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.

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

At Last! Death By Chocolate Delivers

The wildly popular Death By Chocolate was a hit again this year. With a theme of time–fleeting and everchanging–Death By Chocolate: In This Hour offered plenty of sweetness. Here’s a look:

The Arts as Impact

The BHS Student Government Association presented “Culture Day” on Feb. 25 during both lunches. The presentation included singing, dancing, art, and poetry celebrating Black culture.

It was an uplifting event that reminded all of the power of the arts to stimulate connection and honor identity.

VPA Art Pays Homage to Kara Walker

You saw it featured in the above slideshow–what better way to showcase Black achievement in art than to reference one of America’s most celebrated Black artists? Level 1 VPA artists painted a chalk mural featuring the colors of the African diaspora along with Walker-esque silhouettes.

The process was a lesson in problem-solving: first, the artists photographed Black people of the BHS community. Next, they had stencils cut (thanks to ____ and the Engineering class!). Finally, after painting the colors, students worked together to paint the stenciled figures.

One of the pieces from Kara Walker’s new show, titled “Slaughter of the Innocents (They Might Be Guilty of Something).”
( Kara Walker, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York )

From Stage to Screen: Film and Theatre Collaboration in the Works

Film and Theatre students began a collaboration this week that will help both groups of students with vital skills. The project, directing actors for film, gives film students an opportunity to guide performances. This gives them insight into how to offer constructive feedback, while for actors, it opens doors to a new venue. For these students who are accustomed to the stage, playing for a camera that’s a few feet away is a new experience. Furthermore, the proximity of lights, mics and film artists is a great way to deliver them from their comfort zones.

Mr. Timpe and Ms. Smith, who are leading the collaboration, have been thrilled already at the outcome and look forward to creating new connective, impactful experiences for their students.

Special Guest in Film & Animation

Levi Hernandez brought in a special guest for drawing day in Ms. Burton’s Level 1 Film & Animation classes Friday. Stan just may be the first Bearded Dragon to visit the Film studios.

Upcoming Events

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Mar. 3-5 | 7 p.m. and Mar. 6 | 2 p.m. @ The Civic Green

Presented in partnership with The Bay Park Conservancy, this Shakespeare in the Park presentation of one of the bard’s most popular plays is sure to please. Exploring love in all its facets, the play is a comical look at the nature of attraction.


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.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Nov. 28, 2021

VPA Welcomes Lizzi Nehls as Production Manager

Lizzi Nehls

The VPA is thrilled to announce the onboarding of Lizzi Nehls as the newest member of the Booker VPA team. Ms. Nehls is taking over as the production manager.

With experience including gigs on and off Broadway in stage management and production, Ms. Nehls brings a wealth of expertise to the role. Most recently, she worked as the Production Manager at Florida Studio Theatre, and has enjoyed tenure in production at the famed Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville.

In her first week on the job, just prior to the break, she jumped right in, painting with Production students, assisting with setup for “Six Degrees of Separation,” and learning the ropes of high school all over again.

Ms. Nehls is excited to be a part of the Booker team. She takes over for Nick Jones, who left the position in October to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Dance: “Six Degrees of Separation” Unites

Ms. Courtney Smith, VPA Dance Artistic Director, addresses the crowd on Friday night. Photo by Leila Newcomb.

The Dance Department presented “Six Degrees of Separation” on Nov. 18-19, just prior to the Thanksgiving Break, and it proved a great way to set the tone for togetherness. With a focus on human connection and the many ways our relationships impact our world, the choreography was fraught with intensity and energy.

Pieces in modern, hip hop, ballet, and styles borrowing from African and Latin traditions were performed, each examining aspects of interaction.

Modern band students provide sizzling songs. Photo by Alexander Zickafoose.

Once again, VPA Music collaborated with Dance to present interlude and accompanying music. The folk band Zephyr and modern band Tempest both performed.

Famed Filmmaker Visits VPA Film & Animation

Judge Charles Williams, left, and Valerie Scoon. Photo by John Timpe.

Filmmaker and professor Valerie Scoon visited VPA Film & Animation’s studio on Nov. 19 to talk about her new documentary. “Invisible History: Middle Florida’s Hidden Roots” was shown as part of this year’s Visions of the Black Experience Film Festival, a joint effort that includes New College and the Sarasota Film Festival.

Dr. Scoon talked with moderator Circuit Court Judge Charles Williams and then answered questions posed by the students in Ms. Burton and Mr. Timpe’s classes, as well as Ms. Sherrell’s social studies class. The event was streamed live through Zoom, so that students from New College and Riverview High could also participate.

The talk covered Dr. Scoon’s extensive work in film, with time as a producer for Warner Bros. (including giving notes to Spike Lee on “Malcolm X”) and for Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. Her current film deals with the treatment of Black people in the area around Tallahassee, from the beginning of enslavement through the Civil Rights Era.

Scoon also serves as a filmmaker in residence at FSU, so she was able to give Booker students guidance on what the film program there seeks in applicants.

Focus on Film: On Set

VPA Film & Animation students were on set Nov. 20-21, filming at Booker High’s Law Academy Courthouse and at the Golden Host Resort on the North Trail.

The team’s film, “Sly Ryder,” includes a cast from throughout the state. Director Milania McNair, cinematographer Ayanna Dudley, gaffer Toby Jaffee, sound mixer Marlow Seah, and grip/PA Mikey Morehouse are shooting the story about a mobster’s niece who must choose between family and her flame – who happens to be an FBI agent.

VPA Theatre Students Learn Lesson in Casting

If you’re a fan of this newsletter, you may recall the story in the Nov. 7 newsletter highlighting a Theatre lesson. Students were assigned obscure musicals to research and present to their peers, through spoken word and dance. Ever heard of “Big: The Musical”? Neither had they, until excavating some of these gems and flops brought these forgotten works back into the light.

The panel of judges takes notes and offers feedback.

Fast forward to last week, when students embarked in an enrichment activity: this time, they had to teach choreography, via video links, to their peers. Once the peers learned the steps, they “auditioned” before a panel of judges–the team that initially researched and devised the choreography.

The lesson was captivating, both to the “hopefuls” and their panel of judges, who offered excellent feedback that helped hone performances.

Ms. Cynthia, who teaches dance to Theatre students, explained that the activity also gave the students the chance to see the mechanics of casting. As the resident musical choreographer (and director of the upcoming “Joseph”), she knows well the intricacies of casting. If they chose candidate A for one part, it necessarily dictated who they’d chose for some of the attending roles, based on body type and physical appearance.

Another big takeaway is the importance of personality: candidates brought their own ideas to the choreography, and the judges’ faces revealed which choices were stronger. It was helpful for students to see how these factors play a part in casting–it’s not always the most skilled dancer who gets the part. Casting is an art as rich and dynamic as any in the theatre world.

Coming Events!

Festive favorites will ring in the most wonderful time of the year, with performances in orchestra, jazz ensemble, wind ensemble, chorus, piano and more. 7 p.m. Dec. 2-3 at the First Presbyterian Church near Payne Park, 2050 Oak Street, Sarasota. This is a great event for the entire family.
The beloved musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice is sure to lift spirits. With a focus on family and togetherness, it’s a great treat for the entire family. 7 p.m. Dec. 9-11 at the Municipal Auditorium, 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
The first in a series of events in partnership with The Hermitage Artist Retreat, renowned bassist Luke Stewart will perform at 5:30 on Dec. 17 at the Courtyard at BHS. The free concert will feature solo performance, storytelling, and a jam session featuring Booker band students.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Oct. 10, 2021

Dance Students Wrap Week with UF Master Class

University of Florida Associate Professor of Dance and Choreography Trent Dwight Williams visited the VPA Dance studios to offer a master class on Oct. 8.

The students were ebullient as they learned his choreography. Williams emphasized important dance concepts, like creating the illusion of lightness, with humor. Of weightlessness, he quipped, “If you can’t hear my 180 (pounds) hit that ground, I shouldn’t be able to hear your 110!” Joking aside, it worked! The dancers worked so hard it appeared effortless.

Trent Dwight Williams, Associate Professor of Dance and Choreography

Williams’ career has included teaching at several colleges, including Howard University and the University of Maryland, but it’s probably his performances with acts like Destiny’s Child that resonated most with the dancers. Throughout the lesson, his humorous approach to feedback kept spirits as soaring as their grand jetes.

Millie Menke and Christian Hall take a quick break during class.

After the class, he shared information about UF’s School of Theatre + Dance and informed students about the audition process.

Hispanic Music Artists Celebrated for Hispanic Heritage Month

The hallways of building 8 are papered with posters featuring Hispanic artists that have influenced US culture and the arts. Students have been busy selecting and researching artists of interest to showcase in the halls.

Mr. Zickafoose Featured on ABC-7 for World Teacher Day

Mr. Z just can’t stay out of the spotlight! Fresh off his leading role as Pippin in Manatee Players’ “Pippin,” and appearance at Saturday Night Fever, he’s in the limelight again. In this interview on Suncoast View, his love for teaching is evident.

The son of educators, Mr. Z’s passion for his students is clear in everything he does, from his student-centered repertoire to his festive classrooms. The interview will shed light on what’s to love about this energetic, popular, visionary music teacher. Click the screenshot below to view the video!

Music Student’s Spirit and Grit Featured on Fox News

If you came out to Saturday Night Fever, you witnessed the music sensation that is Levi Gobin tickling the ivories for a number of modern hits. Levi, a new member of the VPA family, is a gifted pianist and musician with great aspirations. Despite his blindness, Levi displays tremendous vision when it comes to music and performance.

It turns out, music isn’t the only area in which he excels. The video highlights Levi’s training for a hardcore 5k obstacle competition on Oct. 9. To master such video editing and computer skills, instead of joining any anonymous training center, join a trusted online training center like like Training Connection. Check out the spirited and gifted Levi, and his quest to shatter every boundary, by clicking the screenshot below!

BHS Invited to Event on Inclusion in the Arts

BHS Assistant Principal Greg Rumph joined a panel of other education leaders at FST’s Gompertz Theatre on Oct. 4 to discuss equity in the arts in Sarasota. The event, sponsored by the Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative’s Michele Redwine, explored diversity in the arts in Sarasota. Rumph joined a panel including college presidents, diversity officers, and Black art students to field questions about the Black experience in arts education programs. USF’s Center for PAInT (Partnership for Arts Integrated-Teaching) director Dr. Denise Davis-Cotton moderated.

Michele Redwine delivers closing remarks. The panel includes students Ayeola Whitworth (New College); Jesse Clark (Ringling CAD); Krystle Lemonias (USF); Fred Brown (SCF); college presidents Dr. Karen Holbrook (USF); Dr. Patricia Okker (New College); Dr. Carol Probsfeld (SCF); Dr. Larry Thompson (Ringling CAD); school leaders Greg Rumph; Dr Brenda Pinkney (SCF); Dr. William Woodson (New College); Samone Hicks (SCF).

Those questions ranged from the personal (“What kind of art makes you smile?”) to the political (“What steps is your organization taking towards a more inclusive arts experience?”). The discussion, from multiple perspectives and with a range of responses, was honest and illuminating. The work the Suncoast Black Arts Collaborative is doing has a goal of creating access to quality arts education.

Upcoming Events

Be sure to check out these upcoming events!

“Greek Freaks: Student Written Greek Plays” runs Oct 16 & 17 at 2 p.m., with an evening performance at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16, in the BHS Café. Written and directed by students, under the supervision of Ms. Sunny Smith, “Greek Freaks” is an intersection of ancient and modern. Classic such as the Midas and Medusa stories are rewritten in modern contexts.

The VPA Art Print Party, at 6 p.m. Oct. 22, is a fun take on an art exhibit. Original student designs are screen-printed on garments (T-shirts, aprons, bags, and more), so guests take home a practical souvenir. This year, Art Department Chair Steve Strenk has envisioned a drive-thru concept, so guests will roll up, order, and have their goods delivered via roller skating artists. Pre-printed items: $10 + fees, BYO garment to be printed for $5 + fees.

The BHS VPA Forecast Festival, held from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Nov. 6, is a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in Booker VPA. With performances, games, tours, and interactive activities, the festival gives prospective families a chance to see the school and learn what we have to offer. Tell your middle school friends or anyone considering Booker VPA for the upcoming year.