SACRIFICING a weekend lie-in is not a decision that many would take very lightly, but for Sara Hird, early Sunday mornings filled her with nothing but excitement as a child.

“I have known since I was eight years old that I wanted to perform and I got involved with anything and everything I could that involved acting and transforming myself into a different character. When I turned ten, I was thrilled to join Stagecoach and went there every Sunday, from 9am until 1pm, until I turned 17.”

The 21-year old, theatre fanatic from Bishop Auckland, the granddaughter of well-known local businessman John Elliott of Ebac, has spent the last two years on a conservatory programme at the prestigious New York Film Academy. The demanding programme allows students to working on original plays and musicals.

Students participate in a broad array of musical theatre and film classes that focus on helping them find the actor within, expand their vocal and physical range, and guide them to learn and apply the emotional, physical, and technical work necessary for quality film acting. Near the end of the second year, the students perform in a musical-based short film and a live showcase presentation guided by Broadway level instructors for family, friends, classmates, and industry contacts.

“Our classes were from 9am until 7pm every day, and then we sometimes had three-hour rehearsals following that, including acting and vocal sessions, hip-hop dancing, tap, ballet and acting for film workshops, to name a few,” says Sara. “It does sound slightly overwhelming when you say it out loud, but I wouldn’t change a thing. What’s better than doing what you love, all day, every day?”

Established in 1992 by Jerry Sherlock, director of the Oscar-winning The Hunt for the Red October, The New York Film Academy has boasted stars such as Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza and Glee’s musical misfits, Chord Overstreet and Naya Rivera.

Now back in the UK after finishing her two-year course at the Academy, Sara is waiting with fingers crossed to receive a performer’s visa to continue her Broadway dream in New York City. In the meantime, she’s been travelling to auditions in London, and hopes to re-immerse herself back into the world of home-grown theatre, by applying to join several theatre societies in the North East.

Sara’s CV boasts a number of modern and classic musical productions at local theatres, including Shildon Operatic Society, Hurworth Theatre, Darlington Civic theatre and King James Theatre.

Musicals are Sara’s forte, and while studying in New York, she worked with some of the best mentors. She recently filmed musical movie Alma Mater, which was directed by Nathan Brewer, assistant director on Broadway, and written by Emily Kaczmarek, a script writer also working in the theatre district. The film was inspired by a group of classmates studying at the Academy, including Sara.

Set in the 1993, Alma Mater tells the story of two conflicting, feminist girl gangs, The Riot Girls and Woman of Substance, and their struggle for equality and breaking social conventions. It’s a coming-of-age story, set to take film festivals by storm when it debuts in the New Year.

Sara, who plays lead Pippa, says: “I’m so proud to have been involved with a production that we’ve all had a hand in from start to finish, and I can’t wait to see everyone’s reaction when they see it.

“I will always love performing. I have yet to find something that I am more passionate about in my life, and can honestly say that theatre has allowed me to truly find myself.”

So if you see the name Sara Hird up in lights on Broadway or the West End, you’ll know the determined girl from Bishop Auckland has fulfilled her dreams. And I wouldn’t bet against it.