Natalie Abbott

Coming to Sydney for the John Bell Scholarship in 2013 filled me with possibility and started my journey as an actor and musical theatre performer.

My whole class prepared monologues and travelled from Nowra on the south coast of NSW to Wollongong for the audition. I chose Viola from Twelfth Night and spent weeks practicing and preparing. It was terrifying but so much fun. When my teacher got the call that I won a scholarship place I was over the moon! It was inspiring not just for me but also for my teachers and the other kids at my school.

Observing rehearsals of Henry IV during the John Bell Scholarship week and seeing a room full of adults doing what they loved changed my life. I didn’t know that acting as a career was a possibility and something I was interested in pursuing until I witnessed it. The experience gave me permission to be confident about what I wanted to do in life.

I remember performing my monologue for John Bell, which was surreal and incredible. At the end of the week, he gave us each a signed copy of the play that our chosen monologue came from. It’s a gift I treasure.

Whenever I see something that Bell Shakespeare is doing, I feel a sense of pride that I am connected to something much larger than myself. When I was performing as Muriel in Muriel’s Wedding, Bell Shakespeare sent me a card saying “congratulations, we are so proud of you and can’t wait to see where this takes you.” The continued encouragement is so lovely.

2020 was a really bleak. My friends all lost their jobs. It was a sad, dark time for our beautiful industry. As actors, we like to lift people up when they are down and we weren’t able to reach our audiences.

Coming back in 2021 for new projects and workshops with new Australian work – you can feel the momentum and the creative energy in the air. Being able to come back into Bell Shakespeare’s rehearsal room and do something that you are passionate about again is amazing. It is almost like you are seeing the rebirth of the industry from the ground up. For me, coming back after 8 years brought back so many wonderful memories. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I can remember everything about the John Bell Scholarship week!

My dream for Bell Shakespeare is that there continues to be opportunities for young people in regional communities. Your support gives young people confidence and can change someone’s life!

To support Bell Shakespeare, you can donate online or contact our Philanthropy Team via email or phone at 02 8298 9080.