I’m in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - so things kind of just tumbled on from there, which was really nice. I came from Portsmouth and there wasn’t a massive acting community there, so coming to London I felt like a fish out of water. Knowing there's a community there and that I  have  support is great.

Any final words to other young actors considering the bursary and getting involved with Yellow Earth?

Definitely do it - it’s worth it. For many reasons: for support, the money, and also even though you’re competing against each other for the bursary, know that that is a community that you will one day come out and be a part of. I’d like to thank Orion Lee so much for offering this bursary - hopefully I’ll be able to give back one day!

To be eligible, students must be of East Asian descent, and in their final year of a three year BA acting course or musical theatre course at a recognised drama school. The deadline for applications is 1st May 2017, with auditions to be held on 14th May. For more information, drop an email to [email protected]

Find out more about what Yellow Earth are up to, including information about their most recent productions here. If you’re looking for more advice, Jeremy is always happy to answer any questions if other young performers have questions - just tweet him!

Image credit: Yellow Earth's production of Tamburlaine, photo courtesy of Robert Workman