New beginnings for Omagh Theatre School

A LOCAL drama theatre group is packing up from their old premises and moving to pastures new.

Hazel Wand Theatre School group has been at the same premises on Bridge House, Bridge Street in the town for three decades, but are now moving to a location at the Strule Arts Centre.

Leanne Daly, director, explained the exciting move.

"It is very exciting adventure ahead for the Hazel Wanders. The Strule Arts Centre offers state-of-the-art facilities, great purpose-built spaces and where better to train in your craft than on a professional stage?

"The move is bittersweet, Hazel Wand has been on Bridge Street since 1993 and, in that time, thousands of children have passed through our doors.

"Hazel Wanders old and new have always considered the studio a second home, a safe space to be yourself with like-minded people. However, Hazel Wand is not just a building. To most of us, Hazel Wand is the lady who started it all in 1993, and the community we have built over the years.

"Sr Aengus will be with us now as we move onward and upward, and we hope you will continue to support us as we strive to grow our community for many years to come!"

More classes and activities prompted the move to allow ample space.

"We are now offering more classes in a diverse range of activities. This requires a bigger space than we had available in Bridge Street.

"There is also the growing concern of the accessibility of the Bridge Street studio, having stairs at both entrances is not ideal when you are dealing with hundreds of people coming in every week.

"The building has served us so well for nearly 30 years, however the time has come to make the more for the benefit of our current students.

"We cannot thank Emmet Murray enough for being a kind, compassionate and considerate landlord," she added.

Hazel Wand has expanded over the past few years, offering a wider range of activities. There are weekly performing arts classes which have been taken place since 1993, in addition, the theatre group offers GCSE and A Level Drama and Theatre Studies, a ‘Little munchkin’ class for three to four year olds, specialist dance classes for groups, singing and piano tuition on an individual basis and in more recent times classes for toddlers and their grown-ups to attend together.

Some students attend one discipline, and some students can be in up to four times a week.

In reflection of the big move, Leanne spoke of her memories of Hazel Wand Theatre School.

"I joined Hazel Wand as child in 1995, I’ve been up the yellow steps countless times. I had the privilege to attend Hazel Wand as a student of Sr. Aengus and then to be asked back by her to teach.

"I have met some of the best people and am forever blown away by the community that exists at Hazel Wand. A memory that sticks out to me, and one I know will resonate with a lot of Hazel Wanders: Years ago, when you completed your Speech and Drama exams, the examiner would mark and grade you right away.

"As an examinee, you stood outside the door of the room upstairs and waited for a bell. This bell meant to had to go in and collect your mark. Your mark was handed to you on a folded piece of paper.

"I remember that wait and carrying the folded piece of paper down to Aengus with utmost care. She would unfold and tell you what your mark was and talk you through the feedback…always rewarding you with a lollypop - Red, green or blue/green was the best!"

"We are so lucky to have the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh, the facilities are exceptional and will be of great benefit to our students!

"We had a home in the Bridge Street studio, we want to carry the same sense of community and belonging into the Strule Arts. We are becoming a theatre school in residence in a professional theatre, this will greatly benefit our students," she added.

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