Creativity in the Time of Covid–May 15, 2022

‘Last Rung’ Premieres at Ringling College

The Stephen King Dollar Baby Film ‘The Last Rung’ enjoyed an exclusive premiere at the Larry Thompson Education Center on Ringling’s campus. The audience–limited to cast, crew, and their families–enjoyed the film and Q&A.

The film is the culmination of nearly three years of work, beginning with applying for the Dollar Baby program. King offers rights to a selection of short stories for just $1 to fledgling filmmakers through an application process. Rights were granted on Nov. 13, 2019.

Then film source material, “The Last Rung on the Ladder,” is part of King’s “Nightshift” collection of short stories. The team first had to adapt the narrative story into a screenplay. What followed were months of preparation–and pandemic planning as well–prior to beginning production, which began in March 2021. After shooting all the scenes, student editors worked to piece clips together into a story. Finally, the team refined the video. The result? A spectacular film headed for the festival circuit. Hence, the limited premiere: in order to qualify for film festivals, a film cannot be so widely seen that it’s old news.

Congratulations to all the hands and minds who’ve contributed to this great VPA success. The undertaking of a project with this size and scope is enormous. Of course, the pandemic only complicated matters, with production halted until director Styles Summerlin proposed a COVID bubble plan. This was a work of determination and problem solving beyond the typical film production.

VPA Choir Participates in ‘Tomorrow’s Voices Today’

Each year, Key Chorale professional choir presents “Tomorrow’s Voices Today,” an intergenerational concert of choral works. Halted by Covid in the past two years, the concert is back, and Booker VPA choirs participated. The concert, on May 9, featured the Key Chorale choir along with students from Booker, Riverview, and Sarasota High Schools.

The choirs sang three pieces, and you can find those performances at the links below.

The four choirs and directors.

The event is a wonderful way to unite voices and lift spirits.

Senior Showcases Demonstrate Varied Skills

This week marked the beginning of the VPA Senior Showcases, which are like capstone projects for our grads-to-be. The showcases are an accumulation of skills students learn throughout their tenure in VPA. Accordingly, they take on full production roles, from developing content to marketing to hammering out production logistics.

This week’s showcases began with Theatre’s “TBA,” a performance using text chats as a story structure and heavy on the concept of their own lives being in-progress. With exceptional group performances–Sondheim’s “Putting it Together” and “Cell Block Tango,” which riffed on (VPA Theatre teacher) Smith Jail. At turns hilarious and touching, the showcase exemplified all they have learned. Thanks to our partners at SCF’s Neel Performing Art Center for hosting us with grace and generosity.

“Putting it Together” finale

Then came the Music senior showcase on Friday night at the First Presbyterian Church. Following an hourlong awards ceremony where students received such accolades as “Most Improved Musician” and “Director’s Awards,” the recital featured solo and chamber performances of the students’ choosing.

Finally (for this week), Saturday night was the Dance senior showcase, featuring all-student created choreographies that illustrated their dazzling skills and imaginations.

Next up, we’ll finish the year with the Film & Animation senior showcase, a double feature with the department’s annual showcase, “Reel Life,” at Burns Court Cinema on May 17. After, Art will exhibit their senior works at the Ringling College of Art and Design on May 20.

Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship Winner Announced

Darwin Rojas was named the second annual Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship winner at the Theatre senior showcase on May 12. As a recipient, he was given a Dr. Who journal signed by the scholarship committee and will receive a $5,000 check. Rojas will major in Acting at Lynn University.

Darwin Rojas

The Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship was created by Mossler’s friends and family upon the VPA Theatre alum’s sudden, tragic death in October 2020. In addition to graduating from Booker VPA, Mossler went on to earn an MFA in Acting from Florida State University and spent his life as a working artist in theatre performance and writing.

The winner is announced.

A compassionate and generous soul whose motto was “Keep evolving, please,” Mossler inspired those around him to be their most genuine and creative selves. Known as much for being a font of kindness as creativity, Mossler developed lifelong friendships with a range of people. His death shook the large community that adored him.

The scholarship is open to graduating seniors in VPA Theatre going into the arts, and candidates responded to writing prompts and held interviews with the committee. The committee seeks a combination of talent and Sam-like character traits: kindness, a sense of humor, an appreciation for life.

SMMS website: keepevolvingplease.com

The inaugural Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship winner was Kaity Cairo, who now studies theatre at the University of California, Los Angeles.

All-VPA Art Show is a Hit

The Art Department hosted an art show on May 13 in the studios on campus. Art in every conceivable medium was on display. The senior show will open on Friday, May 20.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–May 8, 2022

Happy Mother’s Day!

We are grateful to the mothers, parents and guardians who entrust Booker High VPA with the nurturing of their children’s talents. Here’s to an excellent day celebrating the sacrifice, limitless love, and strength mothers provide to the world.

Fantastic Forum Awes Audiences

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” enjoyed a short but electrifying run at the Sarasota Opera House this weekend.

The cast and crew of “Forum”

The musical showcased the physical, farcical talents of the cast, with Judah Woomert demonstrating his boundless capabilities as the lead Pseudolus, who engineers a plot to achieve his own freedom by wooing the girl next door for his master. With fantastical vocal performances and spectacular dance numbers, Forum provided a hilarious escape for all who witnessed it.

Music Recital Captures End-of-Journey Emotion

The VPA Music Department presented a choir and orchestra recital on Friday night at the First Presbyterian Church. The performance was the last all-class recital for seniors before their senior recital on May 13.

Mr. Zickafoose directs the chorus.

As is typical for Music performances, although the focus was only on two instrumental areas–vocals and strings–the range of music was broad. The choirs’ repertoire ranged from Rihanna’s “Stay” to Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.”

The orchestra performed a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere” from West Side Story, which has enjoyed a revival in popularity since the release of the film in 2021.

Ms. Nix leads her orchestra in a final bow.

The concert culminated, as is tradition, in a performance of “Homeward Bound.” Emotions ran high, with Mr. Zickafoose giving seniors a special graduation trinket: a rainbow infinity symbol. The pendant represents the full circle of VPA concerts for these seniors. Their first concert was “In Living Color.” The final major showcase was “Infinite.”

Dance Show Emphasizes Process

The VPA Dance Department presented “In Progress” on Saturday night. ” Uniquely Courtney Smith, the show’s entire purpose was to illuminate viewers of the process of dancemaking.

Although she is a trained dancer, Ms. Smith is a teacher’s teacher. That is to say, her curriculum covers far beyond the artistry of movement. In fact, she folds mindset, goal-making, and strategies that can be applied to all areas of study.

As evidence of her emphasis on teaching and learning, Ms. Smith designed “In Progress” to showcase just that: progress. Rather than featuring finished works of accomplished choreographers, “In Progress” knitted together student works, demonstrating their learning and fledgling understanding of choreography.

Legacy of Dance: Dancers Learn Valuable Lessons from Alum

Another demonstration of Ms. Courtney Smith’s purposeful teaching this week was a conversation she coordinated between current dancers and alum of the Dance Department.

Dancer Claudia Rightmire shares advice.

Ms. Smith contacted dance graduates from the past decade to Zoom in with her current students. Topics of discussion ranged from navigating dance careers to understanding the value of dance education notwithstanding career goals. Indeed, those dance alum not still dancing shared the valuable skills from dance education they’ve brought into current fields. By contrast, those still dancing offered advice and personal journey stories that could help mentor up-and-coming dancers.

Students absorb each word and invite new insights with thought-provoking questions.

As with all Ms. Smith’s thoughtful activities, this one elicited engagement, sparked interest, and broadened her dancers’ concept of the treasures to be found in their dance education.

Upcoming Event

Reel Life: Annual Film & Animation Showcase

May 17 | 7 p.m. @ Burns Court Cinema

The VPA Film & Animation Annual Showcase will entertain and edify with screen stories that shine a light on life as our students see it. They will also offer a glimpse of the day-to-day process students use to bring their art to life. The showcase is a mix of live-action, animated shorts, and documentary work. This screening opportunity is made possible thanks to The Sarasota Film Society.

Look! Just Ahead! It’s the End of the Year

We’re wrapping up our season with just one last season showcase coming up: “Reel Life,” the Film & Animation showcase May 17. See more here.

Other than that, we’ve reached Senior Showcase season. Here’s what’s on tap:

May 12 @ 7 p.m.

Theatre Senior Showcase | Neel Performing Arts Center at State College of Florida, Bradenton

May 13 @ 7 p.m.

Music Senior Showcase | First Presbyterian Church, Sarasota

May 14 @ 7 p.m.

Dance Senior Showcase | Booker High Cafe, Sarasota

May 17 @ 7 p.m.

Film Senior Showcase (and Annual Showcase)* | Burns Court Cinema, Sarasota

May 18 @ 6:30 p.m.

VPA Silver Cord Ceremony | Booker High School

May 20 @ 7 p.m.

Art Senior Showcase | Ringling College of Art & Design, Sarasota

May 21 @ 3 p.m.

Graduation | Robarts Arena, Sarasota


Creativity in the Time of Covid–May 1, 2022

The Sky’s the Limit: “Infinite” Breaks the Mold

The VPA Music Department’s final music showcase, “Infinite,” served up a seemingly endless array of fantastic music, most playing on the theme of boundlessness. From an energetic orchestral “Star Wars” theme song, to a roof raising version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird,” the show was nonstop awe.

VPA Music co-chair Alex Zickafoose dreamed up “Infinite” starting back in his interview for the position at Booker High School. That was five years ago. Since arriving, he’s infused the Music Department with unique showcases that shatter traditional high school recital norms. His concerts feel like events, free from the clumsy static staging of a typical high school music show.

Larah Pereira contributes strings on a Zephyr song.

With showcases spanning rock, folk, orchestra, jazz, Dixie, symphonic band and more, the VPA Music Department has come to signify endless surprise.

Mr. Zickafoose explains the origins of “Infinite”

“Infinite” is a fine production in this mold. Its three-stage layout rendered transitions seamless. Music flowed from the stage like silk from a magician’s hat. At times, staging allowed music to envelop the audience, with action on the stage and choral backups literally coming from behind the crowd.

The result: a thoroughly engaging and impressive achievement showcasing the infinite talents of our VPA Music students and teachers.

Alex Zickafoose directed “Infinite,” with Lizzi Nehls tech directing.

Keys to Success: Caleb Horner Wins Piano Award

Sophomore Caleb Horner took the top award in the 10th grade division of the Suncoast Music Scholarship competition on April 23. The prize includes a $600 scholarship and an invitation to play at the winner’s recital at First Presbyterian Church on May 14, 2022, at 3 p.m.  It’s a free recital of 8 winners. 

Caleb Horner at the keys.

The Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota and The Sarasota Music Club have supported music education through the Suncoast Music Scholarships since 2016. Booker VPA musicians are often selected as one of the 8 winners in the competition. Past winners include Skyler Miller (2016), James Boorman (2018), and Colin Leonard, Leela Sundaram, and Danae Tran (2021).

Abbey Holdway Performs at Volunteer Event

Theatre senior Abbey Holdway was invited to perform at the SCS Volunteer and Business Partners Appreciation Event on April 27. She sang Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” to a spellbound crowd. Among the packed house were principals from all district schools, Superintendent Brennan Asplen, school board members, and other district leadership.

Abbey in her element: at ease belting even the highest notes on the song.

While Abbey wowed with her voice, BHS senior Jenna Logan won the Youth Volunteer of the Year award for the entire district and was recognized at the event.

Senior Jenna Logan, flanked by Superintendent Asplen and Dr. Shelley.

Renovation Update

Here’s a peak inside the progress of the new performing arts center!

Get Ready for “A Comedy Tonight!”

Judah Woomert as Pseudolus (center), works to matchmake Tori Greenlaw (Philia, L) and Owen Demaio (Hero, R)

The musical, a hilarious and spirited tale of a slave’s attempt to win his own freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door, was inspired by farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus. It features music and lyrics by the late, great Stephen Sondheim and a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.

“Forum” is VPA Theatre Department chair Sunny Smith’s musical directorial debut at the school. She said one reason the department chose this musical now is as an antidote to the gloom the world has faced in the past few years.

“Ending our year this way, with a great escape, is such a gift for the kids,” Smith said, noting that she performed in the musical as a grad student and enjoyed the reprieve from school pressures.

 “Forum” is the first VPA musical to be performed at the Sarasota Opera House since the new VPA Theatre was completed in the 1990s. Prior to that, the Opera House had been the home of the Booker VPA musicals.

The last time the VPA Theatre Department staged “Forum” was in 1993, featuring Sam Mossler. Mossler died in October 2020; friends and alum of the VPA Theatre program have begun a scholarship fund to preserve his legacy.

Sam Mossler, center, flanked by Darren Ritchie (L) and Adam Ratner (R)

“Forum” will feature music direction by Johnnie Mnich, choreography by Cynthia Ashford, set design by Caleb Carrier, and costumes by Heather Clarke.

Upcoming Events

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

Reel Life: Annual Film & Animation Showcase

May 17 | 7 p.m. @ Burns Court Cinema

The VPA Film & Animation Annual Showcase will entertain and edify with screen stories that shine a light on life as our students see it. They will also offer a glimpse of the day-to-day process students use to bring their art to life. The showcase is a mix of live-action, animated shorts, and documentary work. This screening opportunity is made possible thanks to The Sarasota Film Society.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–April 24, 2022

Animator Selected as Ringling Pre-College Scholarship Recipient

Congratulations to Animation sophomore Delcy Calderon, who was selected to receive a full scholarship to the Ringling College pre-college program. The pre-college program is an intensive 4-week experience. Students stay on the Ringling campus and immerse themselves in their art and college life.

Delcy will study Visual Development/Concept Art. At this point, she plans to pursue this career path to design animated characters and environments. But she is open to `new career paths and feels that the experience of precollege may help shape those plans.

Delcy said she’s excited to spend the four weeks on campus, learning the art she loves so much. Another aspect she looks forward to is meeting artists from around the world. While she’s nervous about embarking on something new, she can’t wait for the term to begin.

This incredible opportunity was made possible through the generosity and vision of Ringling President Dr. Larry Thompson and Kay Ash, the college’s Assistant VP, Administration. This invitation to attend pre-college came as a piece of a larger partnership between Booker VPA and Ringling.

This summer, 15 Film & Animation students will attend a week-long session of post-production sound design with industry insider Nick Palladino. These sessions will take place in the multi-million dollar post-production facility that opened in November 2018.

Additionally, three VPA students will have the opportunity to attend the weeklong Ringling Teen Studio camp. These are all arts education experiences unique to Booker VPA students through our partnership with Ringling College of Art and Design.

VPA Theater Renovation Update

It’s hard to tell from the street, but the Theater renovation is moving along, with a nearly complete gutting of the building now complete, setting the stage for beginning the actual construction of new facilities.

This week, production manager Lizzi Nehls and technical theatre teacher Caleb Carrier toured the construction site. Now we all have a glimpse of what lies behind the visqueen fencing.

The site of the new blackbox theater that will be a second performance space.
The view from the stage looking out into the house.
The “window” depicted here is the former tech booth, with the flanking door frames that were the entrance to the back of the house. The new tech booth will be higher up to accommodate mezzanine seating.
The plywood seen here is the proscenium arch where the main drape hangs. In front is the former apron and orchestra pit.

Upcoming Events

The 2021-22 season is quickly coming to an end! Make sure you get tickets for these special events.

Infinite: Music Showcase

April 29-30 | 7 p.m. @ BHS Campus

In our final music showcase of the season, we take to the skies in INFINITE. Featuring music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Williams, along with original compositions, arrangements and songs from Booker VPA Music and Staff. our musical selections will create an aura of the air, the sky, and flight, where you will truly feel infinite.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

Reel Life: Annual Film & Animation Showcase

May 17 | 7 p.m. @ Burns Court Cinema

The VPA Film & Animation Annual Showcase will entertain and edify with screen stories that shine a light on life as our students see it. They will also offer a glimpse of the day-to-day process students use to bring their art to life. The showcase is a mix of live-action, animated shorts, and documentary work. This screening opportunity is made possible thanks to The Sarasota Film Society.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–April 10, 2022

Zaine Lodhi Wins Big

Wow! VPA Art alum Zaine Lodhi’s meteoric rise to prominence has surpassed another milestone. He was one of seven artists selected to be honored in Hollywood for the Illustrators of the Future award ceremony. The international contest attracts the best fantasy illustrators in the world.

Zaine with his Golden Brush Award.

Zaine’s illustrations for the sci-fi book, “Agatha’s Monsters,” earned him the Golden Brush Award, the top prize of the contest. The award is worth $5,000 and a whole lotta bragging rights. Congratulations to Zaine!

Zaine traveled to Hollywood last week, where he received red-carpet treatment and was celebrated for his outstanding illustrations. Read more about his journey here. To see more of his award-winning artwork, check out his artist website here.

Music Students Witness Grammy-Award Winning Guitarist

Grammy Award winning guitarist Jason Vieaux with VPA Guitar students

The La Musica International Chamber Music Festival is back! With it comes a host of world-class musicians, including Grammy Award-winner classical guitarist Jason Vieaux.

Mr. Thomas Koch’s guitar classes traveled to The Sarasota Opera House on April 8 to observe a rehearsal for Vieaux. It was an opportunity for students to behold mastery of the artform and see where discipline and practice can take a player.

Jason Vieaux

Vieux has an extensive discography and has been celebrated around the world. NPR called him “perhaps the most precise and soulful classical guitarist of his generation.”

VPA Orchestra Student Performs Pre-show for La Musica

Larah with Ms. Nix.

VPA Violinist Larah Pereira was selected to perform a pre-show set for the La Musica concert at The Sarasota Opera House on April 6. She will also perform on April 13 for that concert.

Girrrrl Power: VPA Film Alum Selected for SFF Shorts Showing

Sirens movie poster.

VPA Film alum Hali Gardella (c/o 2007) created a film that was selected to be screened in the “Female-Led Shorts” event for the Sarasota Film Festival.

Hali Gardella at the Sarasota Film Festival

Hali’s film, “Sirens of the Swamp,” is a contemporary satire of Homer’s “The Odyssey.” The film follows two sisters living in a ramshackle cabin in The Everglades. Each time their security cameras broadcast images of unsuspecting passersby (think good ol’ boys out for a fishing trip), they stage an elaborate concert. You guessed it: the sounds of their irresistible harmonies lure the travelers. Upon showing up for the “concert,” they are killed and left to be alligator feed. Meanwhile, the sisters empty their cars and pockets of valuables.

The film was one of six from across the state selected for this important screening. The event celebrates the female experience in narrative film.

VPA Jazz Sweep it up at Solo and Ensemble

Congratulations to the VPA Jazz 1 group and FOURcast jazz combo! Both groups earned Superior rankings at the Jazz Solo and Ensemble MPA. Ms. Ellen Saxton directs Jazz 1 (the beginning jazz group), and Mr. Tim Eaton directs FOURcast.

A Superior rating is the highest achievement a performance group can earn, and this year has been more difficult than most. The pandemic presented many challenges for band performance classes–online instruction is nearly impossible, and the aerosols ejected through brass instruments posed dangers. Band programs generally declined in virtuosity. These awards signal enormous effort and a move in the right direction.

Upcoming Events

Infinite: Music Showcase

April 29-30 | 7 p.m. @ BHS Campus

In our final music showcase of the season, we take to the skies in INFINITE. Featuring music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Williams, along with original compositions, arrangements and songs from Booker VPA Music and Staff. our musical selections will create an aura of the air, the sky, and flight, where you will truly feel infinite.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

Reel Life: Annual Film & Animation Showcase

May 17 | 7 p.m. @ Burns Court Cinema

The VPA Film & Animation Annual Showcase will entertain and edify with screen stories that shine a light on life as our students see it. They will also offer a glimpse of the day-to-day process students use to bring their art to life. The showcase is a mix of live-action, animated shorts, and documentary work. This screening opportunity is made possible thanks to The Sarasota Film Society.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–April 3, 2022

Fools RULE!

Discipline sadly hijacked by a selfie-obsessed ballerina.

The Spring Dance concert, “Fool*ish,” offered plenty of frolicsome joy for all. From laugh-out-loud pieces about the tomfoolery of smart phones to sweet and silly adaptations of children’s books, the show had something for everyone. Audience members were invited to explore their own tendencies of foolishness.

The show featured choreography by professionals Courtney Smith Inzalaco, Jenna Outerbridge, Kris Tetris Powell, Kabrena Williams, Cherie Prescod. It also included work from student choreographers Millie Menke, Meghan Keim and blank.

Music performances from Zephyr, The Cyclone, and Jet Stream punctuated the show, which was played to a packed house.

VPA Film Selected for SFF’s Young Filmmakers Showcase

A still from the nail-biter “Two Shot Trial”

A VPA Film & Animation live-action short, “Two Shot Trial,” has been accepted into the Sarasota Film Festival’s Hollywood Nights High School Film Showcase. The screening will start at 5:30 p.m. on April 3 at the Municipal Auditorium.

The film, directed by Milania McNair, tells the story of an orphaned child raised by her mob boss uncle. Once the woman starts a relationship with an undercover government agent, she must decide what loyalty means. Screenwriters include Toby Jaffee and Marlow Seah. Mia Dickey, Ayanna Dudley, and Mikey Morehouse also crewed the production.

Get your tickets here.

Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship Deadline Extended

Nobody had fun during this visit. Promise!

VPA Theatre alum Adam Ratner visited the Theatre class of 2022 on Friday to encourage students to apply for the Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship was created as a legacy project for Mossler, VPA Theatre alum (c/o ’93), who died suddenly in October 2020.

During the visit, Ratner shared stories of his decades-long friendship with Mossler. Along with that, he extolled Mossler’s humanity and generosity as an artist and creator, which is the underlying purpose of the scholarship: to support young people’s creative endeavors in the service of enhancing society.

The SMMS is open to all graduating Theatre seniors and is worth $5,000, and the deadline has been extended to April 8. Interested students can apply here. The winner will be announced publicly at the Theatre Senior Showcase on May 12 at the Neel PAC on SCF’s campus.

VPA Theatre Alum Makes Headlines with New Play

Mona Pirnot

Booker VPA Theatre Alum Mona Pirnot is in The Washington Post for her new play, “Private,” which examines the value of privacy in an age of revealing all. In addition to being a celebrated playwright, Pirnot is an award-winning actress.

Read all about her writing talent vis a vis her prescient sci-fi play here.

Infinite: Music Showcase

April 29-30 | 7 p.m. @ BHS Campus

In our final music showcase of the season, we take to the skies in INFINITE. Featuring music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Williams, along with original compositions, arrangements and songs from Booker VPA Music and Staff. our musical selections will create an aura of the air, the sky, and flight, where you will truly feel infinite.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

Reel Life: Annual Film & Animation Showcase

May 17 | 7 p.m. @ Burns Court Cinema

The VPA Film & Animation Annual Showcase will entertain and edify with screen stories that shine a light on life as our students see it. They will also offer a glimpse of the day-to-day process students use to bring their art to life. The showcase is a mix of live-action, animated shorts, and documentary work. This screening opportunity is made possible thanks to The Sarasota Film Society.

Fool*ish | April 1 & 2, 2022

Artistic Director: Courtney Smith Inzalaco

Technical Director: Caleb Carrier

Musical Director: Alexander Zickafoose

Stage Manager: Jaylee Carpenter

AYO

I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up and was not happy.

~ Ernest Hemmingway

Choreography: Cherie Prescod

Rehearsal Assistant: Montana Beacham

Music: Nico Pan Beats, Masaka Kids Africana, Amina, Jamil Abbas, Congolese, Bolia Matundu

Dancers: Sage Aldridge, Kaylyla Andrews, Tydericka Bulls, Mia Bussell, Leanna Cruz, Yaretcy Enriquez-Alfaro, Maya Espinosa, Ezra Heenehan, Coral Herpai, Ra’Niyah Hill, Em Ortiz, Luiciana Pereira, Leslie Rios-Oviedo, Madi Wilkins, Lilu Trueschel

Primitive Minds, Smart Phones

Choreography: Jenna Outerbridge

Music: Leonard Bernstein, Tchaikovsky, Dire Straits, Radiohead

Dancers: Aiden Bjorklund, Maija Boelkins, Chrishawn Clemons, Chris Hall, Jessie Johnston, Hannah Keen, Megan Keim, Millie Menke, Lilia Pearson, Andrea Ramirez-Garcia, Devon Saxman

Send in the Clowns

By Stephen Sondheim

Performed by Jet Stream

Fables and Foils

Choreography: Courtney Smith Inzalaco and the Dancers

Original Music Score: Alexander Zickafoose and Modern Band “The Cyclone”

          Section 1 – What’s Wrong Little Pookie

          Section 2 – The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

Section 3 – Pout Pout Fish

Dancers: Sage Aldridge, Kaylyla Andrews, Kelsey Berroyer, Aiden Bjorklund, Tydericka Bulls, Chrishawn Clemons, Leanna Cruz, Yaretcy Enriquez-Alfaro, Chris Hall, Ezra Heenehan, Savannah Ivery, Nakaia Jackson, Jessie Johnston, Ollie Jones, Hannah Keen, Megan Keim, Millie Menke, Lilia Pearson, Daniela Pereira, Luiciana Pereira, Andrea Ramirez-Garcia, Leslie Rios-Oviedo, Devon Saxman, Lilu Trueschel

Fooled Around and Fell in Love

By Elvin Bishop

Performed by Modern Band “The Cyclone”

Fool Me Once

Choreography: Millie Menke (student work)

Music: AURORA

Dancers: Maija Boelkins, Chrishawn Clemons, Chris Hall, Jessie Johnston, Megan Keim, Lilia Pearson, Devon Saxman

****INTERMISSION****

Gravitation

Choreography: Megan Keim (student work)

Music: Daughter, Florence + The Machine

Dancers: Maija Boelkins, Chrishawn Clemons, Chris Hall, Jessie Johnston, Millie Menke, Lilia Pearson, Devon Saxman

Pretender

By AJR

Performed by Zephyr

Toxic Habits

Choreography: Kristofer Powell

Music: Max Ritcher, Giveon

Dancers: Kaylyla Andrews, Aiden Bjorklund, Maya Espinosa, Nakaia Jackson, Jessie Johnston, Megan Keim, Lilia Pearson, Luiciana Pereira, AJ Summers

Using The Senses

Choreography: Kabrena M. Williams

Music: London Dance Collective, Divan Gattamorta

Dancers: Mia Bussell, Chrishawn Clemons, Monroe Dickson-Bain, Devon Saxman, Lilu Trueschel, Madi Wilkins

Little by Little

By Susan Tedeschi

Performed by Zephyr

But Time Went By

Choreography: Courtney Smith Inzalaco

Story: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Music: U2, performed by Scarlett Johansson

Dancers: Sage Aldridge, Kaylyla Andrews, Kelsey Berroyer, Aiden Bjorklund, Tydericka Bulls, Chrishawn Clemons, Leanna Cruz, Yaretcy Enriquez-Alfaro, Chris Hall, Ezra Heenehan, Savannah Ivery, Nakaia Jackson, Jessie Johnston, Ollie Jones, Hannah Keen, Megan Keim, Millie Menke, Lilia Pearson, Daniela Pereira, Luiciana Pereira, Andrea Ramirez-Garcia, Leslie Rios-Oviedo, Devon Saxman, Lilu Trueschel

Special Thanks to

Dr. Rachel Shelley

Rebecca Abrahamson

Nancy Wachendorf

Caleb Carrier

Lizzi Nehls

Alexander Zickafoose

VPA Production & Design Tech Crew

Parent and Community Volunteers

VPA Dance Faculty and Choreographers

VPA Dance Parents

VPA Dance Students

VPA Modern Band

Jet Stream

Zephyr

Allan Karp Photography

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Mar. 27, 2022

Encore! Booker VPA Artists at Art Ovation Hotel

Ella Swartz in front of large character studies: “I don’t even think about what I’m doing, It just happens,” she said.

Booker VPA has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the Art Ovation Hotel downtown. This year’s partnering was kicked off this week with VPA Artists Ella Swartz and Jinx Molina exhibiting artworks in the lobby.

Jinx Molina shares this artwork depicting the agony of being tethered to something undesirable.

Swartz and Molina are the featured artists in residence, which means they are artmaking as a public attraction. As artists in residence, they engage with hotel patrons, discuss their processes, sell artworks, and more.

Both artists have described the experience as transformative. For Swartz, who is negotiating a price on two of her paintings, it’s been a deep dive into the life of a pro. It’s been a foray into sales and value, self-promotion and more.

Molina said they would never have been able to attempt anything like this as a freshman. Their work is deeply personal–“all great art comes from tragedy,” they said. Their personality, shy. Showing up this way is a major feat and one that will likely never be forgotten.

Not only was it great to see them in this role, but the night I went, Booker VPA alum Hayden Richau was entertaining guests in the lobby, where he sang and played piano.

Hayden Richau, VPA Music graduate and Art Ovation Hotel performer

Renovation Update

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the VPA Theater renovation project is progressing nicely. If you’ve driven by, seen that visqueen fencing, and wondered what lies beyond the facade, here’s your chance to get a sneak peek.

Some plumbing foundation has been installed and tested. These pictures also illustrate how the raked house floor has been flattened. Now, those who’ve enjoyed performances here can recognize the house only by the brick walls.

VPA Music Students Perform at Holocaust Remembrance Event

The group singing before a packed house; the performance is available on METV.

VPA Music students were invited to perform at “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Conversation with Jennifer Teege” on March 23 at Temple Beth Sholom. The Boxser Diversity Initiative sponsored the event, which was an interactive conversation with the author.

The quintet: Sinta Suarnawa, Genesis Gutierrez, Bea De Freitas, Bella Alberti, Marissa Barnes.

“My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me,” an international bestseller, is a book born of a shocking discovery: At age 38, Teege learned that her grandfather had been a Nazi commander.

The students sang the spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

That’s a Wrap! VPA Film and Theater Collaboration Projects ‘In the Can’

Ryan Modjeski is ready for his closeup.

VPA Film and Theatre students completed their joint project this week with raves from the students and plans from the teachers to continue this in years to come.

The crew directs Claire Bailey.

The goal was to give Film students an opportunity to direct actors so that they could apply theoretical lessons derived from the greats Sidney Lumet and Judith Westin. Additionally, the students learned together differences between acting on stage and for the screen.

The teams spent seven periods over the course of about a month working together. The classes culminated in filmed scenes from “Spanglish” and “Being the Ricardos.”

Sunny Smith and John Timpe developed and led the project.

VPA Artist at Pastry Art

Unexpected: Swartz combines iconic cartoons with street graffiti to produce a startling response.

Look, Ella Swartz is unstoppable, and she has an entire exhibit up at Pastry Art downtown. The collection features Swartz’s text-heavy works that offer incendiary social commentary.

Next time you’re on Main Street, dash in to locally owned Pastry Art for a beautiful cup o’ joe and take in Swartz’s work while sipping.

Upcoming Events

Fool*ish

Apr. 1-2 | 7 p.m. @ Booker High School

The line between reality and fiction is blurred in this dance show that explores our tendency to fool others as well as ourselves. Examining deception and awakening, the masks and the revelations, Fool*ish features pieces in modern, ballet, hip hop, African and Latin dance genres.

Infinite: Music Showcase

April 29-30 | 7 p.m. @ BHS Campus

In our final music showcase of the season, we take to the skies in INFINITE. Featuring music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Williams, along with original compositions, arrangements and songs from Booker VPA Music and Staff. our musical selections will create an aura of the air, the sky, and flight, where you will truly feel infinite.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

Reel Life: Annual Film & Animation Showcase

May 17 | 7 p.m. @ Burns Court Cinema

The VPA Film & Animation Annual Showcase will entertain and edify with screen stories that shine a light on life as our students see it. They will also offer a glimpse of the day-to-day process students use to bring their art to life. The showcase is a mix of live-action, animated shorts, and documentary work. This screening opportunity is made possible thanks to The Sarasota Film Society.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Mar. 13, 2022

Yassss, Yissy!

Cuban percussion jazz artist Yissy Garcia heated up the school week for our VPA Music students. First in a masterclass on Mar. 9, Yissy and her band performed and shared the stories of their journey.

Their jams were astonishing–at once precise and also exuberant–and the students soaked it all in, participating through clapping and dancing.

It was an exchange that underscored the importance of being open to opportunity. Most of the band had traveled around the world to seize opportunities to refine their musical mastery.

On Mar. 10, about 100 students traveled to the Historic Asolo Theatre, where they were treated to a full concert in that elegant hall, and then had the chance to wander the Ringling Museum grounds.

All jazzed up! VPA Music students after the performance at The Ringling.

The Ringling provided access to this incredible and inspiring experience.

VPA Art Alum Earns International Illustration Award

Zaine Lodhi

VPA Art alum Zaine Lodhi (’18) has won the “The Illustrators of the Future Award” and will be honored in Hollywood on April 8. He is one of 12 artists globally to win this award this year.  Zaine currently majors in Illustration at Ringling College.

That’s one way to capitulate! One of Lodhi’s winning pieces.

In addition to being honored with the award, he’ll attend a week-long professional workshop with some of the top names in the industry and his art will be published in the anthology, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38.

You can almost smell the mead and mutton. This dining hall picture is another of his winning illustrations.

The contest, now in its 34th year, recognizes illustrators and writers. Along with the awards the contests gives, its purpose is to support new generations of sci-fi content creators.

Nobody would want to find this creature lurking in the depths: Lodhi’s mythical lizard beast is the third of his winning illustrations.

Now a senior at Ringling College, Zaine hopes to pursue a career in illustration for the video game industry. He already works for a company creating 3-D assets for video games. He created all these pieces using Adobe Illustrator. Click here for more information about this contest.

Upcoming Events

Fool*ish

Apr. 1-2 | 7 p.m. @ Booker High School

The line between reality and fiction is blurred in this dance show that explores our tendency to fool others as well as ourselves. Examining deception and awakening, the masks and the revelations, Fool*ish features pieces in modern, ballet, hip hop, African and Latin dance genres.

Infinite: Music Showcase

April 29-30 | 7 p.m. @ BHS Campus

In our final music showcase of the season, we take to the skies in INFINITE. Featuring music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Williams, along with original compositions, arrangements and songs from Booker VPA Music and Staff. our musical selections will create an aura of the air, the sky, and flight, where you will truly feel infinite.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–March 6, 2022

VPA Art Contributes to Commemoration

The ribbon is cut, with Dr. Kingsley second from left, surrounded by the event planning committee.

The VPA Art Department’s played a vital role in the celebration of Dr. Laura Kingsley, former assistant superintendent and chief education officer. The commissioned media center mural was revealed on March 2 the event that paid tribute to the legacy of Dr. Laura Kingsley. Kingsley retired in 2021 from her most recent post in district leadership, a role that capped her 35-year legendary career. Before taking that position, Kingsley had served as beloved principal of Fruitville Elementary School for years.

Hey, that’s me! Dr. Kingsley posing with me and Laura King, committee chair (and my sister!!)

The mural symbolizes Kingsley’s longtime advocacy of multicultural literature and literacy. It features trains reminiscent of the popular computer game Minecraft that represent the journeys books offer. It complements a new display of books within the media center that feature protagonists of different ethnicities and backgrounds.

One half of the mural. It is on either side of the entrance.

Art Department Chair Steve Strenk conceived of the work, and worked alongside Cathie Janssen and various students installing the piece. The project was made possible through support from The Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Dr. Kingsley, a champion of the arts, was so touched by the mural that she visited the art studios afterward to personally thank the students and teachers.

The Stuff of Dreams: Theatre Embarks in Shakespeare-in-the-Park

The Cast: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This weekend marks the VPA Theatre Department’s first true Shakespeare-in-the-Park experience, as it wraps a run of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Since the beginning of the renovation, the department has had to find different venues for its annual season. Thanks to a partnership with The Bay Parks Conservancy, the VPA was granted access to the park free of charge.

Although the team faced challenges attendant to performing outside on grass, with a makeshift dressing room and storage for sets and equipment, “Midsummer” was overall a great experience for actors, crew, and patrons alike. It was a great lesson for students in being flexible and maintaining focus on foreign turf.

The show was directed by Sunny Smith, with technical direction by Caleb Carrier and costumes by Heather Clarke. Next up: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” May 6-7 at the Sarasota Opera House.

The Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship Offers Opportunity

The committee for the Sam Mossler Memorial Scholarship has announced that it is accepting applications from seniors committed to studying theatre arts in college. The scholarship, a passion project helmed by friends and family of Sam, commemorates the life and legacy of this VPA Theatre alum (class of ’93). The scholarship is worth $5,000.

Mossler died suddenly and tragically at the age of 45 in October 2020. His death shook the community. According to those who knew him (including me), Sam was the salt of the earth, a generous and gentle soul. He was known as an empathetic listener, a brilliantly creative thinker, and a caring, invested person.

History repeats itself: Sammy (center), flanked by Darren Ritchie (L) and Adam Ratner (R) in the VPA’s 1993 production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Photo courtesy of Ken Wiegers.

In the immediate aftermath of his death, BHS VPA friends and family created this scholarship, which is as genuine and quirky as Sam himself. To that end, its central principle is “keep evolving, please.” This comes from a mantra Sam penned in a song he wrote of the same name.

He had enjoyed a career devoted to the arts, most recently and notably at the Florida Studio Theater, in which he had made his mark as an excellent performer, writer, and teacher. Those who worked with him praised his genius.

The inaugural winner of this scholarship was Kaity Cairo (class of 2021), who was presented the award at a performance of “Kingdom of Solitaire” in April 2021. She now attends UCLA in California.

Those interested in applying or supporting the scholarship through donations can follow this link.

FOURcast is Bright for Jazz Lovers

The FOURcast jazz combo played a concert on March 1 at The Pelican Cove condo complex. The performance was a debut private party for the group. Before this, FOURcast has played some city- and school-sponsored events this year. The combo is led by Jazz Expert Tim Eaton, one of the Music adjuncts.

If you’re looking for a quality jazz combo to play a party or event, contact the VPA office at (941) 355-2967, and enjoy a treat of jazz standards performed by a group of accomplished and lovable musicians.

Music Performs MPAs for First Time Since Pandemic

The VPA Music Department performed in the Florida Music Educators Association district-level Music Performance Assessments this week and last. The Jazz Band and Chorus earned straight Excellent ratings. The Wind Ensemble performed for comments only.

According to district arts curriculum specialist Angela Hartvigsen, this year brought intense challenges for band directors. Faced with disproportionate impacts by the pandemic and hybrid learning, bands have suffered. Because of this, many groups earned ratings lower than normal, or opted to perform for judges’ comments as an instructional tool.

The VPA Wind Ensemble

Referendum Vote Tuesday!

The 1 Mill Referendum is up for renewal. The referendum supports all Sarasota County Schools and is largely credited with bolstering the quality of education in our county. Consequently, losing referendum dollars would have enormous impact on programs, including the VPA.

In focus: The impact of the 1-mill fee to Booker High School.

As an example, this funding is critical to the VPA in supporting adjunct staff, VPA teaching positions, and other VPA support staff. Additionally, it is vital to the school’s ESOL and College and Career-readiness programs. Overall, BHS receives roughly $2.5 million from this funding. Find more information about the referendum dollars and how they impact the entire district here. Don’t forget to VOTE March 8!

Upcoming Events

Fool*ish

Apr. 1-2 | 7 p.m. @ Booker High School

The line between reality and fiction is blurred in this dance show that explores our tendency to fool others as well as ourselves. Examining deception and awakening, the masks and the revelations, Fool*ish features pieces in modern, ballet, hip hop, African and Latin dance genres.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.