Legendary drag artist, songstress, and performer Divina De Campo was announced as the host of The Stage Debut Awards 2023, in association with Ambassador Theatre Group.
The Stage Debut Awards is the only dedicated award recognizing breakthrough theatre talent. Taking place on October 1st this year, the prestigious event brings together the previous 12 months’ most exciting and emerging performers and creatives in a special ceremony celebrating their outstanding professional debuts.
Divina is currently performing in the nationwide tour of The SpongeBob Musical. Since competing in the very first season of RuPaul’s UK Drag Race in 2019 she has starred in a series of major theatrical productions, most recently enjoying critical acclaim cast as Mary Sunshine in Chicago and also in her award-winning role in the revival of cult musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Upcoming, Divina will lead the cast of Snow White at The Wyvern Theatre in this year’s pantomime as the evil Queen Morgiana. With a solid history in musical theatre, Divina has secured her status as a multi-faceted theatrical tour de force.
Divina comments: “I am so proud and honored to be hosting The Stage Debut Awards this year because they really do shine a vital light on those at the start of their careers. This awards ceremony gives an important platform to the breakthrough talent in the industry and it lets the rest of us know they’re coming for us! I can’t wait to celebrate with all the deserved nominees on the night.”
Commenting on Divina’s debut hosting The Stage Debut Awards, The Stage editor Alistair Smith, says: “Known to millions for their appearances on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, we can’t wait to have Divina De Campo hosting The Stage Debut Awards this year. Having already shown themselves to be a multi-faceted performer through star turns in shows such as Hedwig and The Angry Inch, Chicago, and The SpongeBob Musical, Divina is the perfect host to help us celebrate the next generation of emerging theatre talent.”
The much-anticipated annual event will be held for the second year running in association with headline sponsor Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), and hosted at 8 Northumberland Avenue, London.
The eight awards champion performers, directors, designers, writers, composers, and lyricists.
The award categories include Best Performer in a Play; Best Performer in a Musical; Best Creative West End Debut; Best Director; Best Designer; Best Writer and Best Composer/Lyricist or Book Writer. The winner of the Best West End Debut Performer is the only category to be determined by a public vote.
The shortlist of Nominees will be unveiled on 24 August.
A star-studded line-up of performers and presenters will also be revealed at a later date.
The inaugural The Stage Debut Awards took place in 2017 and recipients of these awards have gone on to star in West End shows, television series, and films. Notable award winners include last year’s Best West End debut Jodie Comer (Prima Facie), Composer/Lyricist SpitLip (Operation Mincemeat) Shan Ako (Hamilton), Tyrell Williams (Red Ptich), Sam Tutty (Dear Evan Hansen), Miriam-Teak Lee (& Juliet), Jac Yarrow (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Bush Theatre Artistic Director Lynette Linton, and Composers Femi Temowo (Death of a Salesman) and Dan Gillespie Sells (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie).
In addition to hosting the prestigious annual The Stage Debut Awards Divina De Campo spoke a bit about her experiences and gives some sage stagey advice.
Have you always loved performing? Was there a seminal moment that you realised you wanted to be a performer?
I have a really strong memory of being in assembly when I was very small and we were singing a classic assembly banger. When we finished the headmaster called me Pavarotti. I didn’t know who that was I was 3 or 4 but I knew it was about me singing. After that, it just became something I did I guess.
What would you say to your younger drag self?
Practice your makeup more and learn from the people who know what they’re doing earlier, if you think I look rough now you should’ve seen me then!
What is the most important lesson that you’ve ever learned in your early career?
Keep true to yourself, and be honest. You know what you want from life and work, be honest with yourself about it, and don’t pretend things are better than they are. They don’t get better that way.
Do you think drag could ever be fully mainstream?
I think it was, drag was a staple of British culture right up until the late 2000s and even then people like Lily Savage and Dame Edna would pop up regularly. Mrs Brown whether it’s your cup of tea or not, is drag. Is it something more people will do? Probably not. There are a few queens who shouldn’t do it already (laughing)
Who is exciting you right now on stage?
There are so many fantastic performers, Courtney Bowman is brilliant, I’m working with Lewis Cornay right now and he is magical, then there are people like Mazz Murray who just have power when they step on stage. I’m also working with Chrissie Bhima and I just know she is going to do amazing things.
Can you share some of your most memorable experiences or highlights from your performing career so far?
Performing at the Palladium with the Frock Destroyers was quite something. Three nights of just pure Joy.
I’ve made films, musicals, and cabaret shows, and traveled all over. I’ve been exceptionally lucky and had a really varied career. The things I’ve enjoyed the most have been projects that have really stretched me. I made a short film called DIVA which is contemporary music and while my vocal is far from perfect it was an incredible experience working with some exceptional talents. It’s one of those things I look at and go “You did that”.
Have you ever faced any challenges or obstacles in your acting journey? How did you overcome them?
I faced one with Plankton if I’m honest. I’ve spent twenty years playing feminine characters, building them from the ground up, and then switching to a much more masculine character was a real challenge. I have a moment where the character really comes into focus for me. They sort of start out a blurry outline and slowly as the lens turns they become clearer. That took a bit more time for me. The only way to make it happen was rehearsal and committing to choices and then being honest with myself about if they were working or not.
Are there any performers whom you consider as your role models or who have influenced your craft?
Kristin Chenoweth is my role model. She is just a powerhouse and a joyous human. She brings a real sense of fun to work you wouldn’t necessarily interpret that way. Whilst also having the ability to create real vulnerability and sadness when needed. I just think she’s incredible. Seeing that gives me the drive to keep developing and growing.
What advice do you have for aspiring performers who are just starting their acting journey?
Commit. There are no half-measures when you’re acting. You have to be there in that moment with the people on stage and really be having those conversations. If you’re thinking about the chips you’re getting on the way home people will know.
Why do you think something like The Stage Debut Awards is important for the industry right now?
There is such amazing talent about and after what has been a nightmare two years for everyone and our whole industry those people who should be two years in are just getting those jobs. This award ceremony really gives the platform to those people and it lets the rest of us know they’re coming for us (laughing)
What does the future look like for Divina de Campo? What are your next plans?
I’m going to be doing what Mama Ru says I Betta! Work! (laughing) I’m super excited to be joining Imagine theatres’ production of Snow White at the Wyvern Theatre Swindon as The Wicked Queen! Mwahaha oh yes I Am!
ABOUT DIVINA DE CAMPO
Divina De Campo is the stage name of Owen Farrow, a seasoned British drag queen and singer. Known for her high soprano and 4-octave range, Divina has been featured on national television programs including The Voice, All Together Now, and most recently on the first season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Her love of theatre led her to star in stage productions including The Ruby Slippers, a play that explores prejudice in the LGBT community, and Dancing Bear, a musical that explores faith, sexuality and gender identity.
Divina has worked with the George House Trust, a charity supporting people living with HIV. She has also hosted Superbia’s Drag Queen Story Time, reading stories to young children.
When not touring, recording or filming, Owen enjoys a quiet life with his husband. @divinadecampo
ABOUT THE STAGE
Established in 1880, The Stage is a must-read for those with an involvement or interest in the performing arts industry in the UK and beyond. The Stage offers nationwide theatre news, jobs, castings, reviews, and advice. The Stage is also responsible for the annual list of the 100 most influential people in theatre and the performing arts – The Stage 100, The Stage Awards, and The Future of Theatre Conference.
ABOUT AMBASSADOR THEATRE GROUPFounded in 1992, Ambassador Theatre Group have grown to be a world leader in live entertainment. They cover every discipline in the theatre industry, operating venues, running major ticketing platforms and producing award-winning shows.