American dream dealt a crushing blow

Student Frances Pattinson looks over American brochures as immigration rules mean she wont be able to take her place at university in New York
Student Frances Pattinson looks over American brochures as immigration rules mean she wont be able to take her place at university in New York

Frances Pattinson should now be looking forward to life in the Big Apple but instead the talented actress is left ruing her luck after an immigration condition put paid to her American dream.

Francis thought her fledgling career was on course for a life changing boost after she secured a place at New York Conservatory for Dramatic Art.

Word of her acceptance quickly spread and 17 year old Frances received the support of Duns Rotary who donated £1000 to her Big Apple funding pot.

However, despite being able to drum up the finances required for accommodation and fees for her first year at the Conservatory, Frances’ dream was crushed thanks to a condition that she also had to prove she could fund her second year, despite not even setting foot in the college yet.

Berwickshire High student Frances and her family had planned to raise money for the second year of her course during the first but this pledge wasn’t enough to satisfy officials.

And that led to Frances’ mum having to make the tough decision that her daughter’s ambitions just weren’t feasible.

“She was in tears when she told me,” Frances admitted.

“It must have been hard for her to have to break the news to me but she’s got my younger brother and sister to think about as well.

“I was really upset after starting to plan for New York but the emotion and tears only really lasted a night.

“It was quite hard telling my friends as I know they were really excited for me and appreciated that it was a chance of a lifetime.

“I am massively grateful to the Rotary for having such faith in me and I did explore other funding paths but unfortunately a lot of the grants dictated that the project had to be based in the UK.”

Although she is bitterly disappointed that she won’t be starting the next stage of her education in New York, Frances can take a lot from the fact the Conservatory representatives were mightily impressed with her when she travelled down to London to audition for them.

“I first came across the Conservatory when I was Googling possible schools a few years ago but as I was only 14 at the time I put it on the backburner,” she continued.

“I investigated further last year, filled in a form and got my audition. I had to perform two monologues, in the first I took on the role of a raunchy 1920s flapper while the second was a very emotional piece and I actually cried.

“I think the pressure of the day got to me and when the guy went to shake my hand at the end I felt like I was reaching for my future.

“I auditioned on the Sunday and I got a call on the Wednesday to say I’d got in.”

That was back in November and now after coming to terms with the heartache of no longer being able to take up her place at the Conservatory, Frances is looking forward to enrolling at Glasgow University in the autumn where she plans to study English Literature with Theatre and Television.

“I really believe the future is bright for me,” the young actress enthused.

“Acting is still the career I want to get into. I know Glasgow’s got a really great drama scene with lots of different societies and I can’t wait to get involved.

“I recently did my Advanced Higher Music exam and one of the examiners said I had a great singing voice for musical theatre. I was really flattered as it’s not an avenue I’d thought of going down before but who knows.”

Frances pinpointed the summer of 2009 as the time she was first bitten by the acting bug, describing a residential theatre course she attended in Melrose as one of the greatest experiences of her life to date.

“It was a big moment for me. I was only 13 at the time and was put in a group of people that I didn’t know at all.

“But we quickly developed this really intense bond and had an amazing time.

“We performed a version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and I played Puck which was a fantastic part to play.

“That show was responsible for me falling in love with Shakespeare and the whole idea of the traditional thespian actor.”

Although now a huge fan of the bard, you have to fast forward a few centuries to find Frances’ main acting inspiration.

“I’m a huge, huge fan of Meryl Streep,” she continued.

She’s a real method actress but she never overplays her parts.

“I was watching ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ just the other day and she gets all the traits and characteristics of her role spot on.”

For the moment Frances is busy rehearsing with her Maltings Youth Theatre castmates as the talented ensemble prepare for the opening night of ‘His Dark Materials II’ on June 20.

Frances plays the role of Serafina Pekkala, queen of the witches and said after playing her in the first instalment last year, she was looking forward to stepping back into her shoes.

“She’s a terrific character to play. She’s a strong woman with a sensitive side that she tries to cover up. The second ‘His Dark Materials’ is even more exciting and fantastical than the first.”

And Frances’ last word on New York?

“I’ll get there some day. I still really want to go; I’ve always dreamt big and I’m not going to stop now.”