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Creativity in the Time of Covid–Aug. 15, 2021

It’s Official! Ms. Smith to Chair VPA Theatre

Ms. Smith takes on the role of Department Chair for VPA Theatre.

Sunny Smith was officially named the Chair of the VPA Theatre Department this week, after a vacancy was created by the departure of longtime Chair Scott Keys. This is Ms. Smith’s sixth year on VPA Theatre staff, where she has been the adjunct acting instructor since 2015.

Ms. Smith has directed numerous plays at Booker High School, where she has also established a robust partnership with Sarasolo. The partnership has allowed her juniors to develop their own voices as artists, as they write and perform one-person plays that are intimate and personal, telling individual stories with their unique voices.

As chairperson, Ms. Smith already brings an energy for collaboration with other VPA departments, as well as theatres, film companies, and arts organizations in the community.

Gray Matter: Smith in The Urbanite’s “Incognito” in 2018.

Originally from Wisconsin, she moved to California to pursue her acting career and to further her education. She graduated from San Diego State University with a BA in Theatre performance, holds an acting certificate from the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, and earned an MFA in Acting from the University of Florida while also working as a teaching fellow.

With a successful career on stages around the nation, as well as in Sarasota, Ms. Smith brings a wealth of professional experience to her students. She also has enjoyed a film career as an actor, director, and producer, and hopes to offer students exploration in film to help open more opportunities to them in high school and post-graduation.

Mr. Z Dazzles as Lead of Manatee Players’ “Pippin”

Zickafoose plays the title role in Manatee Players’ “Pippin”

Alex Zickafoose is back in the news for being back on the stage in the Manatee Players’ production of “Pippin.” Mr. Zickafoose leads a cast of Booker VPA students and alum, including Tay Marquise, who is spellbinding as the Leading Player in this hit Stephen Schwartz musical.

VPA at the MPAC: Tay Marquise as the Leading Player, with Mr. Zickafoose as Pippin, along with other VPA alum.

Mr. Zickafoose is no stranger to the musical theatre world: recently, he’s been on stage in the Manatee Players’ “Newsies” and a production of “Heathers the Musical” at the Starlite room.

But since the pandemic, with theatres navigating a COVID-restriction landscape, “Pippin” represents an optimism of a waning belief that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. Still, with great reviews from longtime Herald Tribune theatre critic Jay Handelman, and a mask mandate for patrons, “Pippin” presents an opportunity to escape and the rare chance these days to find delight in live performance, expertly executed.

Mr. Zickafoose recently connected with Robyn Bell, director of instrumental studies at the State College of Florida, to record this conversation for the Suncoast Culture Club podcast. Take a listen and learn more about our diversely talented, endlessly energetic, and totally adored choral director.

Mr. Strenk’s Summer Job was Cooler than Yours

The First Energy Stadium in Cleveland

Those who know Steve Strenk well know that he gets gigs all over the place plying his art in a million different ways. He paints murals, houses, and tons of artworks that are hung everywhere from banks to hotels.

This summer, though, Mr. Strenk tried on a new job as a production assistant for a Progressive Insurance. Shot on site in Cleveland’s First Energy Stadium (home of the Browns), the “At Home with Baker Mayfield” commercial gig offered Mr. Strenk access to the press box and other prohibited areas, an introduction to Alice Cooper, and a glimpse of the fast-paced work that is film commercial work.

Films Selected for All-American High School Film Festival

The All-American High School Film Festival announced that it has accepted three shorts from Film & Animation for the 2021 festival. “Adrift” (directed by Alaya Knowlton), “Chick Flick” (directed by Toby Jaffee), and “Sorry for the Delay” (directed by Styles Summerlin) were selected to be screened in the festival Oct. 9 and 10 in Times Square in New York City.

All three films also were official selections in the 2021 Sarasota Film Festival.

SAT and ACT Tests Coming Up

ACT and SAT test sessions are coming up, and juniors and seniors will want to register. These college entrance exams are an important step in post-secondary planning.

  • SAT: Test date–Oct. 2 | Register by: Sept. 3 | Late registration: Sept. 21 | Register here
  • ACT–Test date: Oct. 23 | Register by: Sept. 17 | Late registration: Oct. 1 | Register here

Students qualifying for free-and-reduced lunch can get payment waivers for these exams. See Ms. Davis in the College Career Resource Center. Need help preparing? Go see Booker’s test prep guru Mr. Bobby during your lunch to set up an appointment. Students on IEPs or 504s, print your registration test ticket and present it to Ms. Catlin in 4-201.

You got this!

First Week Back in Pictures

Building community one flight at a time: Ms. Courtney Smith’s Dance students enjoy paper airplane relay races and other hands-on community building games as a means of strengthening bonds, increasing trust, and developing new friendships.

Lifting voices to lift spirits: Mr. Zickafoose’s 7th period “Vocal Vortex” takes a break from singing to pose for this pic.

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