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Creativity in the Time of Covid–May 29, 2022

Rebecca Abrahamson Bids Farewell…

For those of you not aware, the end of this school year will mark the end of my two-decade career at Booker High School. Anyone in my orbit in the past year or so has heard my schtick: “By now, I’ve spent nearly half my life at 3201 North Orange Avenue.”

Chapter 1: Becky King Gets Accepted into Theatre

I was lucky enough to be accepted into the VPA Theatre program in 1988. In high school, I was extremely grateful for Booker VPA. Those who know me know that it changed the course of my life. I’d had a less-than-ideal childhood–I’d lived with a single mom who had a hard time making ends meet, became terminally ill in her 40s, and succumbed at 50 to COPD; I was 12 at the time. All this had led to my being a terrible student, totally uninterested in school, with no concept of future or citizenship. Booker changed that for me, instilling in me a sense of self worth, drive, and connectivity with the world. I have been proud to witness this “Booker way” impacting countless students.

My long history with Booker, its deeply interwoven presence in my life, has been a point of pride and identity for me. Booker High School has, no doubt, played an integral role in shaping the person, citizen, and thinker I am today. However, the fact of my employment at the school was unplanned entirely.

My first Booker show, “My Cup Runneth Over,” was student directed by Karma Tiffany.


Indeed, I had no interest in a career in schools. I’d earned a Bachelor’s of Art in English lit and a Master’s of Art in Mass Communications and anticipated a career focused in communications. But when the opportunity arose to teach Mass Communications and advise the newspaper, The Lance, at the erstwhile Manatee Community College, I seized it. It so happened that my boss there also needed help at Booker High School. I couldn’t pass it up. The rest of the 20 year saga of my career there inevitably followed.

Chapter 2: VPA TV & Film–Fledgling Film Teacher

In my first decade as a Booker employee, I worked alongside the legendary Mark Loomis in what started as the TV & Media Arts Department. Turns out, the students had no interest in “media arts,” whatever that might mean, and after collaborating with them on what they’d like the curriculum to be, we switched gears. We were all spirit in those days, and the flexibility afforded by higher powers made for easy shifts.

Mark Loomis and me in the old TV studio, building 3.

We became the TV & Film Department, and the young filmmakers’ success just exploded. They were everywhere, winning awards and making incredible films. However, teaching film was all-immersive (look, when a student needs a “mom” in the movie, and you’re the oldest gal they know, you get offered a lot of roles!). In that decade, I had become a real mom, and I wanted a job that would allow me to spend time with my new, beautiful daughters. When the position of VPA Coordinator became vacant, I asked Dr. Shelley if she’d consider me for that role.

Chapter 3: VPA Coordinator–Learning to Lead

That was 2012. In the years that followed, I’ve been tasked with leading the VPA and teaching various other classes, predominantly English. Those English classes were a delight–what an honor for me to be able to shape the language and communications skills of so many young people.

In this past decade, the VPA has gone through enormous changes. We’ve developed a website (you’re bearing witness to that right now!). We’ve gone digital with ticketing and auditions/admissions. We’ve done successful fundraisers. We’ve hired numerous wonderful teachers, and we’ve lost other wonderful teachers. We’ve advocated for a new theater building. (Thanks to the tireless efforts of former School Board Chair Caroline Zucker, we won! The theater renovation is well underway.) We’ve triumphed through a pandemic, no easy feat for performing arts in particular. Our programs have evolved to meet the times. We’ve educated and graduated some 2,000 students with their VPA diplomas, and with that arts education, the inspiration, resources, and humanity to make the world a better place.

Chapter 4: The Departure

Now, for me, the detour–that dip into the career of education–is over. I’ve been offered the job of my dreams, as Senior Communications Manager at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. I can’t think of a better way to marry my skills with my passions. CFSC is a font of support for this community, supporting nearly every aspect of positive change, from assisting nonprofits in their missions to providing scholarships to supporting such game-changing programs as the 2Gen Program and Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

Graduation 2022: Assistant Principal Shannon Fleming and I are both leaving Booker High.

I’d like to take the time here to thank all those BHS folks–my family–who believed in me and in all of our students along the way. It truly takes a village to raise the future to be creative, confident, compassionate. My own teachers and now my colleagues are the best village I know. They are a village of heroes.

All the parents, students, and community partners I’ve been able to meet and know have been gifts in my life, and I am grateful.

Chapter 5: The Future

My hope for the VPA is that it continues to thrive, and that the person or people who take on the role of leading it can use vision, expertise, and strategy to usher this very special program forth. Onwards!

Ms. Courtney Smith will take on a leadership role in VPA curriculum beginning in 2022-23. She is actively working to create arts-centered courses within the State of Florida. Her expertise in curriculum and instruction will be shared with the team overall. The search for a person to cover the administrative, managerial and communications elements is on.

For me, then.

Adios.

Arrivederci.

Au revoir.

Auf wiedersehen.

Abrahamson out. A033963 signing off.

But There’s More!

VPA Theatre Announces 2022-23 Season

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to announce future plans–that pandemic took hold of all such notions and hurled them at the construction site of our theater.

But…

…we’ve got a great Theatre season lined up that our students are thrilled about, and we know our audiences will be as well! Here’s announcing the VPA Theatre season for 2022-23! Tickets will go on sale in August here. Get yours early to reserve your seats.

Radium Girls

October 15-16, 2022 | Neel Performing Arts Center

D.W. Gregory’s Radium Girls is an historical drama based on the story of the 1920s female laborers who were poisoned by their factory’s radium-based paint. The play follows three young women, who paint dials at the U.S. Radium Plant and are instructed to pointedly shape their brush bristles with their mouths while painting. The factory’s owner sees radium’s promising future, supported by Marie Curie, the famous scientist, who believes radium could even cure cancer. But soon, the girls begin to notice strange effects; and some more than strange, even fatal. Radium Girls contemplates the profitability of science, the pursuit of wealth, the fierce injustices America workers have faced and the value of a human life.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

December 10-11, 2022 | BHS Gym

A quirky group of kids vie for the spelling bee championship of a lifetime, all while revealing hilarious and endearing stories from their lives. They spell their way through rounds of words, hoping never to hear the ding of the bell that signifies the end of their sleeping bee journey. Six spellers enter, the losers get a juice box and the audience gets to participate too! The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, is comedy genius with no end. 

Tartuffe by Moliere

February 24-25 | SCF Recital Hall

Moliere’s comedy Tartuffe centers around a conning and cunning imposter, Tartuffe, a supposed holy man who has wound Orgon and Orgon’s conservative mother tightly around his finger. But Tartuffe’s antics do not fool the entire household and Orgon’s family go to great lengths to expose the fraud for what he is. When all hope seems lost and the family are at their wits end, a little divine intervention lends a hand. Tartuffe explores the dynamics of the family, logic versus emotion, and the dangers of hypocrisy.

Seussical the Musical

April 29-30 | Neel Auditorium

The Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens musical takes us into the world of Dr. Seuss, where Horton, a kind-hearted elephant finds a speck of dust containing Whoville. He must protect the speck while at the same time protecting an abandoned egg. Horton tries to convince the other animals in The Jungle of Nool of the existence of the Whos, but he is ridiculed and put on trial. Only his neighbor, Gertrude, never gives up on him. Despite the odds, Horton and Gertrude band together to save the Whos, free Horton, and restore peace and unity. Seussical paints a picture of friendship, loyalty, and love, teaching of the power of being unique, and the importance of fighting for what you believe in.

VPA Season for Dance, Music and More

We are hard at work cementing details for the season for Dance, Music, Film and Art. Stay tuned for those details. Suffice to say, for Music, the theme is “Adventure,” so prepare yourself for a sonic sojourn that will lift your spirits. The Dance concerts, “Let Me Tell You” (fall) and “Echo” (spring) focus on stories and the repetition of life. The theater renovation keeps us off campus another year, but we are working on details of venue. All tickets will be available in August.

Summer Audition Cycle Opening June 1

Late auditions will open June 1 for enrollment in 2022-23. Those eligible to audition are as follows:

  1. Students moving into Sarasota County from elsewhere
  2. Students already residing in, or moving into, the Booker High School zone
  3. Any student not currently enrolled in another Sarasota County school based on residence in another zone

If you know creative youngsters curious about the arts, let them know! The audition website is here. Or call Nancy Wachendorf at (941) 355-2967, ext. 65211, through the end of June.

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3 comments on “Creativity in the Time of Covid–May 29, 2022

The Dickey family wishes you nothing but the best in chapter 5 and beyond! Thank you for all you have done for the Booker community. You will be missed!

Thank you very much for all your hard work. I have enjoyed this newsletter and hope it continues – it keeps me involved with Booker. While I am sorry to see you go, i wish you good luck in your new endeavor. Hugs
Caroline

Thanks so much Rebecca. You’ve done an incredible job and I feel so lucky to have benefitted from your dedication & experience at Booker. Best of luck to you and congratulations on your new role.

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