It’s hard to believe that a full semester is behind us, but we’ve succeeded in moving forward even with the challenges brought on by this pandemic school year.
Now, as we enter the second semester, we have a bit more experience, a bit more confidence, and we can take comfort in knowing that we will make it to the end of this year. The lessons we learn along the way may be some of the most profound of any school year in most of our experience. It’s reassuring to know that we are in this together.
Here’s news from the week that was:
Marvelous Myles Wins Big!
VPA Film & Animation senior Myles Summerlin became the first Booker High School student ever to win the prestigious Leaders4Life Scholarship. The L4L scholarship is funded through Take Stock in Children (TSIC) in partnership with the Asofsky Family Foundation. It is awarded annually to students in TSIC scholars that exemplify leadership skills, moral character, and academic achievement.
It is a $40,000 scholarship that covers housing, meal plans, computers, books, supplies, and other college-related expenses. Each year, more than 100 of the top TSIC scholars apply for the scholarship. The application is an arduous process of writing, interviewing, and submitting documentation of excellence in school.
TSIC strives to end the cycle of poverty through identifying high-achieving, low-income Florida students of public schools and providing them with holistic support.
Four seniors were awarded this scholarship this year from the state, two of whom are enrolled in Sarasota County Schools.
Myles plans to study film and is interested in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Ringling College of Art + Design, and the Florida State University’s Film School, among others.
Keys and Mnich to Premiere New Original Musical
What do you do when a pandemic shuffles life as you know it, weaving uncertainty into every aspect of a live production?
If you’re Scott Keys and Johnnie Mnich, you write a musical to explore the world as it is, a piece that speaks profoundly of our times while dazzling audiences with the hallmarks of live theatre.
Keys and Mnich will debut a new musical, Kingdom of Solitaire, as the department’s spring musical. The hour-long show centers on seeking unity, using a deck of cards as a conceit for social division.
Keys, who wrote the book and lyrics, said he was excited to explore current events through a parable that even very young audiences can understand. Mnich has been working his magic developing the score for the musical.
This is not the first time the pair have teamed up to lay the groundwork for a spectacular theatre experience—Sleepy Hollow, premiering in 2012, mesmerized patrons. Since that musical’s debut, they’ve written a number of pieces that have been featured on the Booker VPA stage as well as at special occasions such as the We Are Sarasota unity events.
This week, all Theatre students auditioned for roles for Kingdom of Solitaire, which will be performed in front of a live in-person audience. They also auditioned for Schoolhouse Rock Jr., which will be produced as a “Zoomsical.” This will give remote students the chance to create theatre within the comforts of home.
For Keys, the week-long audition-evaluations felt like a return to normalcy: hungry, talented, and passionate performers gave their all to impress the panel of adjudicators. He couldn’t believe how well they auditioned despite a year with so few real performance opportunities.
“I truly was afraid that all our kids’ audition and performing skills would have withered away. But every student took it very seriously, looked great, and performed well, even outstandingly,” Keys said. “Many actually showed incredible growth and maturity and skill. I never would have expected that in such an unusual year.”
Callbacks will take place throughout the week. A cast list should be posted the weekend of Jan. 30. It is an exciting return to theatre as a safe shelter bubbling with creativity, just when it feels the pandemic has dealt theatre as we know it a lousy hand.
Production & Design Students Take on Real-World Tasks
It’s common knowledge that Live Entertainment Production & Design students build sets and design lights, but this semester’s planned live events have them building budgets and designing décor.
Production & Design students are given the opportunity to construct these shows from the ground up, including analyzing budgets and researching technical needs in unconventional performance spaces. They’re also developing schematics that optimize performance quality as well as the safety and comfort of patrons.
Nick Jones and Caleb Carrier, instructors in this program, view experience as the best teacher. Their students have the chance to participate in every phase of the production, from conception to the final curtain.
Throughout planning, they are learning how aesthetic choices they make, whether in color, texture, space layout or another design element, have profound impacts on audience’s emotions, similar to those impacts of the performance itself.
Jones, a graduate of the program, says the skills they’re mastering—of collaboration, analysis, evaluation, and resourcefulness—are vital in life and aligned with Booker’s College and Career Readiness mission.
“We pride ourselves in allowing our students to analyze all aspects of a show,” Jones said. “If you dig beneath the surface, you will see that our students learn skills that will help them garner success in the industry, but also will give them life skills that will help them be responsible contributors of society.”
The unique program allows for student autonomy and inquiry that will be critical for them no matter the career they pursue, which makes the program attractive for students who value independence, student-to-student collaboration, and an opportunity to grow leadership skills that are totally transferable to any career.
SaraSolo Performances This Week
For three years, Sunny Smith and the VPA Theatre Level 3 class have partnered with SaraSolo to pen and perform intimate one-person shows. Skills students learn through coaching by renowned actress Annie Morrison are varied: they learn how to shape stories from their own lives, examine their experiences to identify themes and lessons worth sharing, and build courage and performance skills in expressing these personal, powerful pieces.
This year’s events will be online at 7 p.m. from Jan. 27-30 with a pay-what-you-can admission, and all proceeds will benefit the Booker High School VPA Theatre program. Each evening features performances by different students in the Level 3 acting class. Register here for an e-ticket and for the program of which stories will air each night, and enjoy an evening of theatre